‘Divide and rule’ will not achieve progress in Peterborough or nationally

Out of all the resignations that have occurred, I found Jo Johnson’s, the University Minister, to be the most shocking. He is, after all, the Prime Minister’s brother, writes leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council Cllr Shaz Nawaz in his weekly column.

Friday, 13th September 2019, 2:12 pm
Protests against the prorogation of parliament by Boris Johnson. Picture: Habibur Rahman PPP-190309-210322003

I saw a quip online that stated it may be the first case of a ministerial resignation occurring so that the individual could spend less time with their family. It’s yet another sign how the current government is tearing the country apart, even at a fraternal level.

Parliament is now shut for the next five weeks. There will be no debates for this time, no scrutiny by committees of the Government’s work. We won’t be able to assess Number 10’s contingency planning. The Prime Minister won’t face tough questions from his peers.

Politics will now be fought out on the front pages of newspapers and via press releases. By any measure, this is not democracy. Rather, this is a media war. I cannot imagine the Government will reign in quiet during this period.

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I have spoken to a number of people of various political creeds: for the most part, there is a sense of disquiet about this closure. Democracy functions when ideas, words and questions are in full flow. The Government has decided to close its mind and shut its ears. It doesn’t want to hear dissent.

The country will not be united by this move. Indeed, I suspect that the rhetoric will become more heated. It begs the question: if the Government knows this, then why do it?

I suspect they are hoping that those who prioritise Brexit over every other issue, including the sustenance of our democracy, will back the Government. But what about those who don’t? What about the people who want to know about how they will get their medicines and trade with the EU after October 31 st ? People who ask awkward questions may not be the Government’s primary concern: so long as they have their base, then the rest simply don’t matter.

These “divide and rule” tactics are as old as recorded history. However, this is unlikely to achieve real progress. Yes, the Government may satisfy one group, but what is the point if democracy withers and the nation as a whole loses confidence in the state’s ability to manage its affairs? Divide and rule becomes a signpost towards ruin.

We see “divide and rule” on a local level. What is the point of investing so much in Fletton Quays if the vast majority need less showy but more relevant progress? Surely, Fletton Quays is not a glittering trophy except for a minority; the vast majority just see it as another example of how the council is not for them, a body to be endured, even resented.

The philosophy of utilitarianism calls for achieving the greatest good for the greatest number. This is the approach we take in the Labour Group, and one that I believe in as Labour Group leader. Not divide and rule, but unite and progress. We will.