Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Nothing to be ashamed of

There has been some talk of late as to when and where it might not be a good idea to mention you voted to leave the EU. Being that it's a subject encompassing just about every area of regulated life it's a difficult one to avoid. Some have told me they prefer to keep it to themselves in the face of the complete mess this government is making of it. Ten days short of Brexit day and we don't have the first idea what's going on. We don't know how, or when or even if. This is ridiculous.

But then Theresa May did say early on she sought to unite the country. This she has done. We are all united in our utter dismay that anything could be executed so cack-handedly. For that reason no leaver need feel guilty. It is simply beyond the abilities of our political class.

There were two ways of going about this; to decide that we wanted to keep a close and integrated relationship with the EU in which case the economic impact could have been kept to a minimum - or that we were taking an absolutist line on what voters said they wanted.

In respect of that we could have made that decision early on, removing much of the uncertainty. We could have set upon Efta EEA as the basis of a "jobs first Brexit" (my preference) - or simply made it clear that we were leaving without a deal in which case there wouldn't have been much to talk about save for the timing of our exit. As much as leaving without a deal is a terrible idea, we could at least have been competent in its execution.

Instead parliament has largely been a pointless talking shop, with MPs and wonks projecting their worthless ill-informed opinions into the void while the executive ran its own secretive agenda. This much is not out of the ordinary. This is pretty much how politics has degraded. The only difference between now and before is the media management. If anything this is all a stark reminder that Westminster is disconnected in every sense.

As chaos descends into farce it has become harder and harder to record these events. In the early days there were similar strains of ignorance which have now become distinct specialisms where just about everyone has their own reading of events all of which have long since turned inward, oblivious to anything said by Brussels. We have dithered to the point where the decisions will eventually make themselves.

The extent to which this political atrophy is attributable to EU membership is debatable, but what we are looking at cannot be put upon leave voters. Even at my most cynical I never imagine our politics was this far gone or that this crop of MPs were this lacking in talent. So as much as I feel no shame in expressing my view that Britain ought not to be a member of a supranational project for the elimination of the nation state, I feel no shame in that we are at least all on the same page that politics as we know it cannot continue in the same vain. That's a start.

For the sake of my own sanity I've unplugged from Twitter and the blog this week and have elected to swan off to Cambridgeshire to nosey round Duxford (pictured) and the Fens. I'm not ashamed of that either. Every normal bloke has limits and I've reached mine. I am left with just one sentiment.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Uncivil is the new normal

To this day it is still the case that among the most vocal remainers you will not find many among them making the case for what the EU project actually is. The remain/leave argument in many respects has become completely detached from the issue. It is a fault line in domestic politics. more generally though, the clamour to put a stop to Brexit is a clamour for things to go back to normal.

That would be the worst outcome for the UK because that normal is unhealthy. We can safely assume that were they to cancel Brexit our political class would rapidly return to its usual habits. That then leaves a lot of angry people completely robbed of their voice with only one word on their lips. Revenge.

Notionally we get to take our revenge at general elections but somehow this time it isn't enough. Already our normal channels of democracy are tarnish and voting is a largely forlorn ritual that gets us nowhere. Those of us who waited decades to have a voice only to have that voice erased would once again find ourselves in the political wilderness having no say in what is done to us.

In recent months we've had the great and the good piling on insult after insult then having the temerity to lecture us about civility in politics. It's interesting that AC Grayling should see fit to lecture us about irresponsible use of social media when yesterday he insults us all by attempting to link the massacre in New Zealand with Brexit. There is no low these fanatics will not stoop to.

It is at this point when I start to see uncivil conduct not only as inevitable, but also a public obligation. When there is no meaningful outlet for public dissatisfaction it will look to other means. If our parliament moves to casually discard a vote of 2016 proportions, then we have no choice but to look at direct action and protest - and with feelings running high, I won't be surprised if some take the view that peaceful demonstration is insufficient to get their attention.

For all that we hear of the need to tackle the spread of online hate, there is nothing more likely to make me hate than to see the same old faces mouthing the same old empty platitudes. Nothing sickens me more than than the endless posturing and virtue signalling. Nothing angers me more than to see these idle wastrels airing their stupidity on a daily basis. What makes my loathing go nuclear is the certain knowledge that there's next to nothing we can do to get rid of them.

I expect in this climate we will see a lot more intimidation of MPs and a lot more vandalism of constituency offices. Politics will become quite dangerous. They are going to need full time protection and hazard pay. Moreover, when they are attacked I doubt very much they shall enjoy much in the way fo public sympathy.

For as long as we have a remote ruling class and a political settlement impervious to democratic inputs, especially while local and national taxes climb upwards, there is a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode. They will, of course, attempt to police debate more stringently and call for tougher action on "internet trolls" but this sort of action is really just an attempt to shut down criticism of any kind.

If we want to restore civility to politics then we have to ensure that people do have a voice and a means to use their own power to change things and address the injustices in their lives. If, though, parliament is saying our votes only matter when it suits them, they are saying our votes do not matter at all. From that point they sit with zero legitimacy with no moral authority. There is then no obligation on any of us to uphold the rule of law. If politicians want a return to civility then it is they who must respect us.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

MPs are playing with fire

The biggest problem with any extension is the total absence of trust. We know why the remainers are pushing for an extension. They are hoping this enterprise will run out of steam and by some twist of fate we end up remaining. It could very well be that looming threat that sees the ERG brigade folding at the third attempt to pass Mrs May's deal.

Frankly, I could not be more disgusted that they would put us in this position to begin with. Ok, so the deal is far from ideal, and falls short of what we would consider a good deal, but it is at least a withdrawal agreement that sets us off on the road to departure. Instead of ratifying that, the ERG fools have played double or quits, pitting their widely discredited no deal agenda against a house that has a majority resolve to avoid no deal at all costs.

Instead of gearing up to celebrate Brexit day on the 29th, I can't now say for certain that we are leaving. There is still every chance we could crash out through procrastination or we could delay in order to fanny around for a couple of extra months only to be hit with the same dilemma, but this is now entirely contingent on what the EU opinion on extending is. If we are looking at a longer period and holding European Parliament elections, Then it's anyone's guess which way this goes.

As much as remaining would be a bitter pill to swallow, the bitterest of all pills would be remaining on account of the Brexit hijackers in the Tory party. There are days when I wonder if Rees-Mogg and his ERG cronies aren't deep state plants working for the remain camp. They can wail about the remainers all they like but nobody has gone more out of their way to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory.

But no matter. For them, having control of the narrative, they have their own get out of jail free card with the narrative that May's deal "is not Brexit". They will cynically claim that an exit was never on the table. The rank and file will buy it and the culprits will slink away scot free.

But then at this point, I have stopped making the distinction between remain or leave politicians. For the duration of this parliament they had one job. To deliver Brexit, preferably with a deal and preferably without trashing the economy. Collectively they'll have failed. Collectively they'll have dishonoured themselves and in so doing wrecked what is left of our so-called democracy.

From there I don't know how this goes. I don't see a mass protest on the horizon. The Waitrose Warriors are more predisposed to waving placards. That's not the leave way. We vote our way to victory. Or at least that used to be the case. Should we remain the whole deal collapses.

If we do remain I'm not going to riot. I've never seen what smashing the windows of shops is ever supposed to achieve. I'm also not a violent man. I am certainly prone to seething gammonesque rages in a shout at the telly sort of way, but the violent path leads only to a police cell. What I can see happening, though, being that it is already starting to happen, is more and more credible threats aimed at MPs and harassment in the places where they go. Some of them are going to get hurt.

In that case I'm certainly not going to condone it but shan't exactly be brimming with sympathy either. I'm far from alone in saying that Brexit has been my central political preoccupation of my lifetime, and to have it stolen in the final hours by parliament is not a recoverable position for them.

From the looks of it on Twitter, a fair few politicians seem to think that if they revoke Article 50 they can ride out the storm and then wounds will heal over time. That is not going to happen. It's not like leavers are going to start dying off in droves as they imagine. I'm only forty and god willing have at least another thirty years or so to have my revenge. This whole process has been a major recruitment drive for a generational cause which didn't dies in 1975 and it won't die in 2019.

From here there is no question of ever voting for the Tories ever again. My vote was on loan to them in 2015 to get that referendum. The only option will be to vote for whatever party is viewed as the most obnoxious by the establishment. I really don't care what labels they want to use to try to contain it, because it's not going to work this time. If the Tories deny us Brexit then we shall deny them power.

What the great and the good seem to forget is that part of the reason we are here to begin with is an overall disenfranchisement of leave voters. We've been able to choose from the full rainbow of a narrow band of social democrats. Even if they could radically change policies they wouldn't. A failure to leave the EU would be to seal the deal that we don't get a say in who governs us.

