Funny how

Funny how the will of just over half of the electorate, on one specific day, translates as an overwhelming majority, signifying the fixed and absolute will of the people. Funny how Parliament cares so much about respecting the will of the people.

Funny how the will of the people for a well-resourced, easy-access NHS, free at the point of use, is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for affordable (free at the point of use), compassionate, dignified and accessible social care is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a decent, guaranteed state pension and a dignified old age for all is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people to have justifiable rights to end their lives and receive assistance to do so is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for state ownership and control of an affordable, reliable, interconnected railway system is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for local authority-run libraries, pools, parks and recreation is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a national network of local, comprehensive post offices is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for state investment in council/social housing is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a visible police presence and 24/7 local stations is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a national programme of ‘green’ investment and jobs is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for personal privacy and data security is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a fair and responsible tax system is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a reliable, liveable income is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a compulsory national school curriculum is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for local state schools to be so good as to be the first choice is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for even a simple, weekly rubbish collection is not respected.

What do you mean: not everyone wants those things?

The thing about MPs respecting “the will of the people”

The general will of a people is considered by some and desired by others to be that which is conducive to the common good; the national interest. Inasmuch as it can be measured, it reflects, at best, an assumption that everyone agrees on a point or points of principle. Principle, not detail.

In the current context of Brexit, it certainly cannot be discerned by a near fifty-fifty referendum vote. This is neither “the will of the people” nor the entirety of ‘public opinion’. Not even where and when politicians cite their constituencies as expedient justification for the fact that they are very likely sacrificing the long-term common good to a short-term effort at self-preservation, on the back of a pre- and post-referendum campaign of wilful ignorance and manipulation. The result of that referendum wasn’t representative of ‘the People’ but a collection of leanings based on a spectrum of individual understandings and expectations versus another collection of leanings based on a spectrum of individual understandings and expectations. But one side’s will and opinion is not to be countenanced, apparently. It is as if Remain were not of the People but an irritant for which the solution is to try to ignore it.

The thing about MPs respecting “the will of the people” and being led by public opinion is 1) that it does not follow that said will or opinion is correct or directed towards the common good; 2) that it is simplistic and cynical to assume that a majority or even just the loudest voice automatically represents either collective will or opinion; 3) that MPs, themselves, collectively, are usually behind the curve, not with it and rarely in front of it; 4) that the public is no better generally or singularly informed than the medium of the message and each individual’s capacity for critical thinking and the time and opportunity in which to use it. And 5): As the Brexit debates show, though MPs are best-placed for access to facts and well-informed opinion, they often start with no more understanding than the rest of us because they are no more expert, intelligent or open-minded, than the rest of us, either. Because they are not a special species of Human. They are just us. But, that they are elevated, voluntarily, to a high office of public service means they have a civic and moral duty to the national interest and our common good. Our, not a narrow selection of their. Parliamentarians are part of that rising tide that is supposed to lift all boats. They are also the planners, architects, builders and providers of boats.

Besides, all too often, the loudest voice of influence on the governing class is not the electorate in general but the most arbitrarily muscular newspapers and best-scheduled television and radio broadcasters. They can lead, reflect and project opinion far more effectively than any other demographic. One might reasonably question, then, which will and what opinion it is that MPs are really respecting. At the moment, “the will of the people” is merely a disingenuous and dangerous demand for narrow political patriotism. One might wonder if there is any such thing as the former and why on earth there is such a demand for the latter. If only there were ways by which to know…

From not being reliably good at football, any more, to being the actual football.

The hardest Brexit. Freedom to be buffeted by whim and wind. Sacrificing goods, capital and services because of some people’s scapegoating resentment and fear of… people. There’s no strength or honour in that.

