What is a political party?
So familiar are we with the established, big-P political parties, one may miss the real parties which dominate our political system.
A party, as Burke almost said, is a body of people united for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed.
Applying this neutral definition, one quickly sees the real parties: there is a privatisation party, pushing for “market-based” reforms in ever-more unlikely situations; there is a defence party, always urging more military spending; there is a European party maneuvering so that more decision- and rule-making is done on a EU level; and so on.
Instead of, say, three main parties and some fringe ones, what we have in effect are dozens of parties which dominate public bodies and which all remain in office, regardless of elections and the politicians passing through.
One of the scariest and most formidable of these parties is the national security and anti-terrorism party, which dominates the Home Office, the police, and the “security services”.
It matters not for the national security and anti-terrorism party if the ministers are Labour or Tory.
It is irrelevant that there is a coalition with Liberal Democratic votes supporting it.
This party will keep on with the ratchet-effect of more illiberal legislation.
Today this illiberal party is reported as having their latest success: the Coalition is now warm to monitoring emails and social media usage.
The Home Office is quoted as saying:
It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public.
But they may as well be saying:
It is vital that police and security blah obtain data blah serious crime blah and TERRORISM KLAXON blah and to protect the public.
The depressing thing is the sense of sheer relentlessness in the promotion of such policies; and one knows that the Tories will generally nod-a-long, just as the Labour politicians did before them.
Having the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition seems to be making no difference at all.
Fortunately, for most parties there is an opposite party, even if there is often not any equality of arms.
The human rights and civil liberties party still exists, and will challenge this illiberalism in the courts and elsewhere even if the battle is lost in the legislature and government departments.
But what will be missing is any sense of democracy: no one can stop the national security and anti-terrorism party by voting. The big-P parties are not providing any efficient way of making political choices by allowing us to use our vote. This lack of alignment between the form and subtance of political parties is saddening, but it is difficult to see any way it will be changed.
And in the meantime, how long before the national security and anti-terrorism party entices the Coalition into reviving ID Cards?
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