Politicians are itching to ditch Brexit. Remaining is the answer to all the technical questions which distract them from their every day trivia. It also kills stone dead any serious discussion about policy reform in a number of areas because it's all decided for them. Banking, fishing, road haulage, agriculture, space policy and much beyond is all done for them in Brussels and to a large extent they don't even have to rubber stamp it. They can enjoy all the trappings of office with none of the actual work that goes with it.

Remaining also removes the issue of democratic reform. For sure they will feel the need to tinker with the voting system and maybe junk the House of Lords, but only as a figleaf of a reform - a bone to throw after they've completely abandoned Brexit. It means their grip on power over us is not in any way threatened and their agendas remain in play even if we vote them out of office.

That may well by them some stability and a stay of execution in that we are largely powerless to do anything about them, except for the pointless general election rituals which seldom ever matter. They are, though, overlooking the fact that our patience with them is totally exhausted. One way or another there comes a reckoning. Too much is wrong in the country to simply sweep this all under the rug and pretend it never happened. They can perhaps pretend to themselves that we've moved on but this is not something we will forgive - or forget.

An extension could be the right move

From the looks of it, it looks like Mrs May is looking to run her deal past parliament for a third time. It is almost certainly going to fail again. David Lidington, Minister for the Cabinet Office, indicated in the Commons that the government would allow MPs to hold a series of votes on possible ways forward on Brexit if MPs rejected the PM's deal for a third time. That all but assures defeat.

At that point, it is possible that we would see a consensus on a softer Brexit requiring a longer extension. This seems to be in line with the thinking in Brussels. This morning Donald Tusk tweeted "During my consultations ahead of EUCO, I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus around it".

The general view in Westminster and Brussels is that there is little point in extending unless there is a more concrete point to it than a few extra weeks for the UK government to fanny around. If we are going to extend then we will have to go back to Brussels with a plan and a parliamentary consensus. We no not want to be back here again with everything hanging in the balance.

Though all trust is exhausted with the public, with many now questioning whether Brexit will happen at all, and many more having succumbed to Brexit fatigue, this won't be a popular decision but it strikes me as the more sensible route.

It is clear that there is no love for the withdrawal agreement as it stands and even my support for it is only in preference to no deal at all. It would serve as a suboptimal stepping stone we would revisit down the line. If, however, there is a window to push for a more amicable departure then we should welcome an extension. If parliament gets its act together then an Efta EEA solution could be lodged as the direction of travel in which case we have the basis of a workable destination.

Though this would undoubtedly lead to euro elections and a major domestic row, we would at least have a direction and it would buy time to firm up our external policies including trade for when we do finally leave. Having a direction which then safeguards jobs is likely to further marginalise the remain camp. The scare tactics are the only tool in their box. Once these disappear, they've got nothing.

Much of this, though, depends on trusting parliament - but if the soundings on Twitter are anything to go by, I think many in parliament know perfectly well that the leave voting public will not tolerate being cheated.

Were we to set down an EEA Efta path I would be entirely happy with that - to draw a line under this whole debacle and look forward to developing a positive new relationship with the EU. Those clamouring for no deal don't seem to appreciate that no deal does not bring an end to the process, rather it shifts it to more uncertain grounds where we are still negotiating with the EU but from a far weaker position. No deal is not a destination nor is it the basis for any future relationship.

As far as I'm concerned, any departure that sees us out of the EU, retaining much of our economic strength, while also shafting the zealots of the ERG would be a wholly positive move for the UK. If then we can say the referendum has been respected and we have moved forward on the basis of a parliamentary consensus, rather than leaving by way of a political accident, we are in a stronger position to start repairing the divides in the country. The average reasonable voter will accept Efta membership. It would certainly enjoy more popularity than the EU in the longer term.

As to the chances of this happening, they are not remote. We have seen "Norway then Canada" and "Norway Plus" and "Common Market 2.0". There is a kernel of a clue and between them they at least have a vaguely plausible destination in mind which is more than the rabble do. It stands more of a chance at winning a parliamentary consensus than the year zero approach favoured by the ERG.

If even that much escapes parliament then it looks like we are drifting toward the exit without a deal. This is not something I welcome but reluctantly resign myself to. This is not a consequence of our vote to leave. This is a consequence of the institutional incompetence of our politico-media class. This is the consequence of a deeper more profound decay. If parliament can't get its act together now then it won't until they are shaken out of their complacency.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Parting ways with democracy

Aside from the obvious, there is only one take home point from tonight's vote. Parliament is once again operating in its own private bubble where nothing outside of it exists. They are not actually thinking about governing the country or the consequences of their actions. This is all about making sure the other side doesn't win.

For sure they do not want a no deal Brexit, but that is a secondary consideration. There is no strategy here. We are limping from vote to vote. It hasn't sunk in that the deal is the only deal and that nothing is served by extending. It clearly hasn't sunk in that no deal is the default and if they are not going to ratify a withdrawal agreement then they must make the call as to whether or not they are going to honour the referendum. That's really what this is all about. While they accuse Mrs May of kicking the can down the road, this is precisely what they are doing.

This is ultimately a question of resolving the age old problem of Britain's relationship with the EU. Conniving to remain not only fails to address the issue, it very probably makes it worse. There is no way we can continue our membership of the EU without a renewed mandate. We cannot be the  member that voted to leave but is still a member.

So there will have to be another in/out referendum. To make that happen they would have to revoke Article 50 to set about that long and complex task. If they lose it, we are back where we started. If they win it, with leave starting off with a bigger base before, it will be a narrow win in which case we continue our membership of the EU with only the slimmest of mandates with nothing resolved politically at home. The EU then continues to be a festering sore in British politics.

By then we will have referendum fatigue but the forces of leave with gather once again, holding politics to ransom. Eventually it once again becomes the defining issue of politics, only this time around, nobody will trust the Tories. There will be no referendums, no Article 50 talks. We will just leave. Meanwhile there is no scenario where this doesn't turn ugly.

It won't take very long before we see projectiles thrown at MPs and they won't be safe anywhere they go. They will have to double up on security and conduct their surgeries in public locations. They will be on the defensive and some will even need bodyguards. What we then get a is a remote ruling class operating from deep within the bunker, and a culture where even the mildest criticism of MPs is viewed as potential extremism. Policing of public debate will become draconian like never before.

Politics cannot function in this way. You can't tell seventeen million people that their votes didn't count and expect to get away with it. There is no way that doesn't leave a scar on democracy. You can't drag us all the way to the exit door then have parliament tell us they don't fancy it. You can't keep us locked in a project like the EU without an unarguable majority. Unless there is, nothing done at the EU level will ever be considered legitimate.

What we then get is fring populist parties sweeping the board at euro elections with minuscule turnouts, and increasingly we see the Commission ring-fencing the European parliament to prevent it having influence. Not forgetting that the EU wants to progress beyond Lisbon and cannot do so without a treaty. There is no way the UK will vote to ratify it so they will set about it by stealth. We will be back here again.

This is not to say that leaving is not without problems but at least we can then ditch the baggage of the EU issue and our full political energies are set on resolving those problems independently. Leaving at least lances the boil. At least if the mandate is carried out, the residual trust in democracy remains. That is not so easily rebuilt should we remain.

Ultimately leavers did everything we were supposed to do. We started a party, we campaigned for a referendum and went on to win it. Twenty years of dedicated engagement. To say that this counts for nothing is to tell all those people (who were more engaged than most in the issue) that their vote doesn't count and never did, and will remain voiceless, is to say that the vote is not universal. If that is what they are saying to us then they have finally parted ways with democracy for good.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Terminal velocity

In the last few weeks I could have filled up considerable space with speculation. This is tedious on two counts. Firstly it adds nothing, and secondly it presumes to tell you what you can't work out for yourself. But now all we can do is speculate.

MPs have voted by a decisive margin not to back the withdrawal agreement. The ERG looks to have voted with the SNP and the Lib Dems in blocking our scheduled exit from the EU. Being that we know there is no majority for no deal, we are looking at an extension, and though the EU would likely grant one, it rather begs the questions what for, and how long?

This we do not know. We know that the same deal cannot go before the house again and we know that the deal cannot be reopened. Some MPs will see this as a window to completely change tack - but that is not going to work. Whatever they have in mind is not going to happen without a withdrawal agreement.

Essentially this leaves us with two options. We fanny around for two months allowing the EU further time to prepare before we crash out, or the executive caves in and revokes Article 50. If there is any sign of the latter, the Tory party will be furious. There is no chance the Tories could revoke Article 50 and expect to survive. In so doing they would be handing the keys to Number Ten to one Jeremy Corbyn. Being that the Tory party always puts its own fortunes ahead of all other concerns, it rather seems that we are going to leave without a deal.

If that be the case, I won't have much sympathy. All those MPs who didn't want to leave without a deal did at one point vote to trigger Article 50 and to pass all the relevant legislation. They're the ones who joined the chorus of voices demanding there be no border in Ireland and they're the ones who wanted certain assurances from the withdrawal agreement in respect of citizens rights and workers rights. May's deal gave them that. In the end, though, it is clear they never had any intention of respecting the referendum.

