Tag Archives: brexit

Tim Farron – Political Genius?

Tim Farron seems an unlikely candidate for political genius. Some are born a genius. Some work hard at being a genius. Others may just stumble upon something that makes them look like a genius. Farron may just have stumbled on a formula that will lead to the greatest political comeback since the fifth time that Farage un-resigned. 

As an increasingly enthusiastic Remainer (I was ambivalent towards the EU until I listened to the arguments to Leave) I find the political agenda in the UK most bizarre at the moment. It is as if there is one political truth and that truth is called Brexit. And yet no one is prepared to state clearly their ambitions and goals. Other than no longer being a member of the EU, we have no idea what a politician views as a successful Brexit. All we know is that Brexit is Brexit. And that it is red, white and blue. Although I fear that may be because we are bloodied by the process, left a pale imitation of the influential nation we once were and blue from being left out in the cold…..

Yet support for Brexit is the panacea for all political ills. Politicians are falling over themselves for a bit of the Trump zeitgeist. Everyone wants to appeal to the voter with concerns about immigration. Every party wants to make Britain great again (the process of Brexit somewhat ironically raising the prospect of the United Kingdom of Great Britain actually being diminished by the breakdown of the Union). Every political step is taken to appeal to those outside of the “Westminster Bubble” (where I would much rather see money invested in the North than us just being given the name of Powerhouse, which makes us sound like a cut price electrical retailer). 

So the Conservative Party, what passes for the Labour Party and UKIP are all falling over themselves chasing the Brexit supporting public. And in the process they are not seeking to persuade those that have doubts. They are not building consensus. Their rhetoric is all about delivering what the victors wanted. It is about how opposing Brexit is unpatriotic.

And here is where Tim Farron may have just done some simple maths. The next General Election will see a turnout which is lower than the turnout at the EU referendum. But let’s say the turnout mirrored the June turnout. If it did, UKIP, Labour and the Conservatives are chasing 17,410,742 votes. Farron and the LibDems are chasing 16,141,241 votes. They are the only party currently appealing to that demographic directly on this issue, the biggest single issue in politics in my lifetime. The other three want a share of the 52%. The LibDems have 48% all to themselves. 

Of course there are many who will vote at a General Election contrary to their vote in the Referendum. There will be plenty who do not vote at all. There will be plenty who will vote according to their party affiliations, notwithstanding their own views on Brexit. 

There will be many who will not forgive the LibDems for the coalition and for tuition fees. But that was always going to be the case. The LibDems were on the verge of political armageddon. But right now there is a void in politics where the only show in town is Brexit and many of us don’t want to go. Throw into the mix that there will be many long term Labour voters who will not support a Corbyn led party and suddenly Farron may just be bringing his party back from the brink. 

He is the only one making a play for 16 million votes. He will not get them all. But everyone else is leaving him an open goal. And you don’t have to be a genius to put the ball in the back of the net. 

Trussed Up

“We do not have a written constitution, but that is not to say the Government are not subject to constitutional law. A written constitution provides a degree of certainty but can also produce unintended consequences, such as the right for many Americans to carry assault weapons. As we do not have a written constitution we need the very best legal minds to rule on whether a Government has acted lawfully. Those legal minds are appointed to the judiciary. 

“When the recent litigation in connection to the EU Referendum and the decision to leave the EU began, the Government did not suggest that the matter being brought before the Court was something that was outside the jurisdiction of the Court. Nor did the Government suggest that any of the Judges who heard the matter should have been excluded from hearing the case due to their personal connections to any organisation. 

“The litigation was about the mechanism being utilized by the Government in order to invoke Article 50. It expressly and clearly did not involve the question as to whether we should or should not leave the Union. It was about whether the method that the Government sought to use was constitutional or unconstitutional. Whilst the Government do not agree that the ruling of the Court is correct and intend to appeal it, the Government do not view the decision of the Court as something which has in anyway subverted, negated or reversed the result of the Referendum. No matter what the result in the Supreme Court, the Government still intend to carry out the result of the Referendum. Brexit will still take place. 

“Essential to democracy and a free nation is the freedom of the Press. Where the Press disagrees with the ruling of a Court it is vital that the Press have the freedom to do so. But they also have a responsibility to report these matters in a way which assists the public’s understanding of the matter. Headlines that describe Judges as being “Enemies of the People” could not be further from the truth and are irresponsible. The fine, independent Judiciary that serve this nation are part of the machinery which protect each and every one of us. They protect our rights. They are part of the process which means that democracy and liberty continues to flourish in our nation.”

