Thursday, 19 July 2018

The Brexit problem

Why have Brexit talks gone all to hell? The problem starts with Westminster. Problematic are the ideologues who push false narratives for their own deceitful ends. That will always be a feature of politics and this blog among others have documented it at length in respect of Brexit. But why, when they are in the minority are they not kept at bay? Why is parliament not asserting itself?

There are several problems here. Firstly we have some pretty low calibre MPs. Very few have understood the issues and most are incapable. that though can be forgiven to an extent in that it is not possible to be an expert in all things. This is why we have a committee system.

What we have seen there though is a procession of chancers, media whores, think tank wonks and bosses, none of whom have been able to shed any real light on how things work or what is happening. I've watched countless hours of trade committee meetings and though there are some experts capable of reciting the Janet and John basics, it is still only a recital which, without direction, is little more than a collection of factoids for MPs to play with.

We now have a handful of MPs who are dimly aware of how trade works but are still asking all the wrong questions of the wrong people and experts tend to be technicians who haven't thought about the situation in the round. To make use of information you must have some direction and some sort of vision but technocrats have no real skin in the game. Either way they will enjoy an insulated career in Whitehall.

But it wouldn't even matter if that system was working. From the beginning I've been told that more would listen to me if only I were nmot so abrasive. But there are plenty of others in the game who have behave in an exemplary fashion who find themselves equally excluded and unable to influence proceedings.

Essentially MPs are just lobby fodder and most back-benchers are total unknowns with virtually zero public profile and have every intention of keeping that it that way. Why rock the boat? Closer to government though there are factions at work - divisions between the senior ranks of the civil service, the treasury and Number Ten. Unless you have their ear, you're not even in the game.

And that's part of the problem. To have the ear of ministers you have to be in London and dripping with prestige. This is why various long established think tanks with central London addresses are able to pollute the debate with their ignorance. At one time think tanks may have been the home of experts and thinkers but now they mainly serve as career vessels for politicos keen to climb the greasy pole and make a tidy sum in the process.

Not only do they not listen to others, believing they know it all, they are keen to safeguard their monopoly on influence, making sure that the attention of ministers never wanders. This is how bubbles are formed.

What makes it worse is that these people do not trade in knowledge. Information is orally transmitted over Twitter or in briefings and there are few in the system who will take the time to learn for themselves how things work. This is why with careful probing it is easy to see who is faking it.

That though is not happening because our media lacks the curiosity and expertise to probe and challenge wonks and politicians. Tune into Sunday morning TV and Andrew Marr or Nick Robinson are only interested in the Westminster theatricals and have no real subject knowledge. Consequently the likes of the Taxpayer's Alliance and the IEA can field witless girlies (of both sexes) on demand to fill airtime with total drivel.

We therefore have no filtration system where misnomers are broadcast to the nation and misapprehensions spread like a virus. This is essentially why so many people have the wrong end of the stick in respect of the Norway Option - not least because the argument turns on detail which is something television media routinely fails at.

All the while the media pack tends to be made up of court scribes who are only interested in who is resigning or plotting a leadership bid or who is sleeping with who. they are interested in politicians, but not policy. The consequence of this is a public incapable of engaging with politics on an adult level.

Very often I see tweets from people who should know better who like Boris Johnson not because of what he is especially but because he "triggers" the opposition. Politics has become a form of cheap entertainment where viewers pick their team and tune in for showdowns. Issues and consequences do not seem to register.

Adding to this toxic trend is the gradual attrition of newsmedia. Paywalls have turned newspapers into gated communities serving their respective tribes, with the Telegraph becoming ever more unhinged, and the Guardian only just holding its own as a credible news source. Then there's the Times - the newspaper of record, read by politicians and high society - relying on established known hacks from the days of the dead tree media. They are trusted even though there is zero basis on which to take them remotely seriously.

These are hacks who assume they know it all and have their finger on the pulse where we mere mortals could never reach. They therefore assume they do not need to listen to the rest of us and will take no correction from us. Oliver Kamm and Matthew Parris being prime examples.

As this blog has highlighted before, there is no establishment as such - but there are establishments (plural) - all of whom have created their own official narratives with appointed gatekeepers who are perpetually in transmit mode only. There is no dialogue. They see their job to transmit and ours to listen and adore.

Collectively the Westminster bubble is an alien creature with alien habits and values with its own misapprehensions, paranoias and superstitions. It is insular, inbred and estranged from the public - largely getting its impression of the public from the distorted prism of media and selective polls. It is not listening to messages from the public. It is deaf to us and it is similarly deaf to Brussels.

This is nothing at all new. this dynamic has existed all of my adult life and for a long time before. The internet has made it manifestly worse and I think the rot set in when we put television cameras in the House of Commons. This is partly responsible for the PR driven politics of the Blair/Cameron era. The politics we are all so sick of.

This spawned a number of pundit driven television programmes largely produced by media students and interns with very little adult supervision. Who actually decided that Brexit could be analysed and explained to us by Michael Portillo and Liz Kendall sitting on a sofa in Millbank?