But then at the same time, if we end up remaining, I have little sympathy for the leavers either. Defending May's deal is a largely futile endeavour and all too often I'm told "That's not Brexit". Except of course it's a great deal more Brexity than remaining. Leavers had a withdrawal agreement on a plate and they turned their nose up at it. As far as parliament goes - each side is playing double or quits.

At this point, either way has serious implications. Certainly there is a major constitutional crisis if we remain. Not only does it raise questions about the legitimacy of our continued membership - but also any subsequent law from the EU. At some point, a government has to go back to the people to secure a mandate for continued membership of the EU. It is not sustainable to have a situation where we have a referendum, vote to leave, then after two years of fannying around have our parliament decide it's all too much hassle.

My hunch, though, is that we will leave simply because the default option doesn't actually require a decision from anybody. Politically it is the most convenient, and they can try to offload some of the blame on to the EU for refusing to reopen talks. The remainers can blame the ERG and the leavers can blame remain MPs. No deal then becomes nobody's fault.

Between now and our departure, whenever that may be, we now face the tedious bickering over process and procedure and questions over how long Mrs May can stay in her post. Tory leadership speculation is the go-to displacement activity for our media. More than likely May will be left in post to carry the can for whatever comes next. There is no utility in replacing here because new leadership does not change the facts on the ground.

It would now seem that there is no nothing much to be done save for going through the motions. The only sure bet to take is that if there is a way to kick a can down the road then the can will be kicked. This is entirely consistent with the entire Brexit process. When the tale of Brexit is told it will be a tale of how parliament simply couldn't get its act together when it mattered. Now we confront the consequences of our long term political decline.

Remaining has its own dangers

Mrs May has lost her vote. We are back to a possible delay, leaving without a deal or not leaving at all. What grates in all of this is that the Brexiters could have made damn sure we left the EU by voting for the deal. Instead they are playing double or quits which could end up with us not leaving. That will will spell the end of politics and the end of democracy. This is more than just about the consequences of parliament ignoring a vote. It's about what the EU is and what it is likely to become in the near future.

Remaining in the EU essentially means that more powers will be handed over. Any new local or national laws will have to be submitted to Brussels for approval. If those laws are not in line with the ambitions of the commission and do not fall within the provisions set out by corporate lobbyists then the answer will be no. As pointless as local politics is already, this will spell the end of local democracy.

But then when it comes to the larger questions of foreign policy and trade policy, that too will end up entirely in the hands of Brussels. This is the real vassal state stuff. From there our politics can only degrade as they revert to the usual bread and circuses and retail politics. They will quickly draw a line under Brexit and get back to debating banning plastic straws.

At that point, you and me will have to find something else to do entirely because politics will be little more than a hobby indulgence. We can discuss things and even conclude things but if the people do not have power and cannot meaningfully influence the laws we live under then politics becomes a waste of time. The economic and social model will be set in stone and there is then no point voting for any party representing a different set of ideas. At this point, parliament is there just to gift wrap decisions made in Brussels.

Whether or not this sees a populist surge remains to be seen, but the system has ways and means to prevent it having a meaningful influence. We've already seen how that works and how upstart movements tend to self-destruct. And what of those who simply do not subscribe to the populist ideas of the hard right? We go back having no say at all.

If we remain in the EU, both Brussels and Westminster get what they want - a demoralised, disengaged population to boss around. You are free so long as you stay within the parameters of politics deemed acceptable to them, and anything else will simply be kettled up as extremism. From politics you can have anything you want so long as they agree with it.

This would suit a lot of people down to the ground. The imminent threat to the economy would be over and we could enjoy a few more years of inconsequential and safe politics, free to graze and earn a wage month to month, and things would soon settle down to the usual routine. The media could return to its comfort zone and politicians could go back to preening and virtue signalling. We go back to ignoring the structural defects in both our politics and our economy.

There's a lot to be said for this. I could live out the remainder of my life in relative comfort without a care in the world, knowing that every nanosecond invested in politics is waste of time. There are any number of ways I can occupy my time instead. I can join the masses is leaving the politics to politicians. That, I suppose, would make for a fine life for most.

There is, though, a price. Brexit has shone a torch on just how debased our politics and media has become. We have seen how the politico-media establishment is totally ignorant of EU affairs and how EU diktats become law without them ever understanding their purpose and origin. Remaining in the EU puts us permanently at their mercy. Little by little our politics is robbed of its potency, vitality and gravitas until the voice of authority has no legitimacy at all. That has deadly implications for the rule of law.

Should we remain I don't anticipate mass marches on London. There's nobody bankrolling the coaches. We'll see a few thousand disgruntled yellow vest types but the majority will simply conclude that democracy is dead. From there, with the social contract ripped up, politics becomes adversarial, not between ideas but between the people and their rulers. Disobedience because a moral obligation. As rule rule, Brits don't riot. They plot. Politicians will hae set in motion a countdown to a face off where the normal rules simply won't apply.

The only time I voted prior to 2015 was when I stood as a paper candidate in 2001. It was the very least I could do to vote for myself. Since then, though, there has been nothing to vote for. There have been no options on the ballot paper that reflect my values and ambitions. The referendum was the first vote I have cast that genuinely meant something to me. If Westminster is now saying that even that vote had no meaning, then voting itself has no meaning. Message received loud and clear. For that there are consequences they will not like. It won't be too long before they regret how they voted this evening.

Monday, 11 March 2019

For freedom.

I think Theresa May's withdrawal agreement is flawed. I am not a fan of it. But I think it is best if we ratify it. It will clear there air and start the debate afresh as to the future relationship without having to go through the disaster recover process of no deal with all the unpleasant politics that goes with it. The deal is suboptimal but the worst facets of it cease to be an issue over time. It's tolerable if you look at the bigger picture.

If, though, the deal is not ratified, and we leave without a deal, I can live with that too. I will be angry at the political failure and more so at the people who told endless lies to bring it about. There are days when I look at the Rees-Moggs and steve Bakers and wonder if I am on the wrong side. But then it only takes a glance across to the other side for a quick reminder why this has to be done.

We leavers are supposed to be the thick ones who don't understand how things work. It's true that leave MPs struggle with the basics of trade, but even now the remainers are ranting and wailing about the economic effects of Brexit. The finer principles are completely lost on them. The notion of sacrifice is met with a blank stare. These are people for whom democracy and sovereignty are just empty words.

These are the people who would use their power and influence in the courts to overturn Brexit if they could. These are the people who would do it in a heartbeat and be proud of their accomplishment. They could live with themselves if they got their way and half the country was left voiceless.

If they managed it they would tell any number of self-serving lies; that Brexit was always undeliverable - that they acted in the best interests of democracy and that the good guys have won because Brexit was really a europhobic racist endeavour. Then once they'd done it they would take steps to make sure we never get to vote again. It will be treated as a moment in history where the elites almost lost their footing and they will not be threatened in such a way again.

They've already tried their best to re-write history and have used their media influence to delegitimise the vote. If they overturn Brexit they would ramp up that narrative that the vote was stolen by Russians or some other dark forces. They will concoct virtue any story that gives them the ground cover to carry on ignoring the voices of leaver voters. That is partly why we are here to begin with.

Soon after comes the active censoring of the internet. For the moment it's just oiks like Tommy Robinson, but once they have established the means and the pretext, that will extend to independent bloggers and tweeters. We've already seen parody accounts go missing, and we have seen how one lead remainer in particular will use his money to bring the full violence of the state down on the individual because he was offended by a tweet.

I can find plenty of reasons to dislike Tory Brexiters; the arrogance, the ignorance, the jingoism but at the end of the day we're just dealing with run of the mill Tories. We've survived them before and we still have general elections at our disposal to keep them in check. What we are dealing with where remainers are concerned is a paranoid, vicious authoritarian elite - and the reason they want the EU is because it serves as a backstop for those times when they are voted out of power.

Ultimately, if not defeated, these people are not going to tolerate democracy. They talk about freedoms but only within the parameters defined by them. The basic freedom to choose who governs us is the one freedom they never speak of. Sooner after, they will attack the basic freedom to criticise and lampoon our rulers. In this they will not stand in the way of corporate attempts to take control of the internet and stamp out media competition - not least because it gives them a means of controlling the message too.

What makes these forces dangerous is that they have enlisted the support of people who see themselves as good people. And for the most part, your average well meaning remainer is decent enough - believing all the fluff about peaceful cooperation and and common values. But that same naiverty can be manipulated to do quite monstrous things in support of authoritarian agendas. They believe that silencing ugly opinions makes them go away and they'll applaud the government as it chips away at our freedom of expression.

