November 13, 2020 4.56 pm

Barry Turner: A very British coup

The departure of the British populists is more nuanced

The US it now seems will have a new president on the 20th January next year.

The petulance of Mr Trump is now fading and the vacillating support of Republican lawmakers and state governors is evaporating by the minute.

The last echo of this odd saga will once again be heard only in the fevored imaginings of the press and media.

The UK too it seems now has a new leader. Dramatic events over the last week are not confined to the dizzy heights of ‘The Hill’ in Washington DC but have occurred in the usually more sedate setting of 10 Downing Street.

The hardcore Brexiteers are on their way out, coincidentally — we can all be sure, with the departure of President Trump.

Two of the architects and driving forces behind the Brexit saga are also departing into what is unlikely to be political oblivion, but gone from number 10 they will be and it was not Boris that saw them off.

On both sides of the Atlantic the scourges of the liberal elite are in retreat again.

As President Trump drifts off into no doubt noisy retirement, here in the UK two of Boris Johnson’s advisors are being prized out of the corridors of power.

What is fundamentally different of course is the mechanism by which the three will be leaving.

Trump’s departure is by way of an election, not a normal election we would all agree but by a democratic process nonetheless.

He was voted in four years ago and he has just been voted out. For all the extraordinary song and dance about election fraud and voter suppression, conspiracy theories and deep states, the reality is he simply lost the election and the populist in chief will finish his term in traditional lame-duck fashion.

Back on this side of the pond, the departure of the populists is more nuanced, to use a word dearly loved by the press.

The two individuals here have never stood in an election, let alone won the popular mandate. Neither Lee Cain nor Dominic Cummings ever stood front and centre for the voter to make a choice about them, or we almost certainly would have never heard of them.

The PM’s advisors shunned the limelight for the real corridors of power, that of the grey eminence of the special advisor. Unelected, unaccountable and in many cases downright unacceptable in a democracy.

For well over a year now our press and interested members of the public have complained bitterly about the power of advisors and wailed about the undermining of democracy by the dark arts of people like Mr Cummings and Mr Cain.

Parliamentarians and political commentators too have ceaselessly criticised the machinations of advisors and their threat to democracy.

How wrong they have all been, how astoundingly ill-informed they have been. Since the referendum campaign began, since the Brexit vote was cast, these advisors have been seen as all powerful and untouchable.

Vast effort has been made by politicians and press alike to cause their downfall… all to no avail. Yet now they have fallen, not at the will of the voter, as Mr Trump did by by something all the more fundamental.

It seems that our PM, long seen as a member of the President Trump appreciation society, has been usurped too. Not by an election, not by a rebellion on the back benches, not even undermined by the Supreme Court or the House of Lords.

No, he has fallen at the whim of his fiancé in alliance with the PM’s new press secretary Allegra Stratton. It is they who have seen off Mr Cain and Mr Cummings where so many before had failed.

There will no doubt be many in the press and among the chattering classes who will be celebrating the demise of the PM’s controversial advisors.

The fall of Mr Cummings, a particularly disliked individual will no doubt at all be seen as a cause for good cheer. However, we should pause for thought before we crack open the champagne.

What kind of a system of government do we have where two unelected individuals whose influence extended far beyond that which is healthy in a democracy are apparently displaced by other unelected individuals, one of which holds no office or appointment of state at all?

In the last few weeks we have been told America’s democracy is in crisis. Democracy has in the United States however prevailed. It is now time we really need to take a very long look at ours.

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Barry Turner is Senior Lecturer in Media Law and Public Administration at the University of Lincoln.