Second guessing the electorate

21 Nov

I was listening to the radio 5 politics show yesterday and Oliver Letwin, talking about Brexit was being interviewed. He said something to the point that the referendum result had to be respected, and that the UK would probably not be able to control EU immigration if it remained in the single market, and most people had voted to control such immigration. He insisted that the only option was the so-called ‘hard Brexit’.

Now a couple of things occur to me now. Firstly, when I engage in conversation with Leavers and ask them what they wanted, they generally say that we should be free of EU political control. They do not say they voted that way to curb immigration.

Secondly, polls show that if offered the choice between leaving the single market and remaining in it, the vast majority wish to remain in it. They are also prepared to allow EU immigration if it means we can stay within the single market.

What Letwin’s remark shows is that the government is trying to second guess what the electorate wanted. The Referendum question was simply to leave the EU or remain in it, and made no mention of immigration. Last week I watched a compilation video of speeches made by the leading Leavers before the referendum. Every one of them insisted that leaving the EU did not mean leaving the single market. They either did not understand or they lied. Either way the electorate were misled.

So now we find the government pushing us towards a type of Brexit that the vast majority do not want on the back of an issue that is not even relevant to most of the voters. How is that respecting the wishes of the people?

My voting policy

10 Nov

I’m not sure if it totally defensible in terms of logic, but I have a policy when voting. I look at what the right wing nuts want and then vote the other way. It seems to have served me well for several decades. Bearing that in mind I notice that the proposed march on the High Court is to be populated with not just Daily Express readers and UKIP supporters but EDL thugs and BNP troglodites. By their friends you will know them.

At the last general election most politicians were bending over backwards to say that UKIP supporters were not racists. Well, listen, matey, many of them are full on racists. Most are not, but are easily influenced. The least offensive and most amusing of these are Little Englanders.

The populist extreme right feeds on a mixture of discontent and nationalism, and reason has little to offer when arguing with someone who refuses to look at the reflection you hold up to them. You can argue until the cows come home, but they are not listening to logic. They would rather continue in the certainty of their prejudice than consider reason. For example, if some convinced Brexiteer says that they are against all that weight of European law, ask them for an example, and wait for the silence.

Unfounded generalisations based on prejudice, not evidence, is one plank of their beliefs. Then there are the ringing but empty phrases, like ‘Take back control’, and ‘Make America great again’. These are not policies, they are bumper stickers. Trying to define what they mean is like trying to nail jelly to a wall, everyone has their own idea what it means, so it is meaningless. Finally, there is the refusal to look at the evidence. Everyone who has some knowledge which might inform the debate is either shouted down or ignored. But maybe people are really fed up with experts.

I have for decades wanted to see more study of ethics in schools. Now I think we need to teach how to look at evidence and how to interpret information so that the more reliable can be separated from the trash. It seems we are now in a Post Truth world, one where relativism and prejudice have as much to say as informed opinion. There are more than enough examples of where this vice leads. Currently we are going to hell in a handcart.

The Royal Prerogative

4 Nov

In the UK we live in a parliamentary democracy. We elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to represent our interests. Our best interests are not necessarily what the majority voted for. Our representatives are not our slaves. They are supposed to be the best of us, able to see further into issues than the average voter can. They must also represent the interests of all voters, even the ones who did not vote for them.

When questioned by pollsters recently a large majority declared that they do not want Britain to leave the Single Market. When presented with the option of leaving the EU and the Single Market or remaining in the EU, this same majority would wish to remain in the EU rather than have a clean break, the so-called ‘Hard Brexit’.

On the 23rd of June 2016, 52% of those who voted turned out to approve a simple binary question. Many voted to Leave because they thought it the safer option.  They were swayed or persuaded to vote in this way by the most mendacious campaign conducted in this country since Georgian times.

The European Communities Act of 1972 was passed in Parliament and enshrined some EU law in UK law. It also provides, in section 2(4), that all UK legislation, including primary legislation (Acts of Parliament) have effect “subject to” directly applicable EU law. This has been interpreted by UK courts as granting EU law primacy over domestic UK legislation.

In an interview with BBC News Theresa May promised that UK will introduce a bill to remove the European Communities Act 1972 (UK) from the statute book. In order to do this she needs to have a vote in Parliament to rescind the previous act.

