Friday, 29 March 2019

Nothing much to celebrate

Some have remarked that I've been a lot quieter than usual just lately. I've been lurking in watch mode rather than voicing my views. To a very large extent, I'm not exactly sure where I stand on current events as they are unfolding.

Yesterday there was a pro-Brexit march in Westminster but as a leaver I wanted nothing to do with it. Aside from the fact I think we should leave the EU, I have nothing in common with these people. When I look at these people waving their placards I see all the people who have bought into every passing narrative engineered by the London Brexit blob and speakers at the event will no doubt have trotted out all the hackneyed cliches I see daily on Twitter. I'm just not interested.

Ultimately these are people who will cheer on the day we leave without a deal. People who have disregarded the complexity from day one in favour of populist slogans. It's everything I detest about the self-regarding Brexit blob; reducing a complex issue into a binary narrative.

It seems fitting that carpetbaggers like Claire Fox and Brendan O'Neill should have been speaking at the event. These are people who at the very beginning turned out with "Invoke Article 50 now" placards; a sure sign that they had neither understood the process nor given it a nanosecond's thought. Then after nearly three years of intense debate, all the complexities and nuances still managed to escape these people having used every platform available to them to trot out the same crass mantras about having nothing to fear from no deal where every legitimate concern is rubbished as "project fear".

It's actually got to the point where if I meet a Brexiter outside of the internet I don't want to discuss Brexit at all. They tend to be followers rather than thinkers. They pin their colours to the mast of any passing ship. First Farage was the messiah, then Boris Johnson, then Jacob Rees-Mogg, and for some reason they always seem surprised when they turnout to be know-nothing charlatans.

Any which way you look at it, leaving the EU without a deal is a massive failure of politics. It doesn't solve anything. There are a multitude of transboundary concerns from fishing through to space policy, pollution and trade that need to be addressed. All of this still has to be negotiated and with UK-EU relations at an all time low, with minimal trust between the two, rebuilding relations is going to be long and arduous and will likely not look much different to the withdrawal agreement presently within our grasp.

If anything I am aghast at the whole jamboree. No dealers like Rees-Mogg and Jonathan Isaby (editor of BrexitCentral) suddenly turn tail and support May's deal while devout remainers vote it down thus making no deal a near certainty. The dishonestly, mendacity, opportunism and downright stupidity is infuriating.

We can't even say the best efforts of a dedicated few have been thwarted. Nowhere in the debate is there any learned coherence to be found. On the one hand we have grunting jingoistic morons like Mark francois and on the other we have tin-eared snobby bigots like Anna Soubry and Chuka Umunna. These people have nothing to say to me. There are some who have picked up and run with the EEA Efta cause but understand too little and come to it too late, failing to grasp that we don't get anywhere near an EEA outcome without ratifying a withdrawal agreement.

But then of course, with Brexiters being a baying mob who insist that anything that isn't a WTO Brexit isn't Brexit at all, they are going to cry betrayal whatever the weather so there is no compromise to be had. This speaks to the propaganda power of the Brexit blob. Even if there were an honest broker on the leave side pushing for Efta EEA, they'd be facing deselection motions at home.

In the end the whole process descended into madness. In the beginning it was reasonable to assume that with a majority of MPs being anti-Brexit that they would at least do the bare minimum to avoid no deal if they didn't manage to unite around a softer Brexit. Turns out even that was overly optimistic. With politics being as broken as it is, there was never any hope of them making a good go of it.

When Brexit day arrives I can't say I will be in the pub celebrating a job well done. Brexit day serves only as a marker on a much longer road, and by leaving without a deal the road back to unity and stability is far longer and fraught with more risk. If politics couldn't handle the routine work of passing the necessary bills to get us out of the EU then they will seriously struggle to repair the damage we're about to do to ourselves.

With that, I'm suffering from a sense of total resignation. There is no single point of failure here and no single group or person we can point the finger at. This is a total systemic and institutional collapse encompassing all of the parties, both houses of parliament, think tanks and academia and the entirety of the media. With a mess like this, where does one even start?

