Dark Days Ahead

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A scene from Britain today, not the 1980s.

Against all odds I got back a bit of defiant spirit last night and tried to think of how we can make any sort of progress or preserve some of the progress that had been made over the last forty years.

Sadly, thinking about it just made me more depressed.

Things look pretty bloody bleak for the near future and the people worst affected are going to be the poorest and most vulnerable. All that EU funding for deprived areas is going to vanish and if you think our (already vanished) savings from not contributing to the EU will be redirected that way I have a bridge to sell you.

The worst wing of the Tory party is likely to sail into power following Cameron’s resignation, very likely with Boris at the helm (barring the exit chickens coming home to roost rather quickly). That’s going to me super-double-turbo austerity and a rolling back of workers and human rights legislation.

Even if there’s a general election, the combination of gerrymandering, Brexit-fallout nationalism and Labour civil war (not to mention Liberal irrelevance) is likely to mean another Tory victory and likely a stronger one.

The NHS is under threat as never before. The economy is going to be uncertain – and fucked – for years.

It’s hard to see any silver lining.

All we can really hope to do is to fight to maintain the ground we currently have and in the current situation that stands little chance of success. It would take Poll Tax Riot era unrest to turn things around and that seems massively unlikely no matter how bad things get. The era of protest having an effect seems to have passed.

Perhaps we can’t hope to affect anything in the immediate future and part of the reason for that are the problems on the (broadest church) left.

While there has been racism and xenophobia on the Leave side and while a lot of people appear to have voted leave because of ignorance (in the non-pejorative sense, they just didn’t really know anything about the EU or the fallout) or because of false promises and lies (350m for the NHS, immigration control, ‘the EU isn’t democratic) I think the fault can be laid much more at the feet of the Regressive Left itself.

Many of the Leave side were not and are not racist or xenophobic. They have had legitimate concerns about their access to public services. They have legitimate concerns about Islamism, about work, about council housing, about access to the NHS. It isn’t racism so much as resentment, fear and hardship. The benefits of the EU membership were not made obvious to the people who benefited the most – as has become apparent as areas that strongly voted Leave now come begging for replacement money.

Much of the Remain camp – who tossed around insults rather than arguments have continued to do so in the wake of the referendum, as though carrying on doing the same thing would work. People have increasingly become pissed off – and even immune – to insults that portray their legitimate concerns as racist, sexist, xenophobia.

This Regressive Left bullshit has to end. This vote has made it obvious where the fractures and problems in society are and they lie in wealth, class and the uneven distribution of services and wellbeing. This is a legacy of Thatcher gutting social housing, the deliberate undermining of the NHS and all the other inequalities in our system. The smug remnants of the Middle Class are fighting on relatively petty issues that pale into insignificance compared to these massive cultural divisions and have alienated the base they need to activate to get these changes in the process. When you can’t get work or access to a doctor or dentist, when you’re relying on food banks to eat, these more esoteric concerns are meaningless.

A society can only be so liberal and tolerant as it can afford.

I’m much more frustrated with my own political ‘side’ than I am with the racist opportunists and even the softer right-wing that has re-channelled hardship into hatred and fear so they don’t have to deal with it. The sneering Guardianistas did a lot of damage looking down on people and with wealth disparity so high in this country you simply can’t afford to do that.

The left needs to cant back to dealing with the primary source of inequality – wealth.

  • Basic income.
  • Helping small businesses, start-ups, part-timers and micro-businesses.
  • Hand-Ups.
  • Wealth redistribution.
  • Economic diversification
  • Education and leadership rather than popularism.
  • Commitments to science, pragmatism and modernity.

I can’t see it happening though. Maybe there’ll be a split in the Labour party, but for all Corbyn has acted with muted class this referendum it would be a split between the Regressive Left and ‘Blue Labour’ – the Blairites. Not the split we need.

We also need societal reform in the media and in education. That is also massively unlikely to occur.

We have to fix the left/liberal side of politics before we can even attempt to fix anything else.

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Brexit Analysis

13516417_991265384320055_27609446110530854_nWhere to even start? There’s so much to analyse and comment on in relation to the EU Referendum, so much to say. It’s also a struggle to set one’s own emotions aside as someone whose business, friends, parents and others are going to be massively negatively affected. That’s why I’m not doing this as a video. In writing I can keep a bit more distance and the level head I like to think that I aspire to have.

Respecting the Vote

There’s a quote that appears in various forms attributed to a number of different people, including (of course) Churchill, which runs something like this: “Democracy is the only form of government that gives the people what they deserve.” Obviously I am tremendously unhappy about the result (taking some solace in the fact it was so narrow) but I believe that the vote should be respected and followed. It’s the wrong decision, but you have to allow for wrong decisions to be made and then you have to cope with the fallout.

