My octagenarian mother recently had a terrifying anti-terrorist experience, when armed policemen kicked in her front door and shot the cat, claiming that they had intelligence suggesting that some kind of WMD were hidden in a cupboard in her garage. It turned out that when I’d taken her down to ‘Homebase’ the other Sunday, some bloke had overheard me telling her that she didn’t need to buy any ‘Three-in-One’ oil for that creaky door, as there was still some of dad’s old WD40 in the garage. Hell, I suppose it is an easy mistake to make, I mean, at the very least WD40 might be used to facilitate WMD, by lubricating the trigger mechanism on a ‘dirty bomb’, or the control surfaces of a home made missile designed to deliver chemical weapons. Indeed, the WD40 could conceivably have constituted a chemical weapon in its own right – if you sprayed it in someone’s eyes. Whatever the case the police didn’t want to lose face, so they took the can away for ‘further tests’. They also arrested the cat, who they claimed had been shot as he lunged at an armed officer, either that or he’d shot himself accidentally whilst going for a pistol he had concealed under his fur. I suppose it’s possible – he’s always been a bit shifty and used to hang out with that Persian cat from round the corner who was arrested for explosives offences last year. But like Blair said, when justifying the invasion of Iraq in search of Saddam’s elusive WMD, you can’t not act on intelligence from reliable sources.
Heck, that was pretty much what I told the magistrates the other week! “Honestly your Honour, I was acting in the best interests of the local community when I burned down my eighty five year old neighbour’s garden shed. I had very reliable information from a bloke down the pub that he was actually running a drug factory from there. OK, so we now know that the only thing that he was storing there were the gas cylinders for his barbecue, and I know that the resulting explosion destroyed half the street, but it would have been highly irresponsible of me just to dismiss my intelligence as mere drunken ramblings. What if I’d done nothing and it had been a drug factory? Kiddies could have been ODing in the street! Besides, he was a miserable old git and probably a kiddie fiddler on the side anyway. (I still maintain that had the police not been so lazy and had sifted through the debris more thoroughly, they would have found the charred remains of several child pornography magazines – Reggie Dollard at number thirty seven still swears that those pictures of underage kids he was caught with fell out of the sky the day of the explosion). So, let’s face it, that fatal heart attack he suffered was really a service to society!” It worked a treat – I got off with a fifty quid fine, a suspended sentence and community service!
To be serious, It always bothers me when politicians come out with these entirely self-serving justifications for their morally questionable actions, mainly because they have a nasty habit of empowering various extremists, loons and crackpots by providing them with justification for their own anti-social activities. Just look at the way in which every psychopath with a grudge against the press has seized upon ‘President’ Trump’s dismissal of the press as ‘the enemy of the people’ to try and gun down journalists. Sadly, this isn’t unique – or confined to the US. Let’s not forget the upsurge in xenophobic attacks recorded in the UK in the wake of the anti-immigration rhetoric bandied about by Breixteers during the EU referendum. You can also guarantee that Boris ‘The Buffoon’ Johnson’s recent comparison of women wearing traditional Islamic dress to pillar boxes and bank robbers will provide the ‘justification’ for another upsurge in Islamaphobic abuse on Britain’s streets.
But the most bothersome political pronouncements I hear today concern the EU referendum and the idea that holding any further public votes on the UK’s relationship with the EU would somehow be a betrayal of the ‘will of the people’ and a rejection of the democratic process. Now, leaving aside the fact that a referendum has no constitutional standing in the UK and cannot represent the ‘will of the people’ (parliament represents this), how can giving people further opportunities to vote be anything other than democratic? There is a dangerous idea being floated here, that once something has been ‘decided’ by a ‘democratic’ vote, then it is set in stone and can never be challenged. Where does that leave the concept of general elections? By this logic we need only ever have one general election and the government formed as a result can never have its legitimacy challenged. A recipe for totalitarianism. (Of course, if applied retrospectively, this logic would dictate that the 2016 referendum should never have taken place as we’d previously had one in 1974, when the ‘will of the people’ was to remain in the EU).
In reality, over time, people’s opinions change (especially when it emerges that their votes were ‘bought’ on the basis of outright lies) and the make up of the electorate itself changes, with older parts of constituency dying off and younger voters joining. Which is why votes can’t be isolated events. We have them on a regular basis to reflect these changes. But right now we have a ruling political elite who don’t want to acknowledge this. Let’s face it, they didn’t want to acknowledge that the Tories lost their majority at the last general election, with Theresa May claiming that ‘nothing had changed’ as she hastily bunged a billion pounds of public money to a bunch of religious fundamentalists, sorry, the Democratic Unionists, to keep her in Number Ten. Such is the state of so called ‘democracy’ in contemporary Britain – you can vote as much as you like so long as it doesn’t threaten the status quo. Because if it does, then you are an ‘enemy of the people’ and ‘treasonous’. Dangerous times, indeed.