Theresa May and her Brexit dullards are leading us into a wholly reckless period of unforced instability, expense and acrimony. At home and abroad. Not only is a fresh plebiscite vehemently denied but the parliamentary vote that, mind-bogglingly, actually had to be fought for, is now rendered almost pointless. This is because it will come after the invocation of Article 50 and so reduces the choice of MPs to either a crappy deal or no deal at all – an abyss; Hobson’s choice, at best. There is a lot of careless assuming going on that Article 50 can just be reversed but this is optimism without good cause: no voice with the authority to do so has, as yet, permitted this. If Article 50 is to be invoked, at all, Parliament and the Public need to be on the same page.

Government’s approach to Brexit is a wet dream for the knows-jack-shit that is Ukip with all the potential for socio-economic suicide for Britain. Labour’s strategy is to rightly try to avoid a race to the bottom but by pointing at some of the very real race-to-the-bottom flaws in May’s plan and then voting for it anyway. ‪The Lib Dems’ approach, albeit the best, is being squandered because they are still a widely unforgiven, oppositional shell of their own making and may not have sufficient time to recoup effectively.

We now risk feeling quite alone in a precarious and rapidly shifting world; the smallest partner in most meaningful circumstances; the one with the most urgent need and the least clout. Prey. Prey to allies and foes, alike – from country to corporation. What then of our rights and ethics? What then for our economy and society? For our environment? What then of our integrity? How does such a reckless course not lead to even less sovereignty and our democracy being further undermined?

Leave behaves as though Brexit were a rebirth into that golden age when ‘Global Britain’ captured half the world under single governance and imagined having claim to the benevolence of the Sun. Remainers tended to think that Britain was pretty global, already and that it was also already in the sunniest position, both practical and possible.

From politicians, Media and Public, understanding is trailing at an unhealthy distance behind the decision-making. From referendum build-up, to campaign proper, to the vote, to the ‘plan’, to the A50 trigger, to the now meaningless final vote in Parliament: everything has been done in the wrong order. If Brexit is not a catastrophe, it will be more by sheer luck than by good judgement.

Britain lurches from not being reliably good at football, any more, to being the actual football and yet Brexiteers act as though we were the referee. By the time reality bites and Leave voters realise the folly of their hubris and hopium, it may well be too late.

Scary is what happens in the unknowable space before and until they do. What will it take to reach that critical mass of enlightened consciousness and rebalancing of Will? What will have to have happened? What will have filled that vacuum? Will it be bearable? Will it have been worth it? I have my doubts.

into 2017

Leaders blamed all the wrong things
to hide their shortcomings
and a lot of very silly people met them

because,
when yet more silly people blamed
all the wrong things, again,
the same lazy leaders went and let them.

It was an age of outrage,
wasted by the justified.
Others were just keen.

And here we are,
leaning in
to twenty seventeen:
Year of the Audacity of Arrogance
– an age sold to fools,
told by idiots.

There are no unicorns at the end of Brexit’s rainbow

Since the EU referendum and, indeed, during the campaign, itself, Britain has been operating in a fog. Brexit has cast itself as a dangerously befuddled character, hiding behind enormous bravado. All the wishful declarations are now bumping into conundrums of reality. Brexit gets angrier by the day, at any challenges to its hubris; Remainers become ever more bemused, concerned and vilified.

Everything that could and should have been discussed and understood, before the referendum, is now being tossed around in disconnected parcels. If the expectations, possibilities and consequences had been even vaguely prepared for in a Brexit plan, before the referendum campaign began and if the Media had not been too partial, lazy or acquiescent to properly scrutinise, the chances are that Leave wouldn’t have stood a chance or that there simply would not have been a referendum, at all.

Political Remain was never going to do its cause justice, though, was it? Its politicians preferred to allow Leave to scapegoat the EU rather than have to admit that it was years of inadequate housing, undermined public services, crappy employment that does not even make life affordable, generous policies that help those who least need it, excessive corporate deference, etc, etc. They preferred that the discontents and “left behinds” should misplace blame and jeopardise the national interest rather than trash their own appalling records.

