Wednesday, 27 March 2019


So now we're in trouble. Unless parliament ratifies the withdrawal agreement Mrs May has nothing to take to Brussels and no way forward that could secure an extension to negotiations. Parliament will not make an affirmative choice so it comes down to the default option. No deal. Revoking Article 50 is an option but one that carries enormous political risks and sets the UK down a volatile path.

Being that the Conservative party largely favours no deal, the they'd be looking at an extinction level event were they to revoke Article 50 so it looks like we will leave without a deal largely for the short term survival of the party. I say short term because it won't take very long for voters to work out that the Tories who have long preached that there is nothing to fear from no deal have been engaged in a systematic campaign of lying. 

At that point we will set upon a nationwide enquiry as to what went wrong. The last three years of politics will produce a lifetime of lessons. This is not only a failure of the Conservative party but politics as a whole. Parliament as a whole did not want to leave the EU without a deal and on multiple occasions expressed that through multiple votes. Those pushing to leave without a deal were outnumbered five to one.

There is no single factor that brought us to this point but it has a lot to do with the state of the House of Commons. MPs acting in concert could at any time have asserted themselves but for the last three years have failed to unite in order to bring the executive to heel. What we have seen instead is a disorganised and atomised rabble each talking past each other, and mainly concerned with saving their own skin come the next election.

But then a a major factor here is that parliament has never really accepted that the UK voted to leave and though MPs have made all the right noises about respecting the vote, they've been biding their time, waiting for an opportunity to derail Brexit. By fighting to preserve the status quo they never invested any energy in imagining any alternatives and instead continue to impress upon us that Brexit is bad nobody voted to be poorer. With each extreme drowning out the middle, all they succeeded in doing was to harden opposition. 

Then, of course, there was the media who have been equally guilty in failing to grasp the issues and treat them with the seriousness they require. There was a time when I would attack the media for its inherent biases, but bias is no longer the central problem. It's the insular and trivial approach to reporting complex matters. All they do is regurgitate talking points and they wait to be spoonfed rather than investigating the issues. I can think of only two reporters who aren't a total waste of time.

There is then the complete collapse of politics as a whole. Not at any time have we seen a coherent opposition. The Labour party no longer functions as a single party. They never accepted Corbyn's leadership (if you can call it that) and at no tie has the opposition had sufficiently adequate command of the facts in order to embarrass the government despite the goals being wide open the whole time.

The problem for Labour is that it has never especially cared about the EU as an issue. It's an issue that has long split the Conservatives and Labour have kept an artificial consensus running as a political weapon. Labour is really only interested in doling out welfare to its respective client votes and has no instinct for statecraft. Now that the EU has become the defining issue, Labour has nothing useful to say about it and in order to keep the alliance between London progressives and the working class northern base, they have avoided taking a firm stance, hoping to be the beneficiary of whatever mess the Conservatives make of it.

This dynamic, I suspect, is largely to do with our EU membership where the longer term strategic decision making on anything from energy to agriculture is done in Brussels, reducing our national parliaments to term administrators there to balance the budget. Politics as as we know it just isn't set up for a long term complex process like Brexit. The mindset of MPs doesn't extend beyond the next general election and they only ever turn their attention to the vote winning subjects, ever chasing headlines and publicity.

It would help if MPs were at least up to speed with the issues but the information channels have long since been corrupted. We now have an activist media and our think tanks have become lobbyists, stuffed to the gunwales with narcissistic twentysomethings who wangled the right internship through family connections. The Westminster apparatus is largely steered by know-nothing chancers with Oxford politics degrees.

There is no single factor that has brought us to this point. Rather it is the culmination of a host of issues brought to the fore by Brexit. It was already apparent but Brexit is beyond their abilities and it really shows. Worse still, it's not going to improve any time soon. No matter how much of a hash they make of Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn is still just enough to stop Labour taking power and we'll be stuck in limbo with a hung parliament for a long time to come.     

This raises serious questions about their collective ability to respond to the many problems created by Brexit, especially in the event of no deal. You can't really expect the system to solve the problem when the system very much is the problem. Worse still, they're never going to admit that. It's going to take a lot more than Brexit before we see the return of good government. We may not see it again in our lifetimes.

Though I have never been especially convinced by any economic case for Brexit I have always seen it as a catalyst in that you have to expose the problems in order to address them. But without the necessary power and those with power obstructing meaningful reform, it seems to me that it's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets any better. Voters have to realise for themselves that it's the system at fault rather than who we actually elect.

If we leave the EU without a deal, and at this point I rather expect we will, there will be plenty of wailing from the media and politicians alike, none of whom will examine their own role in bringing this about. They have unparalleled access to knowledge and expertise, they've had all the time they could possibly need and they've had three chances to ratify a withdrawal agreement after voting by a huge majority to set us down this path.

Notionally, MPs are there to serve as goalkeepers to stop bad ideas. Collectively they have enormous power and where they choose to exercise it they can even bring governments down. Instead they've spent the whole time indulging in insular tribal bickering. They didn't have to like Brexit but it was ultimately the legitimate verdict of the public. Had they accepted that and applied themselves, they could have been calling the shots. Instead they dithered and allowed events to overtake them.

Of itself Brexit was never much of a remedy to anything, but one thing is clear; we are not going to resolve anything until we address the deep set political dysfunction. Brexit has become that window of opportunity. The public are in part at fault for this mess in that they have delegated politics to politicians and taken their eye off the ball. If there is one thing Brexit teaches us it is that politics is too important to be left solely to the politicians. Now it's out in the open - and very soon we will feel the real consequences of that negligence, we will see a unified demand for change. That above all is the real Brexit dividend.

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