Monthly Archives: June 2016
On Brexit, And Inchoate Rage
I was in Cambridge over the weekend, to see Daughter graduate. (A high 2.1, since you ask.) As the vice chancellor of her college said to her and her fellow graduates, you are clever and self-confident young women. Now go out and take your places in the world.
What world? Cambridge is like London writ small. Prosperous, with plenty of job opportunities for the young, in vibrant local industries in IT and biotech, at the thousands of small and growing businesses that have sprung up out of academe over the past four decades. With high house prices and choked infrastructure as a consequence.
Those leaflets still in the window said Remain. Cambridge, along with Oxford, Bristol, London and other areas that are doing well out of globalisation, all voted In. Those who voted Out mainly live in the other Britain, the one we don’t visit, the one we only talk about with hand-wringing desperation.
The faded seaside towns, the ports where the fishing fleet has long given up the ghost. The post-industrial wastelands, the agricultural areas where the locals are priced out of the only jobs around by immigrants prepared to work in conditions and for wages they would not tolerate. It’s all very well telling people to take whatever work is available, but there is a point where the dole is more attractive than trying to compete with the truly desperate.
These are the ones who voted for Brexit and will bear the brunt of whatever fall-out results from it – even if at a City lunch I was at today many believed, as I do, that for purely practical reasons we will never actually quit the EU. If I had one concern over voting Remain, it was the effects of uncontrolled immigration on those at the bottom of the heap.
They voted out of an inchoate fury that had little to do with the facts of EU membership – not that they heard much of these from either side of the argument. That fury was forged from seeing chief executives earning the equivalent of a lottery win each year telling them how to vote – those same chief executives, in many cases, who were enriching themselves from cheap immigrant labour. From an understandable fury at where they are and the non-place they are going, and an elite that might as well be living in another country.
That anger is not going away. We are now, just as surely as America with its fly-over states that the haves do not visit, two Britains, the Britain of Cambridge and London and the Britain of that inchoate fury and hopelessness. You and I live in another country now.
There is a perfectly simple way out of this morass, as suggested by the Labour MP David Lammy and others. Parliament merely refuses to vote through the measures needed for the UK to leave the EU.
The way our constitution works, and I channel here Edmund Burke et al, is that Parliament is paramount. Any piece of legislation passed today can be annulled tomorrow. Parliament cannot bind its successors, as I was repeatedly told when I studied the subject.
The referendum was a glorified, and very expensive, opinion poll. It has no legal status. The majority of MPs want to stay in the EU, and are entitled to vote thus. It is called a representative democracy.
If we had a democracy where MPs were required to back every single strand of public opinion, as expressed as a majority in opinion polls, we would still have hanging. To be strictly analytical, we would have hanging on the day after a particularly horrible murder of a child or a policeman or policewoman, and then not the next day. No way to run a country.
If MPs refuse to vote through Brexit, they have to go to their constituents, in those cases where there is a majority for Out, at the next election and face the consequences. It is called voting according to your conscience. Let us hope they are up to the challenge.
(Worth it to see the expression on Nigel Farage’s face, at the least.)
It is time for US to take back OUR country.
On An Unexpected Hiatus
Those of you who know me may be aware that over the past few weeks I have been suffering from a medical problem to do with my eyes. Blogging on this site has therefore been limited or nil.
My eyesight is better now. And all good things come to an end…