Before we address the next phase of Brexit, whatever that may be, we are certainly going to need a general election. The fragile Tory/DUP alliance has all but fallen apart, and neither of the major parties can keep a coherent front bench together. Government has lost all political and moral authority and we cannot progress without a clear out first. My own preference is that we wait awhile, just to let some of the consequences of no deal sink in.

For now the Brexit blob are heroes to leavers but it really won't take very long for the more egregious no deal narratives to fall apart. By way of unilateral EU contingency measures we might very well evade some of the headline effects of Brexit, but there is still a great deal of complacency and it won't take very long for our regulatory systems to start falling apart. A lot of long held assumptions will hit the wall and soon after the Ultras will have a lost of questions to answer.

Sadly, though, a general election really only goes part of the way. The likes of Rees-Mogg will somehow manage to cling on to their seats and an election doesn't really address the fact that parliament as an institution is a clapped out anachronism in desperate need of redesign. An exchange of politicians will bring little remedy.

Many have remarked how this is the worst crop of politicians in living memory where somehow  we are ruled by some profoundly stupid people. This is a matter for some investigation. It's very possible that our system of politics turns otherwise accomplished and intelligent people into morons. A fair few of them are lawyers, doctors and business professionals. Why does our system turn them into gibbering imbeciles?

But then here we might have a far graver crisis. In this I might paraphrase philosopher and comedian, George Carlin. "Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from British parents and British families, British homes, British schools, British churches, British businesses and British universities, and they are elected by British citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders".

Ordinarily the party system should filter out the worst of them but when you're recruiting from a limited stock, and throwing them into a system that more resembles Hogwarts than an actual legislature, where to get anywhere you have to partake in the media circus, it doesn't seem like politics is salvagable without the use of a bulldozer.

Brexit was always going to be a long and difficult process, but it would appear things were far more broken than any of us realised. Now we face an arduous task on three fronts - rebuilding politics, the country as a whole and European relations - starting from a position of total chaos and economic turmoil. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle. We may never fully recover from this.

What should be remembered, though, is that as much as our politics was living on borrowed time just waiting to be upturned by a thing like Brexit, much of the defects were structural and decaying from the inside. The same can be said of our zombie economy. Our short termist politics is incapable of addressing long term strategic endeavours. This is what has to change.

The fact we all have to face is that this is all going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. There is a lot of anger at the prospect of remaining in the EU and some of the footage is an indication of what could explode if we did remain, but leaver and remain voters alike are going to be united in the near future in their indignation at a politics that has failed them so very badly.

Politics for this term had only one job: To leave the EU as per the instruction of 2016. It was their job to find a settlement we could all live with. With the public sharply divided on the EU, but with no positive mandate for it, the task for MPs was to heed that message, to come together to find a new way forward. Instead we are to crash out of the EU having completely failed to rise to the occasion creating the gravest national crisis for generations.

Between now and then, the next few days will see parliament flailing around to try and salvage what is left of the process, but when they are so far from understanding the issues and regressing by the day, any further technical discussion seems like wasted breath. They needed to be on top of all this before they triggered Article 50. They needed to have their indicative votes long before now. If clarity of purpose has evaded them for the last three years then it likely will not arrive by the deadline. All we'll get is irrelevant squabbles over undeliverable plan Bs.

This we have all seen before. We've been through the mill so many times, with the media polluting the debate with its ignorance and malicious actors deliberately pushing falsehoods and outright lies to willing audiences ever keen to have their prejudices validated. The voice of reason never stood a chance. The noise was impenetrable and the spoils went to those who banged the drum the loudest. Sooner or later, though, those who have brought us to this point will get all they deserve. I may not be cheering on Brexit day, but I will certainly have my fun in the very near future.

Additional: As you know, this blog runs entirely on reader donations. I don't like to ask which is why I don't ask often. This is one of those times where I need to. Please give if you can.

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