Divisions

This whole affair has laid bare the extreme divisions in British society along multiple fault lines. You can see where Britain is broken by examining the demography of the polls and results, the regions that voted in and voted out.

Class: The lower classes and much of the middle classes were in favour of Leave while much of the middle class precariat – along with the upper and political classes appears to have trended remain. This is not necessarily what one would expect as the EU has protected worker’s rights and its regulations have helped secure safer and better working conditions and hours. This is not to damn the working or middle classes but rather to acknowledge that their concerns have not been addressed, have been dismissed, or have been used as a club to beat them with. If the lower and middle classes did not get a share of the benefits of the EU, or had more pressing concerns, how could they be expected to vote for it?

Wealth: In general, the wealthier someone is, the more likely they have been to vote remain while people who were poorer have been more likely to support leave. This is something of a surprise given the EU support for workers mentioned above, and its financial support for underprivileged areas. Again, I think, this relates to the unaddressed concerns of the poor as well as the successful demonisation of immigrants and the shift of the blame onto the EU. A society is only as liberal – and forward thinking – as it can afford to be and the huge wealth gap in the UK means few people can afford either. A stark example of this is Cornwall. Cornwall voted out, even though it benefits hugely from EU membership in terms of investment (to the tune of 60 million, if memory serves). The county is now cap-in-hand asking for their funding to be guaranteed in the future.

Metropolitan/Urban/Rural: Our metropolitan, multicultural populations have tended to vote to remain, while our industrial towns and rural areas have tended to vote leave. This, again, is not necessarily what one would expect as it has formed a rare show of unity between the traditionally right wing rural areas and the traditionally left wing urban areas. It is only the cities wherein multiculturalism and a greater sense – perhaps – of class solidarity over race has taken place where we have seen a (much bigger) support for leave. It appears that the experience of the ‘other’ softens people and lessens the effects of demonisation. In London in particular it is obvious that we are an international country, elsewhere, particularly outside metropolitan areas, this is more deniable. London is, in many ways, its own country.

Educated/Uneducated: There has been a big divide in opinion between the educated and the uneducated. Again, this is not to judge those of lower educational standard, it is simply to point this out. This relates to the wealth/class points above. Graduates are far more likely to visibly benefit from the EU in terms of being able to migrate, work and see the world. It also relates to the age issue below. Again, it comes down to those who benefit, and those who visibly benefit versus those whose benefits are less, not apparent, or non-existent.

Young/Old: Another sharp divide is between the young and the old. Amongst the younger voters (18-24) as much as 75% were in favour of the EU while amongst older voters (65+) only 39% were in favour (YouGov). This, I think, ties into a lot of the earlier divisions that have been mentioned. Younger people are not only used to the idea of the EU but are also experienced with the digital world and the gigging economy where borders seem an archaic inconvenience.

The Debate

The debate has been fucking atrocious on all sides. Particularly the pro-leave camp but the remain camp has been just as horrible in many regards.

Facts have played virtually no role in this debate and when employed they were almost completely ineffective compared to jingoism and outright lies on one hand and half-hearted scaremongering on the other.

There has been a total failure for a very long time in this country to address the concerns of the working class and the underclass. A near total failure to spread the wealth and make the advantages of being in the EU visible. We have completely abdicated the discussion on immigration and Islam allowing the far right and racist xenophobes to hoover up people with legitimate concerns about both – and they are legitimate.

The idea that the EU is undemocratic is pure bunk, but had a great deal of purchase over people. The same was true – to a degree – on the immigration issue but these pernicious myths had far more sway over people than the facts.

On the one hand the leave campaign exploited the worst characteristics of Little England. The xenophobia, the racism, the ignorance of many. On the other hand the remain campaign blew these up and applied them to all of the leave campaign and – shockingly – scolding people with legitimate concerns as racists backfired. The smug condescension of the Guardianistas and their judgement, rather than attempts to explain and sell ideas to people was just as horrific. On the one hand we have (some) racism, on the other we’ve had endemic classism.

It’s been immensely polarising and the last time the UK was this divided my ancestors beheaded a King.

The Fallout

Things are going to get incredibly messy.

The UK economy is going to be utterly fucked in the immediate and short term. Some of that will recover, but it’s going to remain knocked for some time. The UK is likely to be in a very weak economic position for some time and likely have a second recession. The European bloc is likely going to punish us (if we do leave, Parliamentary Sovereignty still being a thing and Parliament being much more pro-EU than the public).

Scotland is likely to leave the UK now.

Northern Ireland is likely to slip back into violence.

Classism and racism is likely to get worse.

The Tory party is likely to sharply shift even further right, likely with Bojo as Prime Minister. The hard right has just been handed a gift and its not going to be immigrants that feel that heat first. It’ll be the poor, the unemployed and the sick. It’ll also likely mean the gutting – or even end – of the NHS and the repeal of human rights legislation and worker protections.

