Saturday, 4 November 2017

Exiting Brexit: how democratic is that?

Handing out pro-EU leaflets in Brgigate, Leeds's main street, on Saturdays is an interesting experience.

Most people walk past and ignore us.  A surprising number come quietly to our little stall without being asked and sign our petition to put a stop to Brexit, and only a very few come actually to talk about the pros and cons of leaving or staying in the EU.

Every half hour or so we will be abused by an angry pro-Brexit enthusiast.

"It's democracy," they'll shout." It's decided.  We're leaving . Good riddance.. . " etc"

 They rarely want to talk about it, to listen, yet alone discuss, any of the arguments about the damage being done to the nation's status, their own wellbeing or  future prospects. The few who do simply harangue us.

"We've voted, that's it."

I'm not surprised.  These are the people who, under our "first past the post" electoral system have rarely cast a vote which counts for anything or decided anything.  Only those living in a tiny handful of marginal constituencies have that privilege.

But this vote, the referendum, was a chance to have a crack at the establishment which they feel has complacently ignored their needs.  For years they have been drip-fed  bile from the biassed press,(largely  owned by tax-avoiding foreigners) that their perceived ills -  wages undercut, traditional (white?) culture threatened, unaffordable houses, prising rices, crumbling transport system and health service  - are largely if not all the fault of the EU.

Over 40 years no leading politician since Ted Heath : not Wilson,  not Thatcher, not Major, not Blair, not Brown, not Campbell, has had the guts to put the positive case of the benefits to us of EU membership.  Indeed the reverse:  the EU's alleged regulations, red tape and bureaucracy have provided both major parties with a convenient scape-goat for any unpopular policy which may be for our long-run good

However, what did surprise me was this statement, aired by John Redwood on the BBC Radio 4 "Any Questions" programme.  (It comes about  ten minutes from the end)

In a debate on the so-called "meaningful vote" which Parliament is to have on the result of the negotiations Redwood says:

 "Parliament can vote what it likes.  We are leaving the EU in March 2019 [said twice] whatever Parliament thinks  about it."

Now Mr Redwood is no neglected left-behind from a deprived region but the Rt Hon John, MP for Wokingham since 1987 (that's 30 years), one-time Minister of State in the(Department of Trade and Industry), Minister in the Department of the Environment), and Secretary of State for Wales.

Not the most outstanding political career, perhaps, but pretty glittering all the same, and certainly not lacking in influence.

This, from a distinguished and informed politician who campaigned for "taking back control" and the "supremacy of the UK Parliament) is disgraceful.

Democracy is government by discussion.  There is no reason for the discussion to stop after a narrow victory in one flawed advisory referendum campaign supported by an overwhelmingly biassed press and, possibly , we now hear, dodgy money.

Public opinion has probably already reversed the narrow "Leave" victory.

Sadly so far that;s insufficient to stiffen the sinews of our supine legislators.

But a further shift to, say, 60:40, is surely well on the cards as the false prospectus promised by the Leave campaign unravels day by day

Brexit is by no means a "done deal" and the weakness of the Brexit case is revealed in their present  reliance  on the assumption that it is.

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