The effect of triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is irreversible. We then have a two year timespan to negotiate the legal and economic ties with the EU. These negotiations are between diplomats and civil servants, but their direction and outcome will not be affected in any way by our elected representatives.

Theresa May and the Brexit cabal within the government wished to trigger Article 50 by the use of the Royal Prerogative. That is an ancient right of kings which is rarely used.  The royal prerogative has been called “a notoriously difficult concept to define adequately”, but whether a particular type of prerogative power exists is a matter of common law to be decided by the courts as the final arbiter.

As the courts are the final arbiter, Theresa May has no right to use the Royal Prerogative. Moreover, by triggering Article 50 without a vote in Parliament she would effectively have rescinded an Act of Parliament (the 1972 Act), without obtaining the permission of Parliament.

The judgement yesterday could not have been clearer. It is difficult to see on what grounds the government can hope to succeed in any appeal to the Supreme Court. When they fail, which they will, they could take the case to the European Court, but somehow I don’t think that will happen.

In yet another supreme example of irony, the more literate Leavers find their wishes frustrated by the very arguments they made for wishing to leave the EU. They argued very vociferously for the primacy of the UK Parliament and Law Courts. Now they have it. You won, get over it.

The great experiment

2 Nov

I know a little about scientific method, and a small amount about what constitutes statistically significant results. Even this modicum of methodology allows me to judge whether or not I am being presented with a pile of poo when it comes to political speeches and newspaper comment pieces.

Come the end of March 2017 Theresa May intends to use the Royal Prerogative option to bypass Parliamentary discussion of any deal and trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Once triggered there is no stopping this process. Any subsequent parliamentary discussions will be meaningless. Moreover, what is being discussed at cabinet level, (or by an even smaller cabal), is being concealed from not just Parliament, but the rest of the Conservative Party. The bosses at Nissan know much more about what is going on than the vast majority of MPs.

Michael Gove, during the build up to the referendum, told us that ‘People are fed up with listening to experts.’ It is about time that this government started listening to them. Stephen Hawking, at last night’s awards ceremony declared that he could solve many complex mathematical problems, but that he wouldn’t be willing to work on any Brexit deal.

Quite what will happen is open to interpretation, but the vast majority of expert opinion is that it will involve a deep and long recession, perhaps for a generation or more. Of course, we don’t know about the terms and conditions, and Theresa May says she is playing her cards close to her chest. The suspicion will continue to grow that she hasn’t any cards to conceal.

What we are entering into is an experiment that will decide on the direction the country is going to take. This experiment has no known method, nor does it have a set thesis to prove or disprove. No-one seems to have thought out exactly how the results are going to be judged or what the real objectives are.

It is quite breathtakingly arrogant for anyone or any group to conduct an experiment which will, in almost all probability, result in deep economic woes which adversely affect my children and grandchildren, their ability to find well-paid jobs and decent housing. And to do it without the advice and guidance of people who do know something is bonkers.

Of course, as I express this opinion I will probably be told to shut up and stop being a remoaner. My answer is that I need to know what the objectives are, how it will be achieved and what the results will be. Only given that information will the people of this country be able to see clear and peer-reviewed expert opinion as to whether or not any deal is a good idea or not.

Brexit means Brexit, and Stick This Stupid Brexit Up Your Arse means Stick This Stupid Brexit Up Your Arse.

Not My Circus

31 Oct

There is a Polish saying which I came across recently. It is used when someone is trying to persuade you of the truth of their perceived worries and obsessions. Roughly translated it comes out as, ‘That’s not my circus; those aren’t my monkeys.’

Just before the referendum vote on June 23rd I heard a radio interview with a man in Sunderland who intended to vote to leave. When asked why he replied, ‘It’s because of the immigrants, isn’t it?’

The interviewer continued, ‘Is there a problem with immigration here?’

The interviewee answered, ‘Well, not here, but down in London, like.’

So the gentleman in question was concerned with a problem in an area he did not know about, an area which voted clearly to Remain.

He would have been far better answering, ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys.’

But shouldn’t we be concerned about immigration, and why did this issue become an obsession with a large proportion of voters?

Even if you think it is an important issue, why do you make it the number one issue? This obsession of monomaniacs went unchallenged and allowed the misdirection of a national debate in a way that suited only Little Englanders and downright racists.

There are many issues which are important to me, but immigration is way down the list. When I have made this comment to several Leavers they respond with incomprehension. They seemed unable to comprehend that their obsession meant little or nothing to me. Some came back with a question, ‘Then are you in favour of unrestricted immigration?’

