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Wednesday, 29 June 2016


The Referendum voting 52/48 for Brexit (UK giving up its EU membership and its special privileges within it) was intended to restore full sovereignty to Parliament, but may yet find Parliament is indeed sovereign and not the people. There are many examples of parliaments overriding EU referenda results. But, so far all MPs who are asked state they will totally respect the poll result. Brexiteers may soon learn they are not getting what they hoped for and were promised by their unelected leaders. And further that they'll get the opposite of what they expected? Our MPs and voters cannot claim to be experts about trade, economics, immigration and international politics, but that does not restrain their sense of political certainties. They believe in democratic votes and majorities and sovereignty of the people and forget the elephant in the room is international big business who clearly said they don't want this. If voters don't take care to care about business, will business feel a duty of care for them? The Spectator magazine thinks Tories were never more divided since the Corn Laws. But Brexit is also a rural revolt and cities versus their hinterlands, and Little England versus Great Britain. Rioters attacked one of my great great grandparents, Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington, in his carriage and at his home in 1830 for his opposition to electoral reform (conceived partly as a solution to rioting by rural workers). he granted full civil rights to Catholics. The Iron Duke was so-called after he erected iron shutters at no.1 London to defend against stone throwing mobs. A similar mob who stoned Apsley House, voted on 23rd June mass against class and small towns against big cities. Our British love of irony is now being fully tested - possibly to destruction. Brexit's English supporters paradoxically say they want "Independence" without immigrants sounding just like Scottish Nationalists in 2014 except for the latter saying they need more immigrants. We will find out in coming months how much independence Europe will decide it wants to have from an anti-communitaire UK. The irony of this? It is that Brexit lost. Brexiteers don't know that much yet because Remain also lost big time and most people foolishly imagine that if one side lost it means the other side has won? I'll try to explain why Brexit has also lost, and done so bigtime?
Wellington as an anglo-irish patrician knew when to be defensive not offensive. He cared for his men like a landlord cares for the peasants far more than was usual and he wept after victory at Waterloo, knowing after nearly thirty battles he never wanted war again. He worried about, or just humorously quipped, when his men were over-exuberant in their cheering, in an aside, this won't do as it smacks too much of the men expressing their own opinions - he, not a natural or modern Democrat was not a one-sided nationalist. Wellington was a natural European, old school, if a mere "Sepoy General" according to Napoleon. he was a pragmatist judging by his wars and politics, not the type to ask the masses (who hadn't a vote) what they thought other than to check they knew what they were being told to think or do.
Voters are never experts or leaders but led. They have views, needs, fears and feelings, but for fixed opinions (like we all know to do, don't we?) they judge, often collectively or socially, if they can, about whatever it is they are told by leaders or experts or employers, and thereby where to place their trust or find out by dint of personal inquiry, asking questions. Too often questions sound to them, to us, like answers. We hear questions clearly but not the answers. Only education teaches us questions are not answers and travel teaches us how the same questions sound different in foreign places. Experts were more insulted (outfall from the last recession and financial crisis) in the campaign than both sides of the campaign insulted each other. Everyone it seemed wanted to agree the EU is a busted flush and blame the Euro, and creeping Federalism and low growth, notwithstanding these are not pressing problems in the UK or in many other member states or that UK by leaving would make risky problems considerably worse?
Democratic opinion is not pure, free, or bottom-up. And in this referendum there was precious little Q&A - everyone sounded like they knew for certain and if not then the question or answer was classed as humbug, dismissed as Project Fear or opportunist and populist lies. Voter opinion is heavily influenced by whatever is said top down and whatever confidence and belief in leaders is thereby won bottom up.(Legislators think restoring capital punishment would win a referendum. So, why refer EU membership to a referendum? One rule of politics used to be don't ask the voters a question you can't comprehensively answer!) On balance, honesty plus integrity versus their opposites, or intuition versus expert opinion, who do we think provided sounder argument in the referendum campaign? And do we think it was that simple or too complicated. What wins over the media's loudhailers, soundbites or paragraphs, directives or explanations? One thing we agree on is the matters at hand are not simple, no simpler than any political-economy gripe.
Whatever the outcome was going to be, this was not about playing safe, but gambling big - how exciting - Scottish referendum repeated with even bigger stakes on the table - all in, risked on a single throw or hand of cards, not a month's pay packet, but the house, job, and the childrens' schooling - maybe not all of that, but enough to worry about excessive risk and the vice of gambling, not fun, serious, and wild impatience if other ways of changing circumstances are safer with better odds, only slower, and no heroics, the Sinn Fein choice: bullet or ballot? And this is England, why should true English care about Scotland or Ireland if co longer feeling like colonialists or control freaks - anyway, maybe, it's them wild Celts who are trying it on with us Saxons - this was the view of a British Eurocrat with a safe permanent job after twenty years in Brussels whose pension had just gone up 10% in sterling terms? Gambling is said to be the last socially acceptable vice and the principal vice of politics and in both cases winning is temporary while losing is permanent. Gamblers get enormous Faustian buzz from throwing long term onto short term, the deeds to the farm, not just the car keys or gold watch, onto the green baize into the pot - such an aristocratic gesture - who knew the country contained so much reckless bravery, so much showiness, poker faces and fake smiles, so much esprit de nation? And doing so, this time, on never more than roughly 50/50 odds - what self-belief, can only be knowing confidence or a con trick, one or t'other, not both; one had to be false, surely?.
