My thoughts on the ‘Take Back Parliament’ movement

Having been a part of the first TBP demonstration in London, I have to say that I have to hand it to the participants, and to the Brits, for their egalitarian and don’t-take-crap approach.

It’s most refreshing for one such as myself who had to put up with the generally ‘it’s like that one lah’ (that’s the way it is) approach of most of the wombles populating singapore in the face of injustice/racism/top-down pressures/etc, and, of course, not forgetting the fascist/racist opposition whose main claim to being ‘democrats’ is that they oppose the government and not that they aren't generally racist and fascist themselves . I’ve always said that life in singapore takes away your faith in humanity, whilst in the UK, it reinstates it.

I relished in the angst of those whom participated in the event. It was remarkable that they could just decide, at Trafalgar Square, to take a demonstrative march-cum-yell past the PM’s abode, and the HQs of the two top parties, ending off outside the Lib-Dem HQ. In singapore, they probably would have set up firing squads, unleashed the Gurkhas, beaten everyone to a pulp, and detained everyone and their pet dogs without trial under the Internal Security Act for that. But let’s not just blame the state shall we. I’ve met many Chinese who’ve said, “demonstrate for what? Don’t make trouble. All this is chaos.” And we should also keep in mind that people would rather gather to moan the passing of MJ than they would to protest against the infliction of the death sentence on a human being. These are people who prefer the familiarity of the dungeon than go through the trouble of fighting their way out. That’s Confucianism in a nutshell for you.

But that said, I wouldn’t say that the TBP movement is all that perfect either. I couldn’t help but notice how much of the young crowd orgased when Nick Clegg appeared. And it attained ‘multiple’ proportions when he started spewing out the usual political BS. I could hear him loud and clear as I was within shoe-throwing distance from the bloke and I couldn’t help thinking that this guy was basically attempting to get the people on his side so that they might not question after how a party which is the least preferred amongst the top 3 has moved on to playing kingmaker - "I may not be democratically elected to play Kingmaker, but hey, who cares? I'm on your side!". I wondered how they could cheer such a bloke given their democratic inclinations. It seemed quite the contradiction. On the one hand, democracy had taken a good stiff one up the rear with the said 3rd-preferred playing kingmaker. On the other, they were relying on him to deliver a more representative democracy to the people. I couldn’t help wondering if the first compromised the third - with the ‘fixed-term’ parliament and AV system that has since been put forth with much vigour, I’m not surprised.

But, I suppose, the cheers for Clegg was not really for him, but a self-congratulatory one accorded to themselves as they had managed to shout him out of his office to address them. What a kick it must have been for many, and the organisers. It gave them the impression that they mattered. They were highly gratified. Who cared that it was this fellow was going to decide whether it was the Conservatives or Labour that was going to form the government and not the people. He had come out to say ‘hi’ to them when they had asked. So he must be representative, and of the people, by the people and for the people right?

And then, being a true politician, Clegg begins to give credit to the people for what he was already going to do by saying that his success in effectuating a more representative electoral system was dependent on their demonstrative persistency, and that he needed them for democracy to be delivered. What a load of BS, I thought, propped up against a tree beside official journalists (I had videoed the speech but i caught it at a rubbish angle whilst holding the pocket-sized video-cam way above my head...thereafter, pissed off at the result, I got myself a video-cam with a tilting screen - a Canon HF S200). I could see the ‘incorporation of dissent’ thing going on as Clegg spoke and the crowd cheered with each passing period. And then, like the meandering plumes of smoke after the bang, they dispersed.

I’m not ‘dissing’ the whole of the TBP movement or its underlying spirit, and I still do support it. However, a combination of being exposed to the political milieu in Singapore, and prior to which, in the UK, has trained me to appreciate how oversights close more doors than are opened by insights. If anything, the combination of the two tend to refine evils as opposed to eradicating them. And if compromise can be reached via the inclusion-cum-incorporation of the people, none are going to be any the wiser.

Whilst I left feeling quite enlivened by it all - though the May Day demonstrations were more to my taste as it addressed underlying issues as opposed to the consequences of one’s ignoring said underlying issues - I can’t say that there wasn’t a question mark hovering above my head. I thought, very soon, the TBP are going to be quite fragmented between various schools of thought divided between lib dem supporters, AV supporters, PR supporters, etc. Nothing wrong with that of course, but I wouldn’t want that to compromise the unity of the movement - as has been the case with the Socialist movement. Rather, i would like to see the movement evolve in a dialectical fashion, and progressively toward a more enlightened view of democracy.

But I am nagged by the fact that the crowd cheered on Clegg, when he was nothing short of an affront to democracy by way of his playing said kingmaker. Perhaps, the crowd, taking things as it is, thought they would make the best of a bad situation by negotiating with him. I’ve always been sceptical about compromising with the devil. It just means that the angel is left to ply its trade whilst being relieved of its wings to rise truly higher than the rest.

We’ll see.


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