Thursday, 3 December 2015
In whose name? A comment on democratic will and other such stuff.
"Not in my name is the cry". Petitions are posted, letters are written, placards are badly spelled, frantic facebook rants are posted. "Not in my name".
Well, yes, absolutely. It's not in your name. Never has been in your name. Never will be in your name. That's whole point really. About this representative democracy lark, I mean. It's not done on the basis of individual approval but of collective approval. So long as fifty per cent plus one of the good folk we choose to represent us in parliament say we do it, we do it. What you and I think doesn't matter. We get to keep our powder dry until the next time we get to choose someone to represent us.
You don't think MPs are any good? Fine - that's your absolute right. But they're all we've got - the inadequate, incompetent, venal and self-serving bastion protecting us from rule by faceless bureaucrats, arrogant technocrats and anonymous securicrats. Depressing I know but that's it really which is why we should pay attention to the voting stuff and take it seriously. It's also why those people who say "we don't need any more politicians" are wrong - we need as many politicians as we can get if we want to hold the government to account - from parish councillors to peers of the realm.
Yesterday - and this is what has prompted all the 'not in my name' stuff - MPs voted to approve airstrikes against targets inside Syria. This followed a week or so of frenetic pseudo-debate and a full day of parliamentary debate culminating in that vote. And it's true that MPs, in arriving at a decision, did so with a variety of motives and reasons. Some will have supported (or opposed) airstrikes simply from loyalty to party - my party leader says one thing or the other, therefore I back that position. And this isn't a bad thing - we decry loyalty and trust too readily resulting in a world where such behaviour is assumed to be self-serving, shallow and essentially corrupt. But, for a complicated issue such as whether to take military action, it isn't copping out to take the view that, all things being equal, you'll go along with the foreign minister and defence minister appointed by your Party's government.
Others - and we saw a bit of this yesterday - will have made their decision on the basis of a moral stance ('I'm a pacifist' or 'ISIS is evil and must be stopped') without consideration of tactics. Again we see this described as sophistry or as disingenuous - as if politicians can never support something on grounds of simple conscience. Worse still, people (as they shout 'not in my name' again and again) make a moral judgement about the reasons for people making the choice - if that choice supports our view its noble and brave, if not its because of bullying, political calculation or stupidity (sometimes all three).
I'm not persuaded by the argument for bombing. Not because of any objection to war or crocodile tears over the civilian deaths that will happen whether or not we bomb. No, my concern is that there seems to be no idea as to what the end of all this looks like. I didn't listen to every word yesterday but I didn't hear an argument setting out a strategy aimed at creating a place to which several million refugees can return and live a fulfilling life in peace and happiness. And I didn't see how bombing Raqqa stops terrorists already in the UK, USA or France from machine-gunning or bombing innocents just to wave their murderous islamo-fascist ideology in our liberal democratic faces.
But my argument lost. Maybe for honourable reasons, perhaps because there's internal turmoil in the Labour Party, perhaps because too many MPs, ministers and media folk didn't understand the issues. But mostly because there was a feeling - one echoed outside the febrile world of Westminster - that, following Paris, something had to be done. And targeted bombing is something.
That bombing isn't being done in your name. It's being done by the UK government on the authorisation of parliament. If you didn't like how your MP voted on this then come the next election you get the chance to vote for someone else - it's how our imperfect system works. If you can stomach party politics, you can join one of the parties and make your case from inside. But shouting 'not in my name' is fatuous and serves no purpose except to make you feel a little bit better about the fact that parliament decided to do something you don't like.