On Face Value

Politics in a Broken Age

The UK is in a political crisis. From here, what would form the top three perfect endings?


Everyone must be scratching their eyes sore about the state of British politics at the minute- it’s truly extraordinary. The Supreme Court ruled Johnson’s advice to the Queen as unlawful, the Government has lost 7/7 votes; and there is no clear yellow brick road to Brexit paradise to follow. Even the Her Majesty’s Opposition are at odds with each other; Corbyn wants a neutral Brexit campaign- whatever that means. Like me, you must be thinking that the world has gone insane. You’d be unequivocally correct.

It’s November 1st, 2019. What would be the ideal scenario to follow such a rumble in the Brexit jungle?

AN ELECTION: CONTESTED BY NEW LEADERS

An election looks likely, even in a political world of disproportionate unpredictability. There are certain ways that this can be achieved, even in a time of deadlock. If Johnson rallies his troops to vote against his own government, and manages to gain traction from the other parties, there could be an election within 14 days of such an event. This may not be possible, as the immediate aftermath could result in temporary pact-sharing nonsense. I don’t even think Corbyn trusts himself to lead a minority government, let alone other opposition MPs- essentially ruling this plan of action out. Labour can’t even unite under one Brexit policy, let alone gain sufficient consensus to from government.

According to the latest polls, The Tories are enjoying a strong lead over Corbyn’s neutral position. The Conservatives are on 32% and Labour on 23%. The Lib Dems sit on 19%. YouGov/Times

In an ideal world, either Boris or Corbyn win a majority that can be suitably used in the Commons, to half-end the stalemate of leave/ remain shenanigans. What would be superb, is if the Lib Dems were to fail on their anti-Brexit campaigning, to which has helped no one in this political crisis. No one needs the Lib Dems anyway. Flip-flopping, Brexit-denying; MP nabbing liberals. We wouldn’t want a hokey-cokey government made-up by the Lib Dems- it’d probably take them a whole year to work out where to sit. Yes, they’re strongly anti-Brexit, but like many of the other parties; they offer no unifying plan.

It’d be perfect if Corbyn and Boris stepped-down, that’d happen in my Utopia. In reality, there’s no one better to lead each respective party, so we’re stuck on this stage. Politics at the moment is truly screwed. And no, Jo Swinson definitely isn’t the answer.

A BREXIT WITH AN AGREEABLE DEAL

The upcoming EU summit between the 17th and the 18th of October may offer up a genuine chance for Britain to avoid a no-deal Brexit, although the chances of such an agreeable deal passing through Parliament is low; considering the government effectively the minority body in the House of Commons. Rees-Mogg once noted that simply removing the backstop would not be consequential enough of a change to warrant a good deal. The problem the government has is that their own backbenchers are ardent leavers and the House is undoubtedly anti-Brexit. If you were to bang the heads of Mark Francois and Steve Baker together, you’d get nothing but rhetoric and a story about British exceptionalism.

Clowning around: A man with a funny hat filming a 21st century clown.

This makes a deal agreeable through majority in Parliament low; and with a No-deal now practically illegal, Boris wouldn’t dare resign himself to ignoring this statute. He’s already been ruled by the Supreme Court to have wrongly advised the Queen, so it surely wouldn’t be in his interest to run against an actual piece of legally binding legislation, this time.

Therefore, my Brexit deal utopia would be this: an agreeable deal that ensures economic stability of sorts, without impeding on the rights of legally documented workers in this country. Whether this is possible, who knows? That’s why it’s so easy to write with ifs, buts; maybes. You can hide behind the facade of idealism.

FARAGE FINALLY FADES

Farage is getting boring, for me anyway. Yeah he wants Brexit delivered, fair enough. It’s just that I’ve had enough of Nigel this decade; dare I say it, but more boring politicians will do. Farage has ridden the coattails of populism for the best part this decade, playing a key role in the 2016 Brexit campaign. History will not remember Farage as the guy that pressured Cameron into calling a referendum- but the guy that won it. This political turmoil can’t be pushed onto one person, but rather the system as a whole, yet Farage’s refusal to be recognised as apart of the political class is somewhat baffling. He is. He leads a party. He sits in the European Parliament. C’mon Nige!

Every politician has their pinnacle. If we can ever move on from Brexit, let it be that we move on from Nigel Farage too. Oh, and his millionaire friend Arron Banks.


