Friday, 16 August 2019

Brexit: the system has failed


Jacob Rees-Mogg tweets "The EU's reluctance to join discussions shows how one sided the proposed Withdrawal Agreement is".

This is standard fare from the Tories who are now bent on blaming this fiasco on the EU. The EU is not going to come back to the table simply because there is no point. The Tories are not serious about a deal. They want to remove the backstop but have no serious proposal as to what would replace it. Moreover, if the Tories were genuine in their insistence that there are alternatives then what's the actual problem with a backstop if it is never to be used?

Furthermore, the Tories are playing silly buggers and the EU knows this. It won't stop at the backstop. If talks are reopened then the Tories would be all over the shop, just as Mrs May was, trying to circumvent the sequencing. A strategy wholly at odds with reality. Yet again we'd see the Tories failing to grasp the fundamentals. 

We could easily spend another year going round in circles to accomplish nothing only to end up back where we are now with the ERG and the remainers refusing to ratify a deal. So this whole charade is pointless. There is no sincere effort to secure a deal. The Article 50 process is a write off.

The urgency of this situation will not be felt in Westminster. The Tories still believe the EU will fold at the last minute and come running after us, but don't really mind either way since they've convinced themselves that WTO terms is an adequate destination. Meanwhile, MPs are going through the motions to try and stop not only a no deal Brexit, but any Brexit at all. 

It is that which ultimately puts the kibosh on the whole proceedings. Remainer MPs have made it so the only way to leave is with no deal at all. That is now the most important factor in all this. Remainers have done all they can to deligitimise the referendum thus have a pretext for not delivering. They will only implement a vote if they like the result.

This was compounded yesterday with Corbyn declaring that should he manage to install himself as PM he would hold a rigged referendum, ensuring that the leave vote is split. This, though, is not going to happen since opposition parties are incapable of getting their act together. This proposal need not detain us. At this point I'm now thinking to hell with it. No deal is what it's going to be, and with things as they are, that's all it was ever going to be.   

This renders any further debate completely redundant. There are those still screeching from the rooftops about customs checks and all the rest of it but understanding has come too late. It wouldn't have done any good since remainer MPs would never bother to avail themselves of such knowledge since remaining is their goal and if they win then all these details go away and they can go back to banning things while Brussels gets on with governing.

This is the fundamental driver of the remain movement. Brexit is big, Brexit is change, Brexit is problems, Brexit is detail - and self governing requires a level of intellect, guile and hard work that our MPs simply aren't up to. They like politics as it is; a relatively well paid job for people of their minuscule abilities affording them prestige, status and a little bit of power to meddle. Once they're in they need not give their constituents a second thought especially in safe seats.    

This underscores better than anything the need for serious change. As much as these people believe they have a divine right to rule over us and second guess our votes, this whole episode demonstrates how manifestly inadequate our political system is. As useless as MPs have been throughout the Brexit process, this is just the standard level of uselessness that becomes more noticeable when applied to anything of national importance.

They say that were it not for Brexit we could be getting on fixing other problems but these people aren't going to fix anything. Nothing is going to get fixed with politics in this state of dysfunction and we can't rely on Westminster to fix the problem because Westminster is the problem. They're not going to upset their own applecart and they are not sufficiently interested in the real problems to bring about any resolution. 

In the beginning I believed a deal was possible. For a time it looked like the hard line fringe Brexiters were contained and outnumbered - and had parliament recognised that and exerted their collective authority then the ERG would have been an irrelevance. But through tribalism, jockeying for position, electoral triangulation and incompetence - all flowing from a singular refusal to accept the verdict of 2016, fate has made our choices for us. The system has failed.

But then say what you like about the Brexiters but they at least have an idea what they want. They want to supercharge the economy by way of deregulation, "fwee twade" and tax cuts. It might be issue illiterate dribble with no intellectual foundation but they at least have the future in mind. Not so remainers.

The rest of the Commons is devoted to stopping Brexit. That is the fullest extent of their ambitions. Beyond that there is nothing to evaluate or scrutinise or an alternative to Brexit. They're not even trying to persuade us. For instance, their first problem is how does any government rebuild trust in democracy when we're saying that your vote only counts if the establishment agrees with it. They've not given that one a nanosecond's thought. Do they think it all resets back to the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony? 

What they want is a return to normal. Their normal. Their business as usual where reality doesn't intrude, safely ensconced in the politco-media bubble without a care in the world, largely ignoring EU affairs while we are further subsumed into it with more powers being passed to Brussels all the time. Nothing less than the death of democracy itself.

I am of the view that a no deal Brexit will lead to a decade or more of economic and political turbulence the likes we have not seen for a generation. There is a lot of trial and error in front of us. Mostly error. The ideas of the free trader Tories will be put to the test n the real world and fall flat on their face. It will cost us dearly but that is all part of the process. Part of the problem is the arrogance of our ruling class and it's in need of a serious humbling.

What follows is anyone's guess but much of democracy is experimentation. Sooner or later we will happen upon a new normal. Change of itself will bring new ideas and new opportunities and to a point the Brexiters are right. We do need to believe in Britain a little more. We are a first world country of wealthy, educated people with a tradition of good governance and a public who won't tolerate anything less. We will find a way through it.

The alternative is is to remain in the EU with government on autopilot, crumbling from the inside out while the Coopers, Umunnas and Swinsons vacillate and preen. That provides only temporary respite but in the longer term puts us on a countdown to extinction. This dysfunctional Westminster morass would be tolerable were the fundamentals sound but economically, politically and culturally we are in decline and unless we reawaken real politics (as Brexit most certainly will do) then Britain is done for anyway.

All the remainers I know in the real world have one thing in common. Prior to Brexit they were all broadly apolitical, with middle of the road, but broadly progressive urbanite views, largely because they are socially convenient. Nobody wants to risk being called a bigot or a racist so they conform to sloppy liberal tropes without ever giving it any real thought.

This is decadence. It is non-politics, abdicating the citizen's obligation to seriously engage - to pick a side, to say inconvenient and potentially unpopular things; to risk disagreement. But we are used to an easy life free of conflict and free of consequence. We leave the politics to the politicians. That would work were our politicians not from the same stock, subscribing to the same centrist conviction free dogma, never saying anything that would prick the ears of a similarly decadent and conformist media.

That politics has it that the EU is essentially a liberal progressive democratic entity that gives us rights and freebies, whirring away in the background without the first idea what it is, what it does and the direction of travel. That is a society that has abandoned vigilance. Vigilance is not to be found anywhere in public life or in the Commons. The European scrutiny committee is one of the worst attended because it deals with detail - which MP's can't be bothered with. There's no political mileage in it for seekers of publicity.

The same is true of the media which seldom ever reports on EU affairs and to this day still calls EU Council meetings "summits". Hardly anyone can name their MEP let alone describe what one does or the extent of their powers. Consequently the parameters of our society are defined gradually and privately with no real public engagement and we don't notice what is done to us until it's too late. 

This we cannot afford any longer. We need the decision making back where we can see it and we need to re-engage the public. We need the public in charge because our politics is incapable of delivering. Of course there will be those who fight tooth and nail to avoid having to take up this responsibility, who don't want their self-indulgence and privilege disturbed - usually the liberal middle classes, but they're the ones who did this to us in the first place so we don't owe them anything.

If MPs had been sincere about wanting to avoid a no deal Brexit they'd have voted for the withdrawal agreement, but every time I catch an MP wailing about no deal, it's usually the ones who voted it down all three times. They've had every opportunity to organise and shape the process but since 2016 their whole runtime has been devoted to nullifying my vote. That situation is far more serious than a no deal Brexit. This is now a constitutional matter and we have to put these people back in their place - whatever the cost.  

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Democracy hacked? Puhlease.


I've just had an interesting conversation with someone who just watched The Great Hack, a documentary about digital electioneering. They remarked that this stuff is now getting so good that we can't even say we are a democracy if those with the big bucks can pre-programme the outcome.

Naturally I'm highly sceptical of this claim. Big data is shrouded is mystique. Hardly anybody really knows what it does or how it works which is why so many believe it has magical properties. This works quite well if you are an electoral services provider. You're dealing with campaign managers who have more money than they know what to usefully spend it on so it's in your own interests if people believe these techniques are more potent than they actually are.

It then suits the likes of Dominic Cummings to big up this technology in front of a largely ignorant media to further inflate the legend of his own genius. Cummings is widely believed to be the mastermind who pulled off the impossible. It also suits the agenda of Brexit opponents to say that democracy was hacked. It absolves them from examining their own inadequacies. Anything but admit it was their collective fault.

We should also not forget that the other side was using more or less the same technology. They also had the establishment advantage. These techniques were used by the Obama campaign which was then hailed as the superior campaign having taken advantage of big data innovation. Nobody thought it was a threat to democracy then. Y'see it's only bad when the wrong people win. Only now are we having a moral panic about it. There's a lot of vested interests who want us to believe - not least because what follows is calls for regulation so that the establishment retains complete control over the message.

