Yves is here. IMHO, Johnson is such a deeply rooted narcissist that he is incapable of allowing the bad consequences of any of his actions to affect his psyche.
Adam Ramsey, Special Correspondent for openDemocracy. You can follow him at @adamramsay. Adam is a member of the Scottish Green Party and is on the board Votes for Scotlandand the advisory committees of the Division of Economic Change and Soundings magazine. Originally posted on openDemocracy
Boris Johnson may not like it, but he has already achieved what he aspired to. Even the past week has been a resounding success for his political project.
Constant resignations and endless speculation turned into an exciting carnival. Out of breath, journalists announced that they had never seen anything like it, as if they were reporting on the latest throws of Simone Biles. Experienced practitioners snickered that they didn’t do that in their day. And voters are more angry than ever with the politics.
Johnson won his 2019 election — and, in fact, his 2008 and 2012 mayoral elections in London — by playing on a strong feeling across the country that politics is broken, that “they’re all the same,” that “nothing ever changes.”
In his short time in office, he intensified this anti-policy, deepening a sense of public distrust of the system. And it works wonders for those who promoted it.
If neoliberalism was about shifting decision-making from the relative democracy of the mid-20th century to the market – in other words, from one person – one vote to one dollar / pound / euro / yuan – one vote – then it was also about displacing politics from our daily life on our TV screens.
Privatization, not accountability
During the years of social democratic consensus (mostly from the end of World War II to the late 1970s), there was a good chance you would work for a nationalized company and live in council housing or a house whose rent was restricted by the state. The political decisions in Westminster had a clear and direct impact on your life in a rather obvious way. Announcements made in the control room will have a direct and fairly rapid impact on the lives of millions.
After decades of privatization, deregulation, and spending cuts, accountability lines have become tangled. Outsourcing means that in England if you have a health problem and you call NHS 111 helpline you get one of several disabled call centers operated by a private US company, Sitel, which may well refer you to a clinic also run by another private company. And if something goes wrong and you want to complain, then it’s generally not clear who you will go to.
The same is true in education and elsewhere. More and more schools are run by chains of academies with leaders who have very little accountability to the local councilors you elect. Your gas and electricity bills are not set by nationalized companies, as they used to be, but by private businesses. You don’t pay for British Rail, but for one of the ever-changing brands that sound very similar.
If wages stay the same and prices skyrocket, pushing people into poverty and the already poor into poverty, then this is not a failure of public policy – it is an inevitable consequence of the natural forces of the market, the result of an incomprehensible, tangled web that only the big boys understand .
And there’s nothing you can do about it. Instead, we are told that anything we try to do about it — like asking for a raise — will only make things worse.
Speaking, not participating
Politics has ceased to be a negotiation about how we can live together and is more and more a performance on our televisions or smartphones, a spectacle that we should watch, not take part in. Politics does not take place in your daily life, but in Westminster.
And most importantly, it’s complete crap. The whole point is that you must hate him, see him as corrupt, cynic, corrupt and vile. Political institutions are the only place that can regulate the markets and the super-rich, so the less you trust them, the better for the markets and the super-rich.
The best way to ensure that the public does not trust political institutions is to promote people who are completely untrustworthy. If you want people to see politics as corrupt, then corrupt it. If you want people to think it’s corrupt, get the corrupt people to the top.
In Britain this is a particular problem and the credibility of our politics is particularly low because our system has not been corrupted by the ruling class at some point. It was designed primarily for this class. We did not have some glorious historical revolution, but only centuries of adjustments to the feudal system of lords and ladies, kings and queens and commoners.
End this perverted state
In the next few weeks and months, both Labor and the Tories, under a new leader, will present themselves as the best managers of this system, the people best able to restore faith in this perverted state.
But what we need is not faith in the British state. We should not try to restore trust in an inherently untrustworthy system. The reason why the vast majority of the population of the country does not trust our political system is that they are not stupid. We need a new political system built not on abstract trust in our ruling class, but on genuine democracy.
Johnson’s political project was to destroy the vestiges of trust in our politics so that the market could emasculate what was left of our democracy and leave behind only a game show. Our job should be to ensure that what actually comes next is much better.