A very constitutional coup d’état? By William Bowles

20 July 2004

The Labour government in a ruthless bid to hold on to power has achieved what many would have thought impossible, namely to hijack Tory policy almost in its entirety with its latest ploy of adopting a ‘law and order’ agenda as part of its programme of creating a police state.

This strategy, if it succeeds, works on a number of levels:

  1. It sidelines the Tory Party completely, making it surplus to requirement in the construction of the corporate security state, thus assuring a victory in the next election (short of the unlikely emergence of a real and viable alternative). In last week’s by-elections, the Tories got only 5% of the vote!
  2. It fits ‘nicely’ into the broader agenda of the ‘war on terror’ by essentially criminalizing the entire population under the catch-all heading of ‘anti-social behaviour’ thus affording a justification for increasingly repressive laws and at the same time dissolving the difference between ‘terrorism’ and ‘loutish’ behaviour due to the vague nature of the proposed (and actually existing) legislation. This is social control on a grand scale
  3. It assures the support of ‘middle England’ that is, those who formerly voted Tory who now constitute Labour’s core voting block
  4. It restores the semblance of choice to the electoral system with the Liberal Democrats acting as a ‘safety valve’ for the ‘chattering classes’. Those who are thoroughly disgusted with the lack of choice available to them will conveniently not bother to vote
  5. It assures a continued role for British capitalism in US imperial designs

Apparently, there is one video surveillance camera for every fourteen people in the UK, making the citizens of this country the most spied-upon on the planet. The rationale we are told for spying on the populace is to deter crime and to catch ‘criminals’. One of the problems of course, is that all the analysis of the effects of video surveillance shows that spying on people doesn’t reduce crime it merely relocates the scene of the crime (although it would seem that would-be criminals are rapidly running out of locations).

At the same time, under ‘Thug’ Blunkett, the definition of crime has been expanded to include an entire range of actions that diverge from the “normal” under the blanket description of ‘anti-social behaviour’. This includes gatherings of three or more young people in public. So now it’s a crime to be young and hang out with your mates. Make too much noise and you’re a criminal. Have a couple of pints over the top and you’re a criminal. Annoy your neighbours and you’re a criminal. Your neighbour doesn’t like you and you’re a criminal. Voice your opinions no matter how innocuous or obnoxious and you’re a criminal.

Blunkett would have us all be what he calls “decent” “normal” people, though this frightening man has yet to supply a definition of ‘decent’ or for that matter, ‘normal’. The term ‘nanny state’ is entirely inadequate in describing the repressive, security state that this ‘Labour’ government is busily constructing.

Astoundingly, Blunkett is pushing this new initiative to fight crime – even though crime levels are at their lowest since 1981, the beginning of the Thatcher era – based not on the realities of crime but on people’s perceptions, perceptions generated by hysterical rightwing press coverage. Blunkett, in yet another rehash of the Thatcher/Reagan period is actually blaming the current ‘lack of discipline’ would you believe, on the permissiveness of the 1960s! Blair tells us that the ‘Liberal agenda is dead’.

And it’s being done by tapping into the small-minded petty middle/working class mindset that dominates politics in the UK, a constituency that is now the core of New Labour support (if not its only support). And it’s being done by exploiting all their fears and prejudices, prejudices that have been inculcated over the generations of the rule of Empire. Hence Blunkett spouts off about being ‘English’ and ‘English values’ yet I wait in vain for a description of English ‘values’ unless it means conservative, narrow-minded bigotry of the kind that Blunkett utilises to prop up capitalism.

The scary aspect of this onslaught on what’s left of our civil liberties, is that people seem completely unconcerned that all manner of public and private organisations are making records of our movements, our buying habits, even our physical movements, without any kind of regulation. Our privacy it is being privatised! Now there’s an irony to be conjured with.

American citizens rightly get worked up about the Patriot Act, but the Labour government is light years ahead in constructing the corporate, security state under the twin barrels of the ‘war on terror’ and the war on ‘anti-social behaviour’. Be thankful citizens of America that you have a real constitution, even though you have a fight on your hands to defend it.

