Democracy is in danger

It is 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre, a savage attack on working people demonstrating for the right to choose their own political leaders. There is a dreadful irony in the fact that the inheritors of privilege and wealth are choosing this time to undermine the democratic achievements those people fought for.

Ours is a limited and outdated form of democracy, but it is still the best we have. For the memory of the Peterloo generation we should defend and revitalise the democracy they won for us. This website outlines the risks posed to our democracy by the present cabinet.

There used to be a sign that read ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps’. We need a revised version for Boris Johnson’s cabinet meeting room: ‘You don’t have to be a criminal to be a member of this cabinet, but it helps’.

Drawings by Chris James – @chrisjameswriterartist

The cabinet is a reunion of the very same people who ran the Vote Leave campaign, a campaign that was fined £61,000 by the Electoral Commission for exceeding spending limits during the referendum campaign. Rather than being sacked and prevented from continuing their political careers, the leadership of this fraudulent and illegal campaign have now taken over the reins of government. Some of their activities are still under investigation by the Metropolitan Police.

Boris Johnson has assembled a cabinet of mediocre talents whose only shared characteristics are loyalty to him and willingness to sacrifice the national interest on the altars of ideology or personal ambition. Unlike previous prime ministers, he has not sought to balance the different wings of his party. Still less does this cabinet represent the views of the majority of citizens, most of whom now support remaining in the European Union and only a minority of whom wish to leave the EU without a deal – the key policy which Johnson and his cabinet will attempt to drive through in the next few months.

This is not representative democracy. This is a cabinet that will willingly contravene the rule of law for the achievement of political objectives. Given the appointment of numerous unaccountable corporate lobbyists to senior posts, and extensive evidence of interference both by Trump and by Putin-linked oligarchs, it is not hard to guess who will be setting those political objectives.

The norms that shape our democratic politics are under threat. The Brexiter strategy of politicising the civil service is being extended into the heart of government. At the same time, the principle of cabinet responsibility and democratic accountability is being undermined by the decision to create a parallel system of political advisors reporting to Dominic Cummings – Johnson’s senior adviser – rather than to their own ministers.

Since the Brexit referendum the fundamental question has been: Who is taking back control? This website uses what we know about the new members of cabinet to assess how and in whose interests they will use the power that has been conferred on them.

We believe that what we are witnessing is the latest phase in a right-wing coup that began with the massive breaches of electoral law in 2016. Two hundred years after protesters in Manchester were brutally massacred for daring to demand the right to vote and parliamentary reform, we hope that people of all parties who wish to defend democratic values and the rule of law will unite to resist this Cabinet of Horrors.

The Massacre of Peterloo or Britons Strike Home, by George Cruikshank.
(public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
All other drawings on this site are by Chris James – @chrisjameswriterartist