Friday, 26 February 2016

Uncertainty? Yes please!!

The EU: needlessly tedious

Three years ago I thought that leaving the EU would give us back control of our law-making. I thought it would save a lot of money. I thought it would help slow immigration. I thought it would mean massive deregulation. I was wrong on all counts. And that's ok. I couldn't be more at ease with the europhiles winning those arguments. I can still make a case for leaving and I still want to leave.

The question is so much more than these peripheral issues. It's a question of where we are and where we want to be. So let's look at where we are. Presently, if you filter out a lot of the hyperventilation and left wing noise, most people don't recognise Britain as an austerity wracked neoliberal hellhole. It's doing ok. It could be better, but it's ok.

That's a problem for people who want political change because things usually have to be worse than this to instigate political change of Brexit magnitude. We are told that there is a serious anti-politics sentiment afoot, but all that flies out of the window in a referendum where all the Brexiteers are rushing to worship at the altar of Boris. It's pathetic really.

Certainly I don't see a discontented broken society yearning for change. It's all very peaceful and all very bovine. Compared to the mainland of Europe we are sitting pretty and those of us who believe we have problem immigration just don't know the half of what Paris puts up with. For sure we hear some chilling tales coming out of East London, but when has East London ever not been a hovel?

Meanwhile, my own experience does not reflect the picture painted in the media. I live in Bristol - which to my mind is a peaceful, clean and friendly city with lots to do, and things to see. Certainly my limited needs in terms of healthcare and dentistry have been well catered for, and I don't recognise this "NHS at breaking point" in practice. Perhaps I live a charmed existence.

It would seem that the benign managerialism of government works quite well. Except that there's a certain political ennui about it. I know that politics should not exist for the entertainment of political wonks and bloggers and if it is working well it should be profoundly uninteresting to normal people, and the fact that it is free of any major conflict ought to be encouraging - but something doesn't seem right still.

In a sense it feels like we are passengers. We don't have any power over things that happen in the political domain. We are powerless observers. Parliament voted to go and drop munitions on Syria last year, and though we had a big political row about it, parliament voted by a large margin to take us to war. Our voices didn't matter.

Similarly, a vast majority of people wanted a say over the Lisbon treaty, But that was ratified without a referendum. We are now stuck in a relationship that nearly half the population definitely do not want with an undecided margin that go either way. What makes the decision more difficult is the complexities thrown up by the existence of the Lisbon treaty and Article 50. It's enough to sow doubt that we could get an equitable deal.

In this, we all have a gut feeling that the referendum is being manipulated by the establishment, cutting short the lead time, fudging and faking reforms and abusing the processes to make it go the government's way. The soul of Britain wants to leave the EU but we know our politicians do not serve the people. And that's at the heart of it. Britain is soul sick.

You can see it in our politics as the left wing struggle for relevance, dragging up 1980's arguments from when they were last relevant, desperately trying to manipulate a mental image of a Dickensian Britain that simply doesn't exist. The whole political core is at a loose end. The Labour party was coopted by a small and motivated band of hard leftists largely because nobody cared enough to stop them.

It's all so jaded now that so much as I dislike the politics of Jeremy Corbyn I sometimes think it might be amusing to watch were he to get into Number 10. Anything to save us from another charmless suit without a hint of sincerity. Truth be known, were Corbyn not such a colossal moral coward I could overlook his socialism and even vote for him - but in the end he buckled on the matter of the EU and has proven he is just as much a hypocrite as the rest of them.

Tories will warn that a Corbyn government would be a disaster for the country and that he is a major threat to national security. I seriously doubt that he would be because while we are in the EU he is bound by the law the same as David Cameron is. He will do as he is told.

Some would have it that this is why we should be in the EU, to stop politicians doing what they are elected to do. The left want the EU right now because they believe it stops the Tories trampling on workers rights, and the Tories would want it to ensure Corbyn didn't hoist the Hammer and Sickle over Buckingham Palace.

And this is why the EU sucks. We can have any government of any stripe so long as it performs within a set of predefined parameters and does as it is told. How very dull. In dispensing with democracy we have dispensed with politics and in place of politics we have civic administration where everything is merely about the allocation of resources. Where's the big idea?

We have heard from every politician the same vague promises about returning power to the people and restoring localism, but we've heard it from ardent europhiles who do not see the inherent contradiction in their empty words.

By excluding the people from decision making we have killed off social innovation and enterprise, we have beaten the life out of our education system and where our health system works it is more through luck and the application of cash than actual managerial skill. It is little wonder that business looks overseas for skilled individuals in that our schools are micromanaged to the point of insanity, beating the vitality out of teachers so that children are neither engaged nor educated.

Put simply, there is no longer any uncertainty in politics. The corporates have got their own way. They keep saying if we leave the EU, it will cause uncertainty but that's actually exactly what we need. We do need some uncertainty that causes to re-engage in politics and to learn more about civic participation and steer decision making. We need some political risk taking so that we can innovate. It might mean a lot improves and it might mean some things break down. But wouldn't that be more tolerable than the interminable beigeness of modern, post-democracy Britain?

The EU is certainly an uninspiring vision - to homogenise business and culture from Cork to Kiev, under a single boring blue flag with boring yellow stars. (Ok, so yellow stars and Europe always should be boring) - but there's no real energy in it. Even many who want to stay in the EU do so not because the EU is a good idea but because they think Brexit will be a bit tricky and they haven't been offered something better.

For sure, we have the freedom to work and travel anywhere in Europe, but who actually does that? Seriously? If the opportunities were so vast, why is everybody coming here? And if everybody is coming here, why should I bother? Besides, I want to go to Canada.

This is not a jingoistic thing and it's not a nationalistic thing, it's just that I never wanted a supreme government for Europe, I don't see any reason to be subordinated by one, I was never asked and I think things could be a lot more interesting if we could decide for ourselves who our partners are.

I don't really care about immigration, I'm not really going to go to the barricades over helicopter safety regulations, and leaving the EU isn't going to put money back in my wallet so there's sod all reason to get worked up about Ukip arguments, but the idea we could build something bigger and something different without a depressingly mundane destination - that might just be worth voting for. We need to leave the EU before it bores us all to death.

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