The EU is a relatively benign entity and most of its evils are done with the best of intentions. But when I look at the British remain movement, I don't see it as EU advocacy, rather I see them as the centurions of the status quo - who are very much threatened by change and angered because they believe they have a divine right to rule by way of having more noble motivations than the ignorant plebs. That's what makes these people dangerous. The greatest evils are always committed by those for whom the ends justify the means.

In respect of that the stakes are far higher than trade or whether the shelves are stocked with seasonal fruits. This is about taking the power back so that we can preserve the most basic of freedoms to which the perks and entitlements of EU membership are a distant second priority. In these terms, the economic costs of Brexit are of far less importance. Trade can be rebuilt, as can influence, but if we do not prevail now then we face a long, slow struggle against our elites which can only get uglier - and as government become more fortified in it s position, the more dangerous it becomes. The costs are then unthinkable.

Our future prosperity is contingent on finding a political and economic resolution that works for all. Brexit is the beginning of that long and difficult process. It is no small undertaking and it comes at a cost to all of us. Some would rather not go through that process because the status quo is sufficient for them. They have the power to ensure things do not change. But if we want peace and liberty for all then change must happen. If they interfere with that process then Britain will be on a path to self-destruction. We must not let them win.

Exactly what you'd expect

The withdrawal agreement was a non-amendable instrument. Being that it is non-amendable, it has not been amended. As anticipated though, by just about everybody, Mrs May has flown out to Strasbourg at the last minute to create the pretense that there has been a breakthrough - when what we actually have is "additional reassurances" which do not really amount to much. We are all now to pretend that black is white.

But then everybody was anticipating this ploy and nobody is buying it. The PM even knew nobody would buy it. But all the same, this is politics and she has to go through the motions. So at some point, perhaps this week, perhaps not, MPs will have to vote and decide whether it is going to be this deal, no deal or very possibly no Brexit.

At this point it is totally futile trying to persuade anybody that this deal is the best way forward. Brexiters hate it and the ERG won't vote for any deal. There is no debate to be had. More to the point, such a debate is a waste of time since it does not impact on the decision makers who are living in their own alternate realities and playing their own little games. For as long as each extreme believes they have a chance at getting what they want, they will push it all the way to the wire just the same as the PM.

So while we notionally have an event to churn over, the situation is pretty much as it has been for some time and any analysis will add nothing new. We are now only seventeen days to Brexit day and we still have no idea which way this goes. We can perhaps kick the can down the road for a while longer but the message from Brussels is clear - this is the deal - take it or leave it. It is up to the UK to decide what it is we are doing.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Politics without honour

I'm a massive Trek head. I was raised on it. In the Starfleet world the general rule is that whatever it is you're doing, if you have to take moral shortcuts to do it, it isn't worth doing. That's really what the show is all about - the crew finding their way out of tight spots without trampling on their own system of values. It's always a quest to do the right and honourable thing.

This perhaps explains my politics and attitudes to politicians better than anything else. It's why I don't flinch from pointing out the lies and hypocrisy on my own side. This is what has won me the respect of a great many remainers. This is why I find the games politicians play with semantics so utterly repellent. This is why I have zero tolerance for the sort of weaponised offence taking we see.

I'm often told that I might know my stuff but I don't understand politics. I don't agree. I think I get it better than anyone. Frontline politics is, and probably always has been, doing whatever it takes to achieve the immediate objective. That's why they lie, that's why they create wholly fictitious narratives to the point of creating their own parallel universe. Black is white if the objective demands it.

But this is politics without honour. Especially now. Now politics has become a war of attrition - where it's less about objectives as it is knocking out the opponent by any means necessary. Takedown culture. That's why it's turning nasty.

This is also why the details cease to matter. Details are truths, and truths are inconvenient to narratives. And politics is all about narratives. This is why the official record is so very often far out of kilter with what is actually happening. When truth becomes useless, investing time in understanding the facts is a redundant pursuit. Whether or not you are seen to "understand politics" is contingent on one's willingness to participate in their parlour games. I won't.

I am of the belief, perhaps naively, that politics does not have to be like this. I don't expect it to be perfect, but I think it can be and should be better than it is. What's lacking in our politics is a sense of self-awareness. This is very probably the worst facet of the Westminster bubble. For sure, there are a few who act with honour and integrity - but that doesn't seem to get them anywhere. In a system like Westminster there is too much temptation to act without honour.

It doesn't help that our media is similarly twisted. If there is any point to having media, especially a state broadcaster, then it is to shine a light of truth on their sordid little games - to explain without prejudice what is going on and to cut through the bogus narratives. This it no longer does. They are complicit. Each have their own agendas. It's worse now than ever. Journalism has become activism or simply agitation for its own sake. All it does is add to the noise.

This explains, perhaps better than anything, the divisions in the country. Our normal is not their normal. Looking at it from the outside, it is hard to see anything other than a swamp of deceit. When MPs wail about the lack of civility, it is hard to see what is worthy of civility. There is no respect because there is nothing respectable about it. They do not listen; they transmit. They do not ask, they tell. No lie is too big and any lie will do.

For as long as politics is conducted through the prism of that media, centered in Westminster, the gulf between the people and politicians can only grow wider. We have run out of patience for their connivances and chicanery. This is why Brexit is so pivotal. Parliament is now the only thing standing in our way. If they prove once and for all that our votes can no longer change things then a whole new chapter of politics opens up. An ugly one.

We have a parliament who decided to turn this decision over to the people. Powerful forces took every possible action to stop that decision from being carried out. But parliament once again voted to abide by that decision. Now we arrive at that final test. Does parliament respect the verdict of the people? Are we a people with agency who took a constitutional decision or are we viewed by them as hapless dupes who need protecting from our folly? If it's the latter then we no longer have a parliament. We have a partially elected aristocracy. That will say more about who and what we have become than any other test.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

The rush for censorship is the swansong of the establishment

I don't knowingly follow any journalists on Twitter unless they follow me. Generally they are not useful. What they offer is speculation and gossip. The speculation is generally based on a misunderstanding of the issues while the gossip tends to be Westminster-centric noise or based on the alleged comments of an "EU diplomat".

This is stuff is rather less news as it is a pollutant. Most of what we need to know can either be found in official EU press releases or from the horse's mouth on Twitter. They are not telling us anything we don't know and seldom tell us what we need to know, not least because their priorities are in a world of their own. There is a good reason why people now look elsewhere for news and analysis. They've also excluded themselves by hiding behind paywalls.

Consequently the public debate is increasingly bypassing the media whose narratives we no longer have to buy into. They no longer control the message. This has the establishment in a blind panic. This is what's behind the EU's new found concern about "fake news". As tweeter Capel Lofft puts it
Liberal centrists/establishment politicians can find only one explanation for Everything Kicking Off that they can psychologically cope with: 'fake news', social media bots and the 'abuse' of freedom of speech. Crack down on that = 'Bang! And the populism is gone!'
There are 2 theories for why this is: 1) It's a displacement activity - they don't really believe it, but hope it will provide them with something to say until 'normality' returns. 2) They *do* really believe it. Not sure which is more worrying, that they really don't see that there might be a few other issues, like, oooh, I don't know, the systematic rigging of the economic system to benefit wealthy corporations and corrupt hacks, the systematic spitting in the face of the culture & social mores of the majority of ordinary people. Stuff like that.
Or...that they do, but don't care, and think that if they batten down the hatches, all of these icky populists (that is, anyone who doesn't accept the tiny framework within liberals want politics to be constrained) will just magically disappear. Stupid or deluded? Bit of both?
Sadly, in the meantime, legitimate freedom of speech could be seriously imperilled, with anything deemed 'populist' (i.e. shit Macron doesn't like) banned. Sure, there's a lot of weird conspiracist quackery out there, but don't conflate that with legitimate non-liberal opinion.
But that is exactly what they will do. They will attack from all angles. There will be larger regulatory initiatives to "take back control" of the debate, compelling social media platforms to strangle the life out of debate. There will then be a raft of criminal measures they can liberally enforce whenever an MP feels insulted. This, as ever, is coupled with demands for "civility" in politics.

Civility, though, is just code for uncritical. Any criticism at all will be deemed as crossing the line. Ordinary people can expect to have the plod hammering on their door at 6am on account of a tweet. A few exemplary cases will make the plebs think twice before mouthing off. This is also why we will see more abuse of the libel system by rich political figures.

This is essentially why I've been sued by AC Grayling. He said so himself. "Prof Grayling had felt the tweet was so insulting 'he could not simply ignore it'. He explained after the court hearing that his case was partly driven by 'a wish to put a marker down that social media should not be used in this incredibly irresponsible way'."

This actually a grotesque piece of fakery on his part. When viewed in the original context, no reasonable person would see it as a serious allegation (which it wasn't) nor would it otherwise have been seen by many people, much less harmed his reputation. As it happens there was a recent case where an ex-Ukip chairman was sued for making a serious allegation of paedophilia, in the from of a tweet which was then retweeted by one Tommy Robinson (NHRN). There, there is potential for harm. Context, though, has been disregarded in my case.

