Montréal, 9 juin 2001  /  No 84  
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Ralph Maddocks is a retired textile executive and former management consultant. He lives in Cowansville.
by Ralph Maddocks
          In Britain on Thursday, the inmates took over the asylum again as 25% of all eligible voters re-elected the oleaginous Tony Blair and his acolytes to continue their self-appointed task of destroying their homeland and its long democratic heritage. Of course, as socialists, it is much more important for them to appear to be doing something good and useful for their fellow man like promising improvements to the Health Service or education. Even though the conditions they are creating are simply one more step down into the morass of the Super-police State known colloquially as Euroland.
In Blair's book 
          The very first day that Labour launched its campaign – interestingly enough among a group of non-voting school children whose parents did not turn up as expected – and produced its manifesto there were signs of discontent. With nurses cheering her on, Helen Storer, the partner of a cancer sufferer, ambushed Mr. Blair outside a hospital. She told Mr. Blair of the lack of a specialist bed for her partner, wards with filthy toilets and so on. Apparently, EU health regulations forbid nursing staff to clean. Mr. Blair was paralysed by what appeared to be stage fright induced by this rare, for him, un-scripted event. Escaping to the sanctuary of the hospital he emerged some twenty minutes later, having been briefed by his ever present spin doctors, to offer the view that « although there was a lot to do in the health service, much had been done. » A platitude of which Mr. Blair is the undoubted master. 
          One reporter, whose political views are clearly left-wing, saw what appeared to be the Cabinet hiding in the far corner of the platform at the Birmingham International Conference Centre as Blair, bathed in what the reporter described as « gentle lighting » and surrounded by rows of young and handsome acolytes, delivered the New Labour manifesto. Further evidence, if needed, of the megalomania and presidential aspirations of the man. That same reporter was later prevented from asking Blair a question by a platoon of NuLab activists who positioned themselves in front of the reporters in order to prevent any such exercise in democracy. 
          Those with longer memories will recall Mr. Blair's statement, immediately after being elected in 1997, that « MPs are not here to represent their constituencies – they are here to support the new government ». A statement eerily echoed recently in another context by a Canadian Liberal MP. Blair's statement though goes to show the contempt he held for the people who had recently elected him. In April 2000, an article in The Sun by Richard Littlejohn wrote: « To the Prime Minister, like the Mad Hatter, words mean whatever he wants them to mean. In Blair's book, a xenophobe is someone who wants Britain to remain an independent nation, with its own laws, own parliament and own currency. » 
          In an interview with a US journalist, Mr. Blair said « If that's the sort of country people want to live in, then F*** them. » As Littlejohn commented, in quoting that comment, « What we have in those few words is not so much a throwaway remark as Blair's entire political philosophy. This is the F*** You government. » Quite so, we have one in Quebec too, ask anyone from the suburbs of Montreal. 
          Mr. Straw, the NuLab Home Secretary, the man who is trying to eliminate juries for some offences, introduce the concept of perpetual jeopardy and has already introduced longer prison sentences was booed by a gathering of police officers to whom he has lied too often about increasing police force strength. A hard hitting interview of Blair by a prominent interviewer had an audience member accusing his government of sleaze, lies, hypocrisy and incompetence. The discredited former secretary for Northern Ireland, the ubiquitous Mr. Mandelson, walked away from an interview. 
Eggs and old rules 
          All the above events occurred on the very first day of the election campaign. The deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott (apparently known as « Two Jag Prescott », after his predilection for that make of car but primarily because he wants to stop everyone else using their cars and use busses, introducing tolls for city roads, etc.), when struck by an egg, hit the protestor with a left hook. The protestor was promptly arrested, presumably for having put his face too close to Mr. Prescott's fist.  
          Throwing eggs and rotten tomatoes at politicians is a hallowed tradition in Britain and its farmers have had to go through far worse than having an egg thrown at them. Their livelihoods have been devastated and all Mr. Prescott could think about was his jacket. One might think that a politician would be able to sympathise with people whose economic prospects have been destroyed by the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. Several observers doubt too if the man that Prescott struck with his fist was actually the person who threw the egg. They have noticed that the BBC (often referred to as the Blair Broadcasting Company) has changed the camera view on subsequent showings of the Prescott punch up. 
