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

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION -

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?

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