Monday, 1 August 2016

Brexit is suffering from an ideas vacuum

One does not like to pour scorn on political activity but I have long held the view that activity should never be mistaken as productivity. In last night's blog I detailed many of the underlying issues that bring us to where we are in politics. It mainly comes down to a remote and undemocratic system of governance that it eroding quality of life. The EU is a major facet of that.

Many have assumed that Brexit is the cure. It isn't. It is only a catalyst. In fact, without a political movement it is reduced to a transactional process where not a lot changes. Had there been a movement prepared to do the groundwork it could have capitalised on this moment in history. Instead we have nothing.

Looking at the political landscape we see that Ukip is busy imploding. Arron Banks is presently funding it with a view to making it an even angrier nativist party of the hard right. That will fail. They are fishing for policy ideas and all they will get are the usual daft suggestions plucked out of a tombola. Anything from uniforms for train drivers to free corsets for the under fives.

They haven't learned anything from their dabbling in politics. They will pander to their Mr Angry constituency opening up more avenues for ridicule and make themselves an irrelevance. Any political leverage Ukip had will rapidly evaporate. Only Labour's disarray can keep their party afloat but it is unlikely to achieve anything without ideas that can turn the party out of its cul de sac.

I could keep banging this drum but it's wholly pointless. Ukippers are still under the illusion that their man got us out of the EU and grunting about foreigners works. Arron Banks thinks he knows it all and can't be told anything. I can think of no movement that deserves to fail more.

Any movement which wants to capture the post Brexit mood will need wider appeal. It will have to bridge the gulf between the Green Party and Ukip and the other minnows. And that is possible.

All of them have had a stab at ideas for democratic reform from calls to reform the lords through to variations on proportional representation. They have all worked out that there is something wrong with out democracy but cannot make the final leap in coming up with an intelligent diagnosis and a workable programme of reforms. Proportional representation is just a knee-jerk idea they spout in the absence of original thinking. That is why the ground is fertile for a new movement. There is an ideas vacuum waiting to be filled.

I have noticed a series of events kicking off in the wake of the referendum, not least Invoke Democracy Now, but these are latecomers with a good deal of enthusiasm and evidently organisational ability but what's missing is the intellectual framework. Any post-Brexit events without an agenda and an idea of what they want are likely to produce more white noise leaving people just as bewildered as before.

What we need is a movement that concerns itself only with democracy. A political party kicking policy memes around can only do so much good in that good ideas can be borrowed by the powers that be but do nothing to put the power in the hands of people. It also means that popular ideas will be stolen even if they are not good ideas. What we need is a movement that seeks to recover the power and dismantle the authoritarian quangocracy we have constructed.

Labour is still boxed into the idea of socialism and reversing privatisation but this is even more regressive than Ukip. Old socialist ideas really are winding the clock back. The fact is that some things work better in private hands and other things simply are not going to be returned to public ownership and would not function any better if they were. The missing element is accountability and state owned services can be just as prone to that same institutional remoteness.

Moreover socialism is a crap idea. It's instructive that we see the young turning out to support Jeremy Corbyn. They are not quite old enough to remember just how crappy British state ownership really was. Everything was always on strike, everything was broken or dirty and the response times were feeble. And though one might lament the corporatisation of government under the Blair era, we shouldn't be so hasty in chucking it all on the bonfire. Some of it works quite well and some public services function better for it.

The issue is less a matter of ownership as who they actually serve. Brexit is a big part of the answer in that public services, charities and universities are dancing to the tune of the EU for as long as they are in receipt of EU money. But by the same token, having them funded by Westminster does not make them necessarily more accountable.

What we need is a new constitution for the UK that brings in measures to ensure the people are in control of their government and that politicians and institutions are properly answerable to the people they serve. That is why the six demands of The Harrogate Agenda should form the basis of any new movement. If we are looking at returning the power to Westminster rather than the people then we might as well not have bothered with Brexit at all. The same mindset prevails in Whitehall and if anything the EU is an extension of that kind of thinking.

What we need is a new blueprint for British governance. That is what the Harrogate Agenda is for. These are not disparate demands to address specific gripes. We are looking at building a new toolset for people to affect the decisions made in their name so that they are participants in the decision making and owners of the decisions. It puts the people in control. That is what we must push for. If the aim was simply to take technocratic decisions away from Brussels and put them in London then it's difficult to see what we have gained by leaving the EU.

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