And whilst it’s apparent that Blunkett is some kind of quasi-fascist control freak, the important issue is not Blunkett per se but the kind of political atmosphere that enables a man like Blunkett to become Home Secretary. Blunkett serves a purpose, one that is fully sanctioned by the ruling political class that needs an ‘enemy’ the people can be fixated on, even if it is your neighbour.

The other night, there was a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ doccie on BBC TV about the British National Party that a journalist had infiltrated along with his hidden video camera, and we were subjected to 60 minutes of ‘Paki-bashing lumpen proletarians’ bragging about how many ‘Pakis’ they’d like to machine-gun, Apache helicopter-style. Of course the chattering classes were suitably outraged by such blatant racism but the point is, that amongst a particular strata of British society the words and thoughts uttered by this gang of low lifes is quite normal. Indeed the police service is full of them, as other TV ‘exposes’ has shown.

The critical issue here is not what a bunch of uneducated and disenfranchised individuals do (or think) but the kind of situation that encourages it which brings me back to ‘Thug’ Blunkett whose demonisation of aliens, Muslims and other ‘undesirables’ has made it plain to the likes of the BNP and its supporters both within and without that it’s open season on the ‘other’.

The really dangerous racism is the institutional kind that is part of the very fabric of the state and society that through its propaganda sanctions the thoughts and deeds of the BNP whilst hypocritically condemning them. Moreover, it serves a dual purpose for under the guise of attacking the BNP, laws will be passed that will used against all of us. Anybody who doubts what I’m saying need only look at the way existing ‘anti-terrorism’ laws have been used against people who protest British policies.

Perhaps the most depressing aspect of the current situation here in the UK is that the cynical attitude (”failure to vote is a sign of the satisfied citizen”) has allowed what is actually a minority of the population to be used as cudgel to beat everyone else with. There can be no doubt that the Blair/Blunkett approach is part of a quite sophisticated propaganda programme that taps into all the fears and insecurities of this unhappy nation of which the latest component is ‘law and order’.

Will this strategy succeed? In all likelihood yes. With the Tories neutralised and the Liberal Democrats not sufficiently different from the appearance of the Labour Party, and looking more like the former left wing of the Labour Party, at best they may fill the role of a ‘loyal opposition’ replacing the Tory Party. Can we expect a revolt from what’s left of the left wing of the labour Party? Unlikely, as they are more intent on hanging onto to their seats and blindly pursuing an obviously failed policy of ‘changing the Labour Party from within’. For surely the history of the Labour Party from its first post-WWII victory in 1945 to the present has been one of steady and inexorable shift to the right.

The brilliance of this strategy is that it doesn’t depend on Blair continuing as prime minister, so if for some reason, the failed Iraq policy actually unseats Blair (a distinct possibility given the latest ‘revelations’ in the Butler ‘report’), Gordon Brown is waiting in the wings, conveniently unsullied to pick up where Blair left off thus assuring a continuity of policy.

Mussolini, in whose footsteps Blunkett arrogantly strides, would be proud of Blunkett’s achievements almost a century after he constructed the world’s first corporate state. Bear in mind that Mussolini before becoming Il Duce and founder of Italian fascism was a member of the Italian equivalent of the Labour Party.

What is unambiguously clear is that Blunkett’s latest attacks on what’s left of our liberties, is the final component in the construction of the corporate, security state. Taken with all the other repressive legislation either in place or in the pipeline, all the pieces are in place.

For what we have in the guise of the Labour Party is two political parties for the price of one, surely a unique form of constitutional coup d’etat, one that should be an object lesson to the US Republican and Democratic Parties on how to maintain power even through the vagaries of an ‘election’.

For those on the Left, this surely must be an object lesson that the adoption of the ‘lesser of two evils’ approach to electoral politics is finally and irrevocably dead and buried.

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