That’s enough of silly utopian thought. Here’s to the next month or so. Let’s just hope politics isn’t broken enough not to be mended again.


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Is Brexit about to return a plethora of sovereign capabilities back from the EU?


The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty is the most important element of the British constitution, as it gives the British Parliament in Westminster, as an elected body, supreme power and legislative authority over anything. Often, ideas about sovereignty are conflated with notions of patriotism, but they are robustly different things.

Although the sovereignty of our Parliament is longstanding, the historical significance of such an imperative principle is disputed, so the best I can do is present historic law:

Perhaps one of the most important Acts of Parliament (statute) in the union’s democratic history is that of the Bill of Rights (1689), in which all royal political powers were removed. A succeeding statute, the Act of Settlement (1700) removed the monarchy’s influence from the judiciary, allowing for the first time in modern British history, a completely independent legislature and judiciary from Royal interference. But, questions about the sovereignty of Parliament have been contested and with the prominence of this issue escalating both previous to and after Brexit, the understanding of such a crucial constitutional principle is vitally important. With the sovereign power derived from the Crown, is it correct to suggest that the UK lost sovereignty to the European Union as a member? Or, is it another one of those conflated-mistruths I spoke about earlier?

A common phrase during that referendum campaign was ‘let’s take back control’, and a big political part of that message relies upon the importance of Parliamentary sovereignty- something which was eagerly discussed in that campaign. And, perhaps the biggest message was the the NHS money bus which promised an extra £350m investment if Britain decided to leave the European Union. There are two things wrong with the campaign slogans above. Before Brexit, the UK had around 98% control of its public expenditure through both the executive privileges of the government and the sovereignty of Parliament. This means that the NHS’ budget is not restricted by the European Union, but rather controlled by the British Government and scrutinised on by the various functions of the House of Commons. If politicians such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were so obsessed with better funding the NHS, they should’ve said so when the Conservative Party’s manifesto was written in 2015. It is the government which sets public spending via the Treasury- it isn’t threatened by zombie European leaders in Brussels or Strasbourg. They are zombies, by the way. Indeed, Brexit is something which has caused such stirs at the heart of a wholly outdated political system that people are starting to doubt whether taking back control is actually possible. As the Brookings Institute highlighted, there is a world of difference between national sovereignty and national autonomy- so don’t you dare get them mixed up!

Those who think that sovereignty will restore complete control of immigration, economics and international law are purely and simply wrong.

In simplified terms, sovereignty is something exclusively political to the nation and it cannot control the external influences of the outside world, and the effects they have within our borders. Those who think that sovereignty will restore complete control of immigration, economics and international law are purely and simply wrong. Those who do, well, I’m glad your reading my blog. I present the big questions of our day to you, On Face Value.

What is fundamental to understand is that if I was to vote based off of a usually salient issue, say the economy, and wanted the EU’s grubby hands off of it; I wouldn’t vote off of the basis of sovereignty. I would be voting for greater political and economic autonomy, which is a different idea entirely. If I want an economic structure that reflects Britain’s wider presence in the world, these changes rely upon a plethora of different contributive chapters in order for the story to be written. Elements such as trade deals, socioeconomics; politics in government and the economic tendencies of the wider world. In all truth, sovereignty should never have even been an issue in the referendum, simply because it has always been present.

A crucial example that I would point to would be the relationship between the UK’s judicial system and the legislature in Westminster. In this case, Westminster Parliament has complete favorability; it is a sovereign body, so it cannot be overruled even by the courts. The subordancance of the Courts is noticeable through legal doctrines that are referred to as ‘Common Law’, and these legal conventions follow the legislation passed by Parliament. So, if you’re unhappy that the courts haven’t got control, it isn’t a European issue at all- this precedent dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Blame them.

The European Court of Justice & The Supreme Court

Here’s where it gets spicy though, because it is true that we have a large chunk of our constitution reserved for the European Union- particularly in the judicial branch. Much like our courts, the European Court of Justice is a body which regulates the implementation of law, via the outlines stated by treaties and secondary legislation. Our Supreme Court must refer to the ECJ over such issues, because they are important protected elements of EU policy that must be adhered to in legislation. If the ECJ does rule that a piece of legislation is incompatible with EU law, it doesn’t have the power to strike down national law passed by a sovereign body. It is true that through a European ruling in 1964, states that had agreed to limit some of their sovereign capabilities would be obliged to follow the word of the treaties when making law. In this sense, EU law takes precedent in the manufacturing of legislation.