Not a single thing that Brexit complains about can be adequately solved, if at all, by leaving the very club that already affords us as great a global advantage and clout as we could possibly have. Bar teaming up with that proto-despot, over the pond, perhaps. What looks likely or possible about leaving is why an initially eurosceptic me voted to stay. The world is a confused, frustrated, paranoid, precarious place, right now and Brexit is pompously treating it like a game of Jenga. There is no deal outside of the EU that can be a real, sustainable and ethical improvement on what we already have. The best place to safeguard and improve our lot is from the established base that Brexit so disdains.

Yes, the European Union is flawed. Derr. British democracy is pretty flawed, too. Both are best reformed from inside. Yes, the Eurozone is an asymmetrical basket case but it is, nonetheless, an established global currency and unlikely to just disappear. And we are not in the Eurozone, nor do we have any intention of being in it, though, if it does collapse, we are no more protected from all the repercussions than anyone else outside of it. Some Brexiters like to claim that leaving is saving Britain and they have often boasted about being an encouraging example for other EU member states. The possibility that the Eurozone might collapse and that so much of Leave is, even now, ideologically keen to contribute to that earthquake, is really nothing to be proud of. Playing god is not wise. And if the entire European Union were to implode, the consequences will cause a global tsunami. Our hissyfit referendum result would be moot and our place in history possibly reduced to being the self-proclaimed catalyst of a monumental fallout.

Those that believe they have so little to lose that they’d waste democracy on misdirected protest or take a chance on any unqualified change: who will they blame; to whom will they complain when the monster they have unleashed leads to less control over what little they did still have? If they are lucky.

And fancy insisting that you knew what you were voting for. And then having the nerve to claim that that was what every other leaver was voting for. Watch any political interview or discussion and it is clear that, apart from the childish utopianists and nihilists, they did not know and still do not. Apart from chaos and confusion, no one really knows. Least of all those in charge of implementing “the people’s will”. To insist otherwise seems pretty foolish or cynical. What else but foolishness or alright-jack cynicism votes for something it either does not fully understand and probably can’t control or to whom the outcome makes little difference?

Brexit is not simple or straightforward, no matter how hard or often its cavalier protagonists imply otherwise. There are almost impossible numbers of mind-bogglingly complex administrative, legal and trade elements that simply cannot be addressed, one at a time, by bureaucrats, learning on the job. Britain is firmly on the self-inflicted back foot just as a whole-picture understanding is urgently required. A picture that the EU negotiators understand better than us.

We need proper, serious Parliamentary, Public and Media scrutiny of expectations, options and their consequences. Then, largely because our muddled official opposition cannot be relied upon, we will need a second plebiscite to confirm consent or to withdraw it. Only then should Article 50 be invoked. Article 50 must be the first end point (the final starting point?) because, currently, there is absolutely nothing, beyond suggestion, to guarantee its reversibility. Once Article 50 is triggered we have two years, guaranteed maximum time. How stupid it would be to start the clock before we need to.

And no, we shouldn’t comfort ourselves that we could just rejoin the EU when we discover there are no unicorns at the end of Brexit’s rainbow. Well, we could rejoin but imagine how bad the mess would have to be for taking up the Euro and participating in Schengen to look like the best option.

And no, we can’t just console ourselves with the World Trade Organisation. That is pretty much the whole world and a whole other convoluted can of worms. Besides, the tone of our future, outside of the EU, is contingent on the very observable manner and settlement of our divorce.

If, via a fresh vote, the public still favours a Brexit, then, so be it. Yes, of course I am leaning on my faith in people’s desire to be better informed and their enthusiasm for not sabotaging themselves – sufficient, at least, to reflect with more than emotions and the nebulous rhetoric of populists who play with them.

Brexit froths, daily, with ever-increasing paranoid indignation, at every bit of bad news, at every reasonable question or observation and at the slightest possibility of a fresh plebiscite. But then, froth is proving to be its strongest currency. One might think they’d lost confidence in that overwhelmingly teeny majority.