These are my words. Four paragraphs that took me ten minutes to write on a Sunday morning. I have done so to make the job of our Lord Chancellor really easy. She is completely free to borrow some, all or any of the words and sentiments expressed above. It is a really easy thing for her to do, which is unusual, because duties are often onerous to carry out. And this is her duty. Her duty to protect the rule of law. Her duty to inform the public (and many of her ill informed colleagues at Westminster) about the reality of the “Brexit” litigation. 

Her actual statement is breathtaking in its lack of comment on the furore that followed the judgment. The Lord Chancellor has displayed more passion in her promotion of the cheese industry than she manages to invoke in her defence of a vital aspect of our democratic society. 

There is only one judicial officeholder who should lose their job over the “Brexit” litigation. And that is one Mary Elizabeth Truss. 

Just Say No…

Ben Johnson, Olympic sprinter, had to give his gold medal back. He had won by the narrowest of margins but had cheated. He had gained an unfair advantage and the result could not stand. 

Boris Johnson has recently celebrated the narrowest of victories. You can see where this is going already….

It is not just Boris. Gove, Hannan, Grayling, Duncan-Smith and the rest of the Leave campaign misled the public. From the moment the Leave campaign crested the tape at the finishing line they have let slip their vision of Brexit. Hannan has made it clear that immigration will not significantly be reduced. Duncan-Smith turned promises into visions of possibilities. 

Johnson made the position clear in his Telegraph column. It is worth quoting substantially from it:

“I cannot stress too much that Britain is part of Europe, and always will be. There will still be intense and intensifying European cooperation and partnership in a huge number of fields: the arts, the sciences, the universities, and on improving the environment. EU citizens living in this country will have their rights fully protected, and the same goes for British citizens living in the EU. 

British people will still be able to go and work in the EU; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes and to settle down. As the German equivalent of the CBI – the BDI – has very sensibly reminded us, there will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market. Britain is and always will be a great European power, offering top-table opinions and giving leadership on everything from foreign policy to defence to counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing – all the things we need to do together to make our world safer. 
The only change – and it will not come in any great rush – is that the UK will extricate itself from the EU’s extraordinary and opaque system of legislation: the vast and growing corpus of law enacted by a European Court of Justice from which there can be no appeal. This will bring not threats, but golden opportunities for this country – to pass laws and set taxes according to the needs of the UK. 
Yes, the Government will be able to take back democratic control of immigration policy, with a balanced and humane points-based system to suit the needs of business and industry. Yes, there will be a substantial sum of money which we will no longer send to Brussels, but which could be used on priorities such as the NHS. Yes, we will be able to do free trade deals with the growth economies of the world in a way that is currently forbidden. “

Putting together everything the Leave Campaign have said after the result shows that the campaign was based on lies. Their pledges/promises/possibilities could not represent their vision of the future for the UK after a withdrawal from the EU. 

Instead of “taking back the £350 million we send to the EU every week and spending it on the NHS” the pledge should have been “still sending money to the EU as the price for membership of the single market and probably getting little change out of £350 million pounds per week but if we do we might spend the bit we get back partially on the NHS. Maybe.”

The pledge “taking back control of our sovereignty, our laws being made by our sovereign parliament” just needed the caveat “apart form the EU regulations necessary for free trade, which are quite a lot.”

And the big one, the taking back control of our borders. The end to freedom of movement. But look at what Boris says above. He is talking about freedom of labour movement and pledges we will still be able to live, work and settle down in the EU. So we are taking back control of our borders, save for what we have to agree to to allow you to have freedoms which will probably mean agreeing the same rights for our trading partners. So they can come here to live, work and settle down….

Far from being free of the EU, Boris, Dan, Michael, Iain and Chris intend to pay money to the EU, be subject to EU regulations that relate us to trade and allow significant freedom of movement. 

What they have done is taken back control of reality. Their campaign was turbo-charged by the steroid of deceit. The reality has all the honour and pride of a failed urine test. 

Am I just a whinging Remainer wanting another Referendum? No. 

The Remain campaign were guilty of equally galling hyperbole. This was a two horse race where everyone was cheating to one extent or another. The sort of race where you just nullify the result, award no medals and ban the participants. 

I do not ask for a second Referendum. Had the Leave campaign been more honest about their vision, my choice at the ballot box would have been more difficult. I can perhaps live with their vision of the future, if it is allied with the protection of fundamental rights currently only protected by EU regulation. 

I may have decided that the economic impact was not worth the tinkering that that grand Brexit plan actually represents. I may have taken the view that incredibly complex process of extricating ourselves from the EU and then grafting ourselves back on to it is a waste of time and resources. Look at Boris’s words; “the only change”. Independence Day became As You Were Day. 

I am pretty certain that there were more Leavers disappointed by Boris’s vision of post Brexit life. I would not be surprised if one or two of them exclaimed “is he on drugs?”. Only the drug of PR and the lure of easy, populist policies. 

I bet I don’t feel half as cheated as the Leavers do….