In 2016, the ECJ ruled that the Investigatory Powers Act was in breach of EU law on surveillance. The Supreme Court then followed with a Declaration of Incompatibility, to which the government agreed to reword their legislation.

If Parliament passed a law that was incompatible with EU law and directives, the Supreme Court would rule a Declaration of Incompatibility. This highlights a very important checks-balance process between the Judiciary, the EU and the British Parliament. The courts have very limited powers over Parliament, so if a law was to found to be negating the words of the EU treaties, the Supreme Court would attempt to find a resolution through the use of common law and legal conventions. Ultimately, Parliament still effectively has control of its laws and clearly; all this process does, is it makes law more representative and better worded for adequate enforcement by the courts.

As some Brexiteers would be quick to point out, there is another European court that does have some influence over the legislation that Westminster Parliament must adhere to- The European Court of Human Rights.

This is perhaps one aspect of the European Union that has got under the nails of many Conservatives and Eurosceptics. Originally founded to protect the EU from totalitarianism in 1959, the Court of Human Rights’ oversight has been an issue of national deliberation ever since its first involvements with the UK. Correctly or incorrectly, the role of the court is fundamentally to protect the rights of European citizens across the EU, particularly in areas such as employment rights. The court oversees the implementation of and the adherence to the European convention on Human Rights, which came into force in October of 2000. Essentially, any appellate can appeal to the court, on the basis of a human rights issue; including at times, states themselves.

Once again, the ECHR can judge a law to be in breach of the Human Rights Act, and UK courts can give a declaration too. The ECHR can override the decisions of UK courts if needs be, which could highlight the discontent of some toward the powers the court holds. Although, as a sovereign body, it remains Parliament’s jurisdiction to decide to amend said law or not. Usually though, public opinion dictates that they do.

The way to rid the United Kingdom of such a court is to repeal the Human Rights Act, which establishes the link between the court’s jurisdictions and ‘interference’ with British law. This is relevant particularly to 2016, when the government drafted a ‘British Bill of Rights’ to replace the potential omission of the Human Rights Act. This was widely condemned as a rushed and ‘populist’ proposal which gained very little traction, and there hasn’t really been much chatter since. Apart from Theresa May threatening to remove it as part of the Brexit withdrawal in January of this year, no solutions have been pushed. The House of Lords Brexit Committee warned that the Act was under threat after Brexit, after they labelled the government’s response as ‘diluted’. Talk about ‘good, strong government in the national interest’.


Historic rulings from the European Court of Human Rights on the UK:

 

 


Brexit and the separations of power:

This brings me to my conclusive segment- the current dilemma of the Supreme Court. The question over whether Boris Johnson ‘lied’ to the Queen is currently being mulled over by all 11 Justices, and a ruling is widely expected next Monday. Regardless of the verdict, this case highlights the extraordinary political climate of today and to think we had seen it all. John Major (former Prime Minister) even testified through a lawyer this week, indicating the extent of the political rupture. Forget bonkers. This is unheard of.

These developments are lurching into a constitutional crisis, particularly in regards to the makeup of the balance of powers between each branch. Bear in mind that the uncodified state of our constitution makes the coming decision even more important; if the Supreme Court adjudged that Johnson misled the Queen, some will cry political interference from the Judiciary. Therefore, the key question is this: is it for the courts to intervene in such a matter? If so, what an earth does that mean for the future? Remember, legal doctrines are a vital part of the judicial process. This would break the trend.

The immediate future is indifferent; if the Supreme Court rules that it isn’t within their jurisdiction (which is quietly expected), we return to the normal state of play. Well, Brexit normal. If an opposite decision is arrived at, Parliament could be recalled immediately. Chances are, Johnson would prorogue Parliament again.

What would the likes of Erskine May, A.V Dicey and Lord Bingham think of this mess? Better not answer that. Politics students like me? Well, we’re pulling our hairs out trying to keep up. Wish us luck with that.


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David Cameron is back with his new ‘explosive’ book. Even history can’t save you, Dave.


