My last post, ‘Save our Democracy’, was a departure from the normal content in this site. After an initial (single) ‘keep out of politics’ response, the comments received have all been very supportive. Thank you. It is time to move on but the political situation is so bizarre that I suspect that I will be pulled back time and time again to cover the many issues involved unless I ‘get it off my chest’ and try to ‘put it all to bed’ in this type of post. I start by setting the scene.
(1) A determination to avoid future wars in Europe led to the development of the European Coal & Steel Community and then the European Economic Community. The political and economic sense behind those moves was self-evident. The idea of transforming the EEC into a loose but slowly getting-closer European Union was a good one, but it should not have been rushed, just gently encouraged to evolve at a steady pace.
* For some countries, the natural pace towards federalisation was fast (in particular, Belgium required a forum in which it need not fall apart and Luxembourg was desperate to preserve its status as a country even though it is nothing more than a county) but for others, including the UK, the natural pace was slow.
* With different agendas, too many politicians in too many countries wanted to accomplish too much too quickly. I have never understood why so many were against having a ‘multi-speed Europe’ as that seemed to me to be the obvious way forward. Patience and tact were required. Federalisation could come in many forms and certainly need not mean forcing independent states into a straight-jacket.
* It was unfortunate that Europe had so many leaders who had a small-state approach to it all. Jean-Claude Juncker was the 12th President of the European Commission, the 3rd from tiny Luxembourg.
(2) Just before the Brexit Referendum, it appeared that the majority of Brits between the ages of 15 and 55 already felt ‘European’, some strongly, others just a bit. However, it appeared that the majority of those aged over 55 did not. The mood in Britain by the mid 2010s was becoming increasingly negative because the Government’s approach of continued economic austerity had passed from economic common-sense into political stupidity. Many were in a rebellious mood so, for any referendum, were going to vote anti-establishment (whatever they meant by that) whatever the situation, even if that would lead to them becoming worse off. The mid 2010s was not a good time to have referendums that were of great significance to the future of the country.
(3) I long supported the view that referendums could and should play a greatly increased role in democracies such as ours. The shambles of the Brexit Referendum in 2016 (following the pathetically-run Scottish Referendum in 2014) have made me change my mind. They have shown me that:
* the will of The Public is too easily swayed by the short-term populism of those who are merely ‘media savvy’ (a talent that is rarely aligned with either honesty or competence);
* journalists & reporters, on whom many rely to ensure that they are properly informed about the political position and are not lied to by politicians, are simply not up to the task (how many warned about the potential importance to Brexit of the Irish Border?); and
* the wording of important referendums should never be dumbed-down to one-off nuclear options.
(4) The Brexit Referendum in 2016 was not just shambolic. It was a national disgrace and truly dishonourable, not worthy of being honoured. That it left such a bad taste, after blatant lies & deceits were given precedence over considered debate, is why the nation has become so bitterly divided. I feel sorry for those who wanted Brexit for genuine reasons and are distressed that their majority result has not been universally accepted. However, I think it is reasonable for MPs and others to ignore its result, not because I disliked that result (which I did and still do) but because it was achieved in such a dishonourable way. As a long-term supporter of referendums, I never thought I would reject the result of a national referendum – but I do reject the result of that 2016 farce and condemn in the strongest way those that made it unworthy.
(5) A week ago, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the Prime Minister’s attempt to frustrate or prevent the ability of Parliament to hold the Government to account was unlawful. It has in effect been found that the Prime Minister deliberately misled the Queen. Long ago, his head would have been cut off. Not long ago, someone in that position would have immediately resigned. That the present Prime Minister did not but is so widely viewed as a lier, a cheat, and unworthy of trust means that, however capable he may or may not be, his acceptance as leader of one of the main political parties in the UK has brought that party into disrepute and made it (to me and many others) unelectable. That the main opposition party is led by someone whose understanding of politics & economics is exemplified by his long support for Chavezism, which took Venezuela from potential prosperity into horrid chaos, has made that party unelectable. Both Northern Ireland and Scotland have far too many politicians who appear to be small-minded and bitter. Worldwide, the weaknesses of Democracy are being displayed, leading to the risk that some will forget that it remains superior to all other forms of government (or at least is much less at risk of it leading to really serious abuse). Some tweaks are certainly in order. The rise of political elites who have no experience of anything other than playing politics is worrying as is the increasing way in which people live in bubbles, thinking themselves always right because they keep themselves away from anyone and anything that might prove otherwise. I have no magic solution to all this. However, a renewal of respect for honesty, integrity & open-mindedness would help.
(6) The UK is likely soon to have a General Election in which the two main parties are unelectable and the other parties have yet to prove themselves worthy. There is a real danger of Great Britain becoming Little England + Little Scotland + Sidelined Wales. There is potential for the renewal of ‘problems’ in Ireland. We are in a position that is not good, brought about by politicians who were not up to the tasks they set themselves. Oh dear!
(7) At the time this is written, the way forward is not clear. It may yet happen that a deal with the rest of Europe is achieved and Brexit happens at the end of this month. I would certainly rather we leave with a deal than without one. I would prefer that we temporarily unwind the situation by having a temporary National Coalition Government, with the opposition to the Government coming together and agreeing not to do anything controversial other than:
* revoke Article 50;
* establish a legal commitment to hold a fresh Brexit Referendum (for the result of the 2016 referendum should not simply be ignored) but this time ensure that it is worded sensibly and have all claims made by politicians subject to proper advertising standards with it being a crime to deliberately mislead the public;
* hold an early General Election.
Will that happen? Who knows!?
Is that all I want to say on these matters? No, but that is enough for this web site which normally has nothing to do with political matters. I hope never again to feel the need to bother you with such thoughts, in this site at least.