For certain digital analytics has its place now that politics is done on the internet and no doubt it does have an effect, and you can micro-target your messages, but when there is so much noise on the internet it's impossible to say what actually works. Every message is competing for your attention.

Here we shouldn't underestimate the power of imagery. Probably the most indelible image of the whole campaign was Bob Geldof and his well to do party apparatchiks leering and giving the two fingered salute. That image epitomised the culture war - a privileged celebrity known for finger wagging and moralising showing his naked contempt. That was a gift to the leave campaign.

If there was one consistent message from the remain camp it was that you are somehow intellectually and morally inferior for thinking differently. Leavers are cast as little englander xenophobes whereas remainers are supposedly righteous internationalists, outward looking and blah blah blah. It seemed that nobody on the remain side gathered that it's not a good idea to insult the people you're trying to persuade. They lost and they deserved to. Referendums come down to which side is hated the least.

But then I'm of the view that not only was Vote Leave's digital campaign ineffectual, it actually cost us a larger win. The remain camp went with economic arguments, not least because they would never sell Britain on the idea of a federalised Europe under a supreme government. The mistake Vote Leave made was to fight them on their own turf offering up £350m for the NHS. No serious leaver could argue this honestly and there were several reports of campaigners ditching printed Vote Leave material simply because it wasn't persuasive.

Any activist who did take up the leave cause did so on the grounds of democracy, sovereignty and self rule. Vote Leave could very well have made the point that the EU was an unreformable behemoth with a contempt for democracy by way of pointing to how little David Cameron had achieved in talks with Brussels. Not only did he come away with nothing worth talking about, we had an establishment that wouldn't even asked for meaningful reforms - then having been rebuffed, came away lying about having secured reform.

Being, though, that Vote Leave was essentially a Tory establishment operation whose donations were contingent on not attacking the Tories (Blue on blue attacks is not the done thing), Vote Leave ditched its most powerful hand and then fronted a dire campaign with Boris Johnson whose appeal could not extend to those places we needed to reach. It is arguable that Vote Leave cost us a bigger win.

Far from being a people's referendum, this whole exercise was conducted largely through television media and subsequent debates were on the basis of what politicians had said on camera. We had endless debates following Gove's "sick of experts" remarks. Throughout it was a top down campaign where outside voices were actively excluded. Independent grassroots leave and remain campaigns were frozen out of it by a wonkocracy who wanted to ensure they kept control over the respective narratives.

Still it is the case that our politics runs on coprophagia. We eat whatever shit is served up to us by mainstream corporate media. Though many anticipated that the internet would lead to more horizontal engagement, I really don't think it has. The corporates have been highly successful in maintaining the media hierarchy and though it faces competition from social media, the content of social media is still heavily dependent on outputs from legacy media be it BBC politics, The Spectator or Guardian.

This is especially so in silly season. With parliament in recess and no official activity from Number Ten, the media pack is starved of its daily fodder so it latches on to whatever morsel it can find rather than generating its own investigative news. Consequently, Monday's whole online debate was dominated by idiotic remarks made by Caroline Lucas. It's still the traditional media apparatus steering the debate agenda.

We are told, though, that digital messaging does not focus on core votes; rather it seeks to identify possible swing areas and feed tailored messages to them. The final two or three percent. Being that Leave won inside that margin, digital messaging is credited with the win over all other efforts. But at that level we are talking about margins of error, assuming the recipients are empty vessels with no agency whatsoever and no critical faculties of their own and not subject to competing messages.

In the end people had diverse reasons for voting to leave; from my own reasoning ie. reclaiming the nation state from the march of globalisation, right through to vox pop reasons as inane as liking Boris Johnson's hair. It takes all sorts. The idea that digital messaging has a measurable impact on voting outcomes is for the birds.

Undeniably Vote Leave did invest a lot of money on internet advertising, not least because they wouldn't have had the first clue what else to do with the money. The rest of their efforts largely focused on deserted stalls manned by teenage Toryboys in red Vote Leave shirts in places like Peterborough on a wet tuesday morning. If they hadn't handed massive chunks of cash to social media snake oil merchants they'd have had to give it back.

The moral panic about internet messaging is really just the swansong of the legacy remain campaign who need us to believe that the result was somehow tainted by dodgy dealings. No doubt Vote Leave did stretch the rules but you'd have to be born yesterday to believe Stronger In wasn't up to the exact same shenanigans. The real question is whether it would have gone any other way had the two organisations never existed at all.

Far more disturbing than the online activities of Vote Leave is still the dominance of legacy titles deliberately feeding misinformation into the debate through regular channels. It has always been the case that newspapers are answerable to their corporate owners and advertisers but now we are subjected to no holds barred propaganda that has strongly influenced public perceptions. There has been an ongoing campaign to mislead the public in respect of the viability of WTO rules as a basis for Brexit, with numerous allied vessels promoting the same messages.

This is nothing at all to do with the potency of internet advertising, rather it has to do with nepotistic, incestuous nature of the politico-media bubble and the prevailing groupthinks therein. This is as much to do with the tribalism within Westminster and the propensity to evaluate sources on the basis of prestige and proximity to power. Much is taken on trust on the basis of its adherence to tribal scripture. You can get followers to believe virtually anything provided it carries institutional prestige or recognition from a gatekeeper within the tribal hierarchy. This is far more dangerous than anything cooked up by Cambridge Analytica as we are about to find out come November. This is why we need to break the Westminster system.

But then, it would not now matter if the public were not deliberately misinformed about WTO rules etc. This is now beyond the rational, as indeed was that day in 2016. The referendum more than anything was a rejection of the establishment and the status quo. The battle is now between those who demand the verdict be implemented and those who will stop at nothing to ensure that it is not. Subsequently, this is not about the issues anymore, or who is right. This is a fight to the death over a fundamental constitutional question; Are the public in charge or not? All other factors are subordinate now. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Spare us your faux concern for parliamentary democracy


A while ago I stopped arguing for an EEA Efta Brexit. If ever there was an open window, it was slammed shut by the incompetence and arrogance of Nick Boles. Subsequently I focused my efforts on warning about the dangers of no deal. But now I've stopped doing that too. Simply, I know when I've lost the argument. I know when I'm beaten.

The EEA option was dead sometime ago. Remainers can take a sizable share of the blame, but this one falls on the Brexit blob who have total control over the Brexit narrative and did all they could to poison the well. Sadly it is impossible to compete with that kind of power.

I still maintain, though, that we have arrived at this juncture because Parliament was never sincere when they mouthed the platitudes about respecting the vote. As much as they collectively had no intention of delivering Brexit, they failed to recognise the danger of voting down a withdrawal agreement.

From that point, no deal became an inevitability. The arguments against now matter less than they ever did. This is no longer about trade. This is a fundamental constitutional question. Are the public in charge or not? If not then we have a parliamentary dictatorship and there wasn't any point having a referendum at all.

This prompts the great and the good to suddenly start hand wringing about the dangers of unchecked executive power as we race toward the the question of whether Johnson needs to freeze out parliament. Only as we seek to repatriate essential powers do they (the ones who gave the power way to begin with) become converts to the cause of parliamentary sovereignty. Only now do they see an urgent need for democratic reform.

Between now and Brexit day all they can really do is bleat from a position of total impotence. The chickens have come home to roost. Nothing the media says is likely to impact on events. The die is cast, the gamble is in play; the gamble where the Tories believe the EU will climbdown at the last minute. Which is not going to happen. What happens next is too boring to speculate over. No deal is a done deal.

Of course this does very much illustrate the uselessness of parliament, and though Johnson would have it that this is the people versus parliament, this is just one of those moments where the verdict of the public is in line with the executive over parliament. It is still the case that the public are powerless in all this and if there were a violent swing against no deal, the Tories would still go ahead with it anyway.

Neither is especially interested in democracy, ie the people having power. Those who suddenly care about the sanctity of parliament really only do so for the purposes of stopping Brexit and the Tories couldn't care less if they have a mandate or not. The public are just as much powerless spectators as ever they were. We may have the power to select our dictators come election time but our model of "democracy" is barely evolved from the feudalism of yore.

Until we see a serious acknowledgement of this yawning democratic deficit we cannot say the debate is sincere. This is just a Westminster turf war. Neither side is especially interested in the public having the power.

On this particular issue I side with the government but only because I want to leave the EU and with an obstructionist parliament, no deal is now the only way to do it. I can't say I'm moved if the means are not especially democratic in that we get nowhere near meaningful democracy unless we leave the EU. The EU is dedicated to the installation and enforcement of a single economic model throughout Europe from which there can be no deviation without first asking permission.

The economic experiment that follows Brexit may well be ill advised, flying in the face of all known constants of trade, discarding reality as it goes, but at some point in the near future, unlike the EU, we get to fire this bunch of fanatics. I don't see Boris Johnson seeing out a second term. The point here is that voters are allowed to make mistakes in a democracy. They then own the decision but also the consequences.

