MITCH BENN: We must keep standing up to ‘bullies’ Johnson and Trump
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The toxic twins are being met with increasingly defiant opposition - and it's working, says MITCH BENN.
Last week, I took to Twitter to express what is, these days, an unusual statement to be heard coming from the likes of me; I said I was proud of Britain.
My specific point was this: just now, the UK and the USA are in non-identical but certainly comparable situations: we are both being governed by administrations which have never won a popular vote but which came to power thanks to a technicality of the political system; which both benefited from the result of a vote which was subject to allegations of unethical if not illegal interference; and which are both now accused of employing unethical if not illegal measures to pursue unethical if not illegal objectives.
The difference, I pointed out, is that while the USA has an ironclad written constitution with many built-in and oft-cited 'checks and balances' inserted for the express purpose of one day containing and thwarting a rogue lawless administration, the UK has a vague, notional constitution based on a jumble of written and unwritten laws and precedents.
And yet, when our own unelected charlatan premier took power and started trying to dismantle or disregard our own political framework in order to pursue questionable ends, our British constitutional guardians and custodians came down on him like a ton of bricks, curtailing and frustrating his efforts pretty much from day one of his tenure, to the point where just a few weeks in, he'd been deprived of his majority, thwarted in his every endeavour (so far) and found to have broken the law and implicated the Queen in his lawlessness.
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Whereas in the USA, the land of 'checks and balances' and 'laws not men', Trump has been left almost entirely unimpeded to spend nearly three years romping roughshod over conventions and customs, enriching himself at the public's expense and generally having a great old time while the media normalised his every outrage and the Democrats fretted about the 'optics' of impeachment.
Of course, this being 2019, the very day I posted that on Twitter, the story broke about Trump more or less blackmailing the new president of Ukraine into helping him get dirt on Joe Biden and the Democrats finally got off the pot and began formal impeachment proceedings.
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It's now a week or so later and US political commentators are openly speculating that Trump could be found guilty not just by the Democrat-controlled House but also by the Republican-controlled Senate.
His misdeeds are now so well-documented that Republican senators would not be able to dismiss or belittle them; in order to let him off they'd actually have to take the position that yes, the president and his people have been going around the world trying to persuade foreign powers to help him stitch up the 2020 election but this is okay, because Republican.
I'll confess I didn't think this would happen before that election, as the other thing that the USA and UK have in common is that our political systems simply weren't built to cope with the degree of abject cynicism being deployed by our respective governments. Both America's written constitution and our own unwritten one depend upon a degree of good faith which is simply absent in our current administrations.
This is why I found the most encouraging development of last week to be not the government's defeat in the Supreme Court over the lawfulness of the prorogation of parliament, but the reinstated parliament's refusal to vote for a recess to allow the Conservative Party to hold its conference.
Good, I thought. They're finally learning. The government has shown an absolute unwillingness to play nice or even decently; the opposition should cut them precisely no slack in return.
And this is not, as someone responded when I gleefully expressed this opinion a few days ago, a case of "sinking to their level". Standing up to bullies is not "sinking to their level". Bullying somebody else would be.
And yes, I understand the principle of 'when they go low, we go high', but a.) How did that work out as a winning slogan, remind me? and b.) When they go low, you don't have to go low or lower to beat them but you must at the very least acknowledge that they've gone low and that that's the level the fight is on now. If we give Boris Johnson and his craven apologists an inch, they'll take a mile and then hang us with it.
Keep resisting. It's working.
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