What the last four or five years has shown us is how easily what is called ‘democracy’ can be manipulated. Clever planning or plotting – ‘conspiracy’, if you like – can turn it into almost any direction. This isn’t a new revelation, of course, but the transparency of it nowadays may be. Both the Left and the Right, and various other religio-political factions, have been manipulating us for centuries, to an extent that makes it almost a natural part of ‘democracy’: what could be ‘undemocratic’, after all, about a trick that we all fall for?
In recent years, however, certainly in Britain and the USA, it has been the Right that has used trickery most widely and successfully; with one of its cleverest tricks being the lie that the Left is conspiring against it. Trump of course is the prime example of this: think ‘fake news’ and ‘voter fraud’. In Britain Dominic Cummings is the great Machiavelli, using simple slogans (‘take back control’), selective data mining (Cambridge Analytica) and the diversion of popular resentments (against ‘elites’) to help to win first the Brexit vote, and then last year’s General Election; with the assistance, of course, of the amoral billionaire press, and some terribly misled members of the British Jewish community. The Left had few defences against that. It tried honesty and decency, in the person of Jeremy Corbyn, and it didn’t work. Rather, it simply allowed the Right to exploit Corbyn’s perceived weaknesses. Which I suppose points the finger of blame for these defeats on the naivety of Labour’s strategy, unable as it was to counter Cummings’s manipulation with Machiavellian tricks of its own.
We’re seeing the results of this today; with a fundamentally corrupt government – look at all those peerages it has showered on Trusties and donors and Russian-born newspaper owners and a cricketer because he went along with Brexit, and even the Prime Minister’s brother – empowered, it seems, to do whatever it likes – to the NHS, for example, and town planning, Britain’s relations with the EU, and the Civil Service, and the very constitution of the country – without any accountability at all for the moment (meaning until the next General Election, if that ever happens) to the democracy it is supposed to represent. It’s a depressing time for any true democrat. And makes me happy – albeit also rather guilty – to have escaped from it. (It really is wonderful in the Stockholm Archipelago today!)
It’s this that makes me think that maybe I ought to support Keir Starmer as Leader of the Labour Party, despite what I regard as his craven – and expensive – submission to the ‘Israel lobby’ (if that really exists) over the lies it spread about Corbyn’s and the Party’s supposed ‘anti-semitism’ during the last election. Clever politics requires shimmying around powerful obstacles rather than butting against them head-on. It’s what Blair did with the evil Murdoch before his 1997 landslide election victory, to ensure the newspaper support he regarded as essential. You need to appease the Devil in order to have any hope of winning in a loaded political environment. Then, and only then, can you set about changing that environment – press reform, electoral reform, political education, and so on – in order to make things fairer, more purely democratic, in future contests.