In the most turbulent period UK politics has seen for decades, you could be forgiven for being somewhat pessimistic about the state of our affairs. However, if you look past the parliamentary prorogation, Tory Party purges, and political shenanigans, there is reason to be hopeful.
Although the actions of party leaders and top ministers have been less than commendable, it has been refreshing to see others standing up to authority figures in what they see as the national interest. Bravery has been shown and sacrifices have been made in the last week both inside and outside of parliament, to ensure that those in positions of power are not given free reign.
The most high-profile of these cases is the 21 former Conservative MPs who had the party whip withdrawn after supporting legislation which would force the Prime Minister to rule out a no deal Brexit. These MPs, many of them former ministers, knew that following their conscience would result in a huge loss of income, influence, and potentially their jobs at the next election, yet refused to be bullied by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his advisers.A special mention must also be given to the House of Lords, who sat until 1:30AM on the night of 4th September in order to ensure that the ‘Benn Bill’ was able to pass before the government’s prorogation deadline, meaning the aforementioned Conservative rebels’ sacrifices were worthwhile (BBC).
The actions of these parliamentarians remind us that there are some in our political system for whom the perceived national interest still outweighs self-interest and careerism, even as the government tries to silence them. But it is not only politicians who are standing up to the government; the general public are doing their bit to hold the executive to account.
Dr David Nicholl refused to be bullied by the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, forcing the latter to issue a public apology for comparisons he made between Dr Nicholl and Dr Andrew Wakefield, a disgraced anti-vaccination campaigner. Rees-Mogg attempted to discredit Dr Nicholl by claiming that his concerns over medical supply shortages in the event of a no deal Brexit were akin to the ‘Project Fear’ used by Dr Wakefield over vaccines (BBC). However, Nicholl fought back and earned a public apology, and has since asked for said apology to be repeated in the House of Commons, where the original comments were made. Nicholl’s determined stance will act as a message to those in power that dissenting views cannot be bullied into silence and submission by those in government, and must instead be listened to.
The Prime Minister’s recent visit to Yorkshire also saw a public refusal to bow down to authority figures, as a number of hecklers gave Johnson messages such as ‘please leave my town (Wakefield)’, and ‘you should be in Brussels negotiating; you’re in Morley!’ (BBC). Although heckling is nothing new in British politics, it is encouraging to see that ordinary people are refusing to be shunned by those in power.
In a period where the most prominent leaders of the country have pursued self-interest above all else, we can take comfort from the fact that people are not sitting idly as this happens. Whether it be from the backbenches of the House of Commons, the House of Lords, or the streets, people are standing up to government tyranny.
By Mark Docherty