The Senate and People of Ukia

After the 2019 British General Election produced a large conservative majority for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, I wrote a “projection” / fantasy of how Britain could progress to a one-party state.

A one-party state on the Chinese model isn’t my ideal form of government. I would prefer an absolute hereditary monarchy such as the one I described in 2012. (Next year we will pass the half-way point of the 25 years between when I wrote it and when I set it, so I will review that then). But I never put forward a mechanism for getting to the absolute monarchy, only vaguely having in mind some serious political collapse and recovery. One-party states do exist today and some of them are governed much better than multi-party democracies. They are equally oligarchic, but the oligarchies are more rational, effective, and marginally less embroiled in infighting.

The central point of neoreactionary theory is that the root problem of our society is its structure of government. The most obvious problem is the people in charge, and if you look a bit deeper you see bad and harmful ideologies, but the theory is that the ideologies are the expected product of internal competition within an oligarchy, and that the people are the product of the structure and the ideologies.

If that is accepted, then the critical step is to change the system. Changing the system will in time change the ideologies and the people. So movement away from a system of oligarchic competition is a benefit, whether the one party is Labour or Conservative. It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat.

Admittedly, when I imagined Borisland, it was very much as a monarchical form with a Supreme Leader. I have heard suggestions that Xi is effectively sovereign over the PRC, but I don’t know and if I were to guess I would think it unlikely. Is Starmer a man who can dissolve ministerial responsibility? Or maybe there is a more ambitious successor waiting in the wings? Either could work. Every Prime Minister who is not universally pilloried as baffled and ineffectual (and some who are) is accused of introducing presidential government; it does not appear to be an impossibility.

Again, I would prefer not to be dragging even the pretence of democratic legitimacy behind the monarch, but, after all, the Roman Empire managed it.

What does the incoming Starmer administration have going for it? Quite a bit:

  1. Weak parliamentary opposition
  2. A prominent internal opposition
  3. A large majority to enable it to combat the internal opposition
  4. A leader who intimately understands the permanent government
  5. A leader young enough to last a couple of decades
  6. The support of the permanent government and the press (at least to start with)

The weak conservative opposition means that the government will not initially be too pressed to compete with it for popularity. My expectation will be that the government’s biggest fights for the first year will be against the left of the Labour party, and particularly the Islamic / pro-Palestine elements, plus the independent MPs that were elected specifically on that platform. Starmer’s pragmatic programme, coupled with his Jewish family, mean he will never be able to satisfy that wing, and would be unwise to try. Losing the Labour party’s traditional support from that population will be initially affordable given the huge parliamentary majority, and in the medium term will gain him much more support from the wider population.

In the modern democratic and media environment, the best way to advance a programme is to have unpopular people oppose it, and the worst way is to have unpopular people support it. If Reform are wise, they will keep a low profile for the next few years, take the money and quietly build an organisation. The government is much more likely to take action on immigration because George Galloway is against it than because Nigel Farage is in favour of it.

The knowledge of the permanent government is very important. In my lifetime, only two Prime Ministers have shown any real evidence of being in charge. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were both lawyers. They both had allies in the civil service (which was much more conservative 40 years ago than it is now). Kier Starmer and Harriet Harman are coming into government with an agenda that we can assume is very much in line with that of the permanent government. But they now have their own role and their own personal goals, and if, over time, they find they need to act against the wishes of that permanent government — they know where the bodies are buried. They know how the system functions, where its strong points and weak points are.

Again, the neoreactionary theory is that if they want to exercise power they will inevitably come into conflict with the permanent government. They want results that look good in the press. The most obvious reason that the Conservatives were useless is that they were just incompetent. The next most obvious reason is that they were traitors to conservatism. The deeper reason is that actually achieving any conservative goals was impossible, so many of them adopted more liberal positions because only by doing so could they avoid being ridiculous failures.

(For people my age, the most vivid examples are Michael Portillo and John Redwood; the two Conservatives seen as the ideological heirs of Thatcher, and the thorns in the right side of the moderate John Major, both of whom over time moved steadily more and more left decade by decade, finishing well to the left of Blair)

Achieving conservative goals was impossible for the Conservatives because the permanent government was united against them, and could obstruct them with legal and administrative bullshit to the point that anything they did achieve would cost them politically far more than it was worth (the two years of failure of the Uganda scheme is of course the prime example, but the pattern was everywhere). If I am right about the advantages that Starmer’s past experience gives him, he might not find things so impossible.

I do expect these conflicts to happen. Starmer will not want to deport illegal immigrants in order to get Sun front pages that will impress Essex Man — but he may find he wants to deport illegal immigrants in order to get the crime rate down and the welfare bill down, and to prevent his own children being blown up in their synagogue. He will want it to just happen, quietly. Can he do that? That’s the question.

If in five years’ time the economy is a bit better (and there is a ton of scope to achieve that by removing obstacles), the immigration situation is no worse, and the Conservatives are still in disarray (the huge error I made five years ago was in thinking that Labour would today still be largely engaged in fighting off Corbynist holdouts, so that’s a big open question), then he could carry as big a majority into the next decade. Technology today is very favourable to absolutism. A leader who is seen as legitimate will have many mechanisms available to him to cement his position.

I’m not going to try to imagine details. Armies under the absolute control of an Emperor carried the standard of the Senate and People of Rome, a Britain that has become “UK” (the latest constitutional proposals apparently include a Senate), perhaps without even being any longer an official kingdom, could also be directed by a single hand.

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