Boris Johnson. Photo: Flickr/Andrew Parsons Boris Johnson. Photo: Flickr/Andrew Parsons

The hard right have seized government and are now launching an attack on democracy, we have to fight back, argues Chris Nineham

The Government’s attempt to suspend parliament for six weeks represents the biggest attack on democracy since before universal suffrage was won in 1928. 

The fact that the decision about whether to suspend parliament looks likely to be in the hands of the Privy Council, an unelected body which includes judges, church leaders and members of the royal family and which notionally advises the queen, shows the extent to which politics is now being taken out of the hands of elected politicians. 

The hard right clique around Johnson that has seized government is trying to pose as a defender of the people against parliament. 
This is laughable. Johnson himself has not been elected by the people. He was voted in by some of the few tens of thousands of mainly white, mainly male rich people still lurking in the ruins of the Tory Party. 

As plans to raise the pension age, to tighten discipline in schools, and to introduce more ‘reforms’ in the NHS show, Johnson and his wrecking crew want to use Brexit to mount a new Thatcher style assault on working people. Very few outside the richest 1% back this, and the overwhelming bulk of big business would prefer to stay in the EU anyway. Polls show there is very little support for a no-deal Brexit, something that was explicitly ruled out during the referendum.

Johnson only thinks he has a chance of getting away with his plans for two reasons. First, he knows the capitalist elites and centrist politicians are more worried about a Corbyn government than any other outcome. This gives Johnson some room to manoeuvre. Second, Remain politicians in Labour have successfully pushed Corbyn to adopt a more and more openly Remain position. This gives the government the chance to paint Labour as a party that is ignoring a popular vote. It has also disarmed the left, culminating on Tuesday in a deal with Lib Dems and Tories which effectively took any attempt to bring down the government off the table. 

Faced with this attack on democracy, the whole of the left urgently needs to unite and get back onto the offensive. Parliament has shown its limitations more clearly than ever in the last few years, and much more thoroughgoing democracy is needed. But arbitrary rule by Boris Johnson is clearly not the answer to that problem. We need a clear and militant defence of parliamentary democracy including mass rallies and protests. But we also need to stop the retreats and get back to the job in hand: mounting a real assault on the right wing cabal that has been allowed to take power in this country. 

Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.