Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Thursday 4 July 2013

It could never happen here.

RULERS who have seized power.

A government which spies on its citizens 'for their own safety'. Leaders who lie. A crackdown on journalists and a hopelessly splintered opposition.

Tinkering with the constitution without asking anyone first, lining their own pockets, secret decisions, erosion of the democratic and judicial process and trampling on the sick and the poor.

All with just 23 per cent of the possible votes.

It's the kind of situation which, were it to happen in a resource-rich, developing country in a politically important area, our own dear leaders might pass comment. David Cameron would say 'less of this sort of thing', Nick Clegg would do the sad eyes, and William Hague would fix a summit with someone to discuss it.

Except they're not going to do that when the nation in question is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Bit dramatic, perhaps? Bit of a lefty bash-the-blues thing to say? Give me five minutes and see if you change your mind.

No-one voted this lot in. No-one asked for a Coalition with the yellows (very sensibly). The 2010 General Election had a 65 per cent turnout and David Cameron won 36.1 per cent of the votes - a majority of the 30million who bothered, but 16million people could not be.

That's not a popular mandate for any government - although blues and reds alike have governed and gone to war on similar levels of support - but it's certainly not enough of a green light for the most popular party to pick the third most popular party and create a government nobody asked for.

Of course if they hadn't there'd have been a hung Parliament and we'd have needed another election. These people thought another early vote was a bad idea - for us or for them, you decide - and so in order to avoid the further expression of democracy and because the alternative was an unpopular red they seized power.

The Queen rubber-stamped it, because she was told to.

In the years since they have expanded the practice of spying on us for our own good. I don't object in the least to them spying on foreign leaders who visit, people sheltering rape suspects or those who might build an underground lair or launch nuclear weapons from the moon.

I do sort of object to them reading my status updates and internet browsing history though. If they want to know what I'm up to they need to make a friend request or get a warrant, and if the spods at GCHQ can't work out the difference between a terrorist and the rest of us we're on a very sticky wicket.

Convicting and jailing people for their tweets and Facebook posts is becoming more common.

Our leaders don't tell us the truth. The government bends statistics, its statements promise things that never happen (the married tax break is on its fifth incarnation), blames its civil servants for its own failings, and gives out information about how atrocious the economy, NHS and immigrants are in order to gain support for its own highly-questionable plans.

£500,000 on a house for a mum with 11 children. Health tourism. Benefit cheats. All good headlines and bad stuff, but a drop in the ocean of a welfare state mainly devoted to paying pensions, debt and private landlords.

(Pensions which include 29 per cent public funding for the retirement funds of MPs and staff, compared to 14 per cent funding for other public sector workers.)

They've cracked down on the most powerful media empire in the country, but also cowed and constrained 30,000 print journalists on 1,100 newspapers with threats of new laws and budget-sucking legal cases.

They're now about to decide on the future of freedom of speech - something sadly never written down despite our leaders' promise to do so - for 62million people using a Privy Council committee consisting of present and retired politicians deciding on something not voted for by one single person.

They also control the regulation for TV journalists and spend a large amount of time trying to take down the publicly-funded broadcaster which, for all its problems, shames our politicians by being generally principled and only occasionally incompetent.

The Prime Minister, having promised to hold press conferences once a month, hasn't called one for a year and the only person in power who answers questions is the one least able to wield it.

Meanwhile the Official Opposition is so weak and uninspiring that extremists get more attention and followers. Ed Miliband could tapdance naked down Whitehall and still not raise anyone's interest.

The Justice Secretary and Home Secretary want to tear up the Magna Carta by scrapping human rights, putting the judicial process up for sale, and deporting people who haven't been convicted of anything, the Pensions Secretary thinks the poor need to snap out of it, the Health Secretary thinks there's nothing amiss with an NHS provider saying that saving lives is 'financially unsustainable' and the Foreign Secretary thinks giving guns away can end well.

And three-quarters of us did not vote for them. Yet they are there, decrying the overturning of a democratic vote in Egypt while cynically saying the leaders were unpopular, authoritarian, and needed to go.

But the Egyptian leader had 29 per cent of the vote. He had more of a mandate than our Prime Minister and the support of many more millions, and hasn't had time to make nearly as much of a mess of his nascent democracy as our privilege-reared career politicians who've been at it ever since they left school.

There's one reason the Egyptians took to the streets and we sit at home moaning about the weather and the cuts: their democracy is fresh, and ours is jaded.

The Arab Spring brought Egypt its first-ever democratic vote in 5,000 years of autocratic civilisation and their last despot was deposed following 18 days of public demonstrations which proved consistent protest brings results.

The few times that millions of us bother to march we are ignored, so we don't persist. When a few crazies camp outside Westminster they're moved on by the courts. And a third of us who can do not bother to vote when the ballot boxes are brought out.

Democracy dies when people stop thinking it works. It does, and it can, but only if you grab it and never let go.

Egypt is a place where women can be assaulted freely, where a military coup is welcomed and they look after the dead better than they do the living.

But they're doing better than us, principally because they believe in something.

All we believe is that it could never happen here.

You're probably right.