I’ve previously highlighted the blog of the Oxford academic, Simon Wren Lewis.
Although I don’t agree with everything he writes, I have to say it is always impeccably argued…
Theresa May shows a disregard for people… that I cannot remember in previous Prime Ministers. The current excesses of the Home Office with respect to immigrants who have lived here for decades is a direct result of her ‘hostile environment’ policy… She took the decision to ignore the wishes of the 48%, and she also decided to use EU migrants in this country as bargaining chips in the negotiations.
The second factor is the right wing press. In other countries we have seen the dangers of the state (or head of government) controlling large parts of the media. The same problem arises with Brexit. At its best the press can expose government failure and corruption, but at its worst it just acts in its owners self-interest. When those interests happen to be aligned with the interest of the government then the press acts as the state’s propaganda arm. It has been the right wing’s press that has banged the ‘will of the people’ drum, which is classic populist (as in anti-pluralist) trope. The situation has been made much worse by the BBC’s apparent indifference to negative news about Brexit: its lack of interest in the Cambridge Analytica link to referendum overspending allegations is deeply worrying.
I’m personally horrified, not for the first time, to see somebody – who was a former treasury civil servant – indicate that we might be on the way to becoming a quasi-dictatorship because, in effect, the right wing press has captured the government.
Indeed it seems probable that it is only because even the ‘Daily Mail’ has now decried the plight (16th April 18 – inside page) of the ‘Windrush immigrants’, whose families not only fought for the UK during the second world war but also were in fact all British citizens when they arrived here, that the government has deigned to reverse the policy of querying their status. The original immigration policy was, after all, partly overseen by no less than Enoch Powell who, when, Minister of Health (1960-63) encouraged immigrant doctors and nurses to take jobs in the NHS, especially having been familiar with Indian skills in the second world war.
Simon Wren Lewis continues:
Understanding why we have seen attacks against pluralist democracy in the UK helps answer the question of how permanent these threats might be. Parliament is to some extent fighting back at the attempts by the executive to reduce its [Parliament’s] power. If Brexit is neutralised as an issue, the force behind attacks on pluralistic democracy disappears, unless of course it is replaced by something else. However Theresa May could remain as Prime Minister for a lot longer than people imagined after the election of 2017. The right wing press will still be with us, with their message amplified by the BBC. …cold comfort for a country that often boasts of its democratic heritage.
Quite, we not only need to sort out our voting system, we also need to stop Brexiteers railroading ‘democracy’ on the basis of one marginal vote. After all Walpole is not still Prime Minister, nor even is Tony Blair, though both were ‘democratically’ elected. We need to be aware and highlight the BBC’s prejudice which if not straightforwardly right wing is at least far too supine for a system that is supposed ‘to enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain’.
It is no more than simply holding power to account. That is something we are no longer able to rely on our press to do, but it seems that, to our collective shame, nor can we any longer count on the abilities of the broadcaster to which the vast majority of us pay a licence fee.