What this is really about, is making us plebs think twice about mocking the great and the good. Grayling's submission to the courts was a full CV to demonstrate his stature as an upstanding citizen - leaden with prestige, and no doubt he impressed upon the judge just how hurty my tweet was.

Grayling would have known full well that he won't see a penny from me, but what his £26k in legal costs has bought him is an article in The Times and the Daily Mail. As it happens, it didn't do my hits any harm either. But then this is not the first time I've been at the centre of a Twitter storm. I think this is the fourth of fifth time. There is a two day spike in hits and then it all goes back to normal. In a week nobody will remember and and the mob will lose interest. Hence I'm not losing any sleep over it. 

The precedent set here though, is that if you have the money you can hoodwink the legal system to leverage the power of the Twitter mob against an individual. That's why the culture wars are only going to get worse. Like Grayling, Countdown presenter, Rachel Riley, has taken to Twitter to dish it out and is now suing half a dozen people. We will see more of this. It can only become more "uncivil" when the rich and powerful go to war against ordinary people. 

Course, being that I've made my fair share of enemies over the last few years, I've had a procession of gloaters descend on my Twitter notifications and in the comments, all telling me I deserved it and it's my fault for not filing a defence. There was, though, a precedent that predefines harm, so even though there was zero harm done to Grayling's professional reputation, so I'd have been wasting my money. 

It's also the case that libel cases are a rich man's game. Lawyers fees are expensive and then there's the travel and the cost in time. The whole point of Grayling's vendetta was to cause me to worry and spend money I don't have. I wasn't going to give the prick the satisfaction. He'll just have to settle for making an example of me. I won't pay the damages but people will believe I did. They won't look at the context. They will simply believe the Daily Mail's version of events - which is not without irony.

The establishment is not happy about Brexit. They really do not like it that ordinary people have a voice. They don't like it that they do not control the narrative and people look elsewhere for information. They're not going to let go without a fight and they will bring the full weight of the state down on anyone they feel threatened by. 

There was a time when I thought the splash headline of "Enemies of the people" was a bit much. But when you watch what these people do and how they behave, they very much are. If it isn't weaponsied offence taking and spurious court cases, they're grovelling to Brussels to sabotage Brexit. These people have power and they won't stand for it being usurped by democracy. 

There is, though, a flaw in the plan. As far as the law goes, and as far as the politico-media nexus goes, this is all above board. We plebs should not step out of line and if we do then we have it coming. But this assumes that people cannot see for themselves the game in play. You don't have to be a supporter of Tommy Robinson to see the see the way the media operates and the double standards in play. And anyone who looks at the primary evidence objectively will see it. 

The same applies with this case. Anybody who looks at it objectively will see that this fits the pattern of Grayling's unhinged vindictive crusade against Brexit which has done more to damage his public reputation than I ever could. Before Brexit he was a relative unknown. Now he is known as an utter fruitcake, a quisling, and a crank.

Ultimately the establishment has lived in its own cosy disconnected little bubble where their ideas go unchallenged and its denizens have been insulated from criticism and mockery. Now that the plebs are finding their voice they will do anything to put the genie back in the bottle. It's telling that we are 22 days from Brexit day and we still do not know for a fact that the vote will be respected. If, though, they think reversing Brexit will put dissent back in its box and we return to the cosy consensus of 2015, they are quite wrong. They have declared war on us. They started it, but we'll finish it. 

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Brexit is not enough

Every now and then we see television pictures of massive crowds marching on their governments. The sort of crowd sizes we just don't see in the UK. We've seen some sizable demos but nothing like a mass march. Generally the point of these mass marches is to bring down corrupt governments. They are revolutions - a show of force to remind the powers that be that there are more of us than there are of them.

Thankfully, we don't have to do that. We have general elections which on occasion are minor revolutions. You could say Blair's victory in 1997 was something of a revolution. Certainly in terms of how it shaped the governance of the UK, it really was. But ever since then, voting has become increasingly meaningless. General elections have been robbed of their revolutionary potential because all we have left are two burnt out husks for parties and the rotten excretions calling themselves The Independent Group. We may yet find ourselves taking to the streets.

Brexit has brought some remedy to this in that there is at least a vague distinction between Labour and the Tories. The widest gap there has been for two decades. Still, though, we are looking at two Westminster centric parties both competing to rule rather than govern - with the Tories being only marginally less dreadful than Labour. In the face of a Corbyn rabble, no matter how badly the Tories perform, we might well be lumbered with them for a while to come.

Whoever wins at the next election, though, Westminster will still be in charge. Our politics will still be conducted through the prism of the London politico-media cesspit. That general election, therefore, will have no revolutionary potential. At best it's a change of management.

This, as we know, is unsustainable. Removing ourselves from the odious empire, itself a democracy inhibitor, was simply not enough. Being run remotely by London morons is no improvement on being run by Brussels lobbyists. In a lot of ways I can hardly blame the Scots for wanting to dissociate from the UK. They prefer subordination to Brussels over London incompetence.

They could very easily go their separate ways, rejoining the EU or perhaps Efta, and at this point you could understand if they did. What the Scots fail to appreciate, however, is that much of the country feels exactly the same way they do about the Westminster shambles. I just don't think grovelling back to Brussels is anything close to a solution for either.

Here is where we need to reframe the debate about sovereignty. By leaving the EU we are notionally reclaiming our national sovereignty but that has never been the precise problem. Parliament is now claiming that sovereignty for its own purposes, and if parliament is sovereign then we are not. That is the essential problem with representative democracy. It isn't democracy. We are allowed to vote for our London dictators from a very limited stock of identikit dross to whom we are subordinate. Between elections they can do pretty much whatever they like to us and we cannot stop them. That's why they ratified the Lisbon Treaty.

If there is any destination to the Brexit process that makes this worthwhile it is the constitutional reform necessary to ensure that they never get to do this to us again; to recognise that we the people are sovereign and anything London wants to do to us must be done with our direct consent. Anything that does not warrant a national consultation is not the business of London at all.

Whatever political thinkers in the Westminster bubble dream up, they are never going to arrive at a solution when any real solution involves Westminster giving up control. Our politicians are control freaks. Whatever crosses their path they tax, subsidise or ban. This is the fullest extent of their toolset. None of these crude instruments are capable of resolving the intractable divide in the country.

The answer, of course, is not to try fixing it. It is not fixable. There is no way to marry up the values of a metropolitan global city like London with the regions. Similarly solutions devised for Scotland have little relevance to the Devon/Cornwall peninsula. These are fundamentally different places with their own distinct needs where really only they can decide what is best for them.

Very often we talk of London as though it were another country entirely. That's largely because, in effect, it is. It's an independent global city state that just happens to tell us what to do when it has no more right to tell us how to live than Brussels does. For as long as our electoral process only decides who rules us from London then we cannot say we have meaningfully resolved anything.

In respect of that, the next stage in the struggle for democracy after Brexit looks and sounds pretty much the same as the campaign to leave the EU. We need to "take back control" and restore our individual sovereignty, taking powers back from the faceless bureaucrats of Whitehall. If we want regime change then we are going to have to go further than simply leaving the European Union.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Brexit: Britain at war!

I've often complained at how depressingly binary most issues have become. Brexit especially. The nuances always fall between the cracks. All too often people triangulate their opinions to be the opposite of the opposition. It's almost arbitrary. To be in the game you have to pick a side and you have to conform.

This is not generally something I do. But then of course, there are times when you do have to pick a side no matter how odious your bedfellows are. I'm well aware that I'm in the same camp as Ukip, Breitbart and the Brexit blob when it comes to the EU. It can be no other way.

I sometimes forget this is more than just about leaving the EU. This is as much a war against the political creed who did this to us in the first place. Blair, Major, Brown and all the latter day europhiles like Adonis and Umunna. As much as I detest the likes of Rees-Mogg and Farage, the remoanoids make my skin crawl. It's a values thing.

As a rule it's leavers who are painted as thick - largely because we have the temerity to vote against what the establishment deems as our own best interests. Now there are plenty of leavers who still believe all the economic warnings are little more than remoaner histrionics and can't be persuaded otherwise, but the "don't care so long as we leave" crowd is not small.

Here there is a base instinct and it's far from "thick". I actually think the progressives of this world are the thickies. Time and again they've been told it's not the economy, stupid. And they just don't get it. They think that their economic projections are grounds enough to disregard the authentic voice of the people. And don't say it's not authentic unless you can show me evidence of ballot rigging. People voted for their own complex reasons which are still not fully understood and perhaps never will be.