For a long time politics has degraded into a playground for circus freaks, sociopaths and the intellectually subnormal. It is easy to see why they are near universally despised and in hindsight not at all difficult to see why the public voted for Brexit.

As it happens, with Brussels taking care of technical governance and local authorities doing a half decent job of emptying the bins and other mundane duties, we have been able to tolerate politics as entertainment, and have allowed it to spiral into the abyss. When they are not tasked with managing change and ever more functions of government run by the private sector, there is only so much damage they can do.

Brexit, however, requires a different breed of politician. We need diligent, intelligent and conscientious when what we have is lazy, feckless and stupid. We have tasked the biggest political change since the Second World War to a pack of narcissistic quarterwits. There was never any possibility of them getting it right.

This has in recent days and weeks caused many to regret their vote to leave. I am not one of them. The Leave Alliance is on record as having outlined ways in which the government could have successfully managed the process but we were always going to be drowned out by the ambitious greasy pole climbers inside the bubble. The fault is not ours.

A smooth and stable departure was always achievable on paper but various Tory decisions have taken us down a different path. My preference would be that we don't hit the rocks but if we do then it will trigger a major political crisis that will sweep them all from power and forever tarnish the names of the politicians and think tanks who brought us to this point. The Westminster bubble needs a political enema.

One way or another the British public will show great fortitude and innovation in the event of no deal and through the following decade we will patch up a new definition of normal. What we are likely to see, though, is a general political collapse, a total fragmentation of the party system and an angry public no longer willing to tolerate their ineptitude.

Earlier in the week I went to meet a French journalist to fill him in on Brexit. He was interested in the local pressures which might have sparked Brexit. I gave him the usual spiel. A mixture of nostalgia, national pride, inequality, stagnant wages, insecure jobs, globalisation, urban decay, disillusionment, and a hatred of an out of touch London politics which is deaf to public concerns about immigration among other things.

It was at that point where it hit home how the EU is only incidental to the spectrum of disaffection. The EU is not so much the cause of our problems as it is a symptom of them. The EU locks in a particular economic paradigm that serves our middle classes relatively well but increasingly those who missed the property window are increasingly frozen out of jobs and assets. Pressures on incomes, spiralling rents, dilapidated public services all add to the sense that things are getting worse and we are losing ourselves in a free for all.

For as long as the economic settlement serves our ruling class well and EU membership means they take no responsibility for their own failings, they can carry on with their noses in the trough, wagging the finger at the working class for having unrefined opinions. Little wonder then that this is now a full blown culture war. And this is why there is no reasoned debate. Facts are a useless weapon in a culture war.

The public have been deceived so very often and cheated. Not least with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. They care that the leave campaign cheated by fiddling the books at the margins but the europhile political class have done everything in their power to deny us a say in matters pertaining to EU integration and opening up the borders.

Brexit isn't really about the EU at all. The EU is a dysfunctional mess and it's far worse for those trapped in monetary union and it has spectacularly backfired on Germany. EU member states will have their own political reckonings to contend with. We have already seen that happening in Italy and Austria.

I take the view that we could have withstood the turmoil in the EU because its dysfunction doesn't affect us all that much. For sure there are sclerotic policies and directives we could do without and we could certainly do without the expense of their vanity projects but the central problem is in London, not Brussels. So why Brexit?

Well it's really quite simple. Just listen to the arguments of the remainers. Stop Brexit! They say! Let us stop this so we can focus on the problems that caused the Brexit vote! But that's the thing. They won't act on anything. They've had long enough to listen and act and they have instead indulged themselves in their collective euro-delusions.

For as long as status quo suits them nothing is going to change. If we did stop Brexit they'd be back to their insular self-serving habits in no time at all - and when it comes to the next EU treaty they'd have learned none of the lessons and taken us in deeper without consent. This is why they want a second vote. They do not want their cosy paradigm disturbed.

Ultimately, the Brexit vote was the one and only opportunity for regime change. It's either that or give up on politics completely and just accept our role as serfs grazing on the land in the service of our London superiors. That doesn't work for me and it's not the life I want for the next generation. I choose to act now. I say let's have this out. Let's expose them and throw them out.

If Brexit talks fail, and I rather expect they will, then our politics will collapse - and not before time. There is too much anger bubbling away under the surface without meaningful representation and too many acute concerns going unheeded. As much as it will be a humiliation for our politics and skewer our complacency, it will also present a number of existential questions for the EU as it grapples with the Irish border. It will show precisely how little sovereignty Ireland has in responding to the problems.

My favourite saying at the moment is if we wish things to stay the same then everything must change. I think we are at that point. Our party politics no longer works and there are no obvious contenders waiting in the wings. Parliament will not reform itself and and it will take some impetus from the outside. The public is no more going to tolerate a Corbyn government than it is this present pack of Tories. I don't know how it pans out, but we cannot carry on like this.

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