'The Fuel Tax Protest and the Crisis of Parliament' (Vol. 278, No. 1621, P. 75): A Correction

By Nash, Dr. F. | Contemporary Review, December 2001 | Go to article overview
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'The Fuel Tax Protest and the Crisis of Parliament' (Vol. 278, No. 1621, P. 75): A Correction


Nash, Dr. F., Contemporary Review


IN February 2001 Contemporary Review published an invited article concerning the implications of the way the government handled the fuel crisis of 2000 for our system of government. Unfortunately, for reasons that are not relevant here, the article, as printed, differed from my text.

As a matter of fact I did not choose the title in the printed article, nor would I have included 'crisis of Parliament'. Frankly, that phrase has only contingent meaning in the light of a presumed vision of parliament. As theorists we project such conceptions as critical points of reference, depicting a wished-for state of affairs: but with us such conceptions never describe the British system for here theory is generally understood in terms of historical generalisations. The choice of 'crisis of Parliament' thus puts the wrong emphasis upon the article, raising expectations of a certain type of discussion that the article is not intended to meet. Furthermore, ignoring minor changes -- too many to examine here -- three important alterations have changed the message of the article.

In the original article I meant to explain the way the protestors structured their activities and seemed to become increasingly sophisticated. The intention was to raise the point that very rapidly the 'laws' of political action set in, with two important effects. Firstly, it enabled the protestors to present their case to the government, but it also enabled the government to treat them as a temporary pressure group and use the resources and mechanisms of governance to neutralise them. This sense does not stand out in the printed article.

It is not clear to me that the claim that a moderately left-wing Fabian Society can influence the Blair government (pages 78-9) encapsulates in shorthand form the true view of the situation. This may be the wish of many, but it is simplistic. It is far too early to make such a judgement; indeed, we are not yet clear about the whole range of influences upon this government: besides, as expected, the government have rejected the idea of hypothecation.

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