Vote Maybe

EU vote maybe

Ignorance and belief are invariably fellow travellers as Islamic terrorism amply demonstrates but it is a wide spread phenomenon that occurs in every aspect of our society; as any marketeer will tell you belief in the brand is their holy grail and they create desire by exploiting our gullibility. One of the most dispiriting aspects of the EU Referendum was that it further exposed our political system as one where leaders manipulate the ignorance of the populace at large using over simplified messages that turn speculation into fact and fact into justification for policy commitment.

The protagonists in the EU Referendum exploited this ignorance of the electorate at large by feeding them with half-truths and even lies that were so easy to believe because they simply reinforced existing prejudices and beliefs. Neither side (but particularly #Brexit) made any attempt to explain the complexities of the issues or concede their opponents point of view. #Brexit assured us that the 27 remaining EU states would accede to our every demand and the negative economic consequences that we are now experiencing would not occur and the #Remain side would never accept that immigration in the tens of thousands was totally impossible while we are still members of the EU.

The issue of sovereignty played strongly in the Leave campaign and relied upon the nostalgia of older voters who sought to put the “Great” back into Britain. This and a sense of powerlessness in the wake of globalisation produced the slogan “We want our Country back” but these were really proxies for the fact since (and even before) the economic crash of 2008, many at the bottom of the social pile had felt disenfranchised and excluded from any economic revival and ignored by those in power. And ironically those who derided the lack of democratic accountability in the EU (despite having elected MEPs) happily ignored our own unelected House of Lords that is stuffed with political placemen, bishops and even some hereditaries.

Referenda are a crude tool by which to frame decision making, their binary nature doesn’t allow for shades of grey and the nuances that should be part of any serious determination of policy. We live in a representative democracy and although those representatives, our MPs, are elected on a personal and political party platform they aren’t mandated to simply follow the instructions of those who elected them. This is the paradox of our democracy but up until now no one has come up with a better system, however it relies upon a respect for and trust in the political class and that has been diminishing for many years. Our leaders cannot simply “dismiss the people and appoint a new one”, for democracy to fulfil our expectations we need a better educated and informed electorate.

Truth is the first casualty…

 

Michael gove as vicar

If the argument for #Brexit is so good why do Gove and Co. need to tell so many lies to convince us of its merits? The #Brexit camp are evangelising zealots believing their own rhetoric with each Pastor piling on one false claim after another. With virtually all the economic institutions and forecasting bodies lined up against them they keep repeating that these esteemed academic organisations are either lying or in the pay of the Establishment which is ridiculous. Add to that our global friends and partners who all advocate #VoteRemain and their response is like a child shouting “ I don’t want to hear”!

These are downright lies not half truths:

Britain sends £350m a week to Brussels.
No it doesn’t it’s £ 136m

U.K. will be liable for future Eurozone bailouts.
No we won’t.

EU could scrap Britain’s rebate.
No it can’t.

U.K. had given up its ability to veto EU treaties.
No it hasn’t.

U.K. can’t stop the EU’s budget going up.
Yes we can we have a veto.

Britain will be forced into an EU army.
No it doesn’t, it would require our agreement.

Freedom of movement allows criminals to enter Britain.
No it doesn’t. EU law allows Britain to refuse entry to people “on grounds of public policy, public security or public health”.

The #VoteRemain side has also been economical with the truth but to nothing like the same extent. The fact that #Brexit will be a leap in the dark is incontestable, for all its flaws we are in the EU so we know how it works so there isn’t anything like the same degree of uncertainty and risk if we stay in.

The only fact that #Brexit can muster and it is a very significant one is that outside the EU we will be able to deny EU nationals from entering the UK. To their discredit the #VoteRemain campaign will not acknowledge this fact. However if we impose restrictions it seems reasonable to assume that the EU will do the same and who will fill the vacancies in the building and agricultural sectors?

Bizarrely immigration is an issue even in areas like the north east where there are few immigrants, however immigration has changed the character of many towns and cities and myths abound about benefit tourism and queue jumping. This increase in people from abroad has happened over many decades and we the electorate have never been asked if we wanted it that is why people are angry and willing to risk all voting #Brexit.

The Brexiteers also rely on a nostalgic vision of Britain as it was in their history books, with the Great put back in but the world has moved on and this sentimental attachment to the past will hold Britain back if they get there way.

#VoteRemain, not with religious certainty or even much enthusiasm but because the alternative is a naive pipe dream.

How healthy is our democracy?

Is democracy working?

With much of the EU debate about it’s democratic deficit how healthy is UK democracy? Turnout even in UK general elections has decreased, from 84% in 1950 to 66% in 2015 and in elections to the European Parliament has plateaued at around a paltry 35%. Voting is of greater importance to those aged 55 plus, who in the 2015 general election averaged about 77%, than the 18-34 age group that averaged less than 50%.

These baby boomers (55 plus) have generally faired very well, building up considerable personal wealth with equity in their homes and often retiring on generous, final salary, pensions. Contrast this with the 18-34 year olds most of whom find it impossible to buy a home, many saddled with student loan debts that their parent’s generation avoided. This inter-generational unfairness has as yet failed to motivate the young into taking action and that includes voting. But who can blame their indifference as there is no party that is actively supporting their cause? Political parties formulate policy according to where the votes are so it is no surprise that many are skewed in the favour of older voters, like the triple lock on pensions. It is also a curious irony that this cohort, that has benefited most economically from EU membership, is also the group most likely to support #Brexit.

A healthy democracy is dependent on the majority of citizens being engaged in the political process but an increasing distrust of the political class and their unwillingness to address issues that are of concern to ordinary people has led to cynicism and alienation, that is particularly evident in the EU referendum debate; supporters on both sides but particularly those who want to leave the EU have insulted the electorate with ludicrously exaggerated claims and erroneous statistics leaving the electorate to fall back on preconceived opinions and prejudice rather than evaluating unbiased evidence.

The passions aroused by our membership of the EU have always been based more on sentiment than reality. The #Brexit camp make great play of the democratic deficit in the EU while happily ignoring the fact that we have an unelected House of Lords stuffed full of political appointees, not to mention Bishops and the remaining hereditary peers and of course a hereditary monarchy. They rely, as did the Scottish Nationalists in their referendum, on a mix of romantic nostalgia and archaic nationalism.

Although the emergence of UKIP clearly indicates that there has been a concern about immigration particularly in blue collar areas, the referendum was called not so much to satisfy a national demand but to resolve the long running conflict within the Conservative party and was therefore a grossly irresponsible decision by David Cameron since it might quite likely result in our #Brexit. Either way it is unlikely to heal the Tory strife, rather it is likely to amplify it.

The Labour party under Corbyn has been a disaster; the ability for anyone (from Trotskyites to Tories) to vote in the Labour leadership election after a donation of just £3.00 was not so much an exercise in democracy as either an incompetent decision by the then Labour leadership or a cynical attempt at drag the Labour party to the unelectable socialist fringe.

So we are left with a referendum that hangs in the balance but with around 6 million people still not registered to vote. Perhaps #Brexit will win, by gaining the majority of votes, that’s democracy but to have done so without most voters really understanding the issues, perhaps not a healthy democracy.