Britain’s Constitutional Crisis and the Politics of Sex

By Stephen Baskerville
http://anglicanmainstream.org/
It is now very clear that Britain is entering its most serious constitutional crisis since the war, and it is doing so under a prime minister who is its most unaccountable. Having departed from the accepted British norm of parliamentary government in favor of a popular referendum, Britain created a vacuum that has been filled by a government with a subtle but determined ideological agenda that makes challenge almost impossible. Because Britain is (as often) the leader in this constitutional innovation, how Britain extricates itself from this debacle will have repercussions for all of us.

How was this allowed to happen? Two decisions in particular demonstrate just how irregularly British government has operated during and since the referendum.

First, in trying to recover the sovereignty surrendered to the European Union, MPs (perhaps unavoidably) used the diffidence that always accompanies EU questions to depart from Britain’s customary parliamentary procedures and foist the decision on an always fickle electorate. Though the electorate spoke clearly, its voice can change (or be made to change).

Now, despite the fact that retreat would have serious consequences for constitutional government, the political class is applying pressure in any effort to defy the popular will even after having elevated it to the level of formal legal status. In a country less stable than Britain this could produce constitutional nihilism, and even Britain faces the specter of chaos.

But the second decision was far more momentous, for it began the journey toward chaos, and that was the decision to allow Theresa May’s putsch. It is very clear that the current prime minister is out of her depth and incapable of long-term leadership.

This is certainly not because she lacks political skill. It is because she herself came to power illegitimately and can survive only by creating more of the havoc that brought her to power in the first place.

Mrs. May and other leftist elements of the Conservative Party took advantage of the post-Brexit confusion to stage a coup. They spun the referendum results into a New Left platform that had nothing to do with the voters’ expressed wishes. Not only were they on the wrong side of the referendum result, they immediately set in to implement policies that were more extreme versions of precisely those that had been repudiated by the voters in the referendum, with bizarre words about “social reform” to benefit the “disadvantaged” rather than “the privileged few.” They continued the same spin through the election, which was interpreted as everything but what it largely was: a negative referendum on Mrs. May’s failure as Home Secretary to deal with terrorism.

In short, Mrs. May has no claim or credentials to be prime minister and consequently no authority to negotiate Britain out of its current dilemma — which indeed, she largely created. Any other Prime Minister would have been forced to resign long ago.

So why this “Teflon” ability to defy the basic principles of British parliamentary government? How could a politician with no popular mandate immediately begin by claiming one for policies the opposite of what the people had voted for? Further, how has she been able to continue this extraordinary immunity from responsibility, even after leading her party to a humiliating election disaster that was likewise widely attributed to her personal failures alone?

Not to put too fine a point on it, there is but one reason, the silver bullet that now silences all criticism so effectively that it need no longer even be stated (and cannot be stated by its critics), and it is the one that is now manifesting itself all around us: “gender equality.” Unlike any potential competitor, Mrs. May makes herself immune from responsibility by skillfully playing sexual politics. The role played by her sex was celebrated when she assumed power not only by her allies but also by virtue-signaling pundits, though few really wanted to dwell on the ironies and implications. But as the current wave of accusations demonstrates, the triumph of sexual ideology has now made it is virtually impossible to hold women leaders accountable.

This has more to do with ideology than with sex, and the exceptions prove the rule. The excoriation of Andrea Leadsom for her Christian values during the leadership contest confirms that marginalization is now the rule for leaders who are feminine without being feminist.

Moreover, Britain’s greatest post-war Prime Minister was a woman. The difference was that Margaret Thatcher never engaged in ideologically female politics. She never made an issue of being a woman and never invoked feminist or “gender” ideology with its oppressor/victim Manicheanism that intimidates dissent and opportunistically celebrates double standards. Indeed, her entire government was one long battle against ideology: socialism, self-aggrandizing functionaries, unions, the welfare state, unilateral disarmament — of everything, in short, that has since become ideologically feminized. She accepted full responsibility for her policies, including the inevitable end.

Mrs. May’s politics are fundamentally different. Though she waves the banner of conservatism, she picks and chooses the ideological currents that will win her power. As Home Secretary, this meant de-prioritizing terrorism and crime in favor of ideological programs targeting law-abiding citizens, usually under the guise of combatting “violence against women,” while likewise prioritizing same-sex marriage. Even when ostensibly combatting terrorism (or “extremism”), she concocted pointless schemes driven by ideology. Most extraordinary was her proposal for the state to register and vet all religious leaders — as if priests, pastors, and rabbis pose a serious terrorist threat.

Now her successor as Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who helped engineer her June 2016 coup, is following suit: downplaying terrorism and crime and instead using her office to intimidate the expression of unorthodox views by law-abiding citizens.

In the struggle for the Tory Party leadership, it is no accident that an obviously appealing candidate of proven ability and moral character, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has been blackballed and sidelined by nothing more than his widely shared opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, the main shibboleths of the sexual left. Now, the expanding use of sexual accusations for political purposes (which has in fact been going on for years) confirms the ascendency of the sexual left, and the same methods employed by May and Rudd — and DPP Alison Saunders — are having much more serious consequences.

The Conservatives now face more than the relatively straightforward matter of choosing a leader who is acceptable to various party factions. They must come to terms with the sexual radicalism that is now the vanguard ideology of the left and that also increasingly grips and paralyzes most of the right.

Stephen Baskerville is Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College. He is the author of The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and the Growth of Government Power (Angelico, 2017).

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.