Let me answer that question. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

Bless you, Jeremy Clarkson

30 Sep

There are few occasions when I find myself being educated by Jeremy Clarkson, so I had better make the most of it. Shortly before the June 23rd referendum I watched a video blog entry by Clarkson, together with James May. This concerned how difficult it was to get a film crew into Switzerland compared to anywhere in the EU. It was about the amount of paperwork needed and the hours spent filling in forms, sending them in, getting them back with other details to include and so on and so on.

If Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked, and we decide not to have free movement of goods and people, (the ‘Hard’ Brexit option), this kind of paperwork will be required to trade with our largest market and our nearest neighbours.  Going to the Med for a holiday will be more complex. People retied to Spain or have holiday homes in France will need to make new arrangements.

Of course there will be benefits. The dead hand of Brussels bureaucracy will be lifted. Or is it that the EU is a neo-liberal  / global capitalist conspiracy? I have heard both arguments and they are complete bollocks. The first part is rubbish because we will be employing thousands of bureaucrats to cope with the new workload, and the second argument is completely mental.

With a hard Brexit many companies will re-locate to mainland Europe. That means more unemployment and lower tax revenues. Then there is the rubbish argument that goes ‘Germany won’t put tariffs on cars, because they want to sell them to us’. The morons who say this have no idea about how trade works. Tariffs are only put on by IMPORTING countries, I.e. us after Brexit. The Germans will still sell us cars, but they will cost a lot more.

If only a single advocate of Brexit would come up with a sensible suggestion for how it is supposed to benefit Britain, then I would listen. And I don’t mean bumper stickers, but suggestions backed up by proper evidence which can be evaluated. Somehow I get the feeling that I am going to be listening for a very long time.

Plans, what plans?

6 Sep

The main problem in trying to get straight answers from the Brexiteers is that they are a loose coalition with a wide variety of beliefs and aims. What might be a suitable answer for one group is anathema to another. So when David Davies, Minister for Brexit, addressed the House of Commons yesterday what he had to say was bound to please very few.

The three leading proponents of exit are Davies, Liam Fox and Foreign Secretary (I still can’t believe that!!!!!) Boris Johnson. Johnson and Fox have been involved in a bitter exchange of words already, and neither of them has a good word to say for Davies.

What was absolutely obvious is that there is no plan, no blueprint and no sense of a single target. All that came from Davies yesterday was obfuscation and empty rhetoric. I’ve known more meat in a chicken nugget that in that speech. There was not a single date or number mentioned. These people never thought that they would win, and when they did they went into meltdown. They are clueless.

No senior civil servant wishes to become involved in the Ministry for Brexit. It is already thought of as a poisoned chalice. This is the end of the line for anyone with career aspirations. Next stop, DVLC in Swansea. This is one hot potato that is just too hot to handle.

Surely it is going to start to occur to significant numbers of people who voted to Leave that they have been sold a pup. The promise of £350m a week extra to the NHS melted away on the 24th June. Yesterday Theresa May stated that she would not introduce an Australian points based immigration system, and that was a key point that was common to most Brexiteers. (We had such a system before, and May, as Home Secretary, found it completely unworkable and seriously counter-productive, before she consigned it to the bin.)

Meanwhile, the rabid right-wing press keep looking for crumbs of comfort, and publicise any figure, no matter how unfounded, which seems to suggest that the disaster has not yet happened, and this points to the sunny uplands to come. A train coming in the opposite direction would be a light at the end of the tunnel for these peddlers of untruths. We are all in a phoney war until the nuclear button of Article 50 is pressed.

I reckon even all working together Davies, Fox and Johnson couldn’t organise the liquid refreshments in a brewery. Davies is an intellectual eunuch, Fox froths at the mouth when anyone uses the word ‘foreign’, and Johnson is probably the laziest man in Britain and a complete moral vacuum. If this is the finest that the country has to offer, god help us!

So now we know nothing more than we did on Sunday. The majority who voted bought an empty box that should have contained a flat pack and instructions. Only the box has not been delivered, and will not be because these idiots are in charge and can’t even decide on the size and shape of the bloody box, let alone what to put in it. What a bunch of onanists! If you voted Leave and still have no idea what you are going to get from the promises made, demand to know. Write to your MP.