Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 191
7th April 2010
Three Parties, One Regime:
A Guide to the British General Election
By Sean Gabb
There is to be a general election in Britain on Thursday the 6th May 2010. For most purposes, this will be of no importance. Whoever wins will change none of the outlines of the New Labour Revolution of 1997. In one sense, however, it may be of crucial importance. Before going on to explain myself, however, I need to bear in mind that I am addressing myself mostly to an American audience, and there is no reason why Americans should know much about the workings of the British Constitution. Let me, therefore, explain something of how my country is governed.
The House of Commons is the central body of British government. It is made up of 646 Members, including the Speaker. Each Member represents one geographical district, called a constituency. He is elected by the “first past the post system”, which means that the winner of the seat needs to gain a majority of one over any other candidate. Thus, we might have the following outcome:
Liberal Democrat 11,000
In this case, the Conservative wins because he has the largest number of votes. There are no multi-member seats, nor any attempt to match national percentages of votes cast to seats awarded. This can lead to overall outcomes in which one of the main parties gains a majority of the total votes cast, but another wins a majority of seats in the House of Commons. This happens rarely. Much more usual, though, is for a small majority in votes cast to translate into a large Commons majority. For example, in the 1997 general election, Labour won 63.6 per cent of seats in the Commons with 43.2 per cent of the popular vote. Indeed, since the turnout was only 71 per cent, Labour won its vast majority with just over 30 per cent of the total possible vote. In the 2005 general election, Labour won its majority with 36.9 per cent of the vote – which, on a turnout of 61.3 per cent, meant that it won with just over 22 per cent of the total possible vote.
Now, whatever the democratic legitimacy of the outcome, the party that wins an overall majority of seats in the Commons is allowed to form the Government. That is, the leader of the largest party becomes Prime Minister, and then appoints all the other Ministers.
And whoever controls the House of Commons has absolutely unlimited power over the life, liberty and property of everyone in the United Kingdom. Britain has no written constitution, no entrenched bill of rights, no counterbalancing institutions. Back in 1776, the British Constitution was regarded as a balance of Crown, Lords and Commons, each able to check the other. Many judges and politicians also believed that there were certain fundamental laws that the courts could uphold against combined attack by Crown, Lords and Commons. This was the template for the American Constitution. Since then, however, the Lords have lost their blocking veto. The Crown – especially during the reign of “Elizabeth the Useless” (1952-) – has given up all attempt to preserve the Constitution from attack. The courts have accepted the doctrine of the absolute legislative supremacy of Parliament – which means of whoever controls the House of Commons.
In theory, an Act of Parliament – even passed by a majority of one in a Commons where the governing party received perhaps ten per cent of the total possible vote – could order the execution of every man in the country with red hair. It could make it an offence to whistle in the streets of Paris. It could repeal the Government of India Act 1947, and try sending out a new Viceroy to govern India. It could declare that three plus five equals nine. Regardless of its morality or physical means of enforcement, such an Act would be regarded by the courts as absolutely binding within the United Kingdom.
For a long time, this peculiar doctrine was allowed to do little harm. The House of Commons was dominated by members of the old ruling class, and these made sure to govern as if constrained by an entrenched constitution. By a process of gradual change during the 20th century, however, the old ruling class was displaced first in its personnel and then in its values. This was a gradual process, and no single year can easily be chosen to mark the transition. Whatever year is chosen, despotic laws can be adduced from before, and successful insistences on the old norms can be adduced from after. But perhaps the two most important dates were the election years of 1979 and 1997.
In the first of these, a Conservative Government was elected that believed its agenda of economic and political change should not be limited by any constitutional norm. In the second, a Labour Government was elected that used the precedents set by the Thatcher and Major Governments to carry out a politically correct coup d’état. Since 1997, around 5,000 new criminal offences have been created. In the name of “equality” and “anti-racism”, government power has been imposed into every area of private life. Call someone a “bloody immigrant”, and go to prison. Refuse to accommodate homosexuals in your hotel, and go to prison. Refuse to employ an atheist in your religious school, and be shut down. Smoke in your own business premises, or allow others to smoke, and go to prison. Photograph a police officer while he is breaking the law, and go to prison. Upset a police officer, and be arrested, and have your DNA taken and stored on a database that is shared with several dozen foreign governments. Keep a firearm in your home for self-defence, and go to prison for five years.
Since 1997, habeas corpus has been abolished. We have serious criminal trials without juries. The rule agains tdouble jeopardy has been abolished. Hearsay and similar fact evidence can be introduced. The police and 20,000 civil servants have the right to conduct warrantless searches of our homes. The police can authorise each other to break into homes to plant listening devices. Despite solid opposition, we are about to be forced to carry biometric identity cards that will give the authorities the ability to spy on – and therefore to control – every aspect of our private lives.
Nobody knows how many third world immigrants have been encouraged to settle in the country. The official population of the United Kingdom is about 60 million. Based on sales of basic foodstuffs, the supermarkets believe the true population to be closer to 80 million. It is impossible to say, as the true figures are either not collected or are hidden. We know that the great majority of immigrants who have been granted citizenship vote for the Labour Party. There is also much anecdotal evidence – though this is not mentioned in the mainstream media – that illegal immigrants and “asylum seekers” are being registered to vote so that they can increase the Labour share of the vote. Our registration laws date back to a time when nearly everyone in the country was a citizen, and registration to vote was a formality for when someone reached the age of majority or moved house. The law is based on trust, and this trust is easily abused by a little perjury that is then connived at by the pro-Labour administrators who control most of local government.
