NB: I am not funny enough to have singlehandedly come up with the term “coup d’twat” to describe the current constiutional horror show. That honour belongs to Twitter, which I first saw referenced by the radical psychologist Guilaine Kinouani. At the moment, my Twitter and Facebook timeline is congested with memes and vines relating to the crisis at hand … and much of that I find is due to the notion if we do not laugh now, we will cry. In times of crisis, clearly we do not look to the politicians, the hedgefund managers or the corporates. We do look to the artists, and people that do make memes are artists (because not everybody can do it and do it well!). If it was easy, we would all do it!
In criminology, it is impossible to look at situations like this and not be thinking of the bigger picture. It is very easy to stay focused on Boris Johnson who has made a career appearing as a non-threatening bumbling buffoon. At the same time he is accountable not to the people that voted for him, but the big donor money that sits behind the Conservative Party. If the prime minister has been pushed out (though we won’t know if he actually leaves until September … he may just do a Trump), it’s not because of his party but because oligarchs have seen that he is no longer useful and bad for business.
Only two centuries ago my ancestors were enslaved on the islands of Grenada and Jamaica, and before abolitionists were fighting pro-enslavement MPs in Britain, the enslaved were leading rebellions across the Caribbean and at the point of kidnap in Africa. It is by some miracle I am with you now to tell these stories of disssent when so many Black people were killed from disease and hunger in the holes and hulls of European slave ships. With the prime minister “leaving” in September, I am more conscious of the wider system and how fascism arrives in tandem with people telling you to stop over-reacting.
The constitutional crisis we are in now is a coup d’twat built inside a wider prism of complacency. It claims there is “a time and place” to protest and challenge, and that is never all the time (when it should be). In the fights our ancestors had for freedom, we forget how hard it is to maintain that. It appears democracy in Britain begins and ends at voting every four years, and you must accept your lots in life in that four-year window. Within my sentient life now coming to my twenty-seventh year, my generation in the UK probably do not have living reference points for democracy beyond that narrow definition.
Most people believe they have no say in the forces that dictate their lives. On university campuses, it is increasingly clear that the voices of corporate senior leadership teams / governors are favoured more than lecturers and students. The Government has been criticised for its entanglements with oligarchy, but what about universities that focus more on individualism over community? The events since 6th July are being reproduced in various ways in education where neoliberal capitalism runs brigand. Out of touch senior leadership make choices on things they have no knowledge of and do not care about concerns of students if it doesn’t make them money. The concerns of lecturers get shafted too.
Meanwhile, senior leadership continue to leverage students as cash-cows while not taking decolonial approaches to education seriously. People that challenge the University in these ways get made into problems, and sometimes destroyed. For democracy to work, challenge must always be invited. This doesn’t stop with parliament but extends to all breathing institutions. At universities, when you disempower students they then feel they do not have the right to challenge information in class. This does not look like a democratic institution.
Boris Johnson will not see himself as a disgrace as he will always be part of that “canteen culture“, and you cannot judge someone to the standards that do not even see themselves in. Those same behaviours of not being accountable are in every institution. The only difference is as prime minister, is power. He is part of the gilded circle, leaving number ten in disgrace or not. These politicians have survived much much worse and will again. On both sides of the bench, there are too many millionaires who know nothing of what it means to be hungry and to do without.
Boris leaving is a smokescreen. Labour or Conservative the wider system is crooked and has been for years, all while there is a crisis of confidence in democracy in parliament and outside of it.