A consequence of universal suffrage is that the people vote for the party, person or option for which they want to vote. Liberals have always expressed keenness for the right to vote. However, this keenness is accompanied by a demand that the voters’ choices stay within a very narrow band ranging from centrist liberal conservative to right-of-centre conservative. That is, the liberals want the voters to choose which group of administrators they would like to manage the exploitative capitalist system.
In Greece, Spain and Iceland the respective electorates voted against such exploitation although in Spain their votes were ignored. The reaction of the EU to the voters’ choice in Greece was to go into overdrive to ensure the Greek people were fleeced to feed the capitalist financial gangsters, cast as “loan repayments.”
Elsewhere, right-wing opportunists – all from a conservative background – have conned voters into believing they are different to the elite status quo and have enhanced the conservative blame-game distraction of accusing foreigners of being the cause of all ills. US president Donald Trump and French presidential candidate Marine LePen promote prejudice and division but so do typical conservative governments. Economically, Trump and LePen (and Farage, Wilders, etc.) are extreme free-marketeers who are beholden to capitalist exploitation. The objection that the liberal conservatives have to the further-right gang is that the latter’s promotion of prejudices is expressed too openly and that its behaviour is often uncouth.
The centrists are horrified that voters are making their own choices. Democracy is supposed to be a con not a real choice about government.
Under the guise of objecting to a far-right takeover the professional liberals have sought solace in one another’s company.
On May 12th and 13th there is a conference at Westminster Hall, London entitled The Convention. It is sponsored by The Observer – that is, the Sunday Guardian (see The Guardian: An Obituary).
In the introduction to its Mission Statement The Convention claims it will “hold the debate that is absent from Parliament on the deep impacts of Brexit, and focus on the danger to democratic and liberal values posed by the political crash in the West“. Every registered voter in the UK had the option to vote in the EU referendum and the majority of those who voted chose Brexit. One can disagree with that choice, but to state that there now exists “danger to democratic and liberal values” as a result of the Brexit victory is stupidly dramatic and an insult to the electorate. All the political parties have discussed Brexit from a variety of political perspectives so the claim that such parliamentary debate is absent is a blatant lie. The phrase “political crash” is more melodrama. Does it mean the election of Trump in the USA? But, Trump’s politics is just typical right-wing Republicanism. One sentence, meant to be a concise introduction, contains a lie, an insult and clumsy dramatic language.
The Mission Statement continues: “The Convention is the first large-scale event to offer organisations and individuals the chance to hear and take part in crucial debates about the United Kingdom’s future and the populist insurgencies that are sweeping Western democracies.” The organisers of the conference need to sell it but, given the line-up of speakers – drawn from the centre across to the middle-ground of British politics and overly peopled with Guardian columnists – it is inaccurate to describe any of it as “crucial.” “Populist insurgencies” is a disgraceful pejorative description of voters’ choices. In Europe and the USA some people have voted for right-wing candidates and some have voted for socialist candidates. That is not an insurgency. There seems to be a theme regarding the selective nature of The Convention’s support for democracy.
“The Convention will seek to augment the debate with detailed sessions … on the causes of populism … on politics and the media in the post-truth age.” The Mission Statement assumes that there is a universally accepted definition of “populism.” The word, inexplicitly but negatively defined by the users of it, is meant to be a haughty dismissal of politicians and their supporters who do not conform to an elitist status quo. “Post-truth age” is an invention; apparently, the audacity of people to share ideas and opinions freely is a problem.
The Convention will “ask whether those who voted to leave were aware of the implications of quitting the Single Market, the Customs Union and Euratom.” So, The Convention is keen to promote the narrative that all future cuts to public services and attacks on workers’ rights and wages should be blamed on leaving the EU rather than on decisions by the UK government..
“Divisions that were exposed by last year’s campaign have hardened and there has been little attempt by the main parties to bring people together.” The latter statement does not apply to Labour but, given the anti-Corbyn stance of the majority of the speakers at The Convention, it is no surprise that he is misrepresented.
“The Convention will … seek to reassert democratic and progressive values.” Really? Alistair Campbell is one of the speakers; will he reassert democratic and progressive values on the British public as his good friend Tony Blair did in Iraq?
“We hope you will join us for two days in May, for this is essentially about what country we want.” The Mission Statement appears to desire a country where universal suffrage is unwelcome; only the elite “we” can decide.
In Balance at The Convention Henry Porter, one of the organisers of The Convention, repeats the themes of the Mission Statement. “The Convention on Brexit & the Political Crash is a response to the rapid change in politics that has occurred in the West over the last year.” What “rapid change?” Trump is a clown but his political intent matches Republican ideology, LePen and her father have been a feature of French politics for many decades and there is no surprise that a socialist-leaning government was elected in Greece. In most “western” countries there is a continuity of dull centrist stodge: Canada, Ireland, Germany, etc. Porter’s “rapid change” is another push-phrase. Perhaps, he fears a rapid change in the near future?
