Nothing is true, everything is permitted
Partygate is once again at the center of the political establishment’s bickering. We have had our own criticisms of the approach to this scandal. Chief among them, that the hyper-focus on it has had the effect of burying news about the string of authoritarian bills currently passing through parliament. It was for this very reason that the Labour Party has relished the scandal, as it has given them a chance to oppose the government on issues of personality and pretense, rather than on policy, an area where they have very little difference with the Tories. The media has also found itself churning out puff pieces to rehabilitate the image of PM-in-waiting Rishi Sunak.
The problem with Partygate is that it puts Boris Johnson at the center of the uproar, focusing on the hypocrisy of one corrupt individual over the despotic actions of an entire political elite. You cut off the hydra’s head and another will take its place. Say you were to replace Johnson with Sunak, what then? Would anything meaningfully change? Would it stop Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and Susan Williams from pushing through their dictatorial measures? Would it even be of benefit to the Labour Party, who would again be faced with a scandal-free prime minister that may once again defeat them in the polls?
It should be clear that the Partygate scandal is vacuous to the point of absurdity. So why are we talking about it now? Unfortunately, it is beginning to have an affect on the real world, it seems like it could well catalyze into something far more monstrous, far more sinister. The House of Commons has become so full of shite that it is now leaking out into our streets.
Last week’s parliamentary posturing was farcical even by the standards of PMQs, as it displayed something that has been bubbling under the surface for too long in British politics. During his chance to speak, the Scottish National Party’s Ian Blackford laid out Boris Johnson’s lies about the affair in detail and, in turn, accused him of lying. This was unacceptable. To lie in Parliament is perfectly fine and good, but to tell the truth is worthy of punishment. Blackford was ejected from the house for his most unparliamentary honesty.
When the Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, took to the podium, he also laid out Johnson’s lies regarding Partygate for all to see. Johnson, not one for humility, doubled down on his lying with a tried-and-true abuser tactic: Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender. The Prime Minister accused his opponent of protecting the infamous paedophile Jimmy Savile. A ridiculous, utterly preposterous claim. And as we’re well aware, it’s claims like this that have a way of sticking in people’s heads.
The opposition and press worked themselves up into a fury over this. There hadn’t been any consequences for anything else he’s done over the past few years but surely there will be consequences for this? Well yes. It turned out that there would be consequences, but not the ones they were hoping for…
On Monday, Keir Starmer and David Lammy were harassed by a crowd of anti-vaccination protesters, with shouts of “Traitor!” and “Jimmy Savile!” directed at the Labour leader. One of these protesters even carried a noose, which they “joked” was intended for Starmer. This may well have been an empty threat, but it still carries weight, and could very easily escalate into violence. This comes only 6 years after Jo Cox was murdered by a fascist terrorist, in an act that set the groundwork for Britain’s radicalization. The threat of violence hasn’t gone away since then, it’s getting worse.
The Tory administration of Boris Johnson is now so utterly desperate to hold onto its power that it is beginning to channel far-right violence for its own ends. He may play the buffoon, but Johnson knew exactly what he was doing when he referenced Savile. Across the pond, a conspiracy theory linking leaders of the Democratic Party to a fabricated paedophile ring escalated first into violence and eventually into an attempted coup. Johnson is working from the same playbook. He remembers what happened to Jo Cox and decided to stoke the flames of fascist mania anyway.
Johnson is refusing to apologise for his dangerous remarks. Why would he? Putting the lives of Opposition MPs in danger can only strengthen his position. Conservative MPs or Parliament itself could attempt a motion of no confidence, but Johnson has expelled his own MPs and prorogued Parliament for far less than that.
In 2019, Johnson made a serious of attempts to consolidate power around him. First, he prorogued parliament, in a self-coup that would have allowed him to bypass democracy and place unquestioned power in his executive government, at least until the courts ruled it unlawful and forced him to again face parliamentary scrutiny. His next move was a purge of moderate party members, removing long-time Conservative heavyweights like Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond for opposing his hardline on Brexit. But this left him without a majority, so he called a snap election, resulting in the complete sidelining of the parliamentary opposition, which can now no longer prevent his policies from passing even if they wanted to.
Despite daily opinion pieces chanting from the rooftops that this is the end for Boris, he might be more secure in power than he has ever been before. Not only does he exert a tight grip on his government and party, but he now also has blackshirted thugs at his disposal in the streets.
By now, we should be done trying to reason with the unreasonable. We should be done trying to use legitimacy against the illegitimate. We should be done talking to those that don’t listen. The Three Way Fight is once again needed. This is an urgent situation that we have not faced in Britain since the 1930s, when Oswald Mosley’s own blackshirts terrorised the streets of London. Anti-fascism must be reinvoked to save us from the violence of an authoritarian government and a resurgent British fascism.
The Tories should know better than anyone that when the legions come goosestepping, we will be left with no option but – as their own former leader once said – to fight them on the beaches, in the fields and in the streets.
We shall go on to the end.
We shall never surrender.
They shall not pass. ■