The Labour Party is likely to replace Corbyn who, for all his faults, was a much needed return to the left for the party. Whether they’ll replace him with a Blairite or a compromise candidate remains to be seen but they’re in a poor position to exploit the Tory civil war since they’re fighting their own. They’re also unlikely to return to championing the working classes if they do reject Corbyn, but are likely to retain the worst, but more Champagne Socialist acceptable aspects of the ‘Social Justice Warrior’ agenda.

The finance sector, upon whom our economy has relied, are already upping sticks and moving to the continent. Trickle down never worked, but what little of it did trickle down is likely to vanish.

Many of our best and brightest are likely to brain-drain to Ireland, Europe and (speculatively) Scotland over the next couple of years as well.

Its a much smaller, more precarious and – in all honesty – a LESS democratic and LESS free world we’re likely to see. The outcome is almost certain to be a much more vicious, nasty, less fair and more corporatist Britain.

What Next?

Who knows really? We still may not leave. Parliament may still express its sovereignty and vote against the people. This is unlikely, but it has taken leadership in the past on issues where the people were against it – such as capital punishment. It’s also possible that the EU will offer more concessions – though this seems unlikely at the moment. That could, perhaps, trigger another referendum if its sufficient. It’s also possible that the huge hit to the economy could prompt such a disaster that there’s demand for a re-vote.

Once the formal process to pull out is invoked it can’t be stopped and we’re likely to have a much worse deal, to have to go along with aspects of EU rules but to no longer have a say in them.

We’re going to have a tumultuous few years as a much smaller, more insular nation and the genies of nationalism and racism are unlikely to be easily put back into the bottle. The only way we’ll be able to move forward is with a total reconstruction of both the right and left wings of UK politics and I can’t see the right softening or the left being willing to address the concerns of the working class any time soon.

I have little or no hope in the future of my country, or in politics in general now.

This was the last nail in the coffin of my optimism.

I’m a Peein’, You’re a Peein’, we’re all European.

little_britainWith the EU referendum coming up it’s time to weigh in. There’s arguments for and against and some of each are valid, but most of the ones being made are scaremongering nonsense.

I’m for staying in, for a number of reasons, but in no small part because the EU project is one that brings humanity together and forges together our European nations as a common civilisation and power-bloc that can compete and act on a comparable level to the USA, Russia and China and to continue to compete on the world stage with emerging powers.

A choice to stay in is a hopeful one, looking to the future, making common cause in a united human enterprise and a step towards a more united and cooperative humanity.

A choice to leave is a victory for petty nationalism and short-term thinking. A further loss of our national standing and influence and a cynical opting out of the greater human project of unity and cooperation.

Isn’t it better to look forward and up with optimism? To retain the human and workers rights protections the EU gives us? To work together with our neighbours to improve our lot as a whole?

I’ll be voting to remain in an imperfect but improvable step on that optimistic path and I hope you will to. For once let’s have some ambition and pride in our civilisation and reach forward.

***

I’d stop there, but I want to address a common argument against remaining in the EU which I hear a lot. The argument that it is ‘undemocratic’.

This is, frankly, laughable coming from our nation with our First-Past-The-Post system that discards a huge number of people’s votes, our gerrymandered boundaries and our unelected House of Lords. The EU is arguably much more democratic than our own institutions and more representative (in content) of the British people’s views.

Do we get outvoted? Sure, but that’s true of any minority viewpoint in a democracy. If you’re in favour of Brexit are you in favour of Scottish independence? Welsh? Northern Ireland? Cornwall? Should more left-wing urban areas be allowed to leave the UK because they’re outvoted by the more conservative rural areas?

Isn’t this democracy working as intended, just at a larger scale on decisions that affect Europe as a whole?

As to the parts of the EU…

  • The European Parliament is directly elected via proportional representation and with a number of representatives proportionate to the population of the member states. That’s much more democratic and representative than our own system.
  • The European Court of Justice is made up of one judge for each state agreed upon by the elected governments of those member states. Our elected representatives are involved in these choices.
  • The European Central Bank is an independent bank whose appointees serve fixed terms and are agreed upon, again by the elected governments of the member states. Our elected representatives are involved in these choices.
  • The European Council is made up of the elected heads of the member states. Our elected representative is present there.
  • The Council of Ministers contains one member from each state of the union appointed by our elected national governments.
  • The EU Commission is made up of representatives appointed by our elected national governments. It exists independent of national interests but is nonetheless chosen by our national representatives.
  • The Court of Auditors is made up, again, of appointees chosen by our elected governments.

In every single case the apparatus of the EU is accountable either directly (The European Parliament) or indirectly via our elected representatives. If you consider the UK to be democratic then the EU certainly is, and that means not always getting our way. This is simply an invalid critique, especially coming from within the UK.