Reviews | Boris Johnson’s repressive legislation reveals who he really is
These drastic measures, over time, will certainly be challenged. But the government has a plan for it: to drain the blood of democracy. There’s the Election Bill, which – in addition to potentially depriving millions of the right to vote through the introduction of mandatory voter identification – aims to provide the government with new powers over the regulator. independent of the elections, thus sealing the political process. Unless it is substantially amended, the consequences of the bill could be of great constitutional significance.
The need to centralize power also underpins the Judicial Review and Courts Bill, which would allow Mr Johnson and his ministers to overturn judicial review findings that call their agenda into question. The online security bill, purportedly designed to regulate big tech, has yet to be introduced in parliament. But many free speech advocates fear it will be used to silence criticism on social media, censoring details of reports that Mr Johnson’s government would prefer to keep from the public. No more pesky judges or overly curious journalists who interfere with government affairs.
It is a truism that sleepwalking nations in tyranny, and England – the most politically powerful of nations including Britain – is no exception. For decades, it has had all the necessary ingredients: an ever more resentful nationalism, a press loyalty sold to the highest bidder, and a fervent and misplaced belief that authoritarianism could never take hold here, because we would not let it all. just don’t do it.
In this case, however, concerted opposition to Mr Johnson’s plans did not materialize. Establishment policies have failed to live up to the resolve of Mr Johnson and his allies: a massive and overwhelmingly supportive Conservative majority means that even when the Labor Party has decided to oppose the legislation, his voices barely counted. And despite the valiant efforts of a coalition of grassroots groups and the initial groundswell of the “Kill the Bill” protests, a mass movement opposed to these bills has failed to come together. Instead, a sinister miasma of inevitability has set in.
This is dangerous, not least because this authoritarian assault is so comprehensive that once established as law, it will prove very difficult to undo. Like many leaders who seek to transcend the constraints of democracy, Mr Johnson may not be stepping into a future where he is not the one in command. But the miserable shadow his takeover casts over Britain will likely last much longer than the tenure of the so-called “king of the world” himself.
Its place in the history books is however assured. He will forever be the libertine whose pursuit of personal freedom and “control” has seen his compatriots have theirs stolen.