          An outcome of the egg incident was the leaking of a letter from Margaret McDonagh, Labour's general secretary, addressed to the major TV outlets claiming that she had been provided with « growing evidence » that broadcasters had been colluding in the protests faced by senior Labour politicians. Of course Labour, once it became public that they had tried to pressure the media, refused to give any details of whatever evidence it had to back up the accusations. The allegation was immediately rejected by the three media organisations involved. 
     « Britain has fallen from fourth to ninth in the World Competitiveness League. This second Labour term will likely see the introduction of more labour market regulation, which will erode further its existing competitive advantage. »
          The last Blair government was the first one in British history to reduce Prime Minister's Questions from twice a week to once, although the total time allowed is the same, thus reducing the opportunity for the opposition to question him effectively. Yet one more example of that contempt for institutions held by this group of what has been referred to as a clique of dysfunctional zealots. Blair's government has been most zealous in destroying parliamentary tradition. The unwritten rules of that establishment call for no policy to be announced by a minister before he has announced it first in the House of Commons.  
          Government backbenchers, while able to ask questions supportive of their government, could also ask questions of their own about things which may have an effect upon their own constituencies. The Speaker ensures that members from various parts of the country could ask questions and that some kind of balance was preserved between the parties. The Speaker too decides whether emergency questions may be put to government and decides which speakers shall be called upon to address any particular issue.  
          Such ancient rules are anathema to NuLab since they interfere with their media strategy. In recent years many members had begun to realise that talking to a TV camera outside the House was sometimes more effective than asking a question inside it. Previous governments had begun the practice of off-the-record briefings to indicate future policy trends but all major announcements of policy change were always made before the House. The spin-meisters of NuLab decided that the requirements of the media to have announcements before the evening news were more important than to announce them in parliament first. 
          NuLab believes, it says, in consensus, but the way parliament works is on the basis of propositions and counter propositions, of give and take between government and opposition. Labour fears this process because after almost two decades in opposition they got used to asking the difficult questions. Now that they are on the other side of the House they find it something of a problem to answer those same kinds of difficult questions.  
Fear of questions 
          On the few occasions that I have been able to see on TV the way that Blair answers questions, I have concluded that he really doesn't like questions at all. Many of his answers, like those from another Prime Minister we all know, do not involve answering the question asked at all. Much of the time one hears ranting about present or past failures of the opposition when in government. Apart from the questions asked by the Conservative opposition, Blair is usually informed of the question in advance, or in the case of a Liberal Democrat question lobbed soft and deliberately helpful questions. 
          Questions, asked monthly, of other ministers and departments are handed out in briefing papers before the event so that Labour members know which questions to ask, and presumably those that they should not. Space does not allow for a complete catalogue of all the other ways NuLab has set about diminishing the role of Parliament, like appointing un-elected bodies to assume its responsibilities. The introduction and passing of legislation covering the minimum wage, without first specifying a rate, again showed the contempt NuLab holds for Parliament. That same legislation gave massive powers to the President of the Board of Trade and another un-elected body. 
          The other main UK party, the Conservatives under William Hague failed to make any substantial improvement in their standings and Mr. Hague, deeply disappointed, fell on his sword and resigned as leader of the party. Mr. Hague, while a competent parliamentary debater, somehow managed to underwhelm the voters when it came to convincing them to vote for him. It is true that NuLab has co-opted many conservative policies, a trick they probably learned from Canada's Liberals, which leaves little upon which to campaign. Hague's real problem lay with his insistence on the Tory policy of « in Europe, not run by Europe », a slogan akin to « In the Gas Chamber but not inhaling ». This is a policy that a growing number of his party is beginning to realise represents a burden for Britain. 
          This Conservative claim is pure nonsense because they must know that having signed the Treaties of Rome, Amsterdam and Maastricht the UK must bend to the wishes of the EU. The only real option is to withdraw, and if Hague were to have campaigned on that issue he would most likely have been successful.  
