A day of ignominy

Today will go down in history. Not as a day of progress, joy, or unity, but as a day of ignominy.

It is the culmination of state failure on a massive scale, exposing the gaping holes and inadequacies in Britain’s shoddy political system and constitution, our dishonourable media, and our flawed political class.

Put together, the combined errors of decades have culminated in three full years of tragedy and farce. They have also seen the birth of the EU’s largest pro-European movement, with great passion, courage, and vigour – but it all came too late.

The world looks on, scratching its head in bemusement, at how such an apparently accomplished nation can conduct such an evident act of self-harm, simultaneously undermining the world order it helped establish and subverting its own foreign policy goals of centuries.

As a consequence, a country that neither wanted nor needed to leave the EU – and still doesn’t to this day – has ended up tricked, extorted and fatigued into doing it anyway, led by a liar and a charlatan.

It is the grand theft of a nation’s future and the rights of its citizens, perversely carried out in their name. The winners will be Pyrrhic and the losers many. And even today, as the deed is done, the Brexit emperor wears no clothes.

On a personal level, it is a day of great sadness, and remains for me unreal.

I was born an EU citizen and have lived, breathed, and loved Europe ever since. It led me to learn languages, study abroad as an Eramus student and at the College of Europe, and work for the past 20 years for or with the EU.

As an EU citizen, I’ve benefited from work and travel opportunities, residence, healthcare, and unemployment benefits, have voted in four Belgian elections and stood in two European ones. I’ve learnt languages, discovered cultures, made lifelong friendships, and met my soulmate.

I still consider the EU to be the most successful peace project in history, more vital now than ever before. I am proud to continue to work for that today, despite my loss of citizenship.

The sun was not shining this morning, but the birds were singing, and the first buds of spring are on the trees.

Britain’s European roots will not fade or die because of Brexit. Our European culture, history, and geography remain incontrovertible facts, which have stood the test of time. That reality persists, and its logic will one day return.

* Giles Goodall is a Lib Dem European Parliamentary Candidate for South East England.

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22 Comments

  • Brian Edmonds 31st Jan '20 - 9:03pm

    A surreal alliance of bacon-faced blusterers, small town golf club bores and goggle-eyed fanatics with esteem issues (difficult to imagine Rees-Mogg, Francois and Cummings gracing each other’s dinner tables any time soon) have finally got their way. Yes, they succeeded in gaming a dysfunctional electoral system, but the elephant in the room, and the dog that dare not bark at it, is the fact that they did it by manipulating a section of the electorate who have neither the political awareness nor the intellectual capacity to reach a measured and reasoned judgement on an issue of such complexity and importance. Ultimately, Britain’s future was decided by a handful of angry people, incapable of telling us how on earth leaving the EU would deal with the neglect and alienation they felt. Our political representatives, asleep at the wheel, allowed it all to happen – where does democracy go from here?

  • @ Brian Edmonds. As a fellow remainer, Brian, I’m naturally greatly concerned for your health. Could I very gently suggest a nice mug of Horlicks and an early lie down in a darkened room.

    Could I also suggest that you don’t put any of this on your next Focus leaflet.

  • Brian Edmunds
    I wasn’t going to say anything. But, Remain might have done better if it hadn’t been reliant on pretending to youngsters that people reduced to leaving their homelands to pick butternut squash out of muddy fields for a below minimum wage in Lincoln , job insecurity, high rent prices, and the gig economy were proof that “the four freedoms” were “progressive”, rather than symptoms of a failed social/political experiment. Maybe, older home owning people were simply not as desperate or a easily manipulated as indebted teenagers living in over priced shared housing or temp workers in the service industries.

  • Daniel Walker 1st Feb '20 - 7:04am

    @Glenn

    Given that the gig economy, poor enforcement of the minimum wage, most employment law and housing policy are not part of the competencies of the EU and the Four Freedoms are freedoms (a popular concept amongst liberals, you may be surprised to discover) that I, and others, cherish, and you have colluded with liars, fantasists, and fascists to take them from us in order to restore a soveriegnty that we never lost because you don’t like supranational organisations.

    I await your anti-Universal Postal Union campaign.

  • “a section of the electorate who have neither the political awareness nor the intellectual capacity to reach a measured and reasoned judgement on an issue of such complexity and importance”

    Wow, and you wonder why you did not do so well in the last election. It’s called democracy, one vote per person… I say this as a Remainer, BTW

  • Glenn, I think that’s a pretty disparaging look at why young people voted Remain. It’s as reductive as narratives like ‘Leavers are frightened small-minded xenophobes clinging onto their misguided nostalgia of the Empire’. I really don’t see what the four freedoms have to do with the gig economy/insecure work (the US has these issues too) and housing market (certainly the housing crisis is not a Europe-wide issue!), and I think a lot of young people do relate to values like openness, tolerance and collaboration which will be challenged as we leave the EU.