What we can all agree on, though is that there is a very serious cultural disconnect between the London metropolitan "progressive" establishment and people from pretty much everywhere else. The metros have had the rug pulled from under them - and though they are not presently in office, they do have power - and they're using it. They feel absolutely entitled to reverse the vote in a way that betrays their overweening belief in their own right to rule. It is that very obnoxiousness that came oozing out of the remain camp during the referendum and has not abated since. That most likely, in my view, what took leave over the finish line.

If there is now any doubt about Brexit in the minds of leavers, it is not an endorsement of the EU, rather it is a balk at the upheaval and economic disruption. The remainers are waving placards with the words "is it worth it?" - which is certainly a fair question now that we know more than we did. Some remainers believe the constant demoralising barrage of Brexit negativity might have pushed opinion back into their camp. And they might possibly be right if polls are to be believed.

But to prove that they would have to put it to the test - which isn't going to happen, but if it were, we would have to go through the rigmarole of a new referendum, with an equally long campaigning period in which their general unpleasantness would once again come to the fore. Leave would be starting from a stronger position than it was in 2015 and there is no reason to believe it would play out any differently.

But then we leavers would have to really answer that question - is it worth it? I certainly think so. If there's one thing that stands out among the legacy remain crowd, it is that ever present contemptuous sneer at leave voters. We can't have a system of government that essentially locks in the politics of people who do not trust us and actively despise us.

Most notable about the remain crowd is that they trade mainly in platitudes. They worship Macron as the new leader of the free world, despite him having less substance than the holy ghost. Everything the EU does at the top level is a giant virtue signal where none of the rhetoric matches the reality. Not in a domestic sense or in its murderous external action. It is a giant pyramid of hypocritical cant.

I have often remarked how Westminster is the result of putting 650 narcissistic sociopaths in one room, but the EU is what happens when you take the worst of the preening hypocrites and have them congregate in Brussels. The EU is as much a symptom of our political malaise as it is an indirect cause. It's a toxic closed loop.

I am often asked by demanding remainers if there are any tangible benefits to Brexit. I can name one but they are not going to like it. The newly formed Independent Group could not have happened without Brexit and now the worst of the mediocre progressives have been vomited out into that particular dustbin with more to follow. When we are out of the EU, they are then an irrelevance with no instrument by which to subvert democracy. Marginalising these people - ridding politics of their presence, will be one of the greatest things to happen to British politics in more than two decades.

It is at that point we can get down to some proper politics - and have a real debate about how the UK is going to adapt to the encroaching new age. The "new politics" that The Independent Group talk about is politics that doesn't have them or their ilk in it.

Y'see, the right didn't start the culture wars. What this is, is a fightback by people who have been overruled and belittled for certainly all of my adult life. People whose voices have been excluded from the political arena whose views are labelled "vile" and "racist". The code of decorum they seek to impose on us, manifested in their renewed attempts to control the internet, is an attempt to put that genie back in the bottle. It's no coincidence that the EU has also taken an urgent interest in "combating fake news".

What they don't want is people like me and you having a voice - and they certainly don't want us having a voice more powerful than the legacy media through which they set the agendas. One by one they pick us off if they see us as a threat. Voices vanish from Twitter, Facebook pages disappear, Youtube channels are deleted. They are de-platforming public resentment. And that's what makes the whole pack of them dangerous.

And we know why they are afraid. We are talking about all the things they find too politically inconvenient to address. The things far outside of their comfort zone. More to the point, they fear that if we do take power we will do all the things they have flinched from doing as we clean up their mess.

In respect of this, you will notice of late that I'm not talked too much about the trade aspect of Brexit. It's important, but it's not paramount. Whether we sign May's deal or there's no deal at all, the paramount concern is sorting out domestic politics and if there is an economic price to pay then so be it. We are not moving forward as a country until this unsustainable division is resolved.

The country is divided roughly into two. There are those who would rather suffer the status quo, choosing to believe the empty promises of the establishment and there are those who demand far reaching change. These two positions are irreconcilable. One side has to lose and the real disaster is if it's the latter. If the remains win then UK politics has effectively rendered leavers voiceless once more. I am certain that doesn't end well. There is nothing they could ever do to placate the resentment while we remained in the EU. No funding bungs and no token changes to freedom of movement.

I'm quite certain that Brexit is not going to be pretty. I think it's going to cost us in a big way - especially without a deal. Sunlit uplands there are not. But this is not and never has been about GDP - this is about the sort of country we want to live in and having a say over what is done to us. We need to settle that question once and for all. Is Britain a home or a free for all borderless business park?

The real thickos are not leavers. It's the remainers. There are plenty of articulate hacks with a reasonably good handle on what is going on with Brexit talks and the potential fallout of it, and that is their reason for remaining when they're not penning doe eyed tributes to Emmanuel Macron. They can think only in two dimensional terms, but all the real thinkers I know of are leavers - the ones who recognise that democracy and sovereignty are not intangible valueless concepts. Not that we ever see them in the media.

There is a distinct relationship between liberty and wealth. Under the current regime we have certain economic liberties licenced by the state and the EU, but for as long as we remain under that regime, a whole raft of policy is considered off limits - out of the reach of democracy. Your average remainer is generally unaware that Brussels has competence over such areas and at the more extreme end, is only too happy that the people we elect cannot change or repeal law. The progressive agenda is enshrined in the EU system of rights, targets and quotas. The EU is their backstop against being voted out of office. Blair knows this better than anyone.

That is what makes this not just a battle to leave the EU. It is a battle for democracy itself. It is a never ending struggle that requires ever present vigilance, and the fact we are so deeply enmeshed in the EU is precisely because we collectively took our eye off the ball, and let the politicians roam free while the going was good. But now the going is not good and now we recognise there is a penalty for our collective political negligence.

Politics as it has evolved under the EU regime has degraded now to the point where politicians barely even understand their own role. With matters of substance far removed from their shop, they have been conditioned to believe their function is to either ban, subsidise or tax things. State craft and governance doesn't even come into it. We have lost touch with that art and it is going to take time to reconnect with that instinct. We can only do that as an independent country. We cannot consider ourselves a democracy if we must grovel to Brussels to change our laws. That is why this war needs to be fought - and yes - it is worth it.

The worst case scenario

Brexit has all but slipped off the agenda. Brexit fatigue has set in. We are winding down the clock until decision day and nobody wants to hear any more unless something is concluded. We are twenty four days away from Brexit and we still do not know the terms of our departure. Though there is a degree of activity still going on, activity is not productivity so comment seems wasted effort.

There is still the usual trench warfare going on over on Twitter, but none of it can or will influence the outcome. I tuned out of the endless bickering about customs processes some time ago. No doubt there are alternatives to what is on the table but it's a matter of political will (of which there is none on the Brussels side) and the question of what is practical in the real world. Suggested alternatives tend not to factor that in.

Meanwhile we are today getting a taste of what could happen on our side of the Channel if we leave without a deal. French customs officers are on strike to demand greater resources to deal with the impact of Brexit, resulting in snarled traffic for a second day, leading to queues of trucks measuring several miles. "Customs agents began their protest on Monday to press their demands for higher pay and demonstrate what will happen if greater controls are put in place once Britain leaves the European Union, planned for later this month".

It's unclear whether this is precisely what will happen given the measures taken this side of the Channel. The real problem is outgoing traffic and the the veterinary checks are yet to come. Until that operation is up and running, UK exports won't be cleared. Large numbers of orders have already reportedly been cancelled in anticipation.

The truth of the matter is that we don't know exactly what will happen. We can take a best guess and much will depend on how well prepared we are, but the obvious point here is that this little demonstration highlights just how vulnerable these supply chains are - which really ought to have been a registered concern irrespective of Brexit.

Should it unfold this way, there will be the obligatory told you sos from all directions. At last the media will have something to do. But then as much as the ERG will have some explaining to do, (and obfuscate they will) this will really be the failure of parliament as a whole. Just about everybody outside the bubble recognises that no deal is the default and the only sure fire way to rule it out is to do as instructed and agree a deal to leave the EU.

Ultimately it is those politicians with other ideas, who think there is still a window to remain who will tilt the balance. We are getting mixed signals from Brussels but without a purpose for extending, and without a signal from parliament that they will back a deal, there is little incentive to grant an extension. The smart money is now on no deal because it's always a safe bet to assume parliament will screw up.

This is a scenario I had hoped to avoid. I've been clear throughout that no deal is not desirable. But then in swoops Macron to remind us that it is far from the worst case scenario. Remaining in the EU has consequences of its own. The Lisbon treaty was never going to be the end of it, and now we see their ambitions aout in the open. As ever, their tone deafness is absolute. It is yet another call for "More Europe" right about the time when yellow vest protestors are burning EU flags on the streets of Paris.

As much as Brexit has revealed the inadequacy and dysfunction in our own politics, it caused the EU to come out into the open about its authoritarian destination - essentially taking control of the internet. I can think of nothing more chillingly Orwellian than a Europe-wide agency "for the protection of democracies". It's like Reinhard Heydrich running a diversity seminar.