In this instance, there certainly will be consequences. But the consequences will not be the consequences of Brexit of itself. An EEA Efta Brexit would have avoided most of the economic damage. What follows is a consequence of a political class who not only sought to kill Brexit from the outset, but also fundamentally believe they are wiser and more moral than the rest of us, therefore have a divine right to overthrow the public verdict.

The last three years have demonstrated better than anything that these are neither wise nor moral individuals. If it's a choice between their judgement and that of the unwashed masses then I side with the soap dodgers every time. There is then a debate to be had as to how we wound up here with the worst crop of MPs in living memory (perhaps in all time) and certainly the decline of our traditional parties and the way we do politics must be interrogated. Our politics is not fit for purpose.

All of that, though, can wait until November. The dysfunctionality and uselessness of parliament will again come into sharp focus as we try to unscramble Brexit fallout. Then and only then will I listen to the wails of those who say parliament has been sidelined. For the purposes of Brexit it is is right that they are shoved aside for all the use they are. After Brexit we shall soon find out who is really sincere about the future of British democracy.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Why it now has to be no deal


Brexiters for a variety of reasons have a problem with the UK being a member of the EU and after a long campaign, spanning decades, a referendum was held and Britain voted to leave. We need not explore the reasons. Some are valid, some are not, but we don't get to second guess votes otherwise we are saying some votes are worth more than others.

That then put it in the hands of Parliament. There were subsequent debates as to whether it should be a hard or soft Brexit where, through its own inability to get to grips with the issues and take Brexit sufficiently seriously, they failed to have any meaningful impact on the debate. Nor were they able to exert their collective influence on the executive by way of their overall lack of coherence. They failed.

Of course, Parliament can reasonably complain that the executive under Theresa May sought to exclude parliament for much of the proceedings, but even when given the opportunities they couldn't reach a conclusion between them.

As it happens, parliament had it muddled all along. They tried to force a decision on having a customs union, failing to fully appreciate that the trade aspect was to follow after a withdrawal agreement was secured. Too much emphasis was placed on defining the outcome in the first stage. 

As it stands there is a deal on the table, one which allows for any number of possibilities up to and including a customs union along with a number of inherent protections on labour rights and environmental standards etc. Put simply, there was no good reason for remain MPs to block the deal if they were truly sincere about respecting the 2016 vote. They themselves set the process in motion by consenting to Article 50. Now they are backtracking.

While Theresa May was focused on getting the deal through parliament, the remainer blob in parliament was busy cooking up schemes to prevent a no deal Brexit, inserting irrelevant amendments into procedural legislation, but ultimately ignored the fact that the one guaranteed way to avoid a no deal Brexit was staring them in the face.

Any MP who claims that their number one priority is preventing no deal who didn't vote for May's Deal is lying. No deal was something they were prepared to risk to try to achieve their actual top priorities: stopping Brexit altogether, or jockeying for party advantage - or both.

At that point this ceased to be about the shape of our future relationship with the EU and instead morphed into a constitutional battle as to who is ultimately sovereign; parliament or the people. There are plenty of good arguments for not leaving without a deal, many of them detailed on this very blog, but the referendum verdict is explicit. We must leave the EU.

On this, parliament has made itself abundantly clear on three occasions, more if you count the many other opportunities it has had to assert itself. It will not facilitate a Brexit of any kind. So now they are saying that a decision that they voted to turn over to the people is now to be disregarded because they do not like the result. Stopping a no deal Brexit is now spoken of as a euphemism for stopping Brexit altogether. They take us for fools.

Now as you know, I am not salivating for a no deal Brexit. I think it's a dangerous path to walk down and a leap into the long dark. But I am resigned to it. It wouldn't even matter if I changed my position to remain. We are where we are precisely because this parliament has brought us to this point. Remainer forelock tugging about Northern Ireland won't wash now. They had a deal in front of them that prioritised the preservation of the status quo on the border but they instead preferred to gamble.

That gamble has spectacularly backfired resulting in a Boris Johnson administration, no deal and by way of tribalism and party politics they are unable to bring this government down even when it's down to a majority of one. Even now, when we face what is described as the most serious crisis since the Second World War, parliament is still unable to get its act together.

They will, of course, play their little parlour games, with support from the outside by way of legal challenges, but they do not seem to comprehend that the game is over and they lost. Their every last effort has been inept and ineffectual. The ultimate decision now rests with Boris Johnson.

This is where we go through the charade of pretending a deal is possible but we all know it isn't. The EU knows that there is no sincere effort to conclude a deal. If they open the books once more, they know that it won't stop with the backstop and there's a risk of the whole deal unravelling only to end up in precisely the same standoff when parliament again refuses to ratify it. If the EU thought there was any sincerity and if the UK had a detailed alternative set out that was legally operable, with the scope of any renegotiation confined to the backstop, then one imagines they would be more receptive but such is not forthcoming. They know it. Johnson knows it.

Ultimately we have run out of road. If we do not leave on October 31 then there is sufficient time for Johnson to be deposed, or forced into calling a general election where there is then a strong chance that Brexit will never happen.

That now can't be allowed. This isn't just about a vote that happened one day in 2016. A mountain was climbed from half empty public meetings in rural pubs through to a national movement for change. Quashing Brexit would rapidly see parliament reverting to business as usual, and in so doing would be throwing democracy in the bin. We would be saying that the two decades of movement building; pounding the streets, hammering out the blogs and doing all the things democratic citizens are supposed to do counts for nothing. We would be sending a clear message that legitimate grassroots politics cannot affect change.

That then fundamentally changes the nature of government. It says that our votes are subject to the approval of a ruling class; a political elite that believes itself to be more moral, wiser and better informed, despite the last three years demonstrating beyond any doubt that they are none of the above. I will leave it to you to imagine what the possible consequences of that are.

This isn't about who is right about whether we can trade on WTO rules. Certainly that will be an argument to be had after we leave when it becomes apparent that the hardliners were far wide of the mark, but this is something more fundamental. Leave voters are watching and waiting to see if their vote, which they regard as sacrosanct, and the one meaningful vote they've had in a lifetime, will be obeyed.

The fact our establishment even talks about "respecting the vote" is an indication of how far we are drifting from democracy. I don't care if they respect it. I don't care if they don't. As a voter in a supposed democracy I demand they obey it. For Boris Johnson this exercise is really just about his re-election and the survival of the Tory party but for those of us who voted to leave, not especially caring if the Tory party survives, this is a test of whether our participation matters a damn.

You'll get no argument from me that a no deal Brexit will be a rough ride and will do considerable damage to our economy and standard of living. But this is not new news. These risks were spelled out in full before the referendum which leave voters elected to disregard of their own reasons. I voted to leave in the hope of an EEA Efta Brexit but I accepted the risk of no deal.

That seemed like tolerable risk being that two thirds of parliament were against leaving. I had just enough trust in them to believe they would recognise the gravity of the vote, and the obligation to act on it, but also the enormous risk that came from no deal. It is their arrogance, their stupidity and fundamental dishonesty that has brought us to this point. Their every effort to quash Brexit only hardened the resolve of leavers and at every pivotal moment proved to us that not only had they no intention of obeying the vote, there was no low they would not stoop to in order to kill our votes.

That parliament has been so devious and so inept has convinced me that we cannot go on like this, and that if the UK is to ever shake off its economic, political and cultural stagnation then we need a radically new political settlement and a clear out. If this is what it takes then so be it. There was a deal to be had but because our establishment could not see past its own vanity they've brought us to the brink. Johnson is just giving us the final shove. That's entirely on them.  

Can the Union survive Brexit? Do we even care?


Brexiters, especially of the Tory ilk don't seem to care if Brexit breaks up the Union. To be quite honest with you I'm in broad agreement now. It's something I did worry about but now I don't. Let the chips fall where they may.

The fact is, Scotland was on a march to independence the moment we gave them a parliament. For as long as Scotland is part of the Union it will continually exist as a tool of political blackmail.

As it happens I think Scottish independence would be a mistake. It's one of those things where in theory it could do really well but in reality it won't. But it's a mistake Scotland is entitled to make and, like Brexit, those who wanted it will have to own the consequences.

I say it could go well because Scotland could join Efta where it would find itself quite at home and were it part of the EEA it wouldn't be much poorer than it is now. They could build on that over time and if they play their cards right they could secure a lucrative agreement with the rump UK in that Faslane is considerable leverage.

In reality though, the SNP will screw it up. They will instead seek to rejoin the EU and then Brussels will be calling the shots as to how intra UK trade works. They'll be toadying up to Brussels in much the same way Dublin has in order to rub London's nose in it.

Meanwhile it won't solve any of their economic and social woes. The SNP will see to that. They may project a skin deep veneer of social liberalism but at its core the SNP is an authoritarian socialist entity that wants to micromanage every part of the economy and control what people do. Holyrood will soon become a corrupt little dunghill mired in the consequences of its own incompetence. Zimbabwe with fried Mars bars.

