Monthly Archives: July 2017

Referendum: A Poor Form of Democracy

The most prominent rebuke I receive on social media, when trying to persuade leave voters of the folly that we are taking the UK into, is “We had a democratic vote, respect democracy!”. I wouldn’t mind so much, if this were also supported by rational, thought out arguments giving the case for why they voted as they did, but this is rarely, if ever, the case.

My challenge to this most favoured of rebukes is two-fold. First, nothing is forever – most of all public opinion, which can change with the wind. Second, that referenda a fundamentally incompatible with British democratic process.

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Labour’s Regressive Momentum

I have this theory that collective society has a working memory of about 20 years – sometimes longer depending on the severity of what has come to pass. The rise of popular Corbynism, and the Momentum campaign movement supporting it (together with a, fringe, distinctively militant social media presence) demonstrates to me that we have forgotten why we moved away from the policies of the 60’s and 70’s and this is being presented to our young voters as something radical, progressive and new. The truth is that the manifesto that Labour published for the 2017 General Election is regressive, vastly increasing the role and power of the State, and stifling economic growth. The fact that the Institute of Fiscal Studies was unable to cost it highlights how the manifesto has been kept intentionally vague, so as not to reveal the full implications of delivering it.

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Citizen of Nowhere

Theresa May caused something of a storm of controversy when she announced to the annual Tory Party Conference in October last year that “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.” I’m happy to wear that as a badge of honour, for I do believe that I am a citizen of the world, and I am saddened by the surge of populism and narrow isolationism that has swept across the USA and the UK in recent years. As an inhabitant of this planet, I believe that we all have a responsibility to do our part to tackle climate change, social inequality, and generally care for our fellow human being. I too am going to go out on a limb and say something equally controversial, and that is that nationalism is a form of discrimination, and while may be followed with honest intentions, by its very definition it means the prioritisation of a group of people based solely on a label of nationhood.

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Flying South For The Winter

Faced with mounting public pressure (fuelled by biased hate-filled reporting from the likes of The Daily Mail, and The Sun) David Cameron pledged to cut net migration to the UK to “tens of thousands”, yet despite implementing a myriad of policy changes designed to make the UK a less attractive destination, migration to the UK continued unabated. As it turns out, all that was required was for the rest of the world to see the truth of the scale of an ugly, suppressed (or unconscious) bias of Britons against foreigners. The EU referendum campaign, with misleading pictures of refugees and countless depictions of migrants as “benefit tourists” taking advantage of the country, is considered to be the single most significant factor in determining why people would vote to leave.

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What If There Is No Cake?

As David Davis and his team return to Brussels to “get down to business on Brexit” for another week of negotiations, both the Conservative Government and the Labour opposition have been accused of wanting to “have their cake and eat it”. This being a reference to, frankly, deluded ambitions of what can be achieved in EU exit negotiations. Somewhat topically, Professor Tim Lang, of the Centre for Food Policy, has published a paper detailing the significant risks to UK food security following Brexit. The report sets out the stark, and frightening, reality of what Brexit could mean for the UK. Far from having our cake and eating it, we might not have our cake at all.

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Trouble Brewing for Guinness

The Irish border poses one of the biggest challenges for Theresa May’s government in achieving the EU exit that she has set out. Leaving the customs union – a requirement if the UK is to be free to negotiate its own trade deals – almost certainly would introduce the requirement for a customs border between the Ireland and the UK.

This poses a big problem for Northern Ireland, and for businesses in both countries that operate across the border. A well known example is the drink synonymous with Ireland, brewed at St James’ Gate in Dublin, which is driven to Belfast for canning, and then driven back to Dublin for onward distribution. A customs border, even if tariff free, would potentially add delays and certainly would add administrative costs to this constant cross border model. The brewery would presumably need to either source a different canning partner within Ireland, at a cost of jobs in Belfast, or risk losing market share as the additional overheads are priced into the drink, making it less competitive.

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You may take our EU, but you will never take our Freedom

Of movement, that is. It is hard to describe the feeling of dejection, and the frustration with my fellow countrymen, that I felt as the results of the EU referendum became clear. The people of the UK had voted to leave the European Union. The one question going round and round in my head without respite, was “Why?”.

I appreciate that the benefits of Freedom of Movement that I have enjoyed, are certainly not typical of the average British citizen, and are certainly of the more obvious in nature. In the December of 2007, I applied for a role within the organisation that I was working, the details of which were shrouded in secrecy, and related to a project only referred to in code names. By the time I learned that I had been successful in landing the job, I was already en route to visit my parents’ house in the Charente region of France, where we would have our family get together over Christmas.

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The Great Democracy Robbery

The Great Repeal Bill has been described as a “naked power-grab” and is predicted to spark an unprecedented constitutional clash with the Scottish and Welsh governments. There are at least a few reasons as to why it is so controversial.

First and foremost of these is that it violates the fundamental cornerstone of British democracy that asserts that “Parliament is sovereign”. It is because of this principle that referenda are, thankfully, remarkably rare in the UK (in fact, there have only been three called nationwide since the foundation of the Union in 1707). Parliamentary sovereignty in the UK is the unwritten recognition that the will of Parliament is supreme, and that the will of the Monarch or indeed, the will of the people, must not trump the ability of our democratically elected representatives (and the Lords) to create, amend or repeal any laws as agreed in accordance with parliamentary process.

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My Atom or Euratom?

On March 29th 2017, by the simple act of handing over a letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk, the UK Government set the country down a virgin path trodden by none before, enveloped in thick fog, with no map and only a vague idea of what the destination might be. One of the many unappreciated consequences of doing so, is that the UK has also signalled its intention to quit Euratom, which legal experts agree is a mandatory outcome of electing to leave the political union of the EU.

So what is Euratom, and why does this matter?

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The Problem With Being Popular

Or rather, with trying to be, is it becomes a numbers game. When you bring this game into politics however, it is people’s lives that you are playing with.

The global surge in populism can be observed all too clearly in Trump’s America, and in Great Britain’s act of self harm in deciding to leave the European Union. In both these cases, political leaders appealed to base emotions of the electorate, and in so doing negated the requirement for reason or rationalism. Emotion is a powerful thing, and a personal thing. Those who attempted to stem the tide with arguments of causality and reason were dismissed; after all, who needs facts when you ‘feel’ something to be true.

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Category: Populism | Tags: , , ,