by Rab Bruce’s Spider

When I was at school back in the 1970s, a new subject had recently arrived on the curriculum. It was called Modern Studies, and it offered a different route to the traditional subjects of History and Geography. Many of us in my year group opted for Modern Studies, either because we didn’t like History or Geography as subjects, or didn’t like the teachers, or thought that Modern Studies would be a bit of a skive since the teacher running the course was reputed to be less than competent. To be honest, I still don’t know how I managed to scrape a Higher pass in Modern Studies, and much of the little we did learn has long ago vanished into the recesses of my memory.

There was, though, one thing which was drummed into us so often that it has stuck with me ever since. It was that the First Past The Post voting system meant that the UK had a strong Government, while the Proportional Representation system used by most foreign countries in one form or another produced weak Governments who often failed to implement their promised policies. This mantra was repeated many times during our study of the UK electoral process, and I’m pretty sure every one of us sitting the Higher exam regurgitated it word for word.

This was, as I now know, a very useful way of indoctrinating pupils in the "World-beating UK" mindset which is still so prevalent. It was, as many readers will recognise, constantly reinforced by the media in newspapers and on TV. The sub-text, as with so many aspects of "British" culture, was that PR might be all right for those silly, namby-pamby foreigners who don’t know how to run a country properly, but it’s not nearly good enough for the world-beating UK which has the best system in the world.

I clearly wasn’t the only one who underwent this indoctrination. A couple of years ago, I was speaking to a friend who is, or at least was, very pro-Union. We moved onto the topic of voting systems and he expressed great concern over any proportional system, asking how on earth it could possibly work. He was so entrenched in FPTP through his experiences of voting that he simply could not conceive of any other system working effectively. This was the "World-beating UK" philosophy in action.

Yet even today’s sycophantic media are struggling to portray UK democracy as anything except a total farce. Yes, we have a strong Government, but we are now seeing the true weakness of FPTP because there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to prevent this autocratic Government pushing through legislation which is designed to harm the majority of people in the UK. Indeed, the Government is so strong that the Prime Minister can repeatedly lie quite brazenly and get away with it, while an MP who calls him a liar is evicted from the House of Commons for a lack of decency. Credit to Ian Blackford for saying what everyone knows to be true, and he certainly made a point which has resonated with most observers of UK politics. The sad fact is, though, that his highly symbolic gesture is nothing more than that – a gesture. Boris Johnson doesn’t care that it happened, and neither does his pet Speaker who continues to protect him from the consequences of his lies. Boris Johnson will continue as Prime Minister for as long as it suits the Tory Party, and he will continue to tell lie after lie in order to reassure those voters who still think he is a good leader. At the moment, with no General Election on the horizon, the Tories can afford to keep him in place so that he can be blamed for all the ills afflicting the UK thanks to Covid, Brexit and anti-social Tory policies. As I’ve stated before, they will ditch him as soon as it looks as if a General Election is imminent, but for the meantime they will happily back him because he is enriching them and their wealthy pals.

Thus we see the consequences of having a strong Government elected via FPTP. It has always been this way, of course, but most previous Governments have kept their machinations well concealed and have not been too openly corrupt. Boris Johnson simply does not care. He has taken advantage of the weakness in the UK electoral system and has ruthlessly exploited it for his own advantage. In doing so, he has caused immense damage to the UK as a whole, to Parliamentary process in particular, and to everyone around him who must surely realise that he will happily sacrifice their careers if it suits him. He probably doesn’t even care that he has turned the UK into an international laughing stock because I doubt very much that he is capable of caring about anything except Boris Johnson.

What his ridiculous antics have shown everyone who cares to pay attention is that the UK system of democracy is broken. It is open to abuse and its rituals and conventions are barriers to progress. Even the Two-Party system, giving voters a choice between an extreme Right Wing Party and a Very Right Wing Party is designed to maintain the status quo. We will never see electoral reform in the UK because the current system helps maintain things for the benefit of those at the top. Even if the English electorate does turn on Johnson or his successor as leader of the Conservative Party, Labour’s stint in office will be barely distinguishable in terms of policies. Its presentation may be more acceptable, but it will not reverse Brexit and will leave most Tory policies in place. But then, when a Party is led by a Knight of the Realm, you cannot expect much else. And if recent history tells us anything, it is that the English electorate will always elect a Tory Government sooner or later.

So people living in Scotland really do need to wake up to what is going on and take the opportunity to escape as soon as it comes along.