Sunday, 5 November 2017

The worst thing about Brexit?


Blogger Steve Bullock is not a fan of Brexit at all.
There are a hell of a lot of things to choose from when trying to decide what the very worst thing about Brexit is. Unless you believe the absurd, dreams of empire, sovereignty-based bluster of the Tory party’s Brexit fanatic wing, or the fantasy tariff-free economics of Minford and his Economists for Brexit and Unicorns (and I urge you not to do either), there is nothing good about it.

[...] Perhaps though, the very worst and most damaging thing about Brexit in the long-term is the seemingly irreparable damage done to standards in public life, particularly in Westminster. These have been in decline for some time, but that decline has accelerated and, more importantly, been normalised by Brexit.

Since the EU Referendum, UK constitutional conventions have been broken flagrantly and without consequence for those breaking them. The convention of individual ministerial responsibility – that ministers are responsible for the action of their department, and should resign when very serious errors are made by them – has been in decline for sometime. Brexit has brought it to a point though that, when the Home Office sent one hundred expulsion letters to EU citizens in the UK in error, there was hardly even talk of the home secretary resigning. It was not clear at first if she would even apologise. A catastrophic failure, damaging both those who received the letters and any trust the EU 27 have for the UK on this issue, was got away with without penalty for the minister.

The revelations of sexual harassment have shown that ministers will resign, but only when they are absolutely forced to do so. Most of the incidents in question did not happen during this government. Some, it seems, may have been known about by whips and others for some time. It is therefore clear that resignations are not really for the awful acts themselves, but for the unforgivable crime of being found out. It is not to maintain honour or integrity that ministers and whips are resigning (and most commentators seem to think it is safe to assume there will be more), but simply to avoid further embarrassing revelations. It is also notable and telling that personal misconduct which requires resignation as a minister does not appear to require resignation as an MP.
Firstly I would observe that this decline in standards in public life is nothing at all new. Bullock states that Brexit has accelerated it but really this is where we were at since long before the referendum. This is just what happens when you task such obviously low grade people with something moderately difficult. If it wasn't Brexit that exposed it then it would be something else. Politics as we know it hitting the rocks was an absolute inevitability.

We might not that the example he cites of Home Office expulsions are little if anything to do with Brexit. This is just how degraded the system has become. Even less to do with Brexit is the revelations of sexual harassment. That the entire machine has downed tools at the crucial time to go over legacy accusations going back into the mists of time tells you everything about their sense of priorities. Much else that Bullock cites is only tangentially connected with Brexit. He concludes by telling us:
Whatever your views on the EU, this erosion of any regard for truth and honesty, this idea of honour and probity as something only for losers and the weak, and the casual disregard for the constitution must be opposed right now.

To allow these low-grade charlatans to succeed is to tacitly consent to and perpetuate this new amoral normality. The damage may be too great to undo. It may be too late. But we have to try to stop it and halt its contagion into other corners of life. They might not be, but we are better than this. If they get away with it though, this may be the very worst consequence of Brexit.
As this blog as outlined, this absence of excellence is nothing new at all. The vanity and banality of politics and the disaffection with it has been a recurrent theme which in part was responsible for the rise of Ukip. I have long remarked that politics as we know it is on a countdown to extinction.

But then as much as politics is degraded you cannot look at Westminster in isolation of the network of journalists and think tanks that make bubble culture what it is. The media utterly fails in its duty to inform, it repeatedly gives a platform to know-nothing nonentities to add their ignorance to the mountain that already exists - and has largely forgotten what expertise even looks like. Of the countless self-declared "Brexperts" not one of them has been ahead of the curve.

For all that we've had pundits telling us that Brexit doesn't actually solve any of the multitude of problems we face, not least those that led to a leave vote, the fact remains that a remain vote would not have changed anything either. There would be even less political will or imperative to listen than before. They would carry on with their sickening, insular circus, fuelling yet more resentment.

Now that we have voted to leave we can see in full few just how ill-equipped to govern Westminster has become and resolving it has become a matter of urgency. As Bullock notes we are probably drifting toward the worst Brexit imaginable simply because of the political dysfunction.

Since Julia Hartley Brewer's knees are evidently more important and we must drop everything to explore spurious allegations from 1987, it rather looks like we are going to coast over the cliff edge while everyone is distracted by trivia. Well, that is a choice. And choices have conseqences.

The resultant consequences will have political ramifications and far reaching implications for everybody. It is a certainty the public will not tolerate another Tory government but they are not going to put up with Corbyn either. We are looking down the barrel of a serious political sort out that is going to take some years to resolve. Only when we have fixed our politics is there the remotest possibility of addressing those issues that drove the leave vote.

Ultimately we cannot fix the economic until we have fixed the political, and to do that we need to wake up to just how debased politics has become. Brexit has done that - and thus far, that's the best thing about it. 

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