Friday, 27 January 2012

Rule, Britannia!

Currently I have the good fortune of studying the English Civil War and the Cromwellian Protectorate. Insightful though it has been, this morning I found myself growing increasingly depressed with our pathetic efforts at a “Revolution”. Let’s face it our “English Revolution” was just a loud, unnecessary parliamentary tantrum. It achieved next to nothing, except huge public debt and an unstable, bickering regime (sound familiar?!).  It was infact the peaceful ‘Glorious Revolution’ some 20 years later that really changed the British constitutional landscape, yet even the Chartists, of the 1840s, with their fruitless efforts for proletarian representation, are hailed as the more radical. We had a King, laboriously executed him (nothing, compared to the fĂȘted guillotine of Louis XVI); witnessed the failure of a handful of aristocrat-dominated Parliaments, a Republic, a military dictatorship, and then blushingly re-established another ringlet ridden monarch. Pfff. We came full circle, with little improvement. Indeed, it seems that our revolution, even back then, subscribed to traditional British principles – the restoration of the monarchy was a comfortable last resort, not the die-hard glorious ideology. Perhaps the high point of the turmoil was when, as a result of Pride’s Purge (a so-called ‘keystone’ in the creation of the English Republic), the excluded Parliamentary members headed straight to the nearest Pub (Ironically named ‘Hell’). I do, at least, raise my rusty ale chalice to this jovial side-note.

I realise that this post will probably not appeal to all – it may be just a blur of meaningless chronology to you. But what it all really comes down to is this: will Great Britain ever be anything other than a constitutional monarchy? Will we always have the faces of a haphazard Hanoverian royal family on our coins?  It could be argued that before the Will & Kate’s wedding last year, a proportion of the population (especially youths) were disillusioned with the monarchy and what it stood for.  Just googling ‘anti-monarchy uk’ returns a countless number of hits ( ; are amongst the results) However, I think it’s safe to say that the couple has given a breath of fresh air to the role – that much was evident from the more contemporary ceremony and the infamous open-topped car finale. Furthermore, Britain experienced a much-needed ‘bringing-together’ in 2011, with tremendous results. I fully expect that this year, with the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (if you make it past 64 years on the throne Lizzy I will openly curtsey to you then and there, wherever I am…) will be just as exciting and will undoubtedly appeal to the partisan element in us all – no matter how ‘hip’ or ‘leftie’ we are. Britons, prepare yourself for another rare conservative moment: I believe that for the time being, the monarchy fits the United Kingdom like an iron-cast glove… we might as well cling to it ;-)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Has the Russian Winter met the Arab Spring?

Although they are on opposite sides of the globe, are the uprisings of 2011 within these oil-rich nations part of the same movement? I have concluded that they do infact share parts of same cause – to rid their countries of the inner corruption which controls them and enhance/establish their own democratic status. This post will examine some of the current results from the events of February and December.

Last month, I attended a lecture given by a previous ambassador for the Middle East. He explained that the progress made in Arabia was extremely volatile and wrapped up in bureaucratic and military corruption – therefore a regime resembling anything remotely democratic would be a gradual and sensitive process. In Egypt for example, it is the army which holds the real balance of power. They will do anything to protect their own luxurious lifestyles which are, it must be noted, currently being funded by the US government itself ( in US$2billion in “aid”. Hence, they have violently opposed a new constitution, one clause of which implies that all military spending should be transparent and controlled. Needless to say, the Libyans, Tunisians and Egyptians have been comparatively successful in removing their former tyrants and establishing some kind of democratic order, with elections being held and constitutions being codified. Syria is another matter entirely (partly because neither British or American interests are at risk)…

In Russia, the situation is utterly different. Although the Russian government has claimed to be democratic since 1991, with its proportional electoral systems and State Duma, it remains psychologically soviet (a recent article in The Economist ‘Homo-Sovieticus’ examined this phenomenon): riddled with blatant censorship, the domination of the FSB (the new KGB) who hold over 70% of governmental offices, and the extravagant power of the Russian oligarchy. Then there’s Putin himself whose unofficial dictatorship has become somewhat of a joke with the release of propaganda-type photographs two months ago.  The recent protests, although subversive by nature and symbolic of a new-born attitude towards Putin, will achieve very little in the short-term and are by no means a revolution. They may rock the boat but it seems Putin will return to the Presidency for at least another term.

On a separate but perhaps relevant note, I have come to the conclusion that Democracy is a waste of time and resources: it’s a manipulative governmental control mechanism to make the popular masses think they have power and influence and therefore maintain a relative degree of general contentment. There is no ‘democratic’ state on this earth that can claim they have the perfect democracy. In Britain our democracy is deeply flawed, not least through the use of a biased and majoritarian First-Past-The-Post voting system which – by the way – doesn’t work: we last had a true parliamentary majority in 1935. It would be great if we had a strong and stable single-party government with decisive executive powers but, excuse me, WE’RE IN A FLIDGING COALITION GOVERNMENT DURING A WORSENING ECONOMIC CRISIS. All we need is a British dictatorship (benevolent or oppressive – whatever gets the results) during times of crisis, and a proportional, direct democracy during times of prosperity. Only in heaven would it be that easy.