David Cameron plans a revolution to restore power to the people
It is easy to be cynical about politics and disbelieving of politicians after a decade of New Labour’s empty rhetoric and broken promises. In 1997 Tony Blair promised to renew Britain by focusing on ‘education, education, education’. By 2007 we had a deeply disillusioned nation fattened to the point of lethargy and sickened to the depths of apathy after being force-fed a diet of ‘spin, spin, spin’ for a seemingly interminable decade. And two further years of Gordon Brown have done nothing but induce a certifiable neurosis in a suspicious electorate – a pathological psychosis of confusion, depression and breakdown, the ultimate symptom of which is politicophobia.
As with most modern phobias, politicophobia is not remotely concerned with fear of a thing but with some sort of antipathy towards whatever prefixes the word. People now appear to loathe politicians more than they have ever despised traffic wardens or second-hand car salesmen. And we are witnessing politicophobic attacks every bit as ugly as those reported for Islamophobia or homophobia, the perpetrators of which rarely fear either Muslims or homosexuals, but happen to simply disagree with their theology and life-style respectively.
It is tempting, though wholly understandable, to perceive David Cameron as the heir to Blair. Indeed, after a decade in opposition, he is positively Obama-esque with his agenda for change and his feint solutions to the ‘credit crunch’, the recession, ‘breakdown Britain’, a nuclear Iran, Israel-Palestine tensions, poverty in Africa, civil war in Pakistan, etc., etc.
David Cameron incarnates the spirit and vocalise the words written by inter alia Sam Coates. But Mr Coates is known to mean what he says. Mr Cameron is widely perceived to be the sort of man who will say whatever he has to say in order to get whatever he needs and go wherever he wants. He has spent recent years talking about how he intends to fix our ‘broken Britain’, though he has frequently been criticised for failing to outline the details of his policies.
But now he is promising to fix our broken Parliament along with our broken democracy. And the details of his intended policies have been disclosed in revolutionary detail.
The whole speech can be read HERE. Some key ideas, indeed vast tranches could have been lifted straight out of The Plan. Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell have shown themselves to be politically prophetic. One wants to believe, to hope, to trust that David Cameron can deliver on his proposals. But this requires that the man means what he says, is convicted by his rhetoric and intends to dedicate every fibre of his being to the most radical parliamentary reformation since that of 1832. If this be so, we may once again be at another watershed moment at which the sovereignty of the people is further (or re-) established in law; at which Parliament is forced to become more susceptible to the influence of public opinion and more secure in the confidence of the people.
The ‘further’ or ‘re-' establishment of the sovereignty of the people is not a pedantic point. In a true democracy, it is the people who decide which powers to lend to their leaders. In a false democracy, it is the leaders who decide which freedoms to lend to the people. One can be in no doubt that successive EU treaties have ‘pooled’ sovereignty to the extent that it has been negated. A pledge to restore it constitutes an assurance that UK law shall once again be superior to EU law, which would require abrogation of the EU treaties and reversal of the acquis communautaire.
Much of what Mr Cameron is promising is very easy to deliver. Fixed-term parliaments, the ability to recall our MPs, committees elected by back-benchers and more scrutiny of legislation are straightforward and relatively minor developments. But his central thesis was a demand for ‘a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power’. This, he said, had to be:
‘From the state to citizens; from the government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities. From Brussels to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street.’
A ‘massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power...from the EU to Britain’ would require a demand (yes, a full-bloodied, handbag-swinging demand) that the EU implement the subsidiarity clause for which the Treaty of Maastricht provided. This ‘negotiation’ could only really be demanded on pain of withdrawal. And the only way to wrest power from the judges and restore it to the people would be to withdraw from the ECHR, reject the supremacy of EU court judgements and restore the people’s Parliament as the sole fount of our laws.
If this were ever to find its way into the next Conservative Party manifesto, and the Conservative Party were to win the general election on such a programme of reform, the implications for the UK’s relationship with the EU are seismic. We shall either need to withdraw from the Union, or witness the formation of a ‘two-speed’ or ‘two-tier’ bloc with an ‘inner core’ dedicated to political union while the peripheral members are free to trade in the manner of EFTA.
The second option is most likely to be what Mr Cameron has in mind, though it amounts to the first. Certainly, it is consonant with his pledge to withdraw his MEPs from the EPP (which, although it did not take place ‘within months, not years’, is now but weeks away from being fulfilled). It is also consistent with the Party’s intention to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Even if it be in force when the Conservative Party forms a government, they have said that they ‘will not let matters rest there’.
David Cameron has political antennae every bit as attuned to the mood of the nation as those of Tony Blair. He observes that people are ‘deprived of opportunities to shape the world around them, and at the mercy of powerful elites that preside over them’. Yet he knows that rhetoric and spin no longer fool any of the people any of the time. He knows that the traditions of Parliament are perfectly workable because they have stood the test of time. The problem, he realises, is that of perfidious politicians conspiring with a jesuitical judiciary to diminish democracy and paralyse the people. The solution he has articulated is profoundly important for the Conservative Party because it is crucial for the nation. And it has come from his heart.
When you cease speaking to people hearts, you cease communicating at all. In this speech, David Cameron has shown that he understands that the modern world has moved on, and that it became postmodern. He grasps that political debate should move on because context moves on. There is no point reading the old texts through the lens of modernity when they long since ceased to resonate, not because the essential truths changed, but because the context did.
Avoiding the political challenges posed by postmodernity for fear of philosophical relativism, or accusation of inconsistency or (God forbid) spin, is simply to build a wall around Conservative Campaign Headquarters. This may create a monument to a great tradition, but it ceases to be a dynamic movement capable of articulating the nation’s natural conservatism.
The new era demands engagement with the world at all levels and with the British people at theirs. The balance is difficult, but David Cameron has eloquently articulated a possible postmodern Conservatism: a fractured, deregulated, devolved and diverse Conservatism for a new age. And for doing so, he deserves praise and admiration for the hope and optimism he has engendered.