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.

A Better Way?: A Rational-Pragmatist Manifesto

citizensmitht-shirt-chestyle_2_110465_red-white-&-black-print_lIntroduction

Mention politics and most people are going to roll their eyes these days. It seems to many, at least in the west, that there is no real way to enact any sort of political change. Here in the UK all three main political parties have demonstrated that they don’t have the will to serve the people over wealthy special interests. In the UK and the US corruption is institutionalised. Money talks and rather than seeking to educate the populace and change the political debate they quarrel over an ideological ‘middle ground’ that is actually distorted to the right.

There has to be a better way of doing things.

Economics

Any economic system must be equitable and fair. It must provide the maximum opportunity for advancement to all and must be supported at every level of society. Furthermore any economic system must be diverse in order to be robust and must distribute wealth in such a way as to prevent corruption and power from concentrating in the hands of the few and returning us to the state we are in now.

Money cannot and should not be the sole metric for success or societal worth. To do so minimises the importance of other things like duty, care and service. Excessive privatisation is also wasteful through the loss of the economy of scale and through replicated effort. Investment must be made to restore manufacturing and to invest in new, green, technological solutions. A longer term view – beyond the next election must be taken.

The tax system is a convoluted mess, full of exceptions and loopholes where the wealthy are more capable of escaping their social duty than the poor and where myriad smaller taxes penalise the poor proportionately more than the rich.

I propose replacing almost the entirety of the tax system with a flat rate income tax in the region of 40-45%. Based on the UK population and average income this should account for the current budget (2012 figures) with a surplus. While this means that the average wage-earner would only bring home £15,000 after this taxation, there would be no VAT meaning that the average person would be saving 20% or 5% on everything that they purchased. This in turn should stimulate spending.

Customs and Excise would further be empowered to pursue moneys attempted to be taken out of the system and hidden from taxation, with punitive penalties such as to make it in the corporate interest to be honest with full disclosure.

This system would only be complicated further in terms of taxes designed for social change. Governmental surcharges on drink, driving, fuel etc would – therefore remain.

Vital infrastructure would be renationalised. Power, Water, Gas, Electricity and mass transit (trains and buses) should not be run on a for profit basis, but according to metrics of service, effectiveness, timeliness and societal worth. Telecommunications would have to remain private but the creation of a nationalised fibreoptic service could be used to wire the country into modernity.

Education

Education has been an ideological football for too long. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and there is little motivation for the wealthy and powerful to improve the system so long as they can opt out of it.

Private schools would be phased out.

Religious schools would be phased out.

Schools of different types to support children of different abilities and interests would be introduced. After basic skills are imparted and once children began to show the areas in which they were most capable (secondary school) they would be streamed towards academic, artistic, vocational and other training.

Education should be run by those who are experts in education and an educational council would be set up to determine how to ‘locally’ spend the education budget and to set curriculum etc according to their expertise. Other than setting budgets, government would have no direct input.

Welfare

The entire welfare system should be scrapped and replaced with a ‘citizen stipend’. That is to say that everybody, employed or not, would be guaranteed a basic income of enough to live on and anything they earned over that would be theirs to keep (minus their income tax). Work would, then, always be appealing as nothing would be lost, only gained. As wih the change in taxation this would also provide savings through the removal of bureaucracy. The mentally and physically disabled or ill would have a higher stipend in order to compensate for the greater expenses and problems they face.

Health

All health services would be nationalised for similar reasons as those found in the education reforms. Similarly a medical council would decide ‘locally’ how to spend the health budget with minimal government interference, ‘devolving’ the decision making to the experts who would be bound by Hippocratic oath and principles of triage to provide the best treatment they could with that budget.

Money could also be saved by adopting the South American and Caribbean model. Preventative care is cheaper and more effective in the long run and free, open clinics are vital.

Crime

Prisons are woefully overcrowded and so, for most minor offences, community service and financial penalty should be used instead whenever possible. The welfare and taxation reforms, along with the educational reforms, should cause a nosedive in the crime figures in any case. As with the educational and health reforms, decision making in this arena would be devolved to a Law & Order Council with decisions given over to the experts.

Drugs would be legalised, as per expert advice for decades. They would be taxed on a lifestyle basis, as with cigarettes and alcohol, but if legal they would be subject to quality control and educational information which should lead to less addiction. Addiction is now considered a health issue.

Custodial sentences would remain but the focus must shift to reform and rehabilitation. While unpopular with the public such an approach does mean lower rates of re-offending and ultimately saves money.

Green Issues

Climate change is beyond question. Britain has a fantastic amount of natural power available in terms of hydroelectric, tidal and wind energy. Germany, which took the risk earlier on, is reaping the benefits of its green energy investment and it is not too late for Britain to do the same.

British innovation and manufacturing could make it a contender in wind and tidal energy and lower our reliance on gas supplies. We also have advances in biotechnology that we could put to good use in finding better ways to produce biofuels that don’t impact on crop production.

Additionally we should invest heavily in fusion research and other technological solutions in order to try and make Britain as energy independent as possible.

Defence

Britain’s nuclear deterrent serves no purpose in the modern era and costs billions of pounds. It should be eliminated.

Britain’s defence decisions on a more conventional basis should, again, be devolved to a military council though their duties should be limited to the defence of Britain. Expensive foreign adventures with no clear end in sight, pursued for political reasons, have no place.

There was talk in the 90s of having an ‘ethical foreign policy’. While this turned out to be a sham it is a concept that should be revisited.

Political Reform

Larger groupings are more robust while smaller groupings are more responsive. Devolution is valuable but breaking up political unions is counter-productive. With a shift in emphasis away from The City and financial games, hopefully a lack of equity across the country would be addressed, softening the appeal of – for example – Scottish independence.

The House of Commons is an adversarial circus and must be reformed. The old building should be replaced with a circular chamber and members of all parties should be intermingled.

Further, the current electoral system is woefully bad at producing representative parliaments. First Past the Post must be abolished and replaced with a true, PR alternative. Whips would also be abolished and every vote made a free vote, a vote of conscience, made anonymously via electronic voting.

The House of Lords would be abolished entirely and replaced with a 500 seat house filled via a process similar to jury service, staggered so that half the house is replaced every year. This house could not make amendments to bills but could refuse them, preventing them form entering law. They could also make comments and recommendations when returning bills to Parliament. If rejected twice the bill would be removed.

Church and state would be formally separated.

The government would be formally, rather than effectively, separated from the monarchy. The civil list would be abolished and the Royal Family considered private citizens.

Conclusion

Obviously this is a radical ‘manifesto’ for change and not one I consider to have any hope of ever becoming a reality but we have to do more than to simply complain about the state of affairs as they are. We need positive visions for change and improvement to the world, however unrealistic, as something to work towards.

This isn’t really that radical, though it looks like it. It consists of three core principles applied in every instance:

  • Find the rational and effective choice
  • Allow experts to do their job
  • Do what’s fair