Macron essentially buys into the comforting narrative that the only possible way you could find fault with the EU is because of foreign interference and falling under the influence of "fake news". How every convenient. It absolves them from blame and gives them a pretext for massive incursions on free expression. This is the next battlefield. Globally the progressives are losing and they will not let go without a fight. That is particularly what makes Brexit (partly) a culture war. No dictatorship ever goes quietly, not even a benign one. Between this and the upcoming Services Notification Procedure, there can no longer be any doubt. The EU is not a democracy and has no intention of ever becoming one.

Ultimately the EU is something I want no part of. The European project is the plaything of authoritarian progressives and for as long as we remain a member of it, we will be forced to pursue the kinds of policies that further entrench their power. It marks the death of British and European democracy. As worst case scenarios go, it makes a queue of lorries seem relatively insignificant. If no deal really is the only way we can leave - so be it.  

Noncegate revisited

What's the difference between AC Grayling and a Grenfell fraudster? Well, it turns out, not a lot. Sharife Elouahabi, 38, falsely said he was living in the building when fire ripped through the tower block. He said he was staying with relatives in a flat on the 21st floor of the block, where a family of five is known to have died. He was in fact living at a different address in Kensington and had no links to Grenfell Tower.

Basically all you have to do is make up a sob story, fill in the forms and file it with the right bureaucracy. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't. The main difference here is there are different channels through which to abuse the system.

For the already well-to-do there's the British libel system. Regular readers will already be familiar with "noncegate" whereupon Grayling has taken it upon himself to take weaponised mob offence taking to the next level. Grayling padded out his case with bogus claims about the harm done to him by a solitary tweet made in jest about him. The full violin works. 

In mine and your world, if someone tweets something unkind to or about you, you simply block them and move on. If it's a bit more serious (which this isn't) you can approach that person before taking further action. That's how I play it anyway. I'm often accused by lunatic remainers of taking money from the Russians or being employed by shadowy corporate interests. Grayling, though, did not. Instantly came a demand for a sum of around five thousand pounds. Naturally I told him to go and fuck himself. 

That he did not do. He instead set upon a wholly futile course of action by taking me to court in what is essentially a case of politically motivated vexatious legal harassment. I could have taken this seriously and employed the services of a legal practitioner at enormous expense, but if I didn't have £5000 for Mr Grayling then I don't have it for an ambulance chaser either. As to legal aid, there's just too many forms to fill in and I don't have the time - assuming such assistance is even available. 

Y'see for an already well-to-do chap like Grayling, the point of this is to get me to jump through hoops and waste my time and money - in a case where a technical precedent means that any defence is largely futile. Had I bothered to turn up he'd get to watch me lose and suffer a condescending ticking off from a pompous judge who is oblivious to how he and his court is being abused. This is not the first case of its type and it won't be the last until the law is repaired or reformed.

The problem for Mr Grayling, however, is that his shyster lawyers saw him coming. That's what you get when you're a graceless pensioner pushing a petty political vendetta. His lawyers, Lee & Thompson LLP, know the drill and they can't not have done the basic research on who and what I am, ie. a total nobody. The best they can muster is "ex-UKIP candidate" which was nearly twenty years ago.

It takes only a postcode search on Google Streetview to hazard a guess that the occupant of a rented band D property is not going to yield a payday. Somebody is going to have to pay the exorbitant and grossly inflated legal fees and it's not going to be me.

In respect of that, I need to make it clear that I will not part with a single penny - not just because I don't have it and never will, but also because I do not yield to this kind of cynical performance and whatever they take from me they are going to have to take by force. Good luck with that! Presently this consists of a collection of Normandy era plastic model tanks and a collection of 90's death metal CDs. They won't even cover the bailiff fees and somehow I doubt Mr Grayling is interested in the early works of Cannibal Corpse and Napalm Death.

As to my legal obligations as per the judgement, I make no promises that I won't take the piss out of AC Grayling ever again, though his total insignificance probably means I have bigger fish to fry. As far as an apology goes, I will never apologise for taking the mick out of public lunatics - especially leaders of political campaigns. 

Ultimately Grayling was hoping to scalp a "lead campaigner" from the leave side in order to taint the cause by association - hence the attempt to link me to Ukip. As it happens the Brexit blob in London has nothing to do with me and I am very glad of it. The most this will do is clutter up my Twitter notifications for forty eight hours before the mob moves on to the next target. I'm afraid that's all you get for £25,000 in lawyers fees. I'm just not that interesting. As far as political assassinations go, this couldn't be more ridiculous. But what else would you expect from a such a ridiculous, petty little man? And we're still leaving the EU. So there's that. 

Friday, 1 March 2019

The death of centrism is long overdue

Every now and then you catch a remark that encapsulates the key difference between leavers and remainers. Generally speaking, of course. Yesterday I caught this little gem on Twitter.
I want to go back to a time when the big parliamentary decisions involved people paying 5p for plastic bags or how much pig should be in a fiver. All this is way too much responsibility for them.
The first question you have to ask here is that is politicians are indulging in virtue signalling trivia, who is actually running the show? If this is the trivia that similarly occupies our media, then there's a lot of important conversations we are not having.

But this is also indicative of a politics in a state of intellectual decline. These are far from isolated incidents. A while back I happened to tune in to a long debate about what should and shouldn't be allowed in children's packed lunches. It tells us a lot about what politicians thinks they are there for. They seem to think that it's their job to ban things, tax things or subsidise them. It tells us that they feel entitled to boss us around.

What makes it corrosive is that this mentality scales upward into the important things where they think little of chasing after expensive white elephants never thinking twice about the costs they add to our energy bills. They speak blithely about green taxes as though they had no real world implications for businesses and the individual. To a large extent these people are sheltered from the consequences of their misrule in that they are grossly overpaid and whatever they don't feel like forking out for, they can put to expenses.

Were that we had already solved all of the difficult questions then we could perhaps understand how they find time for such trivialities but we haven't. They have time because much of the work is done for them. In education the civil service is pretty much running the show with minimal input from politicians (perhaps correctly) but in terms of the structure of our economy, trade and foreign affairs, this is increasingly the domain of Brussels where there is next to zero scrutiny.

As long as Brussels and the Civil Service were running the show, the politico-media nexus could get away with it. They did the show-biz while the work went on regardless.

Here we shouldn't be at all surprised if the 2016 referendum turned into a an outright rejection of the establishment being that it occurred not long after a general election. For me that was certainly a turning point in British politics. It left and indelible mark on my psyche. The unedifying spectacle of a leaders debate featuring Caroline Lucas, Leanne Wood, Tim Farron and sundry others. The only non-kosher offering was the odious Paul Nuttall of Ukip. The establishment in a nutshell.

These are the people who think it is their role to shape attitudes and behaviours through interventions. These are the people who denounce rather than debate. These are the people for whom any remotely controversial view is "far right". These are the people who would rather debate a green tax on carrier bags than an epidemic of child sexual abuse in the shires. These are the people who would have us stay in the EU largely out of convenience.

Their arguments for remaining in the EU were based on a narcissistic projection of what they believe the EU to be. They deal only in platitudes of cooperation and internationalism - holding the qualities of being "progressive" and "outward looking" even though their horizons stop at Brussels and seldom do they ever look that far.

Progressivism (whatever that actually means) has become a byword for sanitised cellophane wrapped politics which produces the androgynous clones like Chuka Umunna designed for maximum media inoffensiveness. Like Ken dolls one wonders if these people even possess genitalia. The political version of morning TV magazine show presenters. And as repellent as they are, these people don't actually know anything.

This much has been made abundantly clear during the course of Brexit. They have no idea why we voted to leave, and no idea how we got where we are, or indeed how to get ourselves out of it. Instead of seeking to understand what is upon us, they have invested all of their energies into sweeping Brexit under the carpet with a view to going back to their consequence free normality where they soak up media attention but take on none of the responsibilities and obligations.

It is telling that the new Independent Group have elected to promote themselves on a handful of recycled populist slogans. They speak of a "different way of doing things" under the "ChangePolitics" hashtag, with all the self-awareness of a diarrhetic hippo. Chris Leslie in all seriousness went on BBC Question Time to tell us "The big political parties want to keep everything as it is" when this bunch are the very essence of the establishment - the rotting corpse of centrism.

There is no ambition or vision to this kind of politics. No idea of a destination and no will to take on the large and difficult questions. This is perhaps why our politics has adopted climate change as its central obsession. It serves as a proxy for politics of substance - and gives them the pretext for demanding that we turn over ever more sovereignty and surrender more of our individual freedoms to them.

I'm often told that of the many pressing issues we face, Brexit provides little remedy. I freely admit will in some cases exacerbate the problems. Brexit never was a remedy though, nor is the EU a direct cause of our problems. The EU, or rather our membership of it, is merely a symptom of the political malaise, and allowing the status quo to remain is certainly no remedy in that we have seen how they choose to occupy their time. We now see which of them are not equipped to handle something of this magnitude precisely because they have abdicated from their function.

