This Is Not A Dystopia – How We Sleepwalk Towards Autocracy

You’d be forgiven for thinking recent developments in British politics read something like an exaggerated dystopia.

Last night, the BBC – which has recently come under fire for its political bias – aired a Panorama documentary exploring antisemitism in the Labour party.

The documentary seems to come at an opportune moment: Jeremy Corbyn has only recently announced Labour’s bid to back Remain in a Second Brexit Referendum, just as members of the Conservative Party, tasked with the sole responsibility of choosing the country’s next Prime Minister, are getting closer and closer to casting their ballots in favour of a Brexiter or Remainer. (And yes, in simple terms, that is 160,000 people who will be choosing the next Prime Minister for a country of almost 7 million.)

Labour’s official complaint to the BBC over the documentary details its ‘one-sided’ nature, noting that Labour had only been given a week to provide ‘balancing interviews and responses’after the programme had been ‘in production for many months’. On top of this, the documentary seems to rely on ‘unsubstantiated allegations and selective use of data and internal communications by former members of staff, who are openly and publicly opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership’.

Most damningly, the complaint notes that the’timing and length of the programme … both point to political interference.’

Of course, accusations of anti-Semitism should not and must not be silenced, though the broadcasting of highly biased and politicised material by what is supposed to be an impartial media source is worrying, especially after the successive blows democracy has faced by totalitarian policies espoused by two of the figures most prominent in the national eye.

Boris Johnson, likely the country’s next democratically unelected Prime Minister, threatened to suspend Parliament to force through a No Deal Brexit, a direct contradiction of the democracy the Leave campaign apparently prides itself on. (It should be noted here that accusations of suppressing democracy are often used to silence any logical argument in favour of a Second Referendum.)

Johnson is, of course, the same man who had been threatened with court action based on the deliberate misinformation he provided during the Brexit campaign, before the notion of a court case suddenly disappeared.

On top of this, the resignation of Kim Darroch, the UK’s ambassador to the US, after Boris Johnson (who is still at the minute not the Prime Minister) failing to support him gives a worrying precedent about how a Trump-leaning Johnson government might look.

The other politician trying his hand at totalitarian policies is Nigel Farage, leader of a party with no representation in the Commons, who just today announced that civil servants and members of the military who are not pro-Brexit should be fired – essentially calling for a pro-Brexit army.

Indeed, politicians have become so obsessed with delivering Brexit that Jeremy Hunt announced he is prepared to sacrifice people’s jobs to deliver an abstract concept voted for by less than 10% of the country’s population, while Farage has said that Brexit (Britain + exit) is more important than keeping Britain intact (and indeed, it is highly likely that a No Deal Brexit will lead to the break-up of the Union the Brexit movement claimed to be returning power to).

If all of this seems Kafkaesque and Orwellian, that’s because it is.

Perhaps more worrying than all of these quasi-fascist actions (apparently impartial media discrediting the opposition; suspension of MPs; the proposal of creating a military and civil service with unanimous, right-leaning ideologies) is the sheer lack of outrage.

Meanwhile, the Labour party has been consistently attacked with reports of anti-Semitism while the Conservatives’ Islamophobia has been comparatively unchallenged, with likely future party leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson even seemingly defending Islamophobia under the guise of free speech. Is discrimination only a problem in Britain when it comes town to anti-Semitism, while Islamphobia is given a pass by press and party?

For a country whose curriculum and culture seems obsessed with not repeating the mistakes of the past and promoting democracy, the media, by giving politicians with questionable tendencies platforms instead of holding them to account, is doing much of the work that leads to the rise of autocracy: encouraging people to sleepwalk into it.

Cover photo ‘The Union Jack Flags’ by Mikey on Flickr (licence).

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