Dave has returned. The Prime Minister that resigned in 2016 following Britain’s decision to leave the EU has had very few run-ins with the public recently; tucked away in that reading shed of his. Unfortunately for us, his sudden reappearance from the abyss is an opportunity to market his brand new book: For the Record. Presumably, it is going to set things straight- although anything is possible with Cameron.

Before the release of his book on September 19, The Times today published an interview with the 6-year Prime Minister, in which he hinted that he would have done things differently to both May and now Johnson. Despite what is expected to be an almost 800 page recollection of his time in office, it won’t just be ‘girly’ spats that will feature in this memoir. His book could include answers to whether during the 2016 campaign, a no-deal was voted for and how he would have dealt with the negotiations with the EU. Considering that his renegotiation in 2015/16 was lamented for being ‘neither here nor there’, whatever he does suggest will almost certainly be spat back out by the likes of the Moggster and Brexit Boris.

The sales figures aren’t exactly booming on the pre-order lists, with the book not even making the top twenty on the Amazon charts, but Waterstones are confident that sales will be strong. However popular the book turns out to be, the contents will be rigorously examined by the Conservatives who are looking to preserve face over Brexit- something which they have failed to do since 2016. The release just precedes the Conservative Party conference by over a week, with their ex-leader looking to retain some of his battered reputation, despite barely being in the public eye for over three years. It would seem that he has plenty to salvage, and not just issues regarding Brexit. Remember the now infamous ‘Omnishambles’ budget in 2012? Thought so.

The 2012 budget was so heavily disliked, that even Ed Balls came out looking like a credible future Chancellor. The gist of the budget was this: the decision to cut the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p, which in its actuality was a huge token for the wealthiest. The measures on the surface were symbolic of a political suicide, with those earning over £150,000 being granted an easier time of things; during the hard-hitting austerity campaign. Dave’s partner in crime, George Osborne, was spared his job after the biggest political error in recent budget history. If it wasn’t for Cameron’s spineless leadership and sheer dependence on his number two, Osborne would have been reduced to the political graveyard. They both just about survived, although the leadership abilities of David Cameron were heavily undermined. The panto-villain of George Osborne has somehow escaped the political belittling that his former boss has received, despite arguably being the most inexperienced, incompetent and harshest-cutting Chancellor of post-war Britain.

So, there should be no surprise that the new book is going to look to paper over the glaring cracks of Cameron’s chaotic premiership. According to the pollsters YouGov, his reputation is flat-lined; out of nine-thousand participants, he has a 61% negative opinion across those involved with the survey. The last Conservative Prime Minister before Cameron, John Major is enjoying a slight bump in support following his summer promise to take the government to court, over the now ‘clandestine’ decision to prorogue Parliament. Not Dave.

Remember Ed Miliband? Yep, I thought so (again). Chaos with you, Dave? Not a chance. Poor Ed.

History is funny isn’t it?

Cameron probably does realise that his form of party management in calling a referendum was a mistake personally, although he has repeatedly refused to denounce the position as a “mistake” in public. It is ironic that this ‘party management’ has allowed for the Conservative party to be at its most fragile and fractured since the mid-90s, a decision which cost him his leadership of a majority government and personal popularity. What is more ironic, are the infamous tweets that aged badly during the 2015 general election campaign. Remember Ed Miliband? Yep, I thought so (again). Chaos with you, Dave? Not a chance. Poor Ed.

Dodgy Dave: The #LeadByDonkeys campaign took Dave on a trip down memory lane with their campaign earlier this year.

For Dave’s sake, it is only fair that I highlight his achievements over gay rights, equality and international contribution. He was also a fantastic leader of the Oxford anti-austerity campaign. Apart from these achievements, David Cameron will long be remembered as the man that started the process of splitting a nation; for some, one of the worst Prime Ministers of all time. Jeremy Paxman certainly thinks so.


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Special advisors have always been a contentious topic within British politics, but none more so than within Number 10 itself. The nature of Alastair Campbell’s appointment within Tony Blair’s team ahead of the 1997 election would change the influence of special advisors for years to come. The extent to which even Cabinet members titled Campbell as “the real deputy prime minister” highlights the disproportionate influence an unelected advisor has upon government affairs, being credited as the spin doctor due to his overbearing and intoxicating approach to the media in order to protect Mr Blair’s image at all costs. Malcolm Tucker in the TV series “The Thick of It” by the BBC was loosely based off the former director of communications, giving a weirdly accurate portrayal of the liberal use of profanities by Campbell behind the scenes, with the heated 2003 interview with Jon Snow on Channel 4 regarding the “dodgy dossier” displaying hints of the short temper he held.

