Monday, 15 July 2019

Britain's war for democracy

One tweeter this evening has it that "Brexit is only tangentially about the UK's constitutional relationship with the EU. It is really about values and society, and a step on the road to dismantling the values and protections, espoused and guaranteed by the EU, that underpin the UK's society".

To a point this is absolutely true but with one small modification. For "UK's society" read "establishment". EU membership ensures that whatever happens at elections, the status quo is locked in. The people do not define the parameters of their society. The EU treaties do. British voters do not define their own rights in the workplace, and as to values, our values are whatever is imposed upon us by our "liberal" overlords.

We don't even debate such things any more. Government is something that is done to us rather than something we have any real involvement in. We call ourselves a liberal democracy, where despite the histrionics, we still have a free media and free speech but it is barely part of the democratic process. We can have full and frank national debates about things but as far as it has any influence on outcomes, it's all wasted breath.

Here it's worth taking a brief tangent to a Douglas Murray piece that neatly encapsulates part of the problem. The piece suggests there may be a rise in homophobia touching on the idea that tolerance is wearing thin - not of homosexuals per se, rather the constant barrage of establishment finger wagging; "a positive bragging about a commitment to gay rights (sometimes described as ‘woke capitalism’) – is one that disturbs some of us who do not share the presumptions of inevitable progress. As Pride day has moved into Pride week and now Pride month there has (in the UK at least) emerged a sense of over-reach".

There was never going to be universal agreement on these such matters. The best the gay rights movement was ever going to achieve was equality in the eyes of the law and public tolerance. You can force people to comply with law, but you can't impose morality. The moment you try is the moment any progress on tolerance starts to regress. This is especially so when the LGBT lobby has become a trojan horse for the trans agenda which not only seeks the equality they already have, but demands government enforces a way of thinking on matters that are scientifically debatable.

There is a certain 1984 quality to this debate where those who put their heads above the parapet are unpersoned and we are to be conditioned into saying two plus two equals five. What's frightening is that in the event of a Labour government, this agenda could very well find its way into law. Between you and me I think the liberals will lose this one as it's a bridge too far even for our own narcissistic politicians.

Generally, though, if there is a bandwagon passing, our politicians will climb on it to parade their right-on credentials. This is especially so with climate change where we see senior politicians queueing up round the block to have their photo taken with Greta Thunberg, presumably to be down with the kids who are fed a steady diet of climate change propaganda through schools and television. They can't convince adults so they hope to re-educate the youth in service of their agenda.

Of course, if this stuff worked, the wave of climate change propaganda before the euro-elections would have returned a far larger number of green MEPs. Nobody is surprised, though, that it didn't. We're not stupid. 

There's nothing they would like more than a parliament full of climate believers to rubber stamp any number of aggressively authoritarian measures, but for some reason the public just aren't buying it.  That, though, does not present any real obstacle. With EU heads of state ever keen to prove they are part of the progressive mainstream of Europe, they will sign conventions and make pledges directly, some of which don't even see the light of day in national parliaments.

Whatever the fad, be it a Robin Hood Tax, minimum wage, smoking bans, open borders, you name it, whatever it is, it will happen, and the public has no meaningful means of veto. We are at the mercy of the preening politicians.

This goes some of the way to explaining why some liberals were genuinely shocked by the Brexit vote. "What has become of my country!" they shriek. As it happens, not a lot has happened. It's just that our liberal media and political class never rub shoulders with anyone remotely normal who does not reside in their self-satisfied bubble or subscribe to the social convenient groupthinks therein. If you travel through life thinking the projected self-image of the establishment is a genuine reflection of social values in the country as a whole then I imagine Brexit was a big shock.

Our political class, and indeed the EU, not only believes itself to be the embodiment of the enlightenment, they see it as their divine right to condition the public into thinking like them. We are but savage primitives who need the guidance of our moral superiors. This is why the EU is so important to them. If their agendas can be elevated to be enshrined in EU law, then it is out of reach of democracy. That which is transposed into law will never be repealed by a popular vote.

Worse still, these people can't ever entertain the idea that they might be wrong - and believe anyone who might disagree with them to be morally or intellectually deficient and in need of further correction. It is interesting that in the wake of Brexit, the Eurocrats have concluded that it's  not their values or their approach at fault, rather Brexit and other manifestations of dissatisfaction with the status quo are somehow the result of dark media and internet manipulation.

Further discussion with any remainer will usually reveal a certain mindset. Particularly in respect of workers rights. There is a sense of disbelief that working class people would reject the rights and perks gifted to us by the munificent EU as though we weren't capable of fighting our own battles prior to EU membership. They can't imagine even for a nanosecond that we might prefer to define our own laws.

