Monday, 13 June 2016

A message to Brexiteers

There are polling signals which suggest Leave has a narrow lead. If you have learned anything at all from the general election it is that polls can be deceptive. We are likely to have had an impact since we are carpet bombing social media but the mood can change even on polling day. 

I would venture that polling in referendums is even less reliable than in general elections. The public will answer the poll question at face value but the question they answer in the polling booth will be different for everyone. For some the question will be "Do you want to leave the EU?" for others it will be "Do I want Boris Johnson as PM?" Voters are not rational creatures and will be answering a question deeply personal to them.

Then there's the polling day itself. Some will walk to the polling booth with every intention of sticking it to the man, but will chicken out and vote for the status quo in the very last few seconds. That could see anywhere up to a 10% swing in favour of remain. That is entirely possible because Vote Leave have not made a reassuring or competent argument and people won't take the risk if they think it may cost them their job. The bluster of "they sell more to us that we sell to them" may work on the doorstep, but it has not passed muster among opinion formers. And nor should it. It is insufficient.

The most compelling argument is to tell the truth. That at the very least nothing will change until the conclusion of Article 50 talks and after that, given the predisposition of parliament, we will stay in the single market making far more compromises than the average Ukpper would be happy with. It will be far less eventful in the short to medium term than anybody in the media expects. We will get an amicable deal and the pace of change will be somewhat pedestrian. I feel this approach is far more reassuring than promising the rainbow. 

If there is one thing that could lose this it is complacency and vile histrionics about immigration. I fear Ukip and their fellow travellers have already damaged us in that regard. Their sabotage of Flexcit has done us no favours either. But supposing I have been wrong all this time and this incoherent rabble shored up by the herculean efforts of my fellow bloggers is enough to win the day, I wouldn't be popping any corks just yet. There is a long road ahead should we win.

If you have properly understood the rationale for leaving the EU then you know it is about democracy first and foremost. And in making that argument the causal retort of europhiles is that the UK, by our own standard, is not a democracy either. They are right. And so there is no downing of tools to let the politicians get on with it. Not least since they will do everything to drag their heels and possibly even subvert the referendum result. 

Brexit, is only the first baby step in what must be a complete reinvention of UK democracy. There is an appetite for voting reform but our rotten state of politics must be first on the agenda. We need to modernise our democracy and put in place constraints to prevent our politicians ever doing this to us again. Simply "restoring power to Wesminster" rather overlooks that we do not want anybody to have power over us. We seek real democracy where we have power over them.

The say feudalism is when it's your count that votes. That is pretty much the model parliament works on to this day. The only difference is that once every five years, by accident of numbers, there's a remote shot at ousting our representatives, who in the meantime can pretty much do as they please in our name. This is not sufficient to call it a democracy. We must have sweeping reforms to enhance our control over them and ensure they answer to us. 

From the beginning we have remarked that Brexit is a process, not an event. It is a revolution that starts with leaving the EU and it may take decades to transform Britain. But this is not about turning the clock back,. It's not about resetting the rules back to 1992. It's about designing a Britain fit to do business in a global marketplace, participating in a global community of equals. In that we seek friendship and cooperation with all our allies including the EU. 

To that end, what we embark upon is no small undertaking. Our politicians have proven themselves untrustworthy. It will require of us the same level of vigilance and commitment that has brought us to this point. If we have come all this way simply to get out of the EU and leave the politicians to it then we have left the job half done. Because we are not fighting against the EU. We are fighting against the mindset that spawned it. The suspicion that humans cannot be trusted to run their own affairs without destroying themselves; the idea that democracy is dangerous and should be kept out of the reach of people like you and me. 

This idea has spread like a virus throughout the system from the very top of global governance, through to the EU, down to the member states and into our councils, universities and schools. It affects us in very visible ways and more subtle, pernicious ways. It is that which has hollowed out and cheapened public life, making us every more malleable to the whims of tyrants - and reduced us to the status of cattle. The beast has tentacles in every strand of civic society.  It is that which we must change. It is that we must root out. Until that is done, there is an ever present danger that we will be back here again. 

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