You are here:   Features > We Need Churchill's Vison of Liberty More Than Ever
 
This brings me to the second question, that of preserving parliamentary democracy. The resurgence of populism in Europe and America may be seen as an established fact, but the phenomenon eludes definition. Perhaps the best way of distinguishing between populist demagogues and more statesmanlike leaders is in their attitudes to parliamentary institutions. Emmanuel Macron’s presidential triumph over Marine Le Pen’s populism in France was followed by his less remarked upon — but actually even more remarkable — victory in elections to the National Assembly. The latter was hailed as the greatest “clear-out” of French parliamentarians since 1914, which was two republics and a dictatorship ago. But President Macron reportedly prefers to compare himself more modestly to General de Gaulle, whose founding of the Fifth Republic was intended to subordinate the legislature to the executive. If I were a Frenchman, I would be worried about a charismatic leader who, having won the presidency by a big margin, then filled the assembly with his creatures, all the while keeping France in a state of emergency. Not for nothing is the name of Napoleon often invoked in connection with Macron; but the relevant comparison is not with the first emperor of that name, but his nephew Louis Napoleon, who was just one year older than Macron when he was elected the first French President in 1848. Four years later, Louis Napoleon made himself emperor after a coup d’état. Bonapartism, as Marx dubbed the new ideology, worked on a highly successful formula: populism plus militarism equals legitimacy. Macron lacks the military prestige of Napoleon or De Gaulle, but he too presents himself as the saviour of the nation and of Europe. So Macronism is populism plus patriotism plus Europeanism. None of this has anything to do with parliamentary democracy and in fact could pose a threat to its survival in France, especially in the context of terrorist attack and the state of emergency, which amounts to an interruption in the rule of law.

I have dwelt on the case of France because it illustrates so vividly how mass panic in the face of populism can easily translate into a cure that is worse than the disease. Populism is not necessarily a threat to parliamentary democracy, but when allied with big government, external threat and a judiciary that is either supine or partial, the cult of the personality and the mass movement can overwhelm the procedures that normally circumscribe political power. The classic examples date from the 1920s and 1930s: Mussolini’s Italy, Pilsudski’s Poland, pre-Anschluss Austria, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal and of course the Weimar Republic. But we also have contemporary cases: Erdogan’s Turkey, Duterte’s Philippines, Zuma’s South Africa, and, above all, Putin’s Russia. In case Europeans suppose themselves immune, let them consider how close Greece has come to a collapse of parliamentary democracy. As for the United States, while reports of the death of the American Republic have certainly been exaggerated, there is real cause for concern. The demons unleashed by Obama, who used executive and judicial power to thwart Congress at every opportunity, have reached their apotheosis under Trump, who seems to have little grasp of constitutional limitations and none at all of his own. The fact that Bernie Sanders came close to eclipsing Hillary Clinton illustrates how easily the far-Left may seize on conservative provocations in order to justify their own.

View Full Article
Tags:
 
Share/Save
 
 
 
 
amcdonald
September 15th, 2017
12:09 PM
Freedom Day June 24 2016 The glorious chaotic dawn of our Brexit victory Julie Burchill Kate Hoey Gilbert & George John Lydon Ringo Starr ("Don`t tell Bob Geldof") Morrissey Brexitannia not Remainia We scored 17.4 million goals Remainia scored 16.1 million goals A clear win by Brexitannia The Toeies are still the Nasty Party,the gruel- propaganda party reduced to delusions of adequacy. It`s Julie Burchill not Winston Churchill . It`s Camille Paglia not Hilary Clinton in the USA. I'm popular culture it`s Ringo Starr not Bob Geldof. The Lady of Burma is being compared to Hitler by the Left for not barking for Islam .

Lawrence James
September 4th, 2017
12:09 PM
'Democracies do not fight one another ?'The Confederate States of America v the United States of America . . . Britain against the Boer republics . . . the North German Confederation against France in 1870 ?

Stephen Blendell
August 30th, 2017
7:08 PM
For those who might be interested, there is now one authoritative treatise on liberty, its history and the various types of liberty."Liberty's Progress?" by Prof Gerard Casey has just been published - coincidentally to coincide with this edition of Standpoint!

Post your comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.