Though I think this would be bad for Scotland, if that's what they want I see no reason to stand in the way. For as long as the SNP have been the driving force in Scotland they have perpetually blamed London for their own deficiencies despite having most of the power they need to sort it all out themselves. Instead of taking responsibility they will always blame the convenient other and use it as a further vehicle to demand independence.

What  they will probably find as a smaller state in the EU is that they have even less independent power than they do now over the fundamentals of the economy but then, of course the SNP won't really care about that. Like the current Labour Party, it has no instinct of aptitude for governance and will be more than happy to hand over the core responsibilities to someone else. It saves them from taking any responsibility.

Like Labour, what they actually want, is they keys to the treasury so they can borrow and spend on their own boondoggles and farm out money to their tribal voter base in the slums. A tartan Soweto. Course, we know this doesn't work because we had thirteen years of New Labour and we're still paying for it. Pretty soon you run out of money and find the economy isn't vibrant enough to sustain a bloated kleptocracy.

The great thing about it, though, is that by then it will be more Brussels' problem than ours. The EU will put Scotland on special measures to stop them further bankrupting themselves - but Scots won't complain about EU imposed austerity because essentially they're not happy unless they're subordinated and whining about it.

But what of Northern Ireland? Let's be honest about this. Us English don't really get Northern Ireland. Most of us have never been there and never will. There's not much call to. Belfast is a basically a sectarian version of Newcastle, which has long been a political Rubick's Cube that nobody has any real interest in solving. It has become the Achilles Heel of Brexit where again the democratic will of England is held to ransom.

If Brexit ultimately sees a united Ireland then I have no particular reason to care. I have no stake in it. I see that it will open up a can of worms for Ireland but then it will be 100% of Dublin's problem. If they want it, they can have it.

My preference is to maintain the Union without change, but if it cannot stand on its own merits then let's be done with it. Brexit may well have been the catalyst that ended the Union, but the Lisbon Treaty effectively abolished it anyway. More than any other factor the EU has weakened the national bonds of the Union, providing a backstop for upstart nationalist movements like the SNP. Far from uniting Europe, the EU has created internal divisions all over Europe, reawakening long dead divisions.

But then as much Scotland is anti-London, what the referendum shows is most of the United Kingdom is anti-London, or rather anti-Westminster, not least because it governs without gravitas, wisdom or consent. Its system of values are alien to that of the rest of the UK, which is a major part of the reason the establishment lost the referendum. The culture gulf is massive. Perhaps even unbridgeable.

If the Union is to be saved then the UK needs a wholly new constitutional settlement, substantially downsizing the significance of Westminster in our political life. Westminster has become a a 24-7 operation that crowds out all other politics, often neutering local politics and destroying any meaningful local democracy. Little wonder there is such universal disaffection with politics.

As much as rule from Brussels doesn't work for Europe, rule from London doesn't work for the UK. It doesn't even work for England. The North is a distinct region that isn't part of the Home Counties England and its economy isn't aligned with the rest of the country, much less its social attitudes.

The only way we are going to have decision making that reflects the true "will of the people" is if the people themselves are making the decisions. For as long as we are sending representatives to live and work in London to mix it up with a largely cosmopolitan media class (of which think tankery is a component) then we will be subject to the fashions and fads of the swamp.

Throughout the Brexit process I've spend many hours watching live broadcasts of Parliament noticing that much of the peripheral work of parliament really has no business occupying the time of central government. Were it that the regions had the fullest possible autonomy, Parliament could restrain itself to dealing only with those matters of true national significance ie. defence, trade and foreign policy. The rest can and should be a local competence.

I honestly don't know if the Union can be saved. I think perhaps there is too much damage done. I think this fever has to run its own course. The one certainty, though, is that Brexit has exposed, not caused, deep running divisions and our current political settlement is long overdue a structural overhaul. Westminster is a throwback to the age of feudalism and is no longer appropriate for the digital age. We must use this opportunity to bring our politics up to date.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.


I was somewhat taken today by the comedic notion that Remainer MPs are plotting to bring down Boris Johnson’s government and install a 'unity' prime minister. Names mooted include Yvette Cooper and Caroline Lucas. The notion that either would be a unity candidate is a wonderous piece of Orwellian doublespeak. 

Though there is precisely zero chance of this ever coming to pass, it really was worth contemplating just to fully understand the sheer awfulness of such a proposal. If we really are at a state where the likes of Caroline Lucas/Yvette Cooper are offered up as leadership propositions then British society as a whole is so degraded and debased that there's nothing left worth saving.

As bad as the current government is, there is something about that duo that makes me physically ill even to think of. Smug, snobby, sanctimonious and entitled to the max. There is no bandwagon they won't leap on. The UK could not survive with virtue signalling as its only policy basis. Theirs is the politics of spoiled middle class liberals who buy into the establishment's projected self image - who were genuinely surprised by Brexit because it interrupted their childlike notion that the UK was a progressive utopia as embodied by the 2012 opening ceremony.

It's the politics of grazers. People who live insular entitled lives for whom the EU is ideal because it frees them of any serious political duties so that they can focus on soft gesture politics. The class who are insulated from the consequences of their braindead policies. The same people who will pass destructive gender self-ID laws irrespective of the dangerous consequences - not because they've actually given it a second's thought or even believe in it, but so they can broadcast their LGBT credentials. Pure narcissism and political vanity.

The joke of it is, they have such a warped, disconnected relationship with the rest of society that they even think this "progressive" virtue signalling makes them wildly popular despite all the electoral data pointing to the exact opposite. They think they're the centre.

Alarmingly, though, they are very popular with the cosseted middle classes who have never even witnessed hardship - which is why their braindead offspring can be found uttering nonsense vox pops on pro-EU demos, whining that their fringe entitlements are being taken away. They lack any and all scepticism. Politics to them is just one giant virtue signal. To transmit socially convenient leftist tropes that are safe to utter on our equally debased media - to nods of approval from their peers and applause from carefully selected studio audiences.

They worship the BBC and the NHS without question. They love the EU despite knowing nothing whatsoever about it. Not because they believe in its mission or destination, but because they can bask in the self-image of being "progressive internationalists". These are the people who can say with a straight face that Boris Johnson is "far right" - while completely ignoring that EU countries have actual neo nazi movements that make our own minuscule far right look like the Women's Institute.

Ultimately, if they end up in charge and with an electoral mandate then there's nothing about the UK worth saving because it will have completed the journey to become an ultra decadent child society incapable of any kind of grown up politics. We are then on course to oblivion. If it moves they will seek to either ban it or tax it, and they don't care how much misery they heap on the working classes while they're doing it, or especially care what liberties they trample on. As for free speech under their regime - fuhgeddaboudit.

To a large extent we've already had these people in charge - ever since 1997. They're the voice of the establishment. They are the dregs of Blair's "Cool Britannia" shtick - and look at the offspring it produces. Femi and EU supergirl - spoiled, entitled thick brats. Nuff said. When you look at those two cretins even no deal Brexit loses its sting. I hate Rees-Mogg/Johnson with every fibre of my being and will never forgive the Tories for screwing up Brexit but I'd rather take my chances with those bozos than trust "progressives" with even a TV remote.

It's precisely this kind of "progressivism" that infects every corner of government - including our diplomatic corps - which sees us signing up to all manner of sovereignty destroying global conventions - purely for the sake of virtue signalling. This, though, is also something more sinister. It's a moral imperialism - telling brown people what their social values ought to be. The EU is going large on that through its trade policies - and the net result is African states pivoting to China for no strings commercial deals.

Progressivism is rooted in projecting how right on we all are, bypassing any normative morality, where it travels ever further up its own arse - and though it makes them feel good, the real world consequences are devastating, sometimes even murderous. What progressives simply cannot cope with is the concept of unintended consequences. It's all about how it makes them feel and what they can project to the world. They won't spare a nanosecond to think about the actual outcomes. See biofuels/palm oil - deforestation etc.

The same is true of their welfare policies. They nurture a sense of helplessness so that the lower orders are dependent on them - and then we wonder why we have a victimhood culture (with all the squandered human potential that goes with it).

And for all that, what makes them the worst (absolute pondlife) is that they've actually convinced themselves, even when surrounded by the ruins of all that they've destroyed, that they're morally & intellectually superior the rest of us and have a divine right to rule. It is that, more than anything else, that compels them to overturn the Brexit referendum. They believe they know better than the rest of us and that we are in need of moral and political correction and re-education - which they and only they can provide.

Ultimately it is that arrogance,that hubris, that will see us leaving the EU without a deal. They are the ones who took the gamble - to play double or quits by voting down the withdrawal agreement. They had no intentions whatsoever of respecting the 2016 vote. So now what should have been a negotiated managed exit (when there were solutions that everyone could live with) has now become a full blown culture war that is testing the very foundation of our constitution and will wreck our economy.