Fast forward to 2019, and a newcomer has emerged in the form of Dominic Cummings. Dominic already gained notoriety for his controversial role as the mastermind behind the Leave campaign, reportedly credited with fundamental aspects of the campaign such as the slogan “Take back control”, the campaign’s emphasis upon immigration and its informal links to the disgraced Cambridge Analytica. Cummings has followed in the footsteps of Campbell, depicted by the Channel 4 drama “Brexit: The Uncivil War”, unravelling him as the integral piece of the Brexit puzzle. This was the first time he was placed firmly in the public eye, and would turn out to be the first of many.

What differentiates Cummings from Campbell is the sheer number of controversies he has had within a small time period, making Alastair’s affairs seem trivial in comparison. Dominic has a knack for disregarding every founding principle of democracy, starting with the Electoral Commission stating that Vote Leave broke electoral law – yet faced a laughable fine of just £61,000 and a slap on the wrist. The same man who was found in contempt of parliament after failing to appear in front of the DCMS committee in relation to fake news has recently been given a security pass for the Palace of Westminster. Cummings is the epitome of anti-establishment, although that very same establishment is the one granting him unchecked and unlimited power. The “political anarchist”, as dubbed by former prime minister John Major, has not stopped there however.

Dominic has a knack for disregarding every founding principle of democracy.

Cummings has built upon his intimidation and use of obscene language from his days at the Department for Education under Michael Gove from 2010-2014, where he enforced a culture of “us-and-them” and bullying tactics. He was even reportedly involved in the attempted removal of a senior civil servant, which was likened to an episode from the aforementioned series The Thick of It. Cummings’ dictatorial regime is reflected in his involvement in the sacking of Sonia Khan, Sajid Javid’s media advisor. The audacity he had to escort the Chancellor’s advisor from No 10 by a police officer, merely over accusations of contact with Tory Europhiles, without Javid knowing prior to the sacking is beyond belief. This only serves to highlight inherent problems within the Downing Street machine, and where the real power lies. To make matters worse, the unfathomable decision to sack 21 Tory MPs was unsurprisingly linked with the vindictive chief of staff. Reports from Tory sources said Cummings threatened former Business Secretary Greg Clark to “purge” him and his colleagues that defied Boris’ plans. The outlandish behaviour that he has displayed, alongside the repeated remarks from prominent MPs about his conduct, only accentuates the destructive course he is leading the Conservatives towards.

The puppet meister (left) and the puppet (right).

Chaos has been normalised under the duo of Johnson and Cummings, throwing Parliament, MPs, convention and every facet of the British political system into turmoil.  The polarising nature of Cummings and his programme has arguably achieved the exact opposite of his intended goal – he has only served as a source of universal agreement from opposing MPs, who equally despise the unelected SpAd. The frequent nature of controversial appointments such as Cummings has re-opened conversation about the power of special advisors. Irresponsible actions that he has undertaken provides endless conundrums with few answers, and it seems like everyone is powerless in stopping the tyrant that he has become.

I hope we can all take solace in the fact that the political career of these despicable advisors has ended abruptly in resignation – Alastair Campbell with the Iraq Dossier and Hutton Inquiry, as well as Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill after the 2017 election. With an impending election around the corner and the Tories’ possible ousting as government, surely political history defines that Dominic Cummings’ time as the real deputy prime minister may soon be up.


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With the unstoppable rise of populism and the effects of technologilisation, is it any wonder that British democracy is being called into disrepute?


The political earthquakes of the past five years have shone a light onto the adequacy of world democracy more than ever before. The significance of such issues aren’t new- they come as a result of historical failings- ones which have amounted to consequences of epic proportions.

The extent of the ruptures of modern democracy are far bigger issues than events such as Brexit; the current tendencies are simply just a product of intergenerational complacency- it has been 45 years since the end of Nixon, as an example. Highlighting Nixon’s tenure in office is just, as his presidency was one that rocked public trust in elected officials to an all-time low. His example was so prominent, that every political scandal has since been shipped with the -gate suffix, a grammatical aspect which hints at the failings of a manipulated democracy. He never recovered and seemingly, nor has democracy.

