It’s not a coup d’état
It might be a putsch, or, most likely it’s simply incompetence, argues Justin Bellinger.
Coup d’état. Just say it to yourself. You can feel the power in those words; we have all seen newsprint and television broadcasts that contain those words and the images often conjure fear, occasionally elation, but mostly massive change, and by powerful forces.
What you name a thing gives it its power.
A very large number of people call what the conservative’s are doing to democracy in the UK currently a coup d’état. Trying to bypass parliament with Henry VIII powers (better known as the Royal Prerogative). But that is to assume that they are taking power, whereas, backed up the DUP’s confidence and supply agreement (a topic for another time), they already have it, even if in diminished form because they are a minority government.
No, a coup d’état is that of someone who has less or no power taking it from those who are in power, by which we usually mean leading power or the head of it in a country. So, by any reasonable definition, we fall at the first hurdle because, despite the general weakness of their overall position, Theresa May is very much in power in the UK, and, for now at least, she is also the leader of the Conservative & Unionist Party.
There is, however, I feel a better word for what is going on, and what the Tories are doing to parliamentary democracy, and it is this: putsch.
A putsch is defined as: “politico/military actions of an unsuccessful minority reactionary coup“, of which I want to have a look at two of the words in there. Unsuccessful and reactionary.
The two House of Lords defeats for the government the other night, while not fatal to Brexit, nor even fatal to the government it appears, shows that, in however a perverse fashion, our parliamentary democracy is working, because the House of Lords, unelected though it is, is fulfilling its purpose: to scrutinise proposed legislation and sending it back, amended if needed, for reconsideration by the lower house. What this means in the end is still yet unknown, but while in power, Theresa May will be unsuccessful in going for the type of hard Brexit her back-benchers are pushing for, and that makes her entire approach, especially when trying to sideline parliament, unsuccessful either for her party or for democracy.
The other word is reactionary. And everything about this government, and David Cameron’s before it (technically that was one further back) has been reactionary. Strong and stable is all about longer-term planning, clear vision and delivery. Neither David Cameron, who, let us not forget, got spooked by UKIP, with, at the time, a whole two MPs, and a leader who simply couldn’t get elected to the UK parliament if he tried. Having been duped into calling a referendum on EU membership, Cameron and his Home Office minister, soon to be Prime Minister, Theresa May then did the absolute minimum to win it, assuming, wrongly as it turned out, that Remain was a shoo in.
And, in fact, all the polling up to just before the referendum suggested that would be the case. But no one, well no one outside of election campaigning, had yet heard of Cambridge Analytica, or its parent company or one of its subsidiaries.
When, as Cameron and May after him, react to what they think the public mood is at any one point, and then stick to that script, no matter how much things might have changed since, you end up with government by sleight of hand, one that is continually trying its very best not to back-pedal, and spends the largest amount of time doing just that: back peddling. One that so misreads the electorate that it becomes bad for the country by their mere continued existence.
What happens when you mix unsuccessful and reactionary government together is a recipe for disaster, and certainly, as it turns out, a disaster for democracy too.
What we are not seeing a coup d’état. It’s weak governance, weak planning, weak process and therefore a weak United Kingdom. No matter how you voted over Brexit, no matter where you still stand on it, no one voted for that, of that I am sure. The coup d’état, when it happens, will happen by the people, for the people. If we’re sensible, it will be peaceful and it will be definitive, and by the time they know what hit them, it will also be too late.
The best non-violent action you can take is vote tactically in the coming local elections on the 3rd of May. If you’re an EU citizen, you can vote in them too, if you’ve registered (too late if you have not, I’m afraid). Just vote for ANYONE who is not Conservative or Labour, both of whom support leaving the EU.
You will not end up with a national government from these elections, but you will send a very clear message to both main parties that enough is enough, and now is the time to re-think Brexit. It is not the will of the people, so why continue pretending that it is?
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