Brexit is not guaranteed to make anything better, but I'm also certain that nothing is going to get better until we address the intellectual and moral stagnation in our politics. Already Brexit has broken the back of our politics and Labour has vomited out its Blair era throwbacks. In respect of that the Independent Group has done us a great service not only in exposing themselves as values-free flip floppers, but also showing us what is left of the Labour party. A burnt out talentless husk.

Doubtlessly there will be more defections in the near future and it is unlikely that the Tory coalition can hold together in its current form. There will need to be a further realignment before we can get down to the real business of politics. We are soon to have problems of urgency and complexity that wipes the generic timewaster politics off the board. They will have to understand their way out of the mess and the non hackers will be drummed out of politics.

There is an obvious cost to this. This is going to cost jobs and it is going to cause disruption - especially if we leave the EU without a deal. I'm told we can't afford to do it but I'm left with the question of whether we can afford not to do it. I don't think we can. There are too many deep rooted structural problems with the country which aren't going to be addressed by politics as we now find it and certainly not by the narcissistic dross that calls itself the centre ground.

It's tempting to look back to 2015 when our politics was absorbed with trivia and look upon it as a time of relative political stability but that was a time where we were collectively ignoring a volcano of problems and doing all we could to suppress them. Now we are paying the price for their moral cowardice. It may well be falling apart now, but it's been a long time coming.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Politics is broken. Here's how to fix it.

There have been several articles entitled "Politics is broken. Here's how to fix it". There will be many more of them. All of them will be wrong and only this one will be right.

If you want to fix anything you must first understand what is broken and why. It starts with perceptions. There is a perception that politicians are lazy, narcissistic, venal and self-serving. To a very large extent this is true.

As one tweeter put it recently "Politics is no longer about policy-making, it’s about media-making. The sum total of what MPs do now is manufacture messages and manage media. There is almost no listening, all is broadcasting. This is why they’re so keen to outsource policy/technocracy to EU. More time for Sky".

This explains Jess Phillips's lip wobbling performance in parliament this week. It is also partly why Prime Minister's Questions has turned into feeding time at London Zoo. This is the ugly side effect of putting cameras in parliament. MPs want their moment on camera so they can tweet it to their followers. The closer we get to election time the more questions we hear concerning what are generally local matters, dropping in the name of a cancer hospice or some other good cause.

Ultimately it is the system that produces these behaviours. People very often complain that they want "people like us" rather than careerist politicians, but actually, of the 650 MPs, we only hear from about two dozen of them. The rest of them you would struggle to name in a line up. When on occasion they do put their heads above the parapet, it becomes clear that a great many politicians are "people like us" - ie we could just as easily have dragged them in off the street. 

Here you have to wonder how they make it through local selection - which perhaps suggests a lack of quality control at the local level. This is largely because old style party politics has all but collapsed. Most people's fullest engagement in politics is turning up to periodically vote and usually they vote for brands not candidates. They shouldn't but they do.

We know this is true because of the eleven defectors to the new Independent Group, none of them are prepared to resign and stand for re-election. None of them are there on personal merit and those who hail from seats that would elect a hatstand if the rosette was the right colour would stand no chance at all.

Here we need to be honest. We're not going to fix those voting habits. Politics is tribal because humans are tribal. For sure we could tinker with the voting system which would allow other brands to compete, but that doesn't really do anything. Whoever you vote for you still end up with an MP who inevitably conforms to the rules of the system. They go native often without realising.

For sure, first past the post has a lot to answer for. It raises a high bar of entry so that a brand has to establish national recognition before we see breakthroughs and in the case of Ukip, a party can be dominating the agenda yet sill fail to score a single MP. But then supposing we had proportional representation, what would it change? It's not like Ukip views are not represented in parliament. the grunter wing of the Tory party is virtually indistinguishable from Ukip.

The real problem is Westminster itself. We put the power into the hands of the few which then becomes the focal point for all the think tanks and media, creating a grubby little circlejerk where policy is largely recycled matter originating from London's inner suburbs. The result being a system where dross votes on a procession of bad ideas - many of them the result of lobbying.

Being that London has become the central focus of the national debate, we then ponder why local newspapers and radio are dying out. The simple answer is that nothing of consequence is decided locally. Health and education policy tends to be set by Whitehall and anything beyond that is decided by Brussels. Brexit brings little remedy in that the faceless unelected bureaucrats of Whitehall will take over where Brussels left off. Certainly remaining in the EU would make it a magnitude worse but without major reform of our domestic democracy, Brexit is value neutral.

Here there is some recognition for the need for greater localism, and just about every MP and think tank wonks mouths the usual platitudes but their idea of devolution is to establish yet more elected offices to run regional quangos. All the while our local democracies are falling away as councils merge into mega councils. What little power they have is licenced power from London rather than power in its own right. The capacity for local political action to actually change anything is minimal.

A few things need to happen here. Firstly we need to scale back the remit of Westminster by way of a new constitution placing limits on what it can do. The less power it has the less damage it can do. Secondly we need to recognise that people vote for brands and leaders rather than individual candidates. This is why we need separation of powers and a directly elected executive.

We have seen how the media has turned elections into televised game shows with unedifying leaders debates. Sadly they are here to stay even though we may wish it otherwise. Our media driven politics has turned it into presidential style elections when we do not have a presidential system. If then, people are going to cast their votes on the basis of leaders then they need to be elected separately from MPs and at a different time.

that then means we have two elections. One where we select the executive - an election based on brands and personalities, and one where we have to select on a local basis thus making it more candidate centric. This has the merit of potentially improving the quality of government. Part of the reason we have such a lightweight cabinet is that the recruiting pool comes mainly from the commons. Garbage in, garbage out. Separation of powers means any PM can look outside of the bubble to recruit people who can get things done - subject to parliamentary confirmation.

Real separation of powers then means the executive proposes and parliament acts as the referee. The government does not then have the ability to create new cabinet nonjobs to buy the allegiance of MPs. They are then free to vote more often according to their own conscience.

Politics as we currently know it does seem to attract all the wrong sorts. Consequently parliament has lost much of its gravitas. All too often they indulge in trivialities and "virtue signalling" on matters best decided locally. If politics in Westminster isn't working then we need to take as much of it out of Westminster as possible. Parliament should mainly concern itself with matters that can only be decided exclusively on a national level be it trade, defence, foreign affairs and criminal law. More or less everything else should be shunted out to local authorities where it belongs.

All too often when politicians and hacks talk about democratic reform, the fullest extent of their imaginings is tinkering with the voting system. They are not going to do anything that breaks their grip on power. And that is what this is all about. Power. Who has it and how it is wielded. For there to be meaningful democracy the people themselves must have the power.

Presently we have a system whereby we can elect our dictators for the next five years. Beyond that we don't get a say and we become passenger of politics without a people's veto on what is done to us. This is why we need to make greater use of referendums local and national. The origins of Brexit lie not in austerity but of a rogue political class who see us as their plaything whereby they will impose their agenda with ruthless zeal if they think they can get away with it.

This is how we ended up with freedom of movement. This is how we became so deeply enmeshed in the European project. This is how we ended up with so many destructive national policies from the original nationalisations through to the privatisation of the 80's - stealing and selling that which was not theirs.

It is unrealistic to expect that we will ever turn out decent politicians. We have wildly inflated expectations which largely ignore human nature. Plenty of good people go to London to do good but the system changes them, their priorities change and they become addicted to the lifestyle. We all think things would be better if only they were people like us. But they were once people like us. What matters is not who we send. It's our ability to direct them and where necessary get rid of them.

To have a functioning democracy real power needs to be in the hands of the people and we must have constitutional restraints on what politicians can do to us - especially when they have so brazenly given away powers that were not their to give away. We can tinker with the system this way and that, but without addressing the central question of who has the power and where it resides, all attempts at reform are missing the point spectacularly.

Over the last few months we have seen calls for new parties but we have been here before. they all make their wishlist manifestos, usually written from a position of issue illiteracy meaning that were they to come to power, when their ideas clash with the real world, they part company with their election manifestos. Promises to tinker with policy this way or that is really just more of the same where we delegate politics to politicians in London. What is it they say about doing the same thing over and expecting different results?

What ails Britain is the cultural and moral disconnect between the rulers and the ruled. London metropolitan politics is imposed on a far more conservative country. The fact that we are ruled at all is the central issue. It matters not whether it is a king or a parliament or a European parliament. For as long as we are subject to the top-down diktats of London then we can't call ourselves a democracy. Exchanging unelected bureaucrats in Brussels for occasionally elected idiots in London is hardly much of an improvement. Unless we are prepared to radically rethink the distribution of power, any talk of reform is yet more hot air.