Sunday 22 September 2019

Tragedy unfolding in Westminster is a wake up call for the whole world

Editorial Comment

While it may be tempting to smirk at the political crisis that is shaking the United Kingdom, the constitutional crisis that has engulfed our nearest neighbour is a matter of the gravest concern for all who trust in democracy.

In shutting down parliament Boris Johnson has revealed his true colours at last.

Far from the bumbling, amiable buffoon he has been portrayed as, he has now shown himself to be an utterly ruthless political player willing to risk everything, even the future of his country, to further his aims and ambitions.

Britain has one of the oldest democratic systems in the world and - whatever your view of its imperial past - it has, for centuries, been looked on as a model for other nations to follow.

The farce of Brexit had marred that reputation but the events of the past week have turned it on its head.

As the UK faces into its greatest political crisis since the Second World War, democratic government has been effectively shut down and Boris Johnson has, in effect, granted his Brexiteer government what amounts to emergency powers.

Nationalism and populism have triumphed and the liberal opposition has been comprehensively outplayed and wrong footed.

Boris Johnson's ploy appears to be a trap engineered to force his opposition into triggering an election in which he can harness Brexit populism to win a Tory majority.

The opposition - already in disarray - is left with something of a Hobson's Choice. Take the bait and go to the polls against an emboldened Johnson or try - with very limited time and even more limited political options - to block Johnson's efforts to railroad a deal or no deal Brexit through parliament.

At this point neither option looks all that likely to succeed.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - whose 'lukewarm' support of the EU Remain campaign helped lead us to this situation - looks to be using the crisis to advance his own ambitions.

His quest for support to form an emergency caretaker government hasn't gathered much support and at a time of massive upheaval the leader of the opposition in Westminster looks increasingly irrelevant with every passing day.

And, given the gravity of the situation, that is nothing short of catastrophic for the UK, for Ireland, for the EU and for democracy in general.

No one should doubt the seriousness of what we are witnessing in Westminster - the populist right certainly won't and they will surely feel empowered by it - as its effects will ripple across the world.

As stated at the outset, it is tempting to laugh at what has happened to our former colonial masters. However, amid all the jokes we should remember that, in the long term, for anyone who loves democracy this is a tragedy not a comedy.

With Brexit that feeling always was that things would have to get worse before they get better. The question now is just how much worse?

Enniscorthy Guardian