Saturday, 19 January 2019

Brexit: the long road to democracy


Expanding on yesterday's piece, it's worth hooking it in with the words of Christopher Booker, quoted on eureferendum.com last night in which he asks us to consider;
… what has happened to our police, as knife crime and drug addiction rage unabated, or the unruly state of our prisons, or our emasculated Armed Forces, or our chaotic railways, or our semi-bankrupt local government with senior officials paid more than the prime minister, or our rubbish collection, or our legal system (and in particular our horribly corrupted and dehumanised system of “child protection”).
Think of the perpetual air of crisis hanging over the NHS, or our benefits system, or what has happened to too many schools and universities, or our suicidal national energy policy, let alone the weirdly self-regarding transformation which has come over the once-respected BBC.
Everywhere the story is similar. In each case there are still plenty of capable people trying to work by values and standards no longer fashionable: struggling with the dead hand of groupthink and political correctness; while those in charge, having lost all touch with reality, fritter away their time and our money on endless bureaucratic displacement activity and crazily make-believe schemes like HS2.
The truth is that we have seen a system of government once admired across the world in ever accelerating decline, as our fractious rabble of politicians have come to be held in ever greater contempt. 
One reason for this has been the extent to which we have outsourced so much of our government to that other form of government centred in Brussels, which we are now making such a mess of our attempt to leave. But how ironic that nothing has more acutely raised the question of whether in fact we are any longer capable of governing ourselves.
That latter question would earn itself the hashtag #QTWTAIN, meaning "Questions To Which The Answer Is No". My piece yesterday points to the looking convergence of crises in the mid-term, all of which are in some way connected to the deep rooted political malaise in Westminster. Booker helpfully adds more to that list.

One point of dispute, perhaps is the notion that we have outsourced the running of the country to Brussels. Rather, I prefer, it is that we have imported the EU style of governance which very clearly does not work. As pointed out previously the EU and the single market especially are more an operating system for governance much like a computer operating system which manages resources with its own predefined routines. 

Disturbingly, it gears government to meeting targets and fulfilling quotas on everything from wetland habitats to energy production. The central focus is meeting the objectives laid down by Brussels rather than the immediate practical needs of society. Being that there are then penalties for failing to meet those targets, any democratic safeguards are removed - especially at the local level.

This malaise is not contain to those areas legislated by Brussels. The UK seems to have adopted wholesale that managerial style of government which perhaps explains the bizarre cultish devotion to GDP as the sole measure of effective governance. From immigration to renewable energy this causes us to pursue some of the most insane policies.

The exact causes and the extent to which Brussels is responsible is a matter for some debate. As pointed out recently, the extent to which Brussels influences our domestic law is often obscured thus there is no clear line of accountability or responsibility. Of itself that is reason enough to leave the EU. 

The point, though, is that as harmful Brexit may be in the interim, our zombie system of government is lining us up for a fall in any instance. It is a small miracle that anything works at all and when you look at things more closely, things which apparently work no longer do, or are at the very brink of collapse. The legal system most certainly is and social services has long been a lost cause. 

Much of the media this week is reporting on a five year old boy being raised as a transgender girl. As Sam Hooper remarks, "In a just society, social services would intervene in this clear case of child abuse. That nobody does intervene tells you everything you need to know about the dominant ideology among those with political and cultural power". Yet, if foster parents are discovered to be Ukip members then on goes the blue lights. This is a further indication that our political malaise goes hand in hand with a societal malaise which is evidently more serious.

The conceit among the remain camp is that the EU offers us political stability, growth and security. It does nothing of the kind. Britain is in an accelerating state of decay none of which is abated by EU membership. If anything the EU serves as an economic life support machine for a largely depoliticised trade system that functions largely because politics is not involved.

This to me points out why Brexit is so very necessary. For as long as the current regime is propped up, it serves only to sustain the political atrophy where we are expected to pony up for a system of government that clearly no longer works over which we have next to no power to influence. For as long as the UK government is working to targets defined in Brussels it is not working to the priorities of the public.

What ought to be clear by now is that general elections are having no effect and the normal system of democratic safeguards don't work. We have no means to arrest the decline and politicians continue to shrink from anything contentious or difficult. Parliament's race to avoid taking back control is clear evidence of this. Brexit, therefore, presents what is probably our last opportunity to turn things around.

Here it is wholly unrealistic to expect that Brexit will be handled well. The talent pool is too exhausted. Our politics lacks principle and vision largely because politicians are selected on the basis of their blandness and capacity to conform. There are no longer any firebrands in the Commons we have bluffers, chancers, virtue signallers and social climbers. 

I am under no illusions about Brexit. I am certain that there will be a major cost to this undertaking and the disarray in parliament will ensure we pay a far higher price than we ever had to. I would sooner it be avoided but in the end I do not see that we have an alternative. The system is not going to reform itself and Westminster politicians will never do anything that threatens their own incumbency. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

The relative wealth and stability we presently enjoy is only skin deep. My feeling is that the current economic settlement is gradually hollowing out individual wealth and concentrating the wealth and the power in the hands of a few. The four freedoms of the EU are four freedoms for capital and have little to do with the welfare of citizens. The very idea of citizenship is debased by EU membership. Citizenship is traded as easily as a train ticket and embodies little more than a list of entitlements.

It is impossible to predict which way the Brexit revolution goes, but if nothing else, it is a wake up call to a public that has long been content to let politics drift on autopilot. This we can no longer afford. There is a price to the non-participation the establishment has nurtured over decades. Brexit, by way of hobbling the government's capacity to rule will force citizens to make demands of their own locally and nationally. If we want a new politics we will have to build it for ourselves.

Taking power back from Brussels, removing the technocratic supervision, gives Britain the space and the policy tools to reinvent. Trade is essential to that, as is control over our domestic regulatory affairs. But taking back control from Brussels is only half the job. If we want governance that reflects our values and our priorities then we must go one further and take control back from Westminster. Only then can we start fixing what is broken. If we wait for that place on the Thames to fix things, we will be waiting a very long time. 

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