by BA and Venkatesh Sundaram
Image caption: Protesters attend a demonstration in Parliament Square about the rising cost of living and energy bills
Image source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/05/16/britain-facing-severe-cost-living-crisis-countries/
The mainstream media is full of stories of the upcoming election between the two leading candidates of the Conservative Party Mr. Rishi Sunak and Ms. Liz Truss who will now face a run-off. This political crisis should be seen in the background of rising prices, inflation and increasing protests and demonstrations. It has been several weeks since Mr. Boris Johnson tendered his resignation, having lost the confidence of the members of his cabinet and of his parliamentary party. Mr. Johnson has been named in a large number of scams, corruption scandals, and violations of the law including of Covid regulations during the last couple of years of pandemic. Generally portrayed as a clownish character he was a relatively successful Prime Minister, and so one wonders what has happened at this time that he should have suddenly “lost the confidence” of members of his party. Even more surprising is the collection of statements and actions including from his former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Sunak and other members of the cabinet who had joined it barely days earlier. It is therefore fair to conclude that there are happenings and behind the scenes events that have led to this pass.
The events above are a classic drama enacted in the Westminster Model which came into being centuries ago, with the British Parliament having organised itself into Treasury and Opposition Benches, from the time of, say Oliver Cromwell, when the ascendant capitalist class sought to have more power to itself, with the retreating feudal classes being relegated to the House of Lords and with considerably less power to decide the contours of the polity, with the sovereign power actually being held by the Cabinet and in the person of the Prime Minister. In the meantime, the Monarch was relegated to a Constitutional Monarch, with no powers except to agree with the Cabinet. The Cabinet in turn would be chosen by the Prime Minister, the leader of the largest parliamentary party, or of a coalition, and answerable in principle to Parliament alone. The factions in the capitalist class would back one or another party at a given time and would be in a tenuous peace with the peoples whose needs and requirements would be attended to, with no role in politics except to elect members to the Parliament who would nominally represent them, but in reality, would be subservient to the interests of capital.
An anachronistic system of this type, born in an earlier phase of capitalist development, today stands as an obstruction to the needs and requirements of a modern society and is therefore plagued with crises. These manifest themselves continually as corruption scandals, and bribery and intrigue and subterfuge, which are all passed off as aspects of human nature, rather than as indicators of the intrinsic contradictions of the system. An understanding of the Westminster System which has been imposed on many parts of the world that came under British domination is crucial to liberate politics from the quagmire in which it finds itself.
As an aside, India recently witnessed the toppling of a coalition government in Maharashtra which was taken to absurd extremes with the practical kidnapping of members of the legislative assembly who were held captive in a hotel in faraway Guwahati, and reports of hundreds of crores of Rupees being paid to each of them to desert the coalition and to form a new one. In the prevailing capitalist system in India, such events are not uncommon or not unprecedented and have been going on for decades now. The business of assemblies and parliament is merely to create those laws that allow the free flow and investment of capital for maximum reaping of benefits for the largest capitalists, who seek to bag all contracts, construction, manufacturing, wholesale, and retail, and wish to own all the reins of the economy directly or indirectly, from factories and mines to airports and seaports. That being the case the Westminster Model in India has to be adapted to abandon goals, if any, of service to the people, in whose name the Government claims to be ruling. This innate contradiction has led to the gory spectacles which are the order of the day.
Returning to Britain, the charade that goes on everyday under the name of democracy is anything but that. At the top of the political class are old monied interests, who own all aspects of the economy. Operating through clubs, old boys’ networks, through birth and privilege, today their political parties are exposed as nothing but parasitic. . The entire spectacle of election of the new PM are nothing but a fraud perpetrated on the people of UK. Behind the scenes of the change at the helm are other factors such as the changed international situation as in the war in Ukraine. It may be recalled that John Major replaced Mrs. Margaret Thatcher before the first Gulf War. It could be that the powers controlling the party that have decided that the incumbent PM has had his day, and lost credibility. In such a case, it becomes imperative for the powers that be to change the face of the Government – to avoid a situation in which masses of people lose confidence in the system of parliamentary “democracy”. Such changes are anything but democratic and are a response for the need to carry out activities that would not normally not be possible even behind the mask of a supposed democracy.
The events in UK are typical of parliamentary “democracies” in which the common people are totally disempowered, and political parties controlled by moneybags call the shots. The times are crying out for change – to a system wherein sovereignty actually vests in the common people and not in the Cabinet of Ministers; wherein common people have the right to decide who represents them, wherein political parties controlled by the superrich cannot have a stranglehold over the polity and in which people actually become masters of their destiny.