This is why leavers are not listening to no deal warnings. The economy comes a distant second to defeating these people and everything they stand for. And rightly so. Britain doesn't have a chance unless they are wiped off the political map. They belong to the last century. Progressivism is the corrupted fag end of liberalism only it's not liberal. It is ultra authoritarian. Look at what they say. Britain's swing to the "far right" is not a consequence of their own action. It's the fault of the media (obvs there's a need to clampdown on language).

They don't want Brexit because the EU is the life support machine for their zombie regime. It underpins the status quo where they control the narrative and dictate the values of the nation upon which our laws are based. They have the power and they're terrified they are losing it. This is why they've waged a legal jihad on Brexiters, even coming after individuals, attempting to silence them, de-platforming and doxing, and attempting to frame ordinary people as far right ghouls and xenophobes. They are demonising democracy.

So if these people do win, Britain as a functioning state is done for anyway. We'll have binned democracy but much alse along with it - including adult politics, where this media driven virtue signalling freakshow will become the permanent establishment. On a long enough timeline that means selling out the last of our powers to Brussels while progressives congratulate themselves for legalising noncery and then it'll be normal to see nine year old trans drag queens. There is no limit to their moral debasement.

They tell us to stop Brexit so we can get on with more urgent politics - but you know full well the moment we do they'll be back to telling us what is legal for children's packed lunches and banning plastic straws. Virtue signaling is their way of life. They won't lift a finger to address the looming pensions, housing, savings and elderly care crisis because they would have to take deeply unpopular adult decisions - and they just can't bring themselves to treat us like adults.

If anything they will make it worse because they think the taxpayer is a bottomless pit - and will entrench further entitlements actually encouraging the sort of slovenly feckless living that brought us here to begin with. They will ramp up the "Green new deal" bullshit, making it harder for ordinary people to get to work, sending energy and fuel prices sky high with idiotic carbon capture schemes etc, making us all poorer and less free. All the while nothing is done to address the structural decay.

Though it's not lost on me that Brexit will make us poorer, it is at least an investment in the future of the country. Not investment in the way they see it - ie spunking billions up the wall on welfare and wind farms, rather we're investing in the idea of self governing democracy.

So while Lucas/Cooper are just a primary school madams who somehow stumbled into politics, they're the embodiment of everything I hate; narcissistic, snobby, entitled, hypocritical virtue signallers. Would rather rip out my own intestines with a spoon than see her ilk in charge.

Everything about their agenda is about control. Controlling what the little people do - where they go, what they say, what they think, what they eat, what they write. And notice how there's always a climate change rationale for doing it. Now I'm not going to get into a climate debate but if the only way for us to survive is to surrender to these people and live under their regime then I don't even want humanity to survive. What's the point of living if we're going to be serfs answerable to these scumbags?

It would be nice if the Brexiteers weren't thick as mince and had half a clue how the real world works and then we wouldn't have to pay such a horrendous price for leaving the EU but ultimately I'd rather endure this than carry on with these suckjobs.

Monday, 5 August 2019

The Johnson deception


The following extract from The Guardian pretty much says it all.
Boris Johnson has no intention of renegotiating the withdrawal agreement and a no-deal Brexit is his “central scenario”, European diplomats have been told, amid hardening evidence in Westminster that the government is expecting to crash out of the EU.
Brussels diplomats briefed after a meeting between the prime minister’s chief envoy and senior EU figures in Brussels said that Britain’s refusal to compromise was understood to have been clear to those attending.
Instead David Frost, the government’s new chief Europe adviser, is said to have sought discussions on how negotiations could be reset after the UK crashes out on 31 October. “It was clear UK does not have another plan,” a senior EU diplomat said of the meetings with Frost. “No intention to negotiate, which would require a plan. A no deal now appears to be the UK government’s central scenario.”
The disclosure came as No 10 insisted the government was “ready to negotiate in good faith” but made clear that Johnson would only agree to a deal without what he refers to as the “undemocratic backstop” – the mechanism to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland that could keep the UK in a customs union. The EU has repeatedly said the backstop is not up for negotiation. 
The UK’s failure to provide any proposals on how to deal with the controversial Irish backstop was felt to be significant by EU officials who spoke to the Guardian. Frost was said to have told the officials that a technological solution to the Irish border was the UK’s preferred option before admitting that “it would not be ready now for Brexit”. “Even if EU gave up the backstop there is no alternative,” a diplomat concluded of the discussion.
Despite what Johnson has said, there never has been a sincere intention to secure a deal. This whole charade is an attempt to paint the EU as intransigent. This puts an end to any speculation that Johnson might well fudge a compromise and pull off a deal at the last minute. No deal is on and even if there were a sincere effort to secure a deal the cupboard is bare when it comes to alternatives to the backstop.

What this smells like to me is a Dominic Cummings plan in motion - believing that the way around the withdrawal agreement is to crash out then attempt to manoeuvre the EU into trade talks under the assumption that they want a deal and the contingency measures will be extended. I reckon they hope to pad that out into "mini deals" to get the show back on the road.

I am aware that Cummings is not a wholly stupid man but he is supremely arrogant and lacks any real technical knowledge of the EU - and the product of this is much the same as outright stupidity. It just seems that nobody close to Number Ten really gets the EU, believing that it could bend the rules if it wanted to and negotiate afresh.

What they don't seem to appreciate is that the EU is a system of rules inside the broader system of international and WTO rules. Then as much as it can't break the rules, it doesn't want to. There's nothing in it for them. Any break from the regime it has set out for Brexit would be a massive win for the Brexiter Tories and not in a billion years will the EU ever give them the satisfaction or the propaganda victory.

At every turn, even under Theresa May the UK has sought to go around the sequencing and the frameworks set out by the EU, failing to appreciate that not only does the EU have the lion's share of leverage, there is a particular logic to their approach, bound by the treaties, and they see no reason whatsoever to deviate from it.

Nobody in the British government seems to understand that we are not haggling for a car. This is perhaps the product of the language we have meandered into using. All this talk of "deals" suggests that this is a negotiation rather than the ultimatum it has always been, where the EU has done what it can to accommodate the UK as far as it can without compromising its own sovereignty and system integrity. 

This really doesn't come as any surprise. The consensus in Vote Leave initially was that Article 50 was a trap and insofar as they'd done any thinking about how we leave the EU, they thought simply repealing the European Communities Act was sufficient. If memory serves, even Cummings was saying this. Being that any functioning adult with a working knowledge of the EU is now long gone, it is likely that their collective understanding has not advanced much further.

But then there is also the institutional deafness of the British government. Theresa May on a number of occasions failed to listen to what she was actually told, repeatedly ignoring the messages and signals from Brussels then being surprised when she was immediately rebuffed. This administration is no different. All the recent signals from Brussels indicate that the price of reopening talks after a crash out will be the £39bn, a settlement on citizens rights and a backstop style mechanism for Northern Ireland. A no deal Brexit leaves a gaping, untidy legal hole in the EU's frontier and its first priority will be to close it.

That much should have factored into Tory thinking, but as EUreferendum notes, Johnson's Brexit strategy is less to do with Brexit outcomes as it is to do with the reelection of the Tories, securing Johnson another term in office.

More than anything this points to the total self-absorption of the Westminster bubble. The think tank wonks and SpAds are similarly in the dark and as the politicos gradually replaced the senior civil service, the whole machine is flying blind, oblivious to anything happening outside of its own circle. It's true of Brexit and it's true of everything else. The media is not far behind either. This is why no deal Brexit fallout will come as a bigger shock to them because nobody close to power is anticipating the sort of full spectrum disaster it's likely to be. 

This dynamic is essentially why our establishment so badly underperforms and why good governance in the UK is dying. It is more than likely the single most important factor influencing the decision to leave the EU in the first place even if the dynamic has not been identified or acknowledged by the political class. Our politics is a circus freak show operating in its own private universe that shares little commonality with our own. They create alternative narratives to reality to advance their own agendas but end up going native. Consequently our politics has no real idea as to what is actually happening either in the country, or out of it for that matter. There was never any possibility of them getting it right. 

Brexit: the end of the beginning.


Posted on The Leave Alliance website:

The Leave Alliance does not welcome a no deal Brexit. From the beginning we took the view that Brexit was a process rather than an event. To successfully complete the process we would have to evolve our way out lest we do enormous damage to the economy.

It would seem, however, that Brexit has taken on a momentum of its own thanks to pernicious attempts by remainers to sabotage Brexit entirely. This effectively rules out a managed departure. MP have had several opportunities to shape the process and three explicit opportunities to vote for a withdrawal agreement but instead decided to gamble - to play double or quits.

This has spectacularly backfired on them. We now have Boris Johnson as Prime Minister who has now set us on a course for a no deal exit. Though the ERG have a hand in ensuring the withdrawal agreement did not pass, the parliamentary balance of power was always in the remain camp. There could have been an agreement had those MPs been truthful when they said they would respect the 2016 vote. It now looks like there is little MPs can do to prevent a no deal Brexit. They have squandered every last opportunity to constructively engage in the process.