My own view on this is that I preferred things the way they were before a number of EU interventions where there was a working balance between employer and employee, with the implied threat of union action if ever the balance was disturbed. There are a number of unintended consequences of EU interventions which then spawn the further regulation to deal with the fallout. I am not at all surprised to see now that the traditional permanent job in a number of trades is vanishing altogether because of it.

Then there's the gender equality agenda. Paternity leave and all that. These things are all relative to culture and really ought to be decided at the lowest level possible. Moreover there is no hard definition of what constitutes gender equality. Traditionally women got lumbered with the housework and men got machine-gunned to bits in France. But now we have we have equal pay, and more or less the same opportunities, only there are certain differences in gender that lead men and women to make different choices. It evolves, where men are expected to do more at home and women are freer to pursue careers, but the delicate balance cannot be proscribed by a technocratic definition of equality. Family life comes with certain obligations.  

This, though, won't stop our rulers from pushing the groupthink that there is a meaningful gender pay gap and that their definition of equality can be superimposed on different cultures. Again the values we live by are not derived from the public. As much as that is not going to work in the UK, it especially won't work overseas where international organisations from UNECE to the WTO are looking to impose their equality agenda on developing nations in total defiance of the local norms. Unintended consequences there always are.

Though on a technical level Brexit very much is "about the UK's constitutional relationship with the EU" - but it extends to a matter of values because there is no longer any clear line of delineation. Our disconnected and aloof elites come together in Brussels to do to us via the EU what they could never do to us directly. The problem is as much a domestic one in that our values are not their values. We are ruled, not governed.

The reality is that Britain is a far more socially conservative country than our rulers believe it to be, and though we have tolerated the moralising and finger wagging for a long time (not least because we don't get a say in it), when given a chance to offer our verdict, you cannot be surprised if it returns a leave vote. The leave vote was less an endorsement of Farage and Johnson as it was a rejection of the status quo and the "liberal elites". Now that we have voted to leave we now see the likes of Gina Miller and filthy rich QCs taking politics into the courts to remind the people who's boss. And it isn't us.

A number of milestones have brought us to this point. Remainers wonder why Brexiters don't seem to care about the enormous damage a no deal Brexit would inflict, often telling us that nobody voted to be poorer. Of course there are plenty of Brexiters who do think the WTO is a viable destination and that the economic cost is mainly "project fear", but it wouldn't change any minds were that not the case. Parliament, by way of doing everything in its power to prevent Brexit of any kind, is moving to assert is supremacy over the people. No deal was never the preferred option, but parliament's treachery popularised it.

That's what makes this fundamentally about values. Our membership of the EU is a constitutional matter and the choice of who governs us ought to be sacrosanct. One of the very few matters that can only be resolved by way of referendums. That fundamental choice is being denied in order to defend an established order based on their values and not ours. That is fundamentally an attack on democracy itself.

For government to be legitimate the laws must reflect the values of its people. That is not possible when you have aloof, out of touch elites with values alien to our own. Our politics cannot begin to address real world challenges when it has only a passing relationship with the real world. Partly we have arrived at this point because the establishment is too cowardly to admit there are problems because the contradictions of liberal orthodoxy would start to unravel if they did - so we carry on sweeping acute problems under the rug.

Primarily this is a battle for the people's sovereignty. If the people themselves are not sovereign and law is not derived from that power, then you don't have a democracy. Brexiters understand this. They understand that these things are more important than shorter queues at the airport and freedom for rich kids to take an internship in Germany without filling in any forms or paying for roaming charges. They recognise that trade is subordinate to the fundamental constitutional contradiction at the heart of this dispute.

Fair criticisms can be levelled at Brexiters for not knowing or caring how trade works or not particularly caring how much damage a bodged Brexit will do, and certainly they have told their fair share of lies in respect of the WTO option, but these are issues all to be revisited once we have something akin with a legitimate democracy - however long that may take. If and when we get to that state I will probably find myself in opposition to the likes of the Tory right and Ukip 2.0, but the matter of values can only be resolved through a genuinely democratic process.

Only when you have a constitution that flows from the people can there be unity of purpose and only then can the divisions begin to heal. For as long as Britain remains in the grip of a ruling class who continue to deny us a say in who governs us and continues to impose its values on us, we will be a starkly divided country and one that is weaker for it. Economic damage can be repaired but if democracy is defeated, this culture war will rage on until there's nothing left to salvage. 

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