Author Archives: John King

Fighting Brexit: The virtues of patience

Few presentations have challenged my thinking more than Roger Liddle’s talk at the meeting of the Social Democrat Group, reported earlier on LDV. Delivered with an almost Churchillian eloquence, it set out why a long term perspective may pay off in the end.

The clever thing about the two year transition period requested by Theresa