Porter says that “The Convention will focus on the big challenges to the United Kingdom but also on the threat to democratic and liberal values in the West.” The choices made by some people in some countries when casting their votes in a democratic election is described as a threat to democracy by Porter. This is insidious. The comment “the threat to … liberal values in the West“ would sit comfortably in an essay produced by the Henry Jackson Society.
“We will have all shades of opinion on how Britain goes forward, improves the national discourse and its politics and achieves a fairer society.” A brief perusal of the list of speakers dispels the claim that all opinions will be heard. The Convention wants to dictate how political discussion should progress by claiming arrogantly to seek to improve the “national discourse.” The ambition to want to achieve a “fairer society” is contradicted by the fact that the majority of speakers are virulently anti-socialist.
“There is the influence of Russia in Western democracies to consider, the threat posed to traditional media by the post-truth age, and the march of populist insurgencies across Europe.” Again, people in democracies voting is reduced to a “march of populist insurgencies.” Porter directly opposes the “post-truth” invention to “traditional media.” By doing so he reveals a reason why so many professional columnists and talking heads fear a free exchange of ideas: Their profession and their individual necessity is reduced and devalued. The Democrats in the USA continue to cry that the Russian government influenced the presidential election and similar assertions are being made regarding the presidential election in France. These complaints insult the voters in both countries and are extremely hypocritical because France, USA, UK, etc. are constantly interfering in elections in other countries around the world. ‘The Russians are coming!’ is an absurd stance to take and is reminiscent of 1950s USA.
“We will not submit to the attacks on free discussion that have chilled the debate in Britain since the vote last year.” Is Porter referring to Tory government legislation that legalises state snooping and hacking? Is Porter refering to the campaign to persuade social media companies to police what is arbitrarily described as “fake news?” I assume he isn’t.
“We have no respect for the equivalence that gives the same weight to those who support their arguments with empirical evidence and those who simply mouth prejudice and ignorance.” These two types of “argument” are not opposites, they are not wholly distinct and they are not exhaustive of all possible methods of asserting a political opinion. Porter describes a false binary polarisation and then demands that one its components – general opinions – should not be trusted. He wants the right to express an opinion to be for professionals only.
Henry Porter expands on his Russian threat narrative in Why Russia is a European problem. “The corruption and manipulation that are defining features of Russian political landscape have now begun to play a key part in distorting the democratic processes of the West.” So, according to Porter, the rancid corruption and manipulation in the UK, France, USA, etc. in government is not the product of capitalist politicians receiving copious donations from financial gamblers and corporate tax-dodgers and is the not the product of newspapers acting entirely in the interests of the same gamblers and tax-dodgers, and the fact that the UK government is full of gimps of financial gangsters and of private healthcare vultures is purely coincidental. Porter is deliberately excusing the real cause of intrinsically corrupt and destructive governments and instead shifting the blame to the Russian government. The final two paragraphs of this article are David Ickeish.
The Convention’s speakers’ list, (drawn from the alumni of a variety of private schools – with a few exceptions), has many professional liberals; that is, academics, commentators and lobbyists whose earned wealth stems from pointing at a wrongdoer and declaring “I am better than he.” A theme in the ideology of most of the speakers is disgust for the choices voters have made in many countries. This disgust is often expressed as denigration of voters’ capacity to make an intelligent informed decision. How dare the voters choose to believe the lies of a “populist” when they should, instead, believe the lies of a Clinton, a Macron or a Farron.
The purpose of the The Convention is to try to devise methods of presentation that can con voters into trusting the haughty liberals. One method is to offer the public a palliative to distract and appease them. One of The Convention’s speakers, essayist Timothy Garton Ash, described what he thinks was a successful such palliative in Populists are out to divide us:
“A great example is the development of western Europe’s combination of market economy and welfare state after 1945. This model … finally saw off the waves of communism and fascism… But what an ocean of blood, sweat and tears we had to swim through to reach that point.”
In 1945, as a tactic of control, the capitalist class addressed starvation, homelessness and health – that is, allowed the public to have basic human rights – to ward off a threat of insurrection. Ash’s description encapsulated the liberal thinking: Keep the masses quiet by giving them the barest essentials. (Today, the welfare state is being destroyed by the Tories with the assistance of Clegg’s Liberal Democrats for five years and with the assistance of Progress Labour MPs who abstained on a vote in parliament for a welfare destruction bill; the latter group includes Lisa Nandy who is one of the speakers at The Convention.)