But, of course, the matter does not end here. As Sir Ivan Rogers recently noted, crashing out on to WTO terms is far from a satisfactory destination. We will exist in a trade limbo having handed all of the leverage over future talks to Brussels - during which EU member states will be cannibalising the UK's share of regional and global trade. Brexit is going to hurt far more than it ever needed to.

We now face years of talks with the EU along with considerable regulatory instability that will deter investment and cause disruption to supply chains. The "clean break" as demanded by the Brexit blob will be anything but. In their zeal to be free of the EU and set about their "free trade" experiment, the Brexiteers have have turned us down a destructive path where they are sure to learn hard lessons - not least that "WTO rules" are not the soft landing ground they assumed it was.

Though The Leave Alliance has consistently warned of this, stressing the need for a managed departure, we are now resigned to the inevitable. The die is cast. We always knew that one way or another Brexit would define politics for at least the next decade. It will just follow a path different to the one we anticipated and hoped for.

Ultimately Britain is going to have to stumble its way through the dark to relearn the art of statecraft. Primarily we are here because our hopelessly inept politics and media couldn't get to grips with the issues fast enough and had also burned whatever trust was left during the referendum. Some raised the warning flag over a no deal Brexit early on but leave voters no longer had any basis to believe what they were told after such a thoroughly dishonest remain campaign. Now those same "experts" who lied about the EEA Efta option are wheeled out to tell us that it's not so bad after all.

It's too much to hope that any lessons will have been learned for the future and the Tories will now do all they can to deflect blame for this galactic failure. Boris Johnson's insincere campaign to restart talks is part of that process. He has no intention of seeing through any withdrawal agreement. This is simply an act of political theatre to make the EU look like the intransigent party.

For a time the Tories may even get away with it. If the country is sufficiently prepared many of the anticipated headline effects of a no deal Brexit may never come to pass. It will be the longer term secondary effects that will sour public opinion against them. The Brexiteers very probably wont' be around long enough to negotiate the new relationship with the EU. Between now and then there is a window to debate what form that relationship should take, where once again the EEA Efta option might present itself as the most elegant solution.

The hardliners Brexiters may have won this battle (with the able assistance of intransigent remainers) but the future relationship cannot and must not be defined by them. We now face a long fight of equal intensity to reshape our own democracy as well as our bilateral relations with the EU. Eventually a no deal Brexit will ensure the hardliners are discredited and marginalised which should clear the air for more temperate voices to be heard.

We regret that it has come to this but Brexit is fundamentally a constitutional question of who governs us, and a failure to deliver on the verdict of 2016 has its own hazards. That we are leaving without a deal is down to the hubris of parliament, the ignorance of our media and the inflexibility of the EU. You can be forgiven for thinking that it couldn't go any other way. There's just too much bad blood over this toxic issue.

Perhaps, though, this is how it needed to go for us to lance the boil. Only when the misapprehensions and follies of the ultra Breixters are exposed to the cold light of reality can we move on to the next phase. The work does not end in November and we need to remind the zealots on both sides of the argument that they do not own Brexit. Saner voices must reclaim it if we are to unscramble this mess.

In it for the long haul


There's the Brexit I argued for and then there's the Brexit we're getting. The former was a good idea, the latter... not so much.

In light of this there are those who think I ought to switch to remain. That's not going to happen. The public were consulted on a fundamental constitutional question of who governs them. This is not something we can second guess. The die is cast.

What brings us to this point is a fundamental mistrust of parliament in that they would stop Brexit in a heartbeat if they could, therefore asserting their own judgement over that of the broader public and in so doing broadcasting loudly to the world that they only implement referendum results they like.

We have seen how the remainer establishment has pulled every possible string to try and stop Brexit in what has become an all out culture war. Every time the remainers have exerted their political influence they have made it a magnitude worse. they could have conceded defeated and voted for a withdrawal agreement but instead they played double or quits and now we have Boris Johnson as PM and a looming no deal Brexit. Now we meet a little thing called consequences.

If you've even halfway understood the issues then you know that no deal is super bad news for the UK economy. The regulator instability it creates along with new barriers to trade and a raft of new tariffs make life difficult enough, which could be further exacerbated by ill chosen mitigation measures such as unilateral trade liberalisation.

This is where we should have seen MPs engaging in the details and getting to grips with the issues and shouting it from the rooftops but the full extent of the damage is beyond their comprehension. But then it wouldn't do any good. With the media having debased itself, sensationalising the worst case scenario, leavers just don't trust what they are told.

But then it wouldn't matter if they did believe it all. Most of them are past caring. I for one am tired of having to refight the referendum, not knowing when or if we will ever leave while enduring insult after insult from the sanctimonious remainer bigots. We really have heard it all now - from casual accusations of racism to veiled suggestions that leavers share in the culpability of US mass shootings.

Leavers have now got the message. The great and the good, those in supremely privileged positions not only hate Brexit but actively despise their fellow countrymen and always have. They are not used to democracy having to bend to the will of those normally excluded from it.

Furthermore there is a certain naivety to the remain camp who, if we take them at their own words, genuinely believed that the UK circa 2012 was an open, progressive society at peace with itself. What are they smoking? Of course, were you to visit any of the remainer strongholds in the UK it's easy to understand why they think this. Affluent places where the only foreigners you see are wealthy students. What these people are essentially fighting for is the preservation of their own privileges. It has next to nothing to do with the EU and what the EU actually is. After four years of this it's easy to see how this became a blood feud.

Ultimately the smug, superior, sanctimonious voice of remain is the voice of the current establishment and though I detest the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, and I'm worried over no deal and what it will do to jobs and wider economy, I would sooner risk it all just to put these people back in their place - because that's exactly what they've been trying to do to leavers for the last four years - to put us back in our place, to silence our voice and return to their peaceful self-indulgent slumber.

I would have preferred a managed departure, but essentially that was never possible with a parliament determined to defy the public. I struggled with my conscience as to what my view would be if it ever came down to no deal versus remain - as evidenced elsewhere on this blog, watching and waiting for a third way but now we are at that moment of decision.

Here it comes down to the question of whether there is anything about the status quo I care enough about to save. I'm drawing a blank on that one. Ok so Scotland might quit the union but all we get from Scotland is anti-English bile and histrionics over Northern Ireland don't move me much when they're still slaughtering each other anyway, and as for Brexit stealing the futures of the young, please don't make me laugh. Anyone under forty is screwed anyway.

As illustrated in previous posts, the UK has major structural problems in the economy which then raises questions about the viability and sustainability of the welfare state as we know it - with people not saving, not contributing to pensions and paying obscene rents for most of their lives. Meanwhile, food prices are creeping up with shrinkflation more noticeable than ever.

Though I'm certain this crop of Tories will do nothing to correct any of this, there is at least the opportunity for change which would not otherwise happen. If you want to call that a reckless gamble then so be it but I don't see how the status quo, still largely dominated by the politics of the progressive establishment is going to improve things economically or culturally.

We can remorselessly take the piss out of those leavers who tell us that we just need to believe in ourselves, to a point they are right. There is always opportunity in chaos and we might stumble on a way that works better. Society needs change in order to innovate and as far as culture goes, we are suffocating precisely because our politics, through the EU is geared to prevent change.

I'm not generally one to say let the chips fall where they may and Brexiters do seem to display a frightening disregard for reality, and I think there will be a price for that. I don't think Johnson will see a second term. Much is contingent on Labour ditching Corbyn and getting its act together, but sooner or later we will establish a new normal we can build on. But like many Brexiters (probably most of them) I'm looking at this in the longer term, not as a question of economics, but one of the sort of society I want to see.

It's clear now that we are approaching the fag end of liberalism and the institutions of yore are collapsing. It's up to us now to decide what comes next. For all the histrionics about a violent swing to the right, that only really works on liberals and progressives. It's not something I fear especially when you look at the state of the modern left whose main agenda is opening up women's loos to sexual predators and the destruction of Israel. Bollocks to that.

My question to remainers is simply this: What would you do instead of Brexit that we haven't already tried? Whenever I ask this the replies are always depressingly predictable - and more of the same, lacking in imagination and ambition.

It's interesting that I should have acquired a reputation as a "moderate leaver" in that I'm a fierce critic of the Brexit blob and their misapprehensions but I have always entertained the notion of a no deal Brexit - just not for the "free trade" reasons advanced by the blob. I've always been consistent about the need for a political and cultural reboot and though we are going to end up paying more for it than we ever needed to, I still prefer a no deal Brexit to the alternatives.

Don't get me wrong, I do not welcome Borisconi or his band of cronies and I am certain they will make every avoidable error, but we can wait them out. Their bad ideas have to be tested and it won't take too long for all to see they have no idea what they're doing. After that, we can have the real conversation about the Britain we want after Brexit. We're in this for the long haul and it has to get worse before it gets better.     

Up yours, Boris!


BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The deal reached on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union is the “best possible” and is not up for negotiation but the European Commission is ready to talk with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a spokeswoman for the bloc’s executive said on Monday.

That's Brussels-speak for "Up yours, Boris!". They are not reopening the talks. Not now, and no time in the future. That's the one thing in all this they can be certain of. There's no incentive to. The ERG have already piped up to say that they won't back the deal even without the backstop and there's no reason to believe remain MPs will back the deal either. And to cave into political pressure from the UK would be a boost for Boris Johnson. Satan will be ice skating to work before they ever do that.

This now sets the stage for the final showdown which is is more likely to be a Westminster affair as MPs scrabble to do whatever they can to avoid a no deal Brexit. They could perhaps attempt to bring down the government but the chances of them coming together in a timely and coherent way are somewhere around nil. If they were remotely serious then they should have acted more than a year ago.

This then brings us to talk of a looming general election timed to ensure we leave on schedule. I'll spare you the speculation. I'm as bored of this as you are. 

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Brexit: British media for dummies


For no particular reason, save for my own entertainment, I thought it worth recapping on where we stand with the perpetual decline of UK media - with particular focus on Brexit. So in no particular order:

The Spectator

If you want to know what the Tory bubble is thinking (using the term loosely) then you need to read the Spectator. If you don't then there is no reason to read it at all, ever. It's the Tory court circular.

People who read the Spectator mainly get their views from The Spectator, The Daily Telegraph and nowhere else. Occasionally there's a decent essay on conservative fundamentals but mostly it's an establishment rag that will go to bat for the incumbent Tory power whoever they are, but especially so for Boris Johnson.

Fundamentally it subscribes to all the classic Tory nonsense up to and including a no deal Brexit but occasionally allows self-important dickheads like James Kirkup column inches to give it an air of respectable impartiality. But essentially, it's a propaganda rag that exists to tell Tories what they want to hear. Always was, always will be.

The Daily Express

Generally read by the Ukip fraternity and the Tory right membership. It is pure propaganda. It has constructed a worldview where the EU is essentially the Fourth Reich, it's out to get us, but Britain holds all the cards. It's a daily paranoid delusion. As a rule, if the Daily Express is reporting it then it either isn't true or is so badly misrepresented that one may as well disregard it. I habitually ignore it and you should too. It's not a vessel for anyone with an interest in what is actually happening.

The Guardian

Essentially the bible of the snobby progressive middle class. Famous for its highly ridiculous commentary written by metropolitan leftists with their heads so far up their backsides they can taste their own tonsils. News wise, it actually does a pretty good job of reportage but it's wise not to trust it entirely in that they've learned the story of the boy who cried wolf; If you lie sparingly, you can get away with it.

The Independent

Essentially a left wing, pro-EU version of the Daily Express. If they're reporting it then it probably isn't true. Like the Guardian they still make an attempt at being a serious newspaper and it's run by the same sort of demented cosmopolitan leftists, but not actually as bright as the folks at The Guardian so when they do plant a lie inside the truth it's immediately obvious to anyone who isn't as mental as they are.

The Daily Telegraph

The DT used to be a serious newspaper but only just. Since 2006 it's been on a slow decline to become a broadsheet version of the Daily Express, designed largely to feed the Tory right their own opinions back to them. It's more subtle in its derangement than the Daily Express but it would still have us believe that the EU's collapse is imminent and virtually every week they retail a story on how the Euro is about to implode in the vague hope that one day they will be right.

In recent years it has become less relevant to the national discourse by way of going behind a paywall much like The Times. The Telegraph is so predictable, though, that one need not part with money to hazard a guess what it's saying about any particular issue. Whatever it is, it's the EU's fault and hooray for Boris Johnson.

The Times

The Times is still cashing in on its legacy prestige and its long standing status as a newspaper of record. Unlike the Telegraph it does not specialise in any particular brand of idiocy. It will publish virtually anything so long as the author has a degree of establishment prestige or a fancy title. That's their sole marker of quality. Now behind a paywall, it is only occasionally relevant to the national discourse when a minister or prime minister gives it exclusive access, so that we have to part with money to know what our politicians intend on doing to us. These articles really should be free to view but this is Britain, not a democracy.

The Daily Mail

By far the most read British news vessel - which is expert at what it does; generating clickbait and turning it into revenue. For this reason I choose to ignore it to the point where I even forget it exists. Headlines usually say the exact opposite of the article but they'll say virtually anything that panders to the idea that Britain is being taken over by Muslims and London is turning into Soweto while a decadent PC establishment allows foreigners to rape and murder with impunity. It works because it's partially true. A daily dose of hate bait gets the blood pumping.

The Sun

Tits and arses but more arses than tits these days. Influential yes, but substantially less influential than the left imagines. They still think our exposure to Sun front pages on supermarket and garage forecourts warps our tiny little brains and that's why we vote for the Tories and Brexit. That they think this is actually why we vote for Tories - and Brexit.

The Mirror

Brexit and all things evil that happen in the world a result of Tory austerity. Millions upon millions of Brits are living in poverty and destitution and Tories wake up in the morning dreaming of new ways to stick it to disabled people on benefits. It's a view I suppose. Quite a popular one with Corbynites. Nobody serious pays any attention to The Mirror.

The Financial Times

The FT is essentially the mouthpiece of what is described as "neoliberal capitalism" therefore it is mouthpiece of the EU - which can do no wrong in their eyes. I stopped reading it when I noticed their penchant for plagiarism and inability to conceptualise a world view other than their own. Very occasionally they turn up something useful but I won't read or retweet on principle. I will look for the blog they nicked it off. 

The Economist

Progressive left wing dribble which is neither written by or read by economists. Mostly run by teenagers. Were it not a legacy title it would have vanished years ago.

The New Statesman

Basically a Blairite version of The Speccie. Essentially TNS is to the Graun what the Speccie is to the Telegraph. Lots of progressive forelock tugging over Brexit. Of no real value.

Spiked Online

Once a revolutionary communist outfit, and despised by just about everyone on the contemporary left, Spiked has long been a contrarian rabble-rousing rag run mainly for the greater glory of its editor. Having been attention starved for so long it has now become a paid up member of the Tory disinformation network, salivating for a job destroying no deal Brexit. Essentially written by children for children.

The BBC

Accused of bias by both sides so it must be doing something right yeah? No. Their idea of balance is to pit equally stupid talking heads from each extreme of the debate against each other, but where Brexit is concerned they use a remainer from the Institute of Well Spoken Telegenic Wonks and a leaver conforming to the Horace McBigot, cobwebbed colonial tory stereotype.

But supposing we looked past that and wrote it off as inherent institutional cosmopolitan bias, the greater sin of the BBC is being generally crap at what it does. How well I remember in the early days of the referendum the BBC sending Carolyn Quinn off on a jetplane to do a bit on Greenland's departure from the EEC as though that could tell us anything whatsoever about the Brexit process. That was then followed by a lamentably poor examination of the Norway Option by Jonty Bloom, trotting out all the usual bilge about "fax democracy". If these people are there to inform us, they are having a laugh. Course, I could write volumes on the failure of the BBC but we'd be here all week.

Sky News

If there is a distinction between the crapness of the BBC and Sky News I don't see it. They are essentially the same thing and its personnel are infinitely interchangeable. Its only apparent merit is that it isn't the BBC, which ought to count for something but it doesn't.

Channel 4 News

Credit where credit's due. If you are going to be an unhinged leftist news vessel you might as well go all the way out -and this they have done with distinction. Take all the worst traits of the Guardian, Independent and Mirror and roll them up with an additional dose of bile and you have Channel 4 News. Sometimes I think it exists only so that the BBC can point to it as an example of what left wing bias actually looks like.

Conclusion

British media is crap. If any of these vessels were post-internet startups they would not last six months and many of them would be dead already were it not for an injection of private cash to keep them pumping out agenda driven bilge. You are no better informed for reading any of them and they would not be missed were they no longer a thing since most of their actual news content is rehashed agency copy and Private Eye might be the last remaining vessel doing any serious journalism. For what that's worth.

We now live in an age where much of the primary material is already available to us without the legacy media adding their own ignorant spin, and in many cases the legacy media creating white noise around difficult issues actually clouds our collective understanding - especially so when some like The Telegraph, Express and Spectator are seeking to deliberately misinform.

Though our political class has utterly failed us, resulting in Boris Johnson as PM and a no deal Brexit on the cards, British media has also played a unique part in our downfall by way of it being incapable of quality journalism or treating news consumers as adults. Especially so the BBC which still, depressingly, dominates much of the national debate.

When it comes to British media there are really only two approaches. Either read all of it and draw your own conclusions or read none of it and take a wild guess. Either way, you'll be closer to the truth than staying loyal to any of them. 

Brexit: a matter of faith


It's not too taxing to come up with a hundred good reasons to leave the EU. One thing I can say with certainty, though, is that "free trade" is not one of them. For me it's purely an estimation of what the EU is and its direction of travel. It is a global trade superpower but one whose global flex comes at the expense of member states' democracy.