The culmination of today’s seismic political events have only highlighted the grave splits that have been hidden in institutions of democracy.

Brexit only highlighted politics’ shortcomings- it didn’t forge them.

Nixon’s presidency coated a quilt of doubt on the ability of politicians and governments across the world to use their power with responsibility and maintain accountability to the people. That quilt of irrepressible gloom suffocated the bedrock of public trust, and now it seems as though the veils are being pulled over the eyes of the public. Ironic, considering the ‘biggest ever’ democratic exercise in the UK only took place a mere 3 years ago. Ironic, considering Donald Trump promised to fix a ‘broken Washington’. The culmination of today’s seismic political events have only highlighted the grave splits that have been hidden in institutions of democracy, to which haven’t been as noticeable as they are today.

Perhaps the biggest question of British democracy is that of our parliamentary component of convention is an element which has perhaps reached its viability as a tolerable tool of politics. There is no doubt that it has worked, but the heavy collision between direct and representative democracy has corroded trust from both sides of the European question- even if it was initially a party spat. There is no doubt that democracy in the UK had one of the boldest inceptions in the world, and traces of that beginning are very much still demonstrative today. It is notable that belief in history and political precedents is important, but there must now be a pragmatic change to the way politics works. Pragmatic being the realisation that the system is broken, and by using the last three years as examples, learning from the grave errors that have now preceded this piece.

In a Liberal democracy prided on the political freedom of the public to sway the biggest political decisions of the day, the incompatibility of this week’s events not only highlight that more scrutiny needs to be placed on government, but also, more transparency on MPs. The Democratic Audit, published annually with the LSE, had warned of the importance of improving the state of parliamentary process before this most recent implosion. Minimal actioning followed. The adequacy of scrutiny is simply non-existent, and this is not a new phenomenon contrary to popular knowledge- Blair got away with it. His actioning of the Iraq war in 2003 was the biggest scandal to slither past the coat of scrutiny preceding the issue of Brexit, and families will argue they still haven’t seen the light of day since. The deep lies in which his government told over ‘weapons of mass destruction’ had fooled Parliament then, and the now infamous ‘Dodgy Dossier’ could have spared the livelihoods of British soldiers. Had there been more accountability, perhaps this course of action may have been prevented- lives saved, democracy preserved. There must be no mistake: the failures of the constitution are not simply down to a lack of modernisation, but rather the failure of a Parliament to advocate for meritocratic representation. Forget ideology or partisanship, this obnoxious slide in good representation has been flummoxed by the conscious decision of parties to promote tribalism and opportunism.

Dominic Cummings represents the conductor of this government’s tendencies to turn the constitution into a sword of political manipulation.

Boris Johnson’s selection as an MP in 2015 is evidence enough to suggest this; as Mayor of London, he made his intentions clear that he would combine his role as MP with mayoralty. This not only a negation of his role to the public of London, but also to his new Ruislip constituency. It is not feasible to suggest that he could have done both jobs well enough, as both are in essence, full time jobs. Boris was a personality, one which would have proved vital for the Conservatives in 2015 (which they won). This was not a selection based off of Boris’ skills to help his new constituents, because if it were, the job would have gone to someone with more time and availability to represent a constituency. And, is it at all a surprise that Boris’ best contribution as PM so far has been dubbing Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘chlorinated chicken’? It probably will not come as such a shock that his decision to suspend Parliament was seen by 46% of people as undemocratic, compared to 32% on the contrary (YouGov, snap poll). Ipsos Mori have also chipped in with a poll: 75% of people are already dissatisfied with the government- making it the least popular incoming government in 40 years. This may just be a speculative poll, but if this has any true indication of the state of British democracy, then there is a lot to fear. There will inevitably be an election though, and with the government electioneering through policy proposals, it could be about to change. There may be a mandate, and suddenly all the issues over a non-legitimacy would be resolved. Brexit could even be finalised. In a Utopia, yes. With the electoral system however, the woes are set to continue.

Forget ideology or partisanship, this obnoxious slide in good representation has been flummoxed by the conscious decision of parties to promote tribalism and opportunism.

