The Emperor’s New Constitutional Crisis


Can you imagine the press narrative if it was a Labour Party that refused to call a GE in the current circumstances?

Imagine if a LP government without an overall majority, that had failed in a defining international negotiation, that had perhaps fatally split the both party and the country, that had fallen to third place in national elections and in a key by-election, and was nonetheless refusing to call a GE and seeking to elect a new leader of the party who would become PM without a national vote despite the political crisis?

The words ‘constitutional crisis’ would be all over the media. References to Hitler and Stalin and a ‘socialist coup that is destroying democracy’ would be filling our media.

Yet when it is a Conservative Party in those exact same circumstances no one in our media even questions the constitutional legitimacy of what is happening? Before 1979 any government in anything like the current position would have felt constitutionally obliged to call a GE. Yet today none of our media even raise that as a serious option.

So what is going on? Why are our media not drawing attention to this crisis in the legitimacy of our democracy? Could it be because if there were a GE now there is a good chance that a left Labour government under Corbyn would win? Perhaps the Tories and centrist liberals in our media are more concerned about even a moderate neo-Keynsian, mixed economy, reformist, left Labour government, than they are about protecting the legitimacy of our democratic institutions and processes?

Our media, including the BBC, if not ‘especially’ the BBC, are entirely politicised. There is no source of impartial political/social/economic information available to the British public. Our media do not ‘speak truth to power’ or ‘impartially inform and educate the public’. ALL of our media are politically committed to one political position or another.

The BBC and the Guardian for example are committed to fiscal conservatism (pro-capitalist) combined with social liberalism (identity politics liberalism). This is the politics of ‘Wet’ Tory modernisers like Cameron or centrist Labour modernisers like Blair, and is in fact a 19th Century Classic Liberal position. It is not ‘impartial’ or even a halfway position between nationalist conservatism on the right and revolutionary socialism on the left, on the contrary it is a distinct political position with a well documented history and clearly defined by an extensive theoretical and ideological literature.

As in the 1930’s these classic liberals were far more concerned by the threats to capitalism posed by the left than they were to the threats to individual liberty posed by the fascist right.

In the current political circumstances a GE is the ONLY democratically legitimate response and anyone concerned about protecting or enhancing our democratic institutions should be fighting hard for a GE purely on the grounds of democratic legitimacy.

Brexit has not created this constitutional crisis; the constitutional crisis has been created by the election of Corbyn to the leadership of the LP and his survival in that position despite the best efforts of our entire media and most of his own MP’s. Brexit has in fact enabled the liberal media’s campaign against Corbyn to become less visible as Brexit splits UK politics in a new binary.

In my view a second referendum on Brexit is also necessary and would still be necessary if a Corbyn government were elected, but a second referendum only resolves the pragmatic question of the democratic legitimacy of Brexit. We are in the midst of a much, much, bigger constitutional crisis and Corbyn’s prioritising of a GE over a second referendum is entirely correct.

About I Am Not A Number

I Am Not A Number is written by Chris Jury. For 30 years Chris Jury was a TV actor, director and writer best known for playing Eric Catchpole in over 60 episodes of the BBC’s antique classic, Lovejoy, and for directing over 50 episodes of Eastenders. In 2008 he was appointed as the Senior Lecturer in Recorded Media in the School Of Music & Performing Arts at Bath Spa University. He currently presents, Agitpop, a pop & politics radio discussion programme on North Cotswold Community Radio http://www.agitpopradio.org.uk He is currently the Communications Officer for UCU at Bath Spa University and a UCU SW Regional Rep at SWTUC.
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