A challenge for Her Majesty’s opposition: holding the “people’s government” to account
A Hall Green reader has drawn attention to William Davies’ Guardian article (Dec. 13th), in which he points out that the election was not won by an ordinary political party, with policies, members and ideology. It was won by a single-issue, new-media startup. You might call it the Vote Boris campaign – fronted by a TV star and funded by hedge funds and wealthy British entrepreneurs who donated heavily to Vote Leave. Davies asks: “But who knows what they will get in return?”
“Get Brexit done”, like Donald Trump’s “build a wall”, was a mantra with which those who think the establishment is a stitch-up could identify.
For the desperate men and women living in the abandoned economic regions of the Midlands and north only a Trump figure would be enough to draw them to the polls and the chances of the 2016 referendum result offering anything transformative to the former Labour voters of Blyth Valley or Bolsover, beyond the occasional culture-war titbit, are minimal.
Johnson did just enough to convince former Brexit party voters that he was on their side and his dog whistles hit home for well-off elderly voters, seduced by Faragist visions of national identity.
By the end of the campaign, he was performing a kind of Jeremy Clarkson role – obliterating any democratic dialogue or interrogation by driving a forklift truck or dressing up as a milkman.
As milkman, Boris Johnson attracted some less than respectful comments – see the New European
The Johnson government had an unprecedented relationship with the media during the campaign:
- threatening public service broadcasters,
- excluding the Daily Mirror from its campaign bus,
- enjoying seamless coordination with the conservative press,
- using “Boris” to distract from every unwelcome news item,
If the new government maintains that relationship it will be virtually impossible for it to be held to account. Just like Trump, Johnson’s capacity to make headlines and change the subject means the damage he has done is forgotten and we are locked in a perpetual present, arguing over the details of what he’s doing right now.
Can we expect the rebranded “people’s government” – with its proven smoke and mirrors dexterity – to embrace normal democratic scrutiny? Challenging this juggernaut will be a large and complex project for Her Majesty’s opposition.
Read William Davies’ article here.