As a libertarian patriot, I take a less pessimistic view of immigration than other patriots. However, what we presently have is state-sponsored mass-immigration. This has been a deliberate policy of the British ruling class to break up resistance to despotism. This much was recently admitted by Andrew Neather, one of Tony Blair’s speechwriters. When people are sufficiently balkanised, they will suspect each other more than the authorities. To quote Bertolt Brecht,
After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
Since 1997, Britain has been turned from a reasonably free country into a police state. I have a good legal background. Even so, I no longer know what the laws are or how they are enforced. Indeed, it probably no longer matters what the laws say, as the police and administration often make them up as they go along.
The present general election is unimportant because it will result in a majority of one or more of the three main parties. These are all committed to the present order of things. The Conservatives go through the motions of opposition. But their current leader, David Cameron, has made it clear by his actions that he simply wants to replace Gordon Brown as head of government in our politically correct police state.
Based on this undeniable fact, many of my friends insist that they will either not vote at all, or will vote for a minority party that expresses their own opinions. I will not strongly disagree with these friends – especially as I change my own mind several times a week. But the view I most often hold is that libertarians and patriots have no real choice but to vote for the Conservatives. As said, the idea that the Conservatives will undo any of what has been done is ludicrous. However, the central difference can be summarised in two sentences. A returned Labour Government will soon have no compunction about ordering the police to fire on demonstrators. A Conservative Government might be more squeamish.
A Conservative Government would probably continue with most of the suicidal or simply demented policies of the Blair and Brown Governments. But, at the end of five years, it would then allow a free election as these things have been commonly understood in England. A re-elected labour Government would not. When these beasts in human form lied their way to office back in 1997, they came in with the same assumptions as Hitler had in 1933. They did not regard themselves as having acquired a limited and renewable leasehold interest, but as having inherited the freehold. They and their clients would never again have to sell their services in any open market. They would reorder the State wholly to their own interest. No private sphere, no ancient and immemorial rights would stand in their way. 1997 was Year Zero of their Thousand Year Reich.
So long as it was reasonably plain that they could win the next few elections – if with a dwindling fraction of the total possible vote – they were willing to keep most of the old rules. Even so, they took steps to cartellise politics with party registration and “human rights” laws that now allow them, given courage, to shut down dissident organisations like the British National Party. For the past few years, however, they have lived in constant fear of losing the next election. And, if Labour does lose, that might cause the implosion of their Party. Therefore, if they do somehow win after all, we can be reasonably sure that they will never allow another free election. I doubt if they would go so far as abolishing elections, or openly rigging them. But they are already talking about schemes of “electoral reform” that would keep them permanently in office – even if office must be shared with the Liberal Democrats. They would also tighten the party registration laws, so that only those parties willing to guarantee the existing order would be allowed to run in elections. They might also extend their control over local politicians to Members of Parliament – setting up some system whereby Members who were too outspoken could be removed for “misconduct”.
For all their faults, the Conservatives would probably not do any of these things. Therefore, a vote for the Conservatives would be a vote for keeping the system open for a real party of national restoration – whatever that might be.
Now, while talking of an eventual party of national restoration may be delusional, it is not technically impossible. It is certainly less delusional in the technical sense than in the United States. The American system has all the faults of its original virtues. It was created to ensure that sovereignty was divided among the three branches of the Federal Government, and then controlled by the Supreme Court – and that the individual States, where power was also divided – kept much control over their own affairs. The problem here is that, after about a century of creeping revolution similar in effect to what has happened in Britain, almost every branch of American government is equally corrupt.
If – say – Ron Paul had become President in 2008, he would have faced an immense and solidly hostile government machine over which he had little control. For an American party of restoration to get its way, it would need to win the Presidency, and then will Congressional elections every two years for perhaps a decade; and also win executive and legislative elections in at least a majority of the States. Even allowing for a slightly less corrupted state of public opinion in America than in Britain, none of this strikes me as very likely.
In Britain, on the other hand, a party of restoration needs only to win a majority of one in the House of Commons – once. This majority could be used to sweep everything evil away, and – short of violence – nothing could be done to stop the revolution. The absolute legislative supremacy of Parliament could be used as an unstoppable demolition ball against the administrative state. Increasingly, there has been no limit to the evil that can be done by the British Parliament. By the same rules, there need be no limit to the evil that can be undone by Parliament.
I have not so far mentioned the European Union. Many British Conservatives whine continually about how sovereignty has passed from London to Brussels, and that most British laws simply enact orders from the European Union. This is not the case. It is true that power has been formally delegated from Parliament. But this is no more than a delegation that could be reversed by a one line Act of Parliament, repealing the European Communities Act 1972 as amended. If we are subject to Brussels and the whole New World Order, that is only because Parliament has made us so. Give a party of national restoration a majority of one in the House of Commons – a majority of one….
This will not happen on the 6th May. Whoever wins will do no good for the country. But if the Conservatives win, they might abstain from the ultimate evil.
Is this a good argument? Many of my friends hotly insist that it is a deluded argument. Sometimes, when I look at the Conservatives, I ask how I can possibly vote for them. It is, even so, an argument, and I may consider it my patriotic duty to take a sick bag with me into the polling booth and vote for a bunch of traitors whose heads I might, in better circumstances, rather see set up on spikes above London Bridge.
© 2010 – 2017, seangabb.
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