Tuesday, 24 September 2019

The sound of white noise

The response to yesterday's ruling has been highly charged and emotive. Brexiters are talking about it as though the referendum verdict of 2016 has been overthrown. The are manipulators who very much want to stoke that narrative but that is not the case. The Article 50 clock is still ticking. All that's happened is that the judges have ruled that Boris Johnson doesn't get to freeze out parliament. You may disagree with that ruling but that's how it is.

Here it is important to remember that those pushing the narrative that the judges have overturned Brexit are also mainly those who have redefined Brexit to man leaving only without a formal exit agreement. The same people who will say that Brexit has been sold out if Boris Johnson does produce a deal with or without a backstop. So I'm not joining in with the outrage choir just yet. I still want to see a negotiated exit - forlorn hope though that may be.

That is not to say I don't feel the same anger coursing through my veins. All of a these sideshows, distractions and parlour games are tiresome - this one especially when it's the loathsome Gina Miller and Jolyon Maugham steering it. These people are certainly not democrats and would snuff out our votes in a heartbeat if only they could find a way. Everything they have done thus far is to find a way to stall Brexit in the hope that remainer MPs can pull off a coup.

But of course remainer MPs have failed to do this and they too can only stall Brexit. To me it looks like the only way they can stop it entirely is to take the power for themselves and I don't see any realistic circumstances where that would happen. The battle lines are drawn and though the media bubble suggests that Johnson's position is untenable, my hunch is that he can successfully massage the people versus parliament narrative. That might well have been the whole point of this prorogation exercise. Some have suggested there is a game of 4D chess in play.

What happens next I cannot say. I can speculate with the best of them but I'm really hoping MPs realise the danger here. Brexit isn't the product of a one off vote in 2016. It is the victory of a decades long campaign - into which a great many people have invested their lives. 2016 was the first time they cast their vote in the belief that their vote would matter and that voting could change things. Further shenanigans could inflame this to boiling point. Patience is at an end.

We have seen a parliament all to ready to tell us what it doesn't want, playing the long game, keeping us locked in this limbo. It's difficult to see them as anything other than wastrels, tyrants and narcissists. They themselves voted against a withdrawal agreement and now they feel justified in doing virtually anything to prevent a no deal Brexit thus, in effect, preventing us from leaving. More significantly, parliament is reclaiming the right to decide on this issue which defacto erases the 2016 vote.

It is interesting that this passes without the forelock tugging from the great and the good, departing from the convention that referendums are implemented, yet feel the need to get the supreme court involved over prorogation and other matters. The process and procedure is defended but the basic premise that the the most votes wins is jettisoned.

But again, this isn't quite so straightforward when the Johnson administration is engaged in a sham negotiation, playing idiotic brinkmanship games, misleading parliament and the public, having set course for a no deal exit come what may that would do irreparable damage to the economy and much else. Parliament is obliged to do something. They just can't seem to agree on what that something is at a time when the options are few. It does seem like they have squandered their last opportunity to prevent a no deal Brexit.

Meanwhile, this is all against a backdrop of MPs playing silly tribal games which turns any otherwise intelligent adult into an imbecile. They seem to function in a parallel universe with zero self-awareness and seemingly no sense of urgency. Faith in politics and trust in the system is collapsing. All the political norms are disintegrating before our eyes.

If at this point you've lost the thread of all this then don't worry because there isn't a thread to follow. This is a textbook definition of a mess. Anyone seeing this in cut and dry binary terms does so because they have subscribed to one of the two opposing us and them narratives - both of which require an abridgement of the truth, eg the notion that fifth columnist remainer judges are colluding with MPs to stop us leaving.

If anything this all this shows that the British constitution, such as it is, is stressed to breaking point by Brexit when two factions playing an intractable game of tug-o-war. Something has to give. We should by now have left the EU but now instead we are mired in complexity where it really is tempting to disregard all nuance and join in with the tribal mudslinging. But I don't think that gets us anywhere. There are still a few events to unfold before making the final call. There's the October Council meeting and the decision over an extension when a deal does not materialise. Until then everything between is likely to be distorted noise and we can expect no coherence - especially not from the media.

Yesterday I had a Dutch new crew come to the house to do a long interview on Brexit with a view to explaining the nuances of the situation. They explained how they only get the extreme positions through British media and wanted to me explain it in a more measured way for the benefit Dutch audiences. But, of course, it was asked of me that I skirted over the details. And therein lies the problem. Brexit turns on detail and media doesn't want to know. They want to simplify that which is inherently complex where the detail makes a world of difference to overall perception.

This is how we got here to begin with. Everything has to be filtered and softened for mass consumption, treating audiences like fools and withholding critical information in the process, presenting entirely as a two sided argument. Everything else falls between the cracks - including, it seems, our collective sanity.

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