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Politicians overboard … who will rescue them?

The fallout from the EU Referendum continues to expand like wildfire and more than one political commentator is now referring to it as not ‘one of’ but the biggest political crisis since WW2.

See here for an example – Michael White writing in – THE GUARDIAN

The basic problem is that it’s all rather more complicated than even the most intelligent humans can imagine – the kind of situation that throughout history, e.g. in the context of the unknown aspects of the universe, has turned people into religious believers. Nobody likes this much uncertainty and it’s comforting on some basic level to be able to ascribe what’s happening to something … rather than admit none of us actually have a clue – well, let’s get back to the essential point – have at our disposal a comprehensive, overall, analysis of exactly what happened and why.

Before retiring to bed last night I watched a special edition of the BBC’s Question Time programme on BBC1, hosted by David Dimbleby from Birmingham where (if I heard him correctly) the population had just about voted ‘down the middle’ – i.e. 50:50 – in the Referendum.

The protagonist panels (three on either side) were – for Leave – Dominic Rabb (Tory minister), Giles Fraser (priest and commentator) and Paul Nuttall (UKIP); and – for Remain – Anna Soubry (Tory minister), Alex Salmond (SNP) and Diane Abbott (Labour shadow minister).

They, and indeed the audience, seemed to agree on the fact that the Referendum campaign (specifically its result) had proved that there was a disconnect between ‘ordinary people up and down the country’ and the ‘political elite’, but that was about all.

Cameron5The irony of the obvious first issue (‘How did it come to this?’) is that, of course, it didn’t have to come to this at all. Or – as the classic Irish joke goes about a tourist stopping an Irishman in a country road to ask the way to Dublin, only to receive the answer “Well, I wouldn’t start from here …”.

I know all our politicians pay lip service to the democratic fundamental (‘let the people decide’) but the truth is that – if it was really that important for the UK to be in the EU – then David Cameron should never have allowed it to go to a Referendum.

Or maybe it was that he just ignored the theoretical truth in life that, if you present a black and white ‘Either/Or’ question (still less any issue) to the British public for a decision you might not get the answer you want. He forgot the bottom line that none of the facts involved, the logic, the weight of the respective arguments, the realpolitik if you like, necessarily come into ‘the will of the people’.

Diana AbbottI thought that last night’s performance of Diane Abbott, a mediocre lefty windbag of the first order, was desperately poor.

She opened by saying – as a member of the now vilified political elite – that she was not one of those who sought to unpick the Referendum outcome (“I accept the result”) and stressed the importance now of re-connecting with ‘ordinary people’, coming together and going forward together as a nation.

And then promptly spent the remainder of the programme revisiting the Referendum campaign – repeatedly attacking the alleged ‘lies’ put out by the Leavers and effectively tarring them with the racist brush for the ‘disgraceful’ way they had exploited ordinary working class voters (i.e. the very constituency that the Labour party had failed to ‘get out’ to vote) on the subject of immigration.

In doing this, as ever, Ms Abbott displayed with bells on the delusions of the political elite, not least its disconnection from ordinary voters.

Hello?

Doesn’t she realise that in every election campaign since the year dot, all political parties seeking office have always put out lies and promises they don’t intent to keep (or, to be entirely accurate, peddled policies that they think will appeal to crucial voters without knowing – or caring – whether they’ll be able to keep them as, when and if they should ever get into power)?

“Doh!” (as Homer Simpson would say). It’s one of the things that has caused the disconnect between political elite and ordinary voters we’re now all coming to terms with.

Politicians will always say whatever they think it will take to get a majority of voters to vote for them. Later they can always point to ‘extenuating circumstances’ (or, as Harold Macmillan once famously said “Events, dear boy, events …”) as the reason why they haven’t delivered some –  or indeed any – of the promises they made in their manifestos.

However, ordinary people aren’t complete fools.

Since time immemorial they’ve known that (to the political elite) elections are simply a game … yet, for all that, they’ve meekly gone along with it and voted however they did, because by background and upbringing they always vote for their own tribe – however many lies it may be telling at election time – and/or because it’s just easier to do so when in reality their true priorities are simply getting family meals on the table and living life …  i.e. just getting by.

Let’s face it – when it came to the EU Referendum, both sides were telling lies all the time … and indeed telling lies about what the other side was saying. Meanwhile they were trying to find the magic words that would prompt undecideds to vote for their campaign rather than the other one.

I’m no particular fan of his, but wasn’t it Boris Johnson who once told an audience during an Election campaign: “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3 …”? All he was doing in a blunt (if not surreal) manner, was exposing the artifice of UK electioneering for what it is.

Finally, let me row back on my criticism of Diane Abbott. It is perhaps wrong of me to place her in the dock on her own. In fact none of the panellists on Question Time last night acquitted themselves with distinction.

nuttallPaul Nuttal (UKIP) came across a patently unfit for public office, which is why he’s probably a European MEP rather than a UK national one.

It also wouldn’t surprise me if the Leave campaign had agreed an advance pact with UKIP that they wouldn’t be part of the ‘official’ Leave campaign – this ruse would, of course, leave UKIP free to go nearer the racist knuckle than the official Leave campaign could dare … thereby possibly winning the vital votes for Leave that eventually took them over the line.

For Remain, Anna Soubry was positioning herself as a potential winner in any post-Referendum Tory government job-switching merry-go-round by trying to take the ‘inclusive, warm, cuddly, let’s bring ourselves together in a spirit of unity, I’m in favour of immigrants, touchy-feely’ middle ground.

Dominic Rabb (Tory, Leaver), of whom to be honest I’d never heard, was suitably inoffensive but also low-key and said nothing of any significance or consequence during the entire programme. My conclusion was that he seemed as shocked as everyone else that Leave actually won.

salmondAlex Salmond, inevitably, came across as clever but shifty and untrustworthy. The SNP has a basic difficulty with logic to deal with.

Scotland is part of the UK and the UK has voted for Brexit. He claims that, because Brexit is ‘against the will of the Scottish people’, therefore somehow the EU and the UK cannot eject Scotland from the EU if the UK leaves.

He presumably also believes that Scotland won’t have to reapply for EU membership on its own account – a line that I suspect he may soon find won’t butter many parsnips with the EU hierarchy – and will not only be able to ‘assume the benefit’ of the Cameron-negotiated UK special relationship deal … but also won’t have to join the Schengen Agreement or the Euro. He and Nicola Sturgeon may soon be in for a rude awakening on those matters as well.

About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts