Oh What a Lovely Democracy
If the treasurer of the Labour Party didn’t know about those loans; and if the people who loaned the money were then put up for peerages; and if peerages are given by No.10; then the conclusion is obvious: who knew was No.10. Adorno used to speak about the coincidence which is not just a coincidence.
No.10 – a useful euphemism. More evidence, if any were needed, that Mr Blair, the man who ignored the largest protest demonstration ever seen in London, and went to war on the coat-tails of Mr Danger (as Venezuela’s Chavez calls Bush the Son) – this is someone basically anti-democratic. Like Mrs Thatcher. (Whereas Chavez has won more genuine elections and referendums than any other elected leader anywhere in the world.)
Which goes to show that in the country of the mother of parliaments, democracy isn’t working very well. Nor is it working well in the USA. I clearly remember watching it not working very well during my semester in North Carolina when the Son first got sort of elected. I also remember Mrs Thatcher abolishing the GLC, so I delighted in the irony of old Red Ken then becoming Mayor of my home city when New Labour brought some kind of democracy back to the capital but then lost control of the process. I guess that’s when you know democracy is working – when it produces results that upset the status quo.
But the problem is systemic, not personal to the office holders. So it isn’t just Uncle Sam and Old Blighty who have been discombobulated by Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian elections. Europe too. And it’s part of the trouble over Iran, which started when everyone was surprised by the presidential election last summer throwing up Ahmadinejad, a conservative religious fundamentalist, who pretty quickly became pretty outspoken. (I leave aside the question of whether his election was rigged, and who by, because that’s another story…)
Now I don’t like politicians who think they have a special line to whatever god they believe in (Bush the Son and Ahmadinejad both, and now in his fumbling and inarticulate way, Tony Blair) but I don’t think what Iran needs is Washington’s idea of democracy. Is Iran undemocratic because it’s only partly democratic, and the politicians must constitutionally defer to the clerics? What if Iran’s Islamic constitution is actually a kind of x-ray of the democratic state of the Christian West? Here, democracy has a similar structure except that the clerics the politicians defer to are not specifically religious and don’t appear in public as a constituted body of people. I’m not advancing a conspiracy theory but referring to the hidden structures of power which govern any society.
Which brings me to my last point. The surest sign of Blair’s ambivalence about democracy is his vacillation over what to do with the House of Lords. The Lords, in light of my previous paragraph, was once exactly the same as Iran’s councils of mullahs – unelected representatives of the highest powers in the land with the authority to moderate and curb the elected politicians. Its powers were diluted but not fundamentally altered when life peerages were invented almost a hundred years ago, and it became steadily more anachronistic and anomalous, so it was ripe for picking on. Blair came to power promising the biggest constitutional radicalisation (I refuse to use the word revolution) by turning it into an elected chamber, and has procrastinated and backtracked ever since. I have long thought that what should be done with it is obvious, but so simple the politicians can’t see it. Don’t change its powers, just turf out all non-elected members, especially the clergy and the judiciary (which means we’ll need a proper independent court of appeal) and then turn it into a fully elected second chamber using proportional representation. Then sit back and watch the country coming back to a proper democratic public life…