Were one strictly concerned with the geopolitics of the issue then Brexit is perhaps not a very good idea. Being in a trade alliance makes a good deal of sense in a world full of predators and carnivores. The problem though, is that a mere trade alliance is not on offer. You're either in all the way, on the Ever Closer Union bus, or you're not. Whatever opt outs and vetoes we may have are only temporary and there is nothing to stop any future administration giving them away. On past form, and on a long enough lime line, there is every reason to expect they will; handing powers over taxation and foreign policy to Brussels.

What makes the EU all the more disturbing is that it does not take no for an answer. That power it doesn't get by way of agreements and treaties, it can gradually appropriate through ECJ and Commission decisions, redefining the scope of EU powers all the time. little by little, it chips away at national sovereignty, in many cases without direct consent and without the knowledge of legislators.

Any leaver of Twitter is now used to the remain tactic of disingenuously asking "Can anyone name just one tangible benefit of Brexit". As it happens, I can't. The benefits are largely the intangibles pertaining to the nature of our democracy and the culture of our governance. These are questions, I feel, are more vital than mere tangible benefits. I would ask, what are the tangible benefits of EU membership that especially matter to me that I have the time or the money to exploit?

Brexit to me is about something more fundamental. For as long as we are in the EU the real power seeps away from the people and into the hands of technocrats where government becomes management theory and so long as the economic vital statistics look good, then they're convinced they're doing a good job. Trade has winners and losers and the latter are expected to make sacrifices in the greater good.

It's actually Brexit that shows us just how deep set this process is. For all that the media is now focussed on the damage Brexit will do to UK commerce, it should not be forgotten what was done to us. The EU project led to the breaking of powerful national industries in favour of distributed supply chains such as Honda and Airbus. The mentality behind it is much the same as the original Coal and Steel Community. Primarily to stop us going to war over such resources, but secondly to make us so interdependent that we would never even entertain the idea of something like Brexit.

Except that we did, and now losing those supply chains goes with the territory. We can  expect to take a major hit to our automotive and aerospace sectors along with much else that was designed to be transnational in nature. Airbus itself is a product of European me-tooism and is fundamentally a political project. Producing aeroplanes is a secondary consideration.

But of course, the British public were warned we could lose all these jobs. Nobody can say we weren't warned. We had a months long referendum campaign where the remain camp spelled it out in the most gruesome terms on a daily basis. They decided, for right or wrong that Remain was either exaggerating, or that the issue was of such importance that secondary economic considerations didn't matter. It was a matter of individual conscience.

Remainers would have it that we now know a lot more about what what Brexit looks like and with more and better information we should all go away and think again. This overlooks their own role in making it look the way it does. Remainers have fought tooth and nail to frustrate the implementation of the result, voting down all of the alternatives to no deal. They have fought hard to make Brexit as bad as they said it would be. To suggest then that we should be allowed another vote on the matter is somewhat disingenuous.

Of course, there are still plenty of Brexiters around who think no deal is no problem despite three years of intense technical discourse on the subject. Some people are just determined to listen to cranks. But I don't think it would matter if they thought otherwise. They expect to see the result implemented because ultimately it is not for politicians to second guess a democratic verdict. We fought long and hard to get the referendum and if we're now saying that we only implement the results we like then we're saying that a lifetime of political participation isn't worth a damn.

So what about the cost? It would seem all of the "tangible benefits" asserted by the leave camp are evaporating. That actually speaks to the the way in which the debate has been framed since early on in the campaign. This was never primarily an economic question. Fundamentally it is a question of who governs us but somehow we got sucked into an economic debate. There's a reason for this.

This is partly a tactical victory on the part of the remain camp. On the economics alone the remain argument wins every time. That's the ground they had to fight this battle on, framing the EU as a trade bloc. They couldn't afford to get into  the more existential questions of what the EU really is and its direction of travel. They would have to keep up the pretense that it was just a trade bloc which exposes the fundamental dishonesty of their position.

This is where a lot of leavers have a great deal of respect for the likes of Guy Verhofstadt who is a "balls out" federalist and his only dispute with the EU is that it isn't going fast enough toward full federalisation. That's a more honest position than pretending the EU isn't a political project. That must have been most inconvenient to remainers who were busy telling us the EU was something else.

 Meanwhile, there were those of us on the fringes of the debate who always said that Brexit would come at a cost but the ultimate prize was the freedom to govern ourselves. A freedom that trumps all of the EU's "tangible benefits". This issue tackles the more fundamental questions around the role of the nation state in an ever globalising world, where the globalist consensus is that the nation state is a redundant, obsolete thing rather than the best protector of rights and liberties.

On that score, I will always come down on the side of Brexit. The mounting concerns in respect of our departure are less to do with the act of leaving as it is the grotesque incompetence our own political establishment, and the process has revealed a deep running dysfunction that suggests the problems in our so-called democracy are worse than we thought. We may be regaining the right to govern ourselves but there is scant chance it will be done well.

That may force some to conclude that Brexit isn't worth it after all ad that we are safer in the hands of anonymous technocrats than British politicians informed our lamentable media. It has certainly been a test of my own convictions. A quick look at vox pops from the Brecon by-election is enough to shake anyone's belief in democracy when the public has some horribly flimsy and often flippant reasons for voting the way they do. But that's ultimately how democracy goes.

This then comes down to a question of where I place my trust. Do I trust in the bureaucratic behemoth in Brussels or do I trust my fellow citizens to make the right call at the right time? I think the latter. They have proven themselves to be trustworthy.

I hated Tony Blair. I had a pretty good idea of where to was going to end up in 1997 and was sickened to see Blair winning successive elections. But then you look at why he won. We'd had well over a decade of worsening Tory rule and it was time for them to go. What kept Blair in power was the unelectability of the Tories under Hague, Howard and Duncan Smith. But then when it was time, when the nation would not tolerate Gordon Brown any longer, he was kicked out to return a Tory-Lib coalition. That Cameron wasn't sufficiently popular to win in his own right speaks further to the inherent wisdom of the electorate.

Even now that wisdom holds. Readers know well that I am no fan of Boris Johnson and his crony government, and is destined to be the worst PM in history, but then Jeremy Corbyn and his intellectually subnormal shadow cabinet remind us that things could always be a magnitude worse. This is how politics functions. We have to chose the least worst among dreadful options. The electorate has a track record of getting it right.

That this particular episode in British politics is likely to deliver a pig's ear of a Brexit resulting in massive job losses and a decade of stagnation (if not recession) is really neither here nor there. The public have rightly sensed there must be fundamental change.

Whether you agree that Brexit is the right change is also neither here nor there. The point being that it is the only way to get meaningful change. Had we voted to remain our politics would have resumed on its normal course with the same inherent dysfunction, failing to address a series of acute problems with consequences perhaps graver than a no deal Brexit. The first step to correcting a problem is to acknowledge it, but we have a politics in ostrich mode with their heads in the sand over a number of vitally important matters from social cohesion to the future of the welfare state.

At this point I am resigned to a Boris Johnson government and in that time the free market ideologues will have their chance to do a lot of damage, but when the results of a no deal Brexit come in, the public will soon conclude that it's time for the Tories to go if the opposition can provide a viable alternative. We're just stuck with then until Labour can remove bed blocker Corbyn. When the time comes the Brexiters will have to answer for their incompetence.

Ultimately Britain is going to have to take the long and hard road to become a self-governing country. We have lost touch with the art of statecraft by way of having the lived a long time where the fundamental questions are settled. The EU has provided the economic foundation of every government in the last forty years. During this time, foreign policy and trade have vanished from public debate and in the absence of our own direction we have tagged along with the EU until we could go no further down that path. We now have to decide our own purpose.

We will make mistakes on the road to national rediscovery, and there's a major fight to be had over who we are and the values we project - but we must have that reckoning in order to find a new political and economic settlement because nothing else gets resolved until we do. To chicken out of Brexit would simply defer that reckoning while we continue to pretend all is well in the country. If we accept that a reckoning is both necessary and inevitable, then this is is the time to do it.

We are told there are better ways to spend the national treasure, but if we are not willing to invest in this political process, what are we even for?  If the job of national government is simply to distribute funds to put out brushfires then we no longer exist for a reason.

The failure of our politicians to come up with a workable departure agreement with the EU is just the first of many failures in what is sure to be a long line of them. The "free trade" ideologue Tories are working to obsolete and anachronistic ideas about the world of trade and we are all going to pay a price for their education. The errors will be further compounded by botched attempts to correct them. We will limp from problem to problem until we rebuild the national institutional memory required to guide them.

The crucial thing, though, is that they will be our errors. We will own them. They are a direct consequence of our voting decisions and our willingness to accept mediocrity in politics and media. One imagines that eventually British tolerance for it will run out. Then and only then will we stand a chance of building the democracy we need and deserve.