Another of The Convention’s speakers is ‘political economist’ and ex-Observer editor Will Hutton. His day job is to complain about mistakes in capitalist exploitation while simultaneously acting as its apologist. In Hutton on RBS he positioned capitalism as an uncontrollable entity impervious to human intervention, dismissed a challenge to this entity’s existence and then sugar-coated the entire purpose of the existence of capitalism:
“People at large know these issues are fundamental, but business and finance seem distant, difficult-to-understand worlds over which nobody, let alone governments, seem to have much leverage. If you hold with a Corbyn-type philosophy, it is proof positive that the only solution to today’s capitalism is socialist transformation – but it is a view few share. The 20th-century experience of attempted socialist transformations is hardly encouraging. In any case, if you have regular contact with senior business executives, what is impressive is their enthusiasm to build businesses and create value rather than a hunger to exploit their workforce and cut corners.”
The above is obsequious genuflection to the deity of exploitation and is fundamentally dishonest.
The sponsorship by The Observer ensures plenty of Observer/Guardian hacks on the list of speakers. Goodwin, Harris and Freedland are among a sorry subset of bitter professional trolls who enjoy espousing false narratives about socialism and libelling its proponents. As mentioned above, Alistair Campbell will speak, presumably for forty-five minutes, and Tory MP and assassin of state education Michael Gove will express several different contradictory opinions, none of them sincere.
Co-organiser of The Convention Mark Choueke declares “voters have yet to be included in this election. That changes now” in Choueke’s unempowered electorate. This promotional leaflet, written in a condescending style, invents and embellishes a scenario in order to reach a disappointing conclusion.
“Voters from a range of backgrounds and political affiliations are staring down the barrel, concerned they don’t know who to vote for” claims Choueke, stupidly. If every voter knew exactly for whom to vote then there would be no need for any election campaigning. Time taken to assess the options before making a choice is not “staring down the barrel” or even a “concern.” Oddly, despite his concern about barrels, Choueke has already decided who to vote for
“Your potency as a voter, indeed our democracy is hugely weakened if none of the options on offer appeal to you.” That is true: There are conservatives, liberal democrat conservatives, Labour led by Corbyn but full of Progress conservatives and the UKIP conservatives.
“Imagine any other election in which a politician campaigned for a mandate for the single biggest constitutional upheaval in the country’s history – [Brexit], with no hard evidence as to where it might leave us as a nation. Would you give him or her your vote? Not without some clear visibility of the consequences I imagine.” Choueke chooses to assume that supporters of Brexit are ignorant.
“People on both sides of last year’s referendum split remain angry. Others are simply exhausted.” Anger in Britain is a reaction to vicious Tory attacks on the whole of civil society, public services and workers’ rights, attacks that were enabled by Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. (Nick Clegg is a speaker at The Convention.)
“We saw that in the referendum campaign last year. Let’s not be taken for fools again.” I might guess that Choueke voted to remain in the EU, so he ascribes the word “fools” to the other seventeen million people.
The remainder (no pun intended) of his promo leaflet contains melodramatic cries of anguish: “We know nothing. I know nothing,” “we become yet more disempowered” and pleas for help: “I want proper insight as opposed to pledges,” “an honest, open conversation with all angles represented is badly needed.” These theatrics lead to the conclusion that “a stunning-looking event called The Convention” is here to cleanse your soul and guide you through life’s treacherous paths. However, Choueke’s proclamations have all the style, charisma and persuasive aptitude of a 1970s double-glazing salesman. He ends with a joke: “MPs that actually want to discuss what life after Brexit could mean for real people will be at Central Hall, Westminster in two weeks time.” I am certain that the Tory MPs speaking at The Conference and the Tory-lite Nick Clegg have neither the knowledge of nor the interest in the lives of “real” people.
Regrets Of Universal Suffrage
The centre of democratic politics has always been a con-trick. It is conservative and as wedded to capitalist exploitation as any brazenly free-market right-of-centre party.
The centre exists to soak up opposition to capitalist exploitation and ensure that such opposition never manifests itself as a genuine challenge to capitalist control. The centre stifles.
The centre defines itself as opposed to fascism, dictatorships and far-right politics. Thus, it requires such far-right threats to exist even if just as an illusion.
As conservatives and as supporters of capitalist exploitation, the centre is wholly opposed to socialism and communism. It relentlessly attacks any popular tendencies toward socialism.
The Convention is a gathering of professional centrists whose common theme is disgust for the decisions made by voters in democratic countries. They are unhappy that the con-tricks of the capitalist elite’s gimps are being rejected and, instead, some people are voting for right-wingers who appeal to prejudice and others are voting for left-wingers who identify the real enemy: Financial gangsters. The circle-jerk of The Convention yearns plaintively for the simple days when voters only had to choose between two cheeks of the same fraudulent arse of capitalist worship.
Ultimately, The Convention regrets the consequences of universal suffrage. For The Convention, electoral choice is epitomised by choosing between Clegg and Cameron.