Writing by Cally Ullman-Smith. Artwork by Berenika Murray.
Russian protesters fighting the authorities against all odds, Iranian schoolgirls telling the dictator “You fucked with the wrong generation”, even in China a silent movement of dissent feels increasingly powerful. People warring with totalitarianism and a constant surveillance within a real-life dystopia. These people have the courage to fight the iron fist.
In the UK, we’re currently facing a government that is showing off just how undemocratic it actually is; named a Banana Republic and Elected Dictatorship by the international press , and even our own British institutions calling it a shambles . However, “shambles” makes the situation feel trivial, comic, and not overtly threatening, which could not be further from the truth. This is a government that is eroding our right to protest; it’s telling its citizens they can’t make too much noise; that we can’t hold up a white sign; we can’t ask the King “Who elected him?” These are all real reasons for arrests or threats of arrest that have happened in the past year . This is in the same year that we have endured three different Prime Ministers after the first one broke his own laws, lied to his cabinet about protecting a sex offender, and set the country on a course toward economic disaster . Our next PM, Liz Truss, can pitifully say she won a vote – even if it was a frighteningly small electorate – but proceeded to totally crash the economy with a mini-budget that no-one had the power to object to. She left, and then came the third PM, Rishi Sunak. This is the man who lost to Truss, and who didn’t win a vote at all, but acquired the job by default, since the other candidate stood down.
The UK has had three consecutive leaders that have not won a majority vote, with the current PM not having won a vote at all. Fear is growing over how the government is threatening the power of the Devolved Powers after the Internal Market Bill centralises European powers that were promised to Holyrood and Senedd. As pointed out by Lord Wigley, “During the Tory leadership campaign recently we heard Liz Truss announce that she would take steps to construct the M4 relief road at Newport despite not having the legislative power to do so.” Rishi Sunak also said in the same campaign that he wanted to set up a weekly review with Holyrood to create more accountability for the Scottish government and more involvement of Scottish affairs in Westminster. These are all actions of a desperate government losing power in a position of economic fragility, having a debt amounting to a country that should be nowhere near the G20 let alone the G7.
On the ninth of November, Charlotte Lynch, a journalist for LBC, was arrested for being in the same location as a Just Stop Oil protest on grounds of “suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance”, which feels like something out of fiction. Charlotte Lynch was there to do her job and report on the protest by climate activists, but when spotted by two male police officers as she was taking photos, they stormed towards her and completely ignored the fact that she was a member of the press . It is so easy to be lured into a false sense of security when living in Britain and to think that an arrest like Charlotte’s wouldn’t happen here. But that’s exactly how this new policy managed to slip by; that false sense of living in a free country. That is also why there is no revolution here. Autocracies across the globe dream of that same level of complacency in its people.
It seems the most revolutionary the English can be is in demanding a general election, while the Scottish are still fighting for a vote to leave our failing state. In addition, the question of a border poll in Northern Ireland becomes more pronounced and the Welsh are putting together an independence plan backed by a growing movement. But England is stuck with Westminster, the only country to not have its own parliament, First Minister or Secretary of State. There are no English politicians; there are only British politicians in Westminster. The rest of the UK are already looking at revolt as Indyref2 is being met with increasing impatience, Northern Ireland is holding on by a thread, and screaming matches between the Welsh First Minister and conservative leader show the high-flying emotions running rampant in the Celtic countries. So, then, the question should be what does it take for the English to revolt? Currently, we’re only seeing faint calls for a general election, something that won’t happen since it’s down to the Prime Minister to call one, according to the “democracy” that some boast about.
All the same, how much would a general election actually solve? Westminster does not just need a change of regime, but also a change of system; England needs a devolved parliament. Likewise, Westminster needs to ditch first past the post and accept a proportional voting system, a written constitution, and ditch royal ascent. Some would say the House of Lords, too, needs dissolving, but, as proved by Lord Wigley above, it seems to be the only house in parliament with members who actually care about devolution and protesting rights. The house of the unelected is ironically the one fighting the government on bills made to oppress and reduce representation.