Tuesday 13 August 2019

Spare us your faux concern for parliamentary democracy

A while ago I stopped arguing for an EEA Efta Brexit. If ever there was an open window, it was slammed shut by the incompetence and arrogance of Nick Boles. Subsequently I focused my efforts on warning about the dangers of no deal. But now I've stopped doing that too. Simply, I know when I've lost the argument. I know when I'm beaten.

The EEA option was dead sometime ago. Remainers can take a sizable share of the blame, but this one falls on the Brexit blob who have total control over the Brexit narrative and did all they could to poison the well. Sadly it is impossible to compete with that kind of power.

I still maintain, though, that we have arrived at this juncture because Parliament was never sincere when they mouthed the platitudes about respecting the vote. As much as they collectively had no intention of delivering Brexit, they failed to recognise the danger of voting down a withdrawal agreement.

From that point, no deal became an inevitability. The arguments against now matter less than they ever did. This is no longer about trade. This is a fundamental constitutional question. Are the public in charge or not? If not then we have a parliamentary dictatorship and there wasn't any point having a referendum at all.

This prompts the great and the good to suddenly start hand wringing about the dangers of unchecked executive power as we race toward the the question of whether Johnson needs to freeze out parliament. Only as we seek to repatriate essential powers do they (the ones who gave the power way to begin with) become converts to the cause of parliamentary sovereignty. Only now do they see an urgent need for democratic reform.

Between now and Brexit day all they can really do is bleat from a position of total impotence. The chickens have come home to roost. Nothing the media says is likely to impact on events. The die is cast, the gamble is in play; the gamble where the Tories believe the EU will climbdown at the last minute. Which is not going to happen. What happens next is too boring to speculate over. No deal is a done deal.

Of course this does very much illustrate the uselessness of parliament, and though Johnson would have it that this is the people versus parliament, this is just one of those moments where the verdict of the public is in line with the executive over parliament. It is still the case that the public are powerless in all this and if there were a violent swing against no deal, the Tories would still go ahead with it anyway.

Neither is especially interested in democracy, ie the people having power. Those who suddenly care about the sanctity of parliament really only do so for the purposes of stopping Brexit and the Tories couldn't care less if they have a mandate or not. The public are just as much powerless spectators as ever they were. We may have the power to select our dictators come election time but our model of "democracy" is barely evolved from the feudalism of yore.

Until we see a serious acknowledgement of this yawning democratic deficit we cannot say the debate is sincere. This is just a Westminster turf war. Neither side is especially interested in the public having the power.

On this particular issue I side with the government but only because I want to leave the EU and with an obstructionist parliament, no deal is now the only way to do it. I can't say I'm moved if the means are not especially democratic in that we get nowhere near meaningful democracy unless we leave the EU. The EU is dedicated to the installation and enforcement of a single economic model throughout Europe from which there can be no deviation without first asking permission.

The economic experiment that follows Brexit may well be ill advised, flying in the face of all known constants of trade, discarding reality as it goes, but at some point in the near future, unlike the EU, we get to fire this bunch of fanatics. I don't see Boris Johnson seeing out a second term. The point here is that voters are allowed to make mistakes in a democracy. They then own the decision but also the consequences.

In this instance, there certainly will be consequences. But the consequences will not be the consequences of Brexit of itself. An EEA Efta Brexit would have avoided most of the economic damage. What follows is a consequence of a political class who not only sought to kill Brexit from the outset, but also fundamentally believe they are wiser and more moral than the rest of us, therefore have a divine right to overthrow the public verdict.

The last three years have demonstrated better than anything that these are neither wise nor moral individuals. If it's a choice between their judgement and that of the unwashed masses then I side with the soap dodgers every time. There is then a debate to be had as to how we wound up here with the worst crop of MPs in living memory (perhaps in all time) and certainly the decline of our traditional parties and the way we do politics must be interrogated. Our politics is not fit for purpose.

All of that, though, can wait until November. The dysfunctionality and uselessness of parliament will again come into sharp focus as we try to unscramble Brexit fallout. Then and only then will I listen to the wails of those who say parliament has been sidelined. For the purposes of Brexit it is is right that they are shoved aside for all the use they are. After Brexit we shall soon find out who is really sincere about the future of British democracy.

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