Our calendar already has a Black Wednesday (along with a Bloody Sunday and a Black Monday)
so the options for a suitable appellation for last Wednesday, when Mrs May triggered Article 50 for us to leave the European Union, are slightly limited. "Dismal" Wednesday? "Disastrous" Wednesday (no, not really - we shall survive, but poorer and with less prestige), "Dismaying" Wednesday (a pleasantly unexpected pun), Stupid Wednesday (hardly strong enough). So "Self-harm," because it's the most accurately descriptive.
I've been interested, and actively involved at a minor level, in British politics for most of my adolescent and all of my adult lifetime, and I cannot remember a time when I've felt so ashamed of and bewildered by an action of my government. Perhaps the Suez Invasion of 1956 comes nearest, though that did have the silver lining of permitting learner drivers, of which I was one at the time, to drive and therefore practise unaccompanied, because of the petrol shortage. So I could crash the gears without the accompaniment of my Dad's wincing, and also avoid the expense of the instructor.
I would never have believed that a mature and sophisticated political system such as ours could be responsible for such a catalogue of ineptitudes as led to last Wednesday's destructive action.
- We should never have had a referendum in the first place. Politicians of both left (Clement Attlee) and right (Winston Churchill) have pointed out that referendums are alien to our representative democracy, and devices used by dictators to give a spurious legitimacy to their autocracies;
- Just 20 years ago, in the General Election of 1997, the Referendum Party, financed by multi-millionaire Sir James Goldsmith, polled a mere 2.6% of the total vote, and that's where the level of their support should have stayed;
- Yet agitators, described by Sir John Major as "bastards" and David Cameron as "fruitcakes," have managed, with the support of a poisonous press, to turn our world upside-down;
- In spite of this agitation, EU membership was not even among the top ten issues which concerned the electorate only a short time before the referendum campaign;
- Yet in his campaign for the 2015 General Election, David Cameron promised an In-Out referendum if the Conservatives won. It cannot be emphasised enough that this promise was made not in the national interest, but solely in the interests of the Conservative Party, who feared a haemorrhage of support to UKIP;
- I claim no special insight into Cameron's mind, but it's a fair bet that he made the promise in the expectation that he wouldn't win an over-all majority, but be forced again into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats who could be relied upon to veto the referendum;
- Having unexpectedly won a majority Cameron felt compelled to keep his promise, but was so complacent of victory, or criminally negligent, that he failed to introduce into the Referendum Bill provisions for the normal super-majority necessary for such an important decision, or measures to ensure a reasonably honest campaign;
- Both the Labour and Liberal Democrat members in both Houses of Parliament share the blame for these omissions. Were they asleep? What do thy think the get their massive salaries and allowances for? The House of Lords at least is full of gifted lawyers who should have spotted the omissions;
- The campaign was disingenuous on both sides, but particularly on the Leave side;
- Hardly had the narrow Leave victory been announced but their promises began to unravel and their leaders walk away;
- Given that the referendum was legally only advisory, MPs, the overwhelming majority of whom believed we should remain in the EU, had every excuse for rejecting the advice and moving on to tackle the real and urgent problems facing the country;
- But they were too chicken and fell for the nonsense that "the people had spoken." (Again it cannot be said too often that, of those entitled to vote, 27% didn't, 37% voted to Leave, 34% voted to Remain, and the 16 and 17 year-olds, thought to be overwhelmingly in favour of Remaining, were not allowed to vote);
- For some reason completely beyond anyone's comprehension, rather than try to minimise the damage, the government has chosen to opt for a "Hard" Brexit. Assurances from the leading Leavers during the campaign that voting to leave the EU would not involve leaving the Single Market or the Customs Union have been ignored;
- The Labour Party's opposition to the government's approach has been pathetic. There may, just, be an excuse for their MPs being whipped to vote for the triggering of Article 50 (fear of being seen to oppose the so-called "will of the people") but there can be no excuse for whipping their peers to vote against the amendment to require the government to try to remain in the Single Market
As an antidote, last Saturday's Guardian contained an article by Natalie Nougayrède which gives a welcome positive spin on the EU. Here's and extract:
Europe is one of the best places to live in today.. It is a rich part of the world with high living standards. Hardly anyone who resides in Europe wants to flee it. On the contrary , many strive to reach it, to settle in it and build a future in it for their children. Likewise many who live outside the European Union dream of seeing their country join it one day, or, at least, hope it might emulate Europe's standards and quality of life.
That's why we Remainers must continue to campaign, as vigorously and as indifferent to scorn as the "bastards " and "fruitcakes" who precipitated this stupidity, for a return to sanity, to stop the process if we possibly can, or to rejoin the Euorpean Union if the present lunatics now in charge of the asylum bring their misguided objective to fruition.