As an avowed cynic on the subject of the Western World’s hypocritical political and Establishment elites [query – are they not the same thing?] steeped in their (lip-service only) approach to the inconvenient principles of ‘democracy’, I trust that Rust readers will understand and feel sympathy with the predicament facing me – and those of like mind – in the modern, post-Trump, era.
In the good old BT [‘before Trump’) years, we First World liberal (with a small ‘L’) thinkers used to wallow in the comfortable ‘live and let live’ notion that, under the broad heading ‘Free Speech’, we could allow anyone who espoused opinions different or opposed to ours, however arrantly nonsensical – whether misguided, crackpot, illogical, cack-handed, patently absurd, or simply the product of delusion and/or indoctrination of the weak and simple-minded by those expert in manipulation – to hold and, if really necessary, proclaim them.
That indulgence came with two attendant conditions/truths, viz. that (1) when it came to any specific and serious/important crunch, intelligent common sense would prevail; and (2) it was self-evident that systems of government different to our ‘perfect’ one – e.g. dictatorships, absolute monarchies or state-sponsored ‘top down’ communism – would always get away with acting like loose cannons both at home and abroad and/or indeed doing anything else that took their fancy simply because they were unrestrained by having to pay even the lip service to democracy required of Western elites. (In other words, their ordinary ‘little people’ in the street knew from birth that their views were irrelevant and counted for nothing and thus didn’t worry about it).
Our friend over the Pond (Donald), however, has – to mix my metaphors – upset the First World liberals’ apple cart, possibly to the extent that it’s now debateable as to whether the genie can ever be returned to the bottle.
Let’s face it, taken together, the geo-political developments since the global financial crash of 2008/2009 – and more particularly generally since 2015 – have been so uniformly outrageous, extreme and bizarre that nothing can surprise anyone anymore.
And – the trouble with the human condition is that – faced with sufficient intensity and volume of ‘whatever it is’, almost invariably we inevitably get used to it and then accept it as the norm.
After the past couple of years of President Trump ranting & tweeting from the White House – or preferably at mass rallies of Middle America red-neck conservative hill-billies who for decades have felt disenfranchised by the US political system (of whom there are a huge number) – in his spur of the moment, shoot-from-the-hip, style about “Make America Great Again!”, “Fake News!”, (of Hilary Clinton) “Lock her up!” and [add your own preferred other examples here], we’ve now reached the point where nothing that could spring from the imagination of the drug-addled brain of the most unhinged Hollywood scriptwriter alive could possibly match what is actually happening in the world.
I need mention here only Brexit, the Skripal incident in Salisbury in the UK and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul (and the Trump regime’s confused reaction to it) to make my point.
Last night I listened to the Stephen Nolan Show on Radio Five Live on which Alastair Campbell – he of Labour/Tony Blair-supporting (Iraq War ‘dodgy dossier’, sustained attack on the BBC over the odd circumstances of the death of weapons expert David Kelly) notoriety – appeared as a guest, this on the back of the ‘People’s Vote’ march which had taken place in London yesterday, Campbell being a high-profile supporter if its campaign for a second referendum on the issue of the UK leaving the EU.
No problem with any of that so far.
[Here I must make a declaration of interest. Despite being a former academic in the subject – probably hypocritically, illogically and partly because of notions to impartiality – I style myself as entirely non-political and had never voted for any political party or candidate for political office before the 2016 EU Referendum, in which (breaking the habit of a lifetime) I voted for Brexit on the sole and exclusive basis that – when SNP supremo Nicola Sturgeon vowed, in the event of a Brexit result, she would take Scotland out of the UK – she would then deliver what she promised.]
But back to my point.
Having trotted out the tired old theme that the Leave campaign broke electoral law, lied, spread false information – effectively hoodwinked the UK electorate into voting for Brexit (as if the Remain campaign didn’t do any of the above)– he went on to assert, because staying in the EU was such an important and far-reaching fundamental necessity for the future of the country, that a ‘People’s Vote’ (second referendum) on the deal – if any – that Mrs May’s Tory government eventually brings back was essential.
When Nolan asked him what was different about the anti-Iraq War march (attended by over a million people) – subsequently totally ignored by Tony Blair’s government – and yesterday’s ‘People’s Vote’ march attended by (a self-estimated) 700,000, which he was suggesting must be taken on board by Mrs May, Campbell waffled on about how he and Blair had received secret evidence from UK security services on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that it was quite proper that decisions such as going to war (or not) should be taken only by the Prime Minister and cabinet of the day.
In doing so he conveniently missed the point that a decision whether or not to remain in the EU was almost certainly just as important a decision as whether to go to war or not (after all he was certainly arguing as much!), so why – even on his own logic – was it now essential to have a second EU referendum, i.e. rather than leave the matter to the Prime Minister and cabinet of the day?
Having yesterday morning come across a letter to The Times that I found rather compelling, soon afterwards I turned over in bed and thankfully fell fast asleep.
For completeness I include the text of said missive below:
Those advocating a second referendum on Brexit fail to appreciate that in all probability the Article 50 notice cannot be withdrawn unilaterally by the United Kingdom. In that event, there can be no simple question “in or out” because the United Kingdom could only “remain” on terms acceptable to the other member states. The question could only be a complex one … “in, and if so on which of the following terms … or “out, and if so on which on the following terms…?”
Even if the questions could be agreed they would almost certainly give rise to a great variety of answers, not a consensus for one answer rather than any other. Even in the unlikely event that there was an absolute majority in favour of one answer, it does not follow that the government would be able to persuade the other member states to agree with it. In other words, and if for no other reason, a second referendum would be completely unworkable.
IAIN MILLIGAN QC.