VOTES AND TECHNOLOGY

It does usually fall on an election to fix the broken political split in Westminster, but any potential election could be one that threatens to have the opposite effect. Our current system of voting has been widely criticised for some time: First Past the Post relies upon a simple majority in each constituency for a candidate to win a seat, and as a plurality system, often the national results are skewed quite significantly. Take the Labour heartlands for instance, these constituencies collectively voted to leave the EU, with 70% of the heartland constituencies doing so. But, DeltaPoll suggest that any chance of a pro-Brexit party winning there is extremely slim as these areas decisively vote for Labour on a habitual basis. So, Labour will keep their heartlands regardless. The problem comes when pro-Brexit parties will begin to contest tight seats that change hands often, and with the vote being split significantly, the possibility that remain parties could sweep in and win a seat are likely (i.e. Lib Dems). Labour are behind in Wales, the Conservatives face the possibility of being wiped out in Scotland and potentially, the Brexit Party’s vote could be completely misrepresented due to the voting system.

Boris Johnson may be polling at around 35% at the moment, but in today’s politics that will only be worthy enough to be a minority government, if polls were to stay at a similar place during an election. The voting system may well suit parties like the Conservatives, but in a time of political toxicity, it is hard to imagine how long it will remain in place if hung parliaments are consistently produced. There may be a bigger issue with democracy now; a problem that threatens to misinform, lie and destroy the premise of accountability. The fake news and distorted political propaganda on social media platforms such as Facebook have already allegedly flirted with the EU referendum and the 2016 US election; there are genuine fears that it may continue if a new election rolls around the corner.

Brittany Kaiser’s whistleblowing has further increased scrutiny on how media companies have a foothold on democratic practices.

The select committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport recently published a report that suggested that on sites such as Facebook, genuine news stories are getting less coverage than fake news due to the level of manipulation that these headlines go through to get featured. This all follows the concerning revelations that during the 2016 EU referendum, around 50 million Facebook profiles were ‘harvested’ by former data company Cambridge Analytica. These figures and profiles were shared with Leave.EU and the UKIP campaign during the referendum. The now infamous Brittany Kaiser released emails to the committee earlier this year that were indicative of the rigorous data campaign that Cambridge Analytica performed, giving a further indication that mass manipulation of voters by technology has undermined British democracy- that much is clear.

Problems over populism and fake news have been liked as a matter of certainty in Italy, with fake news ‘having undoubtedly favoured right wing populist parties’ there. So is it that surprising that democracy is suffering as a result? A report by Italian researchers suggests that people choose to be apart of a ‘fake news bubble’, due to their prior preference of digesting news from populist sources. The biggest issue that this report outlines is the self-echo chambers that platforms like Facebook allow for; people are able to share their political views and tendencies, which is reinforced by confirmation bias. In this particular study, it is open to suggest that for whatever reason, people are taking rational decisions to share and believe warped information. There could be a link with socioeconomics and the news someone chooses to share, but there are limited links to suggest such an explanation, although it does hold some logic.

People are taking rational decisions to share and believe warped information.

In a liberal democracy, the media system should be diverse and pluralistic and there could be a case to blame social media for the the erosion of free, correct and informative publications during an election. Fake news is so threatening, that consecutive governments have outlined approaches of tackling this manufactured, false medium of information. Whether these measures are successful or not will be hard to interpret. The beauty of being in a liberal democracy is that news is overly unregulated, with the formal news outlets all have binding codes of conduct in regards to journalistic integrity. Social media and other such outlets don’t, but establishing such a conduct would be near impossible. The social media companies will need to step-up, and with Facebook’s employment of Sir Nick Clegg, it would appear as though they are trying to tackle these problems seriously. But, evidence suggest they just haven’t. Another election could be submerged in dangerous rhetoric fuelled by populist ideas, starting from the very social media apps on everyone’s phones. That will not mend a political crisis. Undoubtedly, it will worsen it.

Democracy has flourished through the failings outlined; the vibrancy of Westminster is indicative that actually, informal political interaction is strong. But, what has it achieved? It takes formal political change to tackle the key issues of the day, but if formal political interaction is failing, where is it that change can really be achieved? This is the question that is facing our times and an answer is needed fast. If not, a broken democracy will soon become a dead one.


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