    The issues you’ve identified will only improve with radical changes to our economy, particularly in tackling the pooling of wealth by the top 0.1%. Wealth inequality is not an issue that can be solved by the actions of just one country alone.

  • Giles and Brian, wow! If I am ever tempted to vote lib dem I will read your comments again. I understand you are angry but your comments, in my opinion, will drive people away from considering voting for the party. Yes there are a number of things that need improving in this country but I don’t recognise the hatchet job of a description outlined by you Giles. Where is the tolerance and respect for alternate opinions? Your comments demean yourself and the party. Why did the Libdem do so badly, look in the mirror your mask has slipped.

  • Peter Martin 1st Feb '20 - 11:07am

    “A surreal alliance of bacon-faced blusterers, small town golf club bores and goggle-eyed fanatics”

    “they did it by manipulating a section of the electorate who have neither the political awareness nor the intellectual capacity to reach a measured and reasoned judgement on an issue of such complexity”

    I was trying to refrain from further comment on the Brexit issue. I’ve not been flying any flags nor setting off any fireworks!

    But if Remainers/Rejoiners are still wondering why they lost, and why the country is still so divided, they should consider the effect of these kinds of comments on those of us who are well educated, and understand the contradictions, or the impossibilities, of what the EU elite have set out to achieve. Therefore, we have decided that we are better off leaving now rather than hanging on in a half-in half-out membership as we were previously.

  • David Evershed 1st Feb '20 - 11:34am

    Giles I suggest you read Mathew Goodwin’s summary of his research into the motivations and rationale of leave voters at https://unherd.com/2020/01/all-the-lies-about-leavers/

    Mathew Goodwin is Professor of Politics at Kent University.

    In summary

    “Our leaving is the result of a collective decision, taken by a majority of its people, about the destiny of their national community — or what most consider to be their home. And this decision, contrary to the liberal view of citizens as autonomous individuals who are mainly driven by self-interest, was never rooted in transactional considerations about money.

    Nor was it focused on individuals. Rather, it was anchored in a collective and sincere concern about the wider group, about the nation, and in profound questions about identity, culture and tradition. Who are we? What kind of nation are we? What holds us together? Where do we want to go, together, in the future?

    Remainers never grasped the potency of these questions — or how to answer them in terms that the majority would recognise.”

  • Paul Murray 1st Feb '20 - 12:24pm

    @Brian Edmonds – that appears to be an argument against the universal franchise.

  • Nick Collins 1st Feb '20 - 1:03pm

    Offensiveness is in the Dilettante Eye of the beholder or, perhaps more accurately , in the comments thereof.

  • Innocent Bystander 1st Feb '20 - 1:23pm

    I, too, was and am a remainer but these words of Giles and Brian are perfect examples of the contemptuous, holier than thou attitude that doomed what should have been a straightforward win for remain. If this is what you feel about some members of my dear family, who simply saw things differently to yourself then I regret voting remain, in the first place. If you take this attitude to the voters then expect the next GE to halve your number of seats and for the arrival of PR to eliminate all trace of the LibDems altogether.

  • Brian Edmonds 1st Feb '20 - 2:11pm

    @ David Raw: not an intemperate rant to be assuaged with Horlicks and a lie down I’m afraid – I have long feared for the future of genuine democracy in the UK. Simple majorities and the FPTP system are intrinsically damaging and inequitable in any closely fought issue. They hand vastly disproportionate power to the minority of floating voters in the middle – the very people most likely not to have a seriously thought-out position, and hence to vote based on whimsy or tendentious propaganda. The 2016 referendum is a catastrophic case in point, and our parliamentary elections compound the unfairness, doubling up on the simple majority: first in each constituency, then in the parliamentary majority required to form a government. This is why our governments are elected on a minority of the popular vote, yet they habitually claim to have a ‘democratic mandate’.

  • Brian Edmonds 1st Feb '20 - 2:14pm

    @Innocent Bystander; @Peter Martin et al: My post was deliberately provocative, and sure enough there is a predictably sanctimonious tone to several of the comments. If you think I’m harsh, may I refer you to a few figures in John Curtice’s chapter for the BSA Survey ‘The vote to leave the EU’: 78% of voters with degrees voted to remain; 72% with no recognised qualifications voted to leave. Older people were disproportionately likely to vote to leave, but even in the +55 group, 70% of graduates voted to remain (National Centre for Social Research – British Social Attitudes 34 (2017)). My plea is only that serious and complex issues deserve serious and rational analysis, particularly, as in the case of Brexit, when the decision has irrevocable consequences.
    @David Evershed: Matthew Goodwin also pointed out that ‘…those who like (Boris Johnson) were almost 100% likely to vote for Leave (Clarke/Goodwin/Whiteley – ‘Why Britain Voted for Brexit’ UOK 2016) – surely the issue deserved a more thoughtful examination of the pros and cons of EU membership?
    @Paul Murray: No, just a plea for a truly equitable system of representative democracy. I simply ask what hope is there for real democracy when our electoral system is profoundly unfair, and rational argument is trumped by lies and three-word slogans?

