Sunday, February 19, 2006

Coalition of the Militant Liberals

On Thursday, I really thought I was living through one of the worst weeks for democracy in the history of modern Britain. I took a couple of days off political blogging, including reading, to try to regain my sense of perspective; it is, as I'm sure we're all aware, all to easy to succumb to hyperbole and exaggeration when dealing with a current issue. The grass is always greener in the past, as we all know. A break was what was needed, I thought. My mojo was most definitely lost. (I did continue to read my comments which are always gratefully received and I must offer my apologies to MatGB; as a Garry with two R's, I really should know better.)

So, after three days of reflection, it still looks like last week was one of the worst weeks for democracy in the history of modern Britain. And, catching up on some of my reading today, I'm certainly not alone. Far from it, in fact.

To take just one example, last week saw the Prime Minister descend into the realm of the utterly irrational at PMQs:
With the greatest of respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I hope that he understands that he and his colleagues will vote for something today that would significantly dilute and weaken the provisions that attack glorification, which are vital if we are to defend this country successfully against the likes of Abu Hamza.
That's Abu Hamza who'd just been given a seven year sentence under existing laws. That Blair can come out with this stuff at all is worrying; that he can get away with it and "win" the argument is, yes, terrifying. I could go on but rather than rehashing the arguments on the government's attitude towards terrorism, I suspect I'd be well advised to steer you towards watching Dispatches on Monday at 8pm.

More than one blogger has highlighted this from the Observer. Worth reading.

The situation is such that many people are now seriously discussing forming a new coalition. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the central goal of this coalition will be to try to preserve freedom and democracy in Britain. Unity has a good round up and a plan. We're talking about a liberty coalition - people who'd traditionally supported a particular party, and those with no particular alleigance, putting aside their differences to work towards reversing the New Labour slide into undemocratic practices and authoritarianism. This is, I believe, the most important political issue of the early 21st Century. I will certainly be attempting to play a part

The main problem this campaign is likely to encounter, to hopelessly mangle Marx, is that consumerism is now the opium of the masses. As Blair's third way plays out, it seems more and more that it's based on the new Chinese model; economic prosperity is to be used to distract attention from the lack of basic freedoms. Sadly, it appears to work all to well in modern Britain. Interest in politics is at an all time low. What we must remember is that, much as we'd like to believe otherwise, political bloggers are not representative of the average person in this country. For every person I know who's interested in politics, I know any number who are not. (The "Politician are all the same" Party would win the next election hands down except that it wouldn't because it would be considered just the same as the rest of them.) What we need to do is to involve those who are not currently involved. How we do that is the difficult part, obviously. Without mass participation the campaign will struggle to make an impact. This week, I shall be trying to discuss this with people I know who might loosely be described as politically apathetic. We need hooks to get those people interested; I'm going fishing.

Finally, a word from (perhaps) a leftie perspective. Another quotation:
Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f*cking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed- interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of f*cking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing sprit- crushing game shows, stuffing f*cking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f*cked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself.
In Blair's Britain, this isn't a choice. There is no alternative to the pursuit of financial reward. This you must do to anaesthetise yourself against life. Anything else is considered an abomination. And if you find this unsatisfactory there is nothing you can do about it, no way to express your dissatisfaction in a meaningful sense.

Except, like Renton there, you could take drugs and drink excessively to enhance the anaesthetic, of course. This, I believe, is the driving force behind the remarkable growth in the number of disaffected youths on our streets of an evening. In my most cynical moments I wonder if liberalising the licensing laws and downgrading the classification for cannabis are a deliberate attempt to propogate the apathetic haze of the disenfranchised. When it comes to remaining in power, it's hard to rule out even the most repugnant tactics when it comes to this New Labour government. Just a(n admittely rather dark) thought.

At the end of the day, it boils down to this - we need people to care. Democracy depends on it. Tell your friends.

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