An illiberal democracy

A woman walks past a graffiti depicting Boris Johnson as a clown

Anyone who thought Boris Johnson was a political clown was wrong. He is changing Britain in an authoritarian direction.

Boris Johnson is an entertaining politician. The British Prime Minister knows how to garnish dry political affairs with wit and inventive rhetoric and to make headlines suitable with eloquence and nimble feet.

It was not least his lack of seriousness that led many political experts to underestimate his effect on voters. Brexit did not, as has often been predicted, split the Tory party – on the contrary, it enabled Johnson to cement conservative supremacy.

But behind the Prime Minister’s clown-like facade there is a tough politician. Johnson is increasingly pursuing an authoritarianism that threatens basic civil liberties. In Brexit Britain the outlines of the characteristics of an autocratic regime can be seen – attacks on freedom of expression and assembly, blatant corruption, cold-hearted politics against migrants. That is extremely dangerous. But the opposition is sleeping – the resistance has to come from the streets.

One of the leading representatives of authoritarian politics is Interior Minister Priti Patel, whose reactionary stance is hair-raising – until a few years ago she was a representative of the death penalty. The hardliner complains about the “do-gooders” and “left lawyers” who benefit from the allegedly broken asylum system.

Schools should avoid “anti-capitalist material” in the classroom. It is anti-democratic

According to a new proposal, refugees who come to Great Britain “illegally” are no longer entitled to protection. For example, anyone who makes it across the English Channel in a rubber boat should be deported. People from war and crisis areas who risk their lives to start a new life in Great Britain should not be welcome here. You have to have that much cold heartedness first.

A climate that is hostile to migration

The law is still a proposal, but the aggressive rhetoric is already having consequences. EU migrants report problems at the border. A Bulgarian woman was warned by a customs officer at the airport not to stay too long in the country – although she has lived in London for over ten years and is married to an Englishman, but has not been granted the right to stay. This is a consequence of the anti-migration line that is given from above: The authorities are encouraged to signal racism and xenophobia.


In addition to refugees, protesters are also among the interior minister’s favorite enemies. She describes the activists of Extinction Rebellion as “criminals”. The fact that the police do not have enough instruments in hand to take action against the irritatingly peaceful protests of the climate movement causes deep frustration in Westminster.

Protest? Just quietly legal

So another law is needed : The new “police bill is supposed to give the state the necessary powers to prevent protests of any kind. For example, the police can prescribe exact start and end times for demos, and they can prohibit protests if it is too loud. Such proposals simply have no place in a democracy.

The government is also arming itself on the ideological battlefield. Anything that appears progressive or “woke” in any way is considered dangerous. “We don’t want our teachers to give their white students lessons on White Privilege,” said Minister for Equality, Kemi Badenoch.

Institutional racism does not exist in Britain, according to the government, although it has been proven and evident by countless studies. Schools have also been urged to avoid “anti-capitalist material” in class. It is an “extreme political stance”, comparable to – no joke – the rejection of free speech.

Anti-capitalism equals anti-democratic

And then there is corruption. Courts have already ruled in several cases that the government acted illegally in awarding public contracts during the pandemic. A number of orders have gone to personal acquaintances of members of the government, although they have no experience.

In any fairly functioning constitutional state, this would have consequences. At least the minister would be advised to resign. Not so in Brexit Britain – here the government shrugs its shoulders and continues.

An effective opposition would find ample material to make mince of the government – or at least to position itself as a progressive alternative to this authoritarian right-wing conservatism. But under the leadership of the pale Keir Starmer, Labor has practically given up the opposition. The party leadership appears much too shy, always afraid of scaring off socially conservative voters.

Last hope – the road

On the other hand, the resistance on the street gives hope. Thousands of citizens have roamed London and other cities to protest the police law. When the murder of the young Londoner Sarah Everard shook the whole country in March, a broad social movement was formed calling for more security for women in public spaces.

The Black Lives Matter movement organized huge demonstrations last summer. And finally, resistance to the reactionary immigration policy is increasing. In Scotland, criticism of the raids by the migration authorities has been growing for months – and citizens are taking action. In May, over a thousand people blocked a migration authority truck carrying two Indian migrants. The authorities had no choice but to release the migrants.

Such solidarity gives courage. It shows that many are unwilling to accept the government’s authoritarianism. If Britain is to get off the dangerous path towards autocracy, then the government must be forced to do so by the public.

Courtesy of The Germans should know – they’ve seen it happen before