  • Mack
    I was being disparaging. But I like young people. I was one and I’m a parent. I just think they were mislead. If you think the EU and particularly “the four freedoms” as nothing to do with downward pressure on wages and job security, then I suggest you look at employment agencies and cheap building projects. Sure it helps a few professionals to relocate, but mostly the reality is people on short term hire and fire contracts doing poorly paid jobs. Plus there’s the very contradictory argument that the EU is protecting rights whilst insisting it isn’t stopping national governments from doing anything! Personally, I think the EU is much more about an emotional attachment to the concept of Europeaness and the big idea than anything else. I just don’t share that attachment. Plus, I think part of the appeal is to people who place the concept of institutions above national majoritarian consent. I favour the latter. I like public votes and elections and the ability to change direction. I think people should have more control of their representatives rather than the other way round. I also think elected official should gain the consent of and cooperate with the electorate before they act. There was no vote to join the EU or on any of the treaties involved. The result is hubris and name calling.

  • “My plea is only that serious and complex issues deserve serious and rational analysis, particularly, as in the case of Brexit, when the decision has irrevocable consequences.”

    Pretty much every political decision has irrevocable consequences. General elections, for example, can give a political party life-or-death power over the population of the entire country.

    It’s all very well saying that the voting public did not come to the correct decision, because they weren’t smart enough / the other side lied more effectively / whatever … but that’s democracy. Assuming you aren’t advocating for a transition to a semi-dictatorial model where unfavourable election or referendum results may be overruled by the Supreme Leader … what’s the alternative?

    – PR wouldn’t have made any difference to the referendum result, which was a national two-option ballot, about as fair as it gets.
    – Supermajority requirements are themselves generally fundamentally undemocratic – what do you actually *do* when over 50% of the vote is for one option but it needs (e.g.) 66%?
    – The courts have been rightly reluctant to touch political questions and would be far too slow to respond within the context of a single campaign. An effective liar can give a completely misleading impression through omission and careful wording and subtext without making any provably false statements anyway.
    – Intelligence tests, property qualifications, other ways to restrict suffrage to “the right kind of people”, obviously out of the question?

    It’s all very well saying that politics deserves “serious and rational” decision making, but it’s never had that before, it’s not about to start having that, and of course most of the Remain voters didn’t vote Remain because of it either.

  • The defining attributes of the many leave commentators on this website are a desire to be accepted and well loved. They want to be accepted as men ( and they mostly are men) of distinction, men to be looked up too and listened too. Alas by making stupid decsions, no matter how educated you claim to be you undermine any claim to respect. But, but they cry if you don’t respect me I will never vote for you, alas my brave Brexi’s and Lexi’s I fear the majority of us have worked out that very few of you ever would or ever will; truely trying to chase your votes is the definition of chasing the unicorn voter ( Mr Clegg may have followed that delusion but I hope experience has taught us not to follow that fantasy, you are not our target audience and if that upsets you well tis the way it is bless).

    Finally a statement of fact. The weak, the ill and the old do not thrive in a rapidly changing environent ( especially one getting poorer) let us hope that our Brexi’s and Lexi’s do not fall into any of those categories; I fear however most do.

  • John Roffey 2nd Feb '20 - 2:22am

    David Evershed 1st Feb ’20 – 11:34am

    David – I am pleased that you have quoted the conclusions of Kent University Professor of Politics – Mathew Goodwin.

    The people decided via a referendum that they would rather be governed by their own parliament – individuals they could kick out of office at regular intervals – if they did not like what they were doing.

    Voters were regularly warned that by leaving the EU they were likely to be worse off. This, it must be presumed, was accepted as a price worth paying. In the same way that we may pay more for what we see as a superior product [self government over being governed by a collective].

    I do hope those who are disappointed that we have left the EU can accept this reality fairly quickly. For if this is not the case for a good majority of members – it will be impossible for the Party, as a whole, to take advantage of the opportunities that are available in these new circumstances.

    Not doing so really does threaten the continued existence of the Party in the HofC.

  • Martin Land 2nd Feb '20 - 9:39pm

    Sadly, an evening canvassing is usually enough to question the validity of universal suffrage. But that would be foolish. It’s as much our failure to understand people’s frustrations as it their failure to understand economics.

  • Peter Kenny 2nd Feb '20 - 11:02pm

    Brexit has surely driven many people mad, on both sides.

    I thought your policy in the GE was extremist, and some of these comments are neither Liberal nor Democratic.

    You will certainly have to give up thinking and talking like this, if you want to proper. Your old south western heartlands generally voted Leave. When did those people become knuckle dragging troglodytes rather than shining beacons of good sense? Presumably sometime between 2015 and 2016, when they were deprived of the enlightened leadership of all those Lib Dem MPs.

    I voted and campaigned for Remain in 2016. I accepted the loss, personally and politically. I can strongly recommend it.

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