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Editorial: A right royal farce in Parliament

THE pantomime season has opened early in Westminster. Full fancy dress for Ms Windsor, labouring under a crown valued at a price that could give NHS nurses a decent pay-rise.

Various flunkeys don tights, garters and wigs. The head of state gives a speech of startling irrelevancy significant only because it promises a modest basket of stolen goodies that have as much chance of reaching the statute books this parliamentary session as Prince Charles has of speaking from the throne in the same.

The Queen squats on the throne well beyond the age at which she should be pensioned off principally, it seems, to keep her gormless offspring away from the resemblance of power. She knows perfectly well that this opening of Parliament is an even more frivolous occasion than it normally is.

Johnson is no less a squatter in Number 10. Bereft of a parliamentary majority, he rises in the role of pantomime dame to lay out a series of policies designed to blunt the attractive power of Labour’s emerging policy platform.

If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery then Johnson’s secretly worshipped hero is the man standing opposite him at the despatch box. For the Tories’ offer in the election which may break this parliamentary deadlock is little more than a pale imitation of Labour’s yet unveiled manifesto.

Behind the bluster of Johnson lies a calculating mind, one that saw in the role of standard bearer for a bourgeois Brexit the lever with which to prise the leadership of the Tory Party from the lifeless hands of Theresa May. But also a political instinct which sees in the deal with the EU slowly emerging from its subterranean tunnel of Brussels love the best chance to appear in the election campaign as the man who got Brexit done.

The calculation is that a modest basket of policies dressed up as the end of austerity – combined with an afterglow of success in the Brexit stakes – might be just enough to propel him and his latest inamorata into Downing Street as the choice of the electorate rather than the choice of the depleted ranks of Tory Party members.

There is no justice or fairness in politics and everyone sitting in Westminster knows on the principal issue before us that Johnson was in two minds on Brexit – but of one mind on the question of who should be PM.

It also common knowledge that the man opposite showed no unseemly ambition to become the first citizen of the realm and had a decades-long record of intransigent criticism of neoliberalism, privatisation, austerity policies, imperial war and the EU itself.

The difference is that the Tory Party – in its periodic “One Nation” phases – is the party of institutional hypocrisy while the Labour Party, in its extravagantly enlarged numbers and under new management is, discounting a big chunk of the PLP, a credible voice for democratic decision-making making and popular sovereignty.

On the question of democratic accountability the Labour gold standard is a conference decision. Corbyn is an innovation in that, unlike most previous Labour leaders, he regards the guidance that Labour’s members and affiliates give its leadership as worthy of respect.

The party would be in a stronger electoral position and would better retain its attractive power to its natural constituency if his front-bench colleagues were as scrupulously attentive to democratic decisions as is he.

This parliament has proved to be little more than a pantomime. Thus giving new substance to the belief that the state is but the executive committee of the ruling class.

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