I Remain

Remainers are terribly bad losers, so we are told. Repeatedly. 

I confess I hoped that, had the vote been to Remain, we would have seen the last of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson and they would have disappeared from public life. I never once, in even my wildest dreams, thought it would actually happen (those are not actually my wildest dreams but this is a family blog). In fact a tiny piece of me would have been a bit disappointed had Farage packed it in. That is hardly a hallmark of commitment to the cause.

It would not have been an affront to democracy for UKIP to carry on; to carry on campaigning for what they believe in, for a withdrawal from the EU and for controls on immigration. This would not be to ignore the Referendum, it would not be the antithesis of democracy. In fact it would have promoted democracy. Opposition to the majority view, opposition to Government policy is vital to keep the public informed and to keep the policiticans honest (reasonably so). 

As time moved on I would not expect every change made by the EU to have been meekly accepted. I would expect to see and hear Eurosceptics be true to their beliefs and point out the failings of the EU at every opportunity. 

So why do Remainers have to be good little boys and girls? Victorian boys and girls at that, seen but not heard. Repeatedly I see and hear Remainers, who are only expressing reasonable views, being told to shut up. Many seem to be of the view that the Referendum was the definitive and last word on the subject. It very much is not. 

I am not calling for or suggesting a second referendum. The course of action that the referendum set is the course that the country should follow but there is a long road to travel. Despite the headlines, we remain members of the EU. We have not given notice to quit and we have not begun to address the legislation withdrawal requires. Remainers are entitled to have and express a view about the nature of our changed relationship with the EU. Being on the losing side is not a gagging order. Inevitably that view is going to include a repetition of arguments tendered in advance of the referendum. The answer is not “you’ve said that once and lost”. The debate still continues. 

So, I believe access to the single market is vital. I said so prior to the referendum and continue to say so now. Boris Johnson seems to agree with me. Someone with a contrary view is entitled to express that view, but not to try to shut down my view because I was one of the 48% and not the 52%. 

We also need to recognise that the referendum is not law. It is advisory. I stress, it should be followed by the Government. I am afraid it has not locked us into that course of action. This process will take time. There will be many a bump in the road. Circumstances may change, particularly economic factors. 

As a Remainer I will make my case for what should happen. I will continue to make my case for the benefits of the EU. I will do so to persuade others who may have a different view. Where appropriate I will point out the lies that were told to mislead people into voting one way or the other. I will argue for why what is happening is wrong. 

The first step towards unity is not shouting people down, it is listening, engaging and debating. That is the conversation that the nation needs to have. And a conversation has to have more than one voice. 

Boats, Votes and Quotes

I think I have fallen down a rabbit hole, popped through the back of a wardrobe and been carried from Kansas on a hurricane. I do not know whether I am in Wonderland, Narnia or Oz but I do not recognise the landscape surrounding me any more. 

I do not know what my brave new world is going to be called. I don’t know whether it will be Remania or Leaveland. I have no idea who will be Prime Minister next week, next month, next year. Dave? Boris? Nigel?!?

But things have already changed, even before the vote. And it’s all got a little bit weird. 

Yesterday, to a predictable soundtrack of Rule Britannia, the Vote Leave campaign took to the Thames to add an aquatic element to the debate. This flotilla was met by a boat from the Remain side, with Bob Geldof on board, firing broadsides of taunts and hand gestures at Nigel Farage. 

None of this was particularly edifying. None of it moved the debate on one bit. It was the physical manifestation of how ridiculous and polarised this debate has become. The competing stunts achieved nothing in educating and assisting the electorate.

It did bring home to me how strange things have got. Nigel Farage had this to say “we (that is UKIP) used to be a party of protest against the Establishment, now the Establishment come to protest against us.”

I just had to give my head a shake again. So that is Nigel Farage, ex-stockbroker, public school educated, MEP, describing himself as anti-Establishment and complaining that the Establishment had been represented in their protest against him by Bob Geldof, an ex-punk rocker. 

Even in Wonderland, the Establishment did not sing “I don’t like Mondays”.

Just to make sure we were thoroughly confused, some of the Ukipper/Brexiteer contingent responded to Bob Geldof with taunts suggesting he needed a bath. So he is both the Great Unwashed and the Establishment. 

That Farage is the personification of the anti-Establishment and Geldof is the Establishment is remarkable. Next you will be telling me that Michael Gove thinks that decision impacting on the economy should not be based on expert knowledge, Boris Johnson wants to spend every penny he can on the NHS and that Iain Duncan-Smith has shed a tear or two over those in receipt of benefits. 

What’s that you say? No….surely not….

Why I Am In Not Out

There are one or two things I am sure of when it comes to the EU Referendum. The first thing is that all media outlets should be banned from playing or referencing “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash. That should be verboten or, as our European colleagues would say,….errr….verboten. The second thing I am sure about is that the Referendum is a very bad idea. 

