Saturday, 25 June 2016

After the Referendum: Division and Mess

People who voted for out of the EU are asking others for unity and to be less angry, to 'come together'. I even saw such sentiments in a Church of England statement via several bishops.

If only it was so easy. Well, they may not be saying it is easy. If only it was even possible. The reason why this referendum result is "stupid" is because of the mess it has left in the body politic across what will soon not be the United Kingdom, in the economic life of these islands, and in the cultural stench that has been released. Plus after 40 years EU law is interwoven with our law and to unravel it will keep Parliament busy for a very long time, probably more time than is available.

What has not been said on the media so far is this: we do not have, in these islands, the quality of politician to do the job that would make a positive result of this very divisive outcome.

The current and now outgoing Prime Minister, David Cameron, must qualify as the most reckless and ridiculous Prime Minister we have had. Some commentators have said he compares with Anthony Eden and Neville Chamberlain. The latter at least had good intentions. David Cameron was always a second class politician, a Public Relations man, a partial clone of Tony Blair by intent. All along his political career he was a fixer with, it seemed, the only ideal that the privileged should rule. He didn't have a wider vision or purpose. The referendum was no more that a way to silence his critics, and he thought an appeal to get some more votes. It was part of his otherwise negative General Election campaigning. The Conservatives set about destroying their one-time Liberal Democrat partners, who had propped them up thinking nice things about participating with other parties. Perhaps Cameron thought he wouldn't win outright and the referendum would not happen.

But when it did happen, he had to go through a pantomime of renegotiation. The gamble was to win it, overcome it, and carry on. The referendum proved so negative and divisive that, whichever side won, he was in trouble. The first speech of Nigel Farage before results came in showed that the "war" would have continued: he'd have had no majority.

His tactical gamble failed. But what he did was he gambled the whole of the UK on his tactical referendum. Would you bet your house on the basis of getting in front of a traffic queue.

Set against him is another second rate politician, Boris Johnson. He had written almost spoof articles bashing the EU for The Daily Telegraph. He has spoken in favour of continued EU membership. A few months back, he came for being out of the EU. He gambled the future of the UK in order to be a political assassin. He has succeeded. Now the assassin will present himself for Prime Minister material. He was rightly booed when he appeared as 'victor'. He is no more capable of clearing up this mess than Cameron. He won't be in control.

The situation is now division upon division. There is division between economy and culture, division between young and old, division between England and its capital, division between Scotland and England, division made between North and South of Ireland, division between the strained UK and Europe. What is more, we have had right wing politicians play the immigration card (whatever real concerns about resources) so that people, who have no idea how the EU is run because nobody would tell them, lashed out at the austerity they have undergone for so long now. Like lemmings, they have voted for a right wing whose reward to them will be even more austerity, a stripping of workers' rights, a privatising and underfunding of the NHS. Betrayed again, these underemployed and underclass look like idiots. It's not their fault - we've had no political education in schools, a political education that would have had to at least describe how the institutions of the EU work.

During the campaign it was clear that the leave camp did not know what their future out would be. Even now some are saying, given the Remain vote percentage, that they should pay for access to the Single Market and have to renege on the immigration promise. Others say they cannot renege on that promise, so they have to accept a diminished economy (and renege on economic promises).

If I was Nicola Sturgeon (and she is one of this island's more talented politicians) I'd be in Europe seeking terms of entry for an independent Scotland. Have a plan - get the currency issue sorted out and it may have to be the euro entered at a competitive rate - and have it in place for an independence referendum. The Scots have every right to hold it. At least then part of these islands will be in the EU.

The Northern Irish also deserve a referendum, even though the nationalists might lose it. The authorities must preserve the democratic process in that already and long divided place. We cannot have a leave EU government minister deciding on her own whether or not to have such a referendum. The Unionists knew what they were doing with supporting out, to make more of the border. Well that needs to be tested directly.

Even Wales, infected by the UKIP can of worms, might want an independence referendum. But even if not, the current division in the UK Parliament, so visible in the Scottish Nationalist bloc, would be sorted out by independence and then, perhaps, an intergovernmental Council of the British Isles.

And if we had that, England, a rump country left because of Cameron's gamble, might reapply to join the EU. Or not. Big industry, business, finance, would find it easier and more straightforward to locate on the continent. Our business here would be, presumably, to keep people fed, clothed and housed, and move about.

Here is where it really went wrong. Go back to 1975 and the 'in' politicians had vision. A new set of institutions, they said, that were better than the Nation State. A different ideal of shared decisions, shared interest, a people like us, so that we would be them and they us. Instead, no one offered vision against the tribal nationalists. The nationalists of the UK were able to pick up the put upon and dispossessed and exposed the deep divisions that at least the EU managed, if not as best as could be.

British influence in the EU has pushed it towards a neo-liberal ethos which, when combined with German financial control, has proved difficult and unwieldy. The dirigiste model was far more effective at managing regions and building economic and political consensus. Perhaps with us gone the EU will adapt back to what it was good at and restore hope.

One final division to consider. Some of us are not ready to put political trust back into the Liberal Democrats. Their weakness is one reason why Cameron has delivered this disaster. But they betrayed their voters, and became something other. Someone has already likened the 'Brexit' dropping of campaign promises to the Liberal Democrat deception on achieving power. So we have to look to the Labour Party. And the Labour Party is divided too.

Why? Because a load of pissed off downtrodden people joined with ideologues to give Jeremy Corbyn a mandate to lead Labour to an ethical left. Now I like Jeremy Corbyn and his ethical centre is well grounded. Indeed it was rightly said that he was where many people were regarding the EU. But just as we have a representative democracy where 76% of MPs were pro-EU, and they should know the arguments, so it is that Jeremy Corbyn just does not carry the support of his MPs.

These are desperate times because the right have won this referendum and they will set the agenda for little England. There now MUST be a Labour leader who can, perhaps, say some unpleasant things as well as have ethical intentions regarding equality and the future. If Caroline Flint, for example,wants to attack Corbyn as not reaching out, and she can talk the talk, then she should have the guts to stand for election when Corbyn's position becomes untenable. Jeremy Corbyn also ought to ask if half a loaf is better than crumbs of cake. I don't like Caroline Flint, but I can see how she might connect.

It is necessary because the coming Tory leadership change will exploit a weak Labour Party to get a majority, and then all bets are off. So we need to find talent in Labour to take on whichever second rate politician the Tories choose. We are not spoilt for choice in Labour, but someone has to take on the task for at least a term or two at the top.

Meanwhile I have signed a petition for a second referendum - at the time of doing it over 460,000 have also done so. I have signed because the mess is so profound that the quickest solution is to put a lid on it quick. The outers have already broken their promises but far worse is the utter mess that has been left. We do not have the calibre of politician, nor the means, nor the time, to sort this out.

Perhaps there is a reason why, in the past, EU countries that have referendums as part of their political process have had them twice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have put together an excellent summary of the situation.

From my conversations yesterday I would add the inevitable brain drain of young talent.
Canada and Sweden were mentioned.

Sad times.

Kind regards.