Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Oath of Allegiance

Anyone observing the opening of the new UK Parliament session yesterday will have been aware of the fatuous flummery of absurd rituals. But this is just window dressing, complete with garters, for a more fundamental point: all new members of Parliament must give an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown or else they cannot take their seats. Nobody thinks that the Queen runs Parliament, but this oath acts as a shorthand way by which patriotism and solidarity with the British state is expressed, no matter which government is in power.
The Oath takes one of two forms. The most commonly used is:
I, [member’s name], swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.
For those whose belief in the Almighty is a little shaky, but who still believe in the majesty of the British state, the version is:
I, [member’s name], do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law.
Being an atheist is now OK, but failing to have the correct national faith is not.
So it is that the Irish republican party, Sinn Féin, boycotts the House of Commons, despite having won seats in the British Parliament. As Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of Sinn Féin, put it, party members would not be willing to ‘swear an oath to a foreign power’.
Jeremy Corbyn, soon to be not leader of the Labour Party, and all other sitting MPs have taken the Oath. But that did not stop him being criticised for failing to pay attention to the Queen’s speech on Christmas Day. This was a sure sign of insufficient patriotism, and one to be included with his other alleged misdemeanours in the vox pop media interviews at the time of the General Election.
The political climate that all this suggests is pretty bad. It gets worse still when you consider the mentality that must underlie the singing of the National Anthem at all big events, especially in sports.
Study the main verse of this obsequious dirge and weep:
God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen.
However, it does not take much deciphering to see that this is not really an expression of undying love for the monarch, although you will not get far in Britain without showing due deference. It is the hope that h/she will persist, but as the head of a victorious, happy and glorious country of ‘us’. The eternal reign – eternal because the Anthem is applied to succeeding monarchs – is therefore a deep, patriotic wish that British power will persist too, and that its magic will enrich all loyal subjects.
British citizens want to count themselves as beneficiaries of such magic and will sing the Anthem. It is an incantation, an expression of exaggerated pride and bolstered self-confidence to give hope for a better future for ‘us’. It is no wonder that their members of Parliament have to take the Oath of Allegiance.

Tony Norfield, 18 December 2019

Friday, 13 December 2019

All Quiet on the Western Front

The British elected, by a big majority, a Conservative government run by certified liars and incompetents in order to ‘Get Brexit Done’.[1] What a contrast to the countries that have recently seen widespread protests about a lack of democracy, corruption in government and attacks on the living standards of the mass of people. Mass action has worried the ruling elites from France to Georgia, from Hong Kong and South Korea to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, from Chile and Brazil to Algeria and Sudan. In the UK, the electorate has endorsed the ruling elite.
The lack of a pulse in the British ‘labour movement’ – unless moaning can be seen as a sign of political life – confirms my longstanding scepticism about the potential for anything progressive happening in Britain. The British working class will likely learn nothing positive from the outcome, and may well become even more conservative and reactionary when it suffers the consequences.

In the map below, from the BBC, the dominant Conservative vote in England is shown in blue, while the Labour Party constituencies are in red, the Liberal Democrats in orange and the Scottish National Party in yellow.

Tony Norfield, 13 December 2019

[1] The Conservative Party message was ‘Get Brexit Done’ and this gained them a large majority of seats in Parliament. The irony was that, according to a BBC report, only 48% of UK votes were for Brexit-supporting parties! But this potential anomaly was widely known, leading to many advocating tactical voting in the ‘first past the post’ UK electoral system. In Scotland, the Scottish National Party won 48 of 59 seats and was strongly against Brexit. It is worth noting the relative population and seat numbers for the UK: England 56 million people and 533 seats; Scotland 5.4m and 59 seats, Wales 3.1m and 40 seats, Northern Ireland 1.9m and 18 seats. The General Election results are principally determined by the English vote, which this time supplied 345 of the Conservatives’ 365 seats in the 650-seat Parliament.