We should never let the Conservative Party forget that this Referendum is simply a device to enhance their electability at the last election. It was a political decision to try to woo UKIP sympathisers and paper over the ever present deep cracks in their party. That is why we are being asked to vote on the EU, not because the Tories believe in self-determination, but because they need someone else to make the decision about what their policy on EU membership should be. 

That in itself does not make the Referendum a bad idea. The problem is that the question we are going to be asked on 23rd June is both too simple and too complex. It is too simple because it is, as the zeitgeist is anxious to make most things, a “binary” choice. What is best for our future is not as simple as “In” or “Out”. The “In” camp could range from full on, federalist Europe, Esperanto speakers to the “EU needs drastic change” reformers. The “Out” brigade could range from all out xenophobic block-up-the-channel-tunnel types to all out Xenophobic block-up-the-channel-tunnel types. 

Sorry, my little joke there, the Brexiteers could also encompass those that want out of the EU but very much want to be part of the single market with everything that may entail, including freedom of movement. And with that you have the problem with the Referendum. You can have someone who does not want some aspects of the EU but wants our relationship to be like Norway or Switzerland voting in the same way as someone who wants the British Empire back. Two very different world views answering a question in the same way whilst dreaming of mutually exclusive futures. 

It is too complex because we are being asked to make judgements based largely on economics. And not many of us are experts on economics. Not many of us are even enthusiastic amateurs. So we rely upon others who profess expertise. So both sides wheel out their experts. And both make cases for what our future would look like. Both sides tell us how much profit and loss there is in staying. And going. They cannot both be right. How am I to know?

So how do I make my decision? In fact it has been relatively easy for me. “Remain” had me the moment Boris Johnson, Chris Grayling, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage suggested that the UK would have £350 million per week to spend on the NHS if we left the EU. This was a case of wanting to have your cake and promise someone else that they could eat it, when in fact you fully intended to eat it yourself. Let us leave aside one moment the fact that the £350 million figure is so obviously wrong. Who are these disparate band of free market, small government types to make promises about spending the money on public services? If they win the Referendum they are not suddenly in control of the Treasury. Even if their coup was to be so successful there is no way that they would divert £350 million per week into the NHS. That is just not going to happen. A movement which treats my intelligence with such disdain is not worthy of my vote. 

In fact that little quartet of politicians are part of the reason I could not support “Brexit”. Anything that Chris Grayling supports has to be a bad idea. Boris Johnson is in it for the chance to be Prime Minister. Michael Gove is tying himself up in knots over the impact of EU law on this nation. And Nigel Farage is a braying example of the very worst type of politician. That these four represent themselves as being the antidote to the Establishment is laughable. Throw Iain Duncan-Smith into the mix and the Brexit BoyBand would make make me want to fill my ears with concrete. 

I read a lot on social media from supporters of Brexit and Remain alike. I have never seen anyone supporting Remain utter anything remotely racist. I have seen them saying some pretty daft things, have seen them being unnecessarily insulting, but racism? No. I have seen Brexiteers being racist. And I am not just talking about leftie liberals like me reacting to everything said about immigration by playing the race card. I mean actual racism. Hate. Hatred of people because they are different. A belittling of others on the ground of the colour of their skin. A belief that we (white English) are somehow better than them. I cannot throw my lot in with them. 

The three paragraphs above are reasons I could not vote for Brexit. Have I anything positive to say about Remaining? I am afraid I do not know the answer in terms of economics. I do not know that coming out of the EU is going to solve problems with immigration (is a Syrian man, prepared to risk his life in a boat across the Mediterranean and by clinging to the chassis of a truck going to say to himself “if they are not part of the EU, I am not going to chance it….”?). I can only hope that, if they lose this vote, it will be the end of Boris and Nigel.

So what are my positive reasons for wanting to stay in Europe? I think of what I would do if I could design the world afresh. What would I hope for? And I don’t mean moving Vegas closer to Manchester. I mean society. And I would want to live in a world where the citizens of every nation co-operated in harmony. I would want less war and more stability. I would welcome more understanding and less self-interest. I would cherish anything I could put in place that would promote a universally held protection of the rights of the individual. 

This Utopia does not exist. The European Union has lots and lots of faults. When it comes down to it, however, being part of the EU seems more like being part of something which is positive. It seems far more like the co-operation between nations that we should all aspire to. Negotiated harmony means there has to be some give and take. The advancement of one nation’s interests over another has never led to peace. Benefits are counterbalanced by responsibilities, the protections of rights comes with the commitment to duties. The secret of co-operation is that you can’t always get what you want. Maybe the Rolling Stones should be the band du jour…..