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Oh Snap

Make This Toxic Election Blow Up in the Tories' Faces

Theresa May is treating democracy as a game.

by Sam Kriss
19 April 2017, 6:00am

(Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment)

Without warning, without any good reason, it's election time again. Most of us – those of us, at least, who can't just see it as some fascinating little game – are already shellshocked from wave after wave of politics, the scummy tide bursting through our walls and depositing more dead things in greasy piles around our feet. Can't it all just stop? Can't we be left in peace, for a single moment? 

No luck. All the gears are rusting up, scraping and snapping; the swingometer swoops down like Edgar Allan Poe's pendulum above its pit; toxic ink seeps up from the sodden earth to stain the countryside blue and the cities red; Big Ben shouts over itself to declare its final dread hour time and time again, and everyone has to start caring about party politics.

Nobody wants another general election, but then nobody wants any of this. What was really notable in Theresa May's speech calling for an early election was the almost total lack of the usual democratic bullshit – all those fading pieties about how the people must have their say and the government must be made up of the representatives they choose. Usually, politicians at least pretend to hold elections because the population at large want them; elections are meant to be how the sovereign people make their choice. Not this time. All the drudgery and terror of a general election – the ghastly door-knockers with their rosettes, the stilted nonsense of the debates, the monstrous faces staring from billboards, the awful needling demands from everyone on your Facebook feed that you do your civic duty and get out there and vote – is about to fall on us, for no other reason than because Theresa May wants it all to happen.

Her rationale for holding a snap election isn't just nonsensical; it's insidious. "Every vote for the Conservatives," she said, "will make me stronger." The vote-vampire, pale and gleaming, her face dented and bloated, demanding that you give her more power. Why does she need it? Brexit, of course. The government has been able to do everything it wants so far; twisting a monosyllabic "no" into an infinitely flexible mandate – to victimise migrants and minorities, wreck our economy and set the whole country spiralling into a fit of dementia and rage. But it's not enough. "At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division," she said. "The country is coming together, but Westminster is not."

As soon as you think about this for even a moment it's clear that this is dangerous bullshit. The country isn't coming together; it's festering. Scotland and Northern Ireland could leave the UK within a few years; the smug liberal elites are pitched against the provincial cretins; religious minorities are afraid for their survival; people get attacked on the street for speaking the wrong language or wearing the wrong clothes or being encased in the wrong skin. We're boiling over; the country is gasping up splats of hot blood as it dies. Why should there be unity in Westminster? If the country is at war with itself, and Parliament represents the country, shouldn't that war be fought right there in the rubble that was once the Commons?


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Of course, when Theresa May says the country is coming together, she doesn't mean the whole country. She means the tawdry spectre of the real and authentic nation, the citizens of somewhere, the honest stolid folk nestled in their rolling hills: she means Tory Britain, a vast suburbia strangling the cities, thrashing through the countryside, spilling out into the sea. And it's true: even in its bric-a-brac mess, Tory Britain is displaying a terrifyingly united front. Theresa May is holding up one side of a division and deciding that it represents the whole. Anyone who disagrees that the entire country is unified is therefore no longer proving by their very existence that this unity is fake; they're a contaminant, an obstacle, someone who's interfering with this self-declared totality. We should recognise these politics and say their name louder than ever before. It's fascism.

In the weeks and months before the US election, writers and critics were very happy to call Donald trump a fascist. (They've mostly stopped now – after all, if he's a fascist and you're confirming his nominees and supporting his wars, then that makes you a fascist collaborator, and nobody wants to think of themselves like that.) Fascism isn't something buried in time, existing only in a bout of European madness in the early-to-mid 20th century; as recent years have shown, it's a constant possibility, repressive politics pushed to excess, something that's always lying in wait just beneath the surface of class society. It looks a bit different every time – no swastikas for Theresa May – but certain things stay the same. The national body is pure and whole and united. The leadership must be strong and stable and omnipotent. And all divisions must be smoothed over, no matter who gets in the way.

In fascism, only one person ever gets to make a choice; the sovereign decision belongs to the ruler. There is not intended to be any choice in this election. No element of chance, no danger. The Prime Minister wants an increased Tory majority in the Commons, and if the polls are reliable (but who can say?) there'll be one. She's calling her election not to offer a set of options to the voters, but to entrench what's already there. For both sides, there's nothing to lose and nothing to gain: thanks to our system of elective dictatorship, the Tories can already do whatever they want, as long as they maintain party discipline, while the opposition can do nothing at all.

This election will just solidify this state of affairs further. She asks the opposition parties "to show you are not opposing the government for the sake of it, to show you do not treat politics as a game" – but this is exactly what she's doing. She doesn't just want to beat the opposition; she wants them to become part of her false unity and support her undemocratic plans for Brexit. Not just a game, but a game on sandbox mode, without any opponents. A strong and stable country, one that has come to its final clanking halt. Autocracy, stasis, decrepitude.

And she may well get it. The real divisions in British society are not represented in Parliament; elections are just how Tories reproduce. Labour is being torn apart by a class of professional wreckers; the Lib Dems are gibbering creatures of the void, the Greens are cabbages. But if the last year in politics has shown us anything, it's that all these clever plans for final power have a tendency to go very badly wrong. Theresa May wants a politics without choice and without chance, but chance has a way of reasserting itself. And there's still the possibility – slight, fading, but still there – that things will go back into motion again, and that the Tories will find this whole affair blowing up in their awful smug fucking faces.

@sam_kriss

Tagged:
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democracy
theresa may
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