Winning is a dangerous fix for history's gamblers. They remember the dream even if they lose. Once gamblers experience winning against the odds or just dream it they are hooked on luck, doomed to try again and again until nothing's left. When Conservatives behave like this it is shocking to see them gambling the nation's past or present certainties for future uncertainty - that we expect only from extremist nationalists and social revolutionaries. Churchill did it when the country's back was to the wall and the threat to democracy and freedom most deadly. He gambled, but not by going to the country, yet knowing the struggle would be long, the costs bankrupting, potentially fatal,. However much he was a nationalist or Imperialist he was warring on for all countries. He was thoroughly an internationalist, not a Boris, Gove, Farage Little Englander.
But, today's circumstances are not extreme, the EU, Muslims at war with themselves and The West not the EU's fault, an evolving political economic product of 70 years of internationalism committed to democratic rights and free markets, however imperfect, still brilliant and wonderful. Yet, listening to Brexiteers one might be forgiven for thinking wartime and of EU as the Despotic Evil Empire run by demagogues (unelected Elect) conspiring to steal English birthrights by forcing us to accepts millions of aliens into our homes and social security queues. Our birthright is not to have to compete at home with Johnny Foreigner, aka Turks, Poles, and every 'other other'.... let's keep that competition out of sight, over the horizon, in trade and whatever aid, not let the buggers shop in our high streets and make out in our sink estates? Even if Brexit is somehow in some degree or reconfiguration better or best, and maybe just marginally so, this cannot be the best way of getting Brexit or of stopping it, won or lost by a single blow at the polls.
Brexit won a battle but lost the war and of course Remain has also lost and the EU has lost too. Who knew all could or would lose; don't games have winners and not just losers - this is not a game - except this sounds too much like saying everyone loses in war. But why has Brexit already lost its gamble too? One reason is that both sides are gamblers but neither of them are The House, the Gaming Club that always wins eventually, the world's multinational system, game without borders, mobile capital able to alter its home/host structures easily. Or maybe we should say the UK was a co-owner of the casino and decided it was more honest to join the players, become one of the little guys. Anti-establishment urges is surely something to do with that idea? Following the banking crisis there is very strong feelings against casino finance and plenty of voters who liked to say they would be happy to be free of the City of London and its greed and insulting attitudes to everyone and everything not playing in their game.
There are many ironies of why both lost, Brexit in particular: Brexit wanted to restore sovereignty to Parliament but that was shredded, devalued, pounded into brain damage, but the monitor's showing life and recovery likely, out of coma in 2-7 years, plus 10 to get well? What began as a solution to a tear in the Tory party flag has instead rent it asunder, Liberal Democrats were all but killed off but might now try digging themselves up to exit the graveyard Labour too, tattered and limp, the only other UK party of government available - take daily antibio + steroids. What was to free our economy is now bringing on recession, disinvestment and capital flight. A plebiscite to empower the majority only handed power to a cross-party minority, 37% of the electorate. Cutting immigration to take migrants' jobs from them will soon trigger mass unemployment Pressing for radical EU reform has bounced right back to become revolution at home - nice trade? Expecting to confirm our central place in Europe (only if Remain won) maginalized us in Europe and globally. Trying to unite the UK around a shared nationalism (or internationalism) now disunites poisonously, fatally? An effort to enthrone Conservatism dethroned it; all the kings men cannot put Tories back together again! Trying to secure national borders made UK more vulnerable, a victim of international forces. The irony list could go not.
Was there ever before in history, except unwinnable wars, a time when such a set of political choices led, in every major aspect, to the opposite of whatever was intended at the outset? - not just hindsight talking or is it; ask what risk assessments were done; why no Plan B or C? One thing for sure (to economists at least) recession was coming down our way soon. All the data told us economists we're well past cycle peak. The recession starting now won't however be blamed on Bankers or Bureaucrats but on Brexiteers. Had Remain won, the blame would land on bureaucrats and economists.
The recession starting now (2 years early) should force a substantial % of Brexiteers into a 90 or 180 degree turn around. Then parliament after a general election can reassert its legal sovereignty to declare the referendum void, voided by unexpected events, by the experts, shock surprise, having spoken true after all. We, maybe a few only, in time looking back may judge how much was really that and how much desperately manufactured to make it seem so by the elephant in the room, by the unelected commercial interests who have big stakes but don't get a vote except by 'voting' with their feet and their bank balances?

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