          A recent MORI poll on Europe showed that 42% said they wanted out, 39% wanted to stay in and 19% were undecided. The difference is very small, just 3%. According to other polls, 80 percent of over-65s agreed with the statement that « everyone has a duty to vote » so they were thought much more likely to vote than are those in younger age groups. The over 60s also were thought likely to have some understanding of the damage already done by both major parties to the social and parliamentary fabric of Britain. This ill advised venture, of continuous submission to the dictates of the European Union, whose aim seems to be to achieve by peaceful means that which successive European dictators were unable to achieve by armed conquest, must be unacceptable to anyone reflecting upon their heritage of freedom and liberty. 
          The other main party in this election is that known as the Liberal Democrats, successors to the former Liberal party, who support blindly whatever NuLab wishes and thus are essentially a friendly arm of the government. The Lib Dems gained slightly and seem to believe that they will become an effective opposition. When I was young it used to be said that a Communist was a person who preferred to let the state do all their thinking. A Socialist was someone who preferred to let the state do most of their thinking. A Conservative was someone who did not want the state to do any of their thinking and a Liberal was someone who didn't think at all; because if they did then they would become a Conservative.  
On the decline 
          Britain's economy is slowly declining as more taxes are introduced by stealth and more EU inspired regulations are applied to business. Competitiveness is suffering, as the labour market is under the threat of becoming more rigid and Britain's reputation for having an attractive tax regime and intelligent regulation is threatened. In the past three years, Britain has fallen from fourth to ninth in the World Competitiveness League. This second Labour term will likely see the introduction of more labour market regulation, which will erode further its existing competitive advantage.  
          With government spending set to grow faster than economic growth for the life of the next Parliament, further increases in business taxes are likely in addition to the extra £5 billion of taxes already imposed on business. As a leader in the Times said « The party can miss its pledges on the public services; it can alienate the police; it can even assault voters physically. But as long as mortgage rates keep falling, no one cares. » According to the Institute of Directors, the last government brought in 3 865 new regulations, and small business owners now have to spend over six hours a week dealing with bureaucratic red tape. 
          Labour's propaganda is rather odd. It says that it wants voters to believe that it has brought an end to the « Tory cycle of boom and bust ». It also claims to have done this by adhering to Tory policies for the last two years! Now, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, wants to « make a record investment in our public services ». Promises of « investments » made by governments are always frightening since they invariably cost more than originally estimated. In addition, the Chancellor is likely to contract out the management of the economy to Brussels by abolishing the pound. He has already been reducing the UK's gold reserves in an attempt to prop up the declining euro. 
          While both main parties talk of holding a referendum on the euro in the next government, the addition in 1997 of a protocol to the Treaty of Maastricht would seem to make this yet another illusory gesture. That protocol says that no member state could prevent entry [of all members] to the third stage [the euro] of economic and monetary union. Labour's weasel words about joining the euro « when economic conditions are right » are simply that. How can one vote « yes » when conditions are allegedly « right » and thus eliminate the possibility of voting « no » if economic conditions worsen?  
          Ireland has been discovering what it means to have exchanged its punt for the euro. While Britons went to the polls, Ireland was holding a referendum about whether to accept the Treaty of Nice. Very little mention of this event appeared in the NuLab inspired UK press. This referendum too was also marked by apathy, only one in three of eligible voters turning out. If the treaty is rejected it will have a marked effect on Blair's decision to hold his referendum. 
          Britain's voters seem to be sleepwalking through history as the abolition of Britain's heritage by the European Union proceeds apace. They ignore, or are unaware of, the fact that over 100 000 pages of regulations have been imposed upon Britain in the last thirty years. More laws affecting Britain had been created in Brussels by the mid-1980s than in the previous 700 years of British parliamentary history. With the major parties seemingly committed to this course of action, only the under-funded, little known United Kingdom Independence Party is publicly opposed to what may prove to be the end of parliamentary democracy in their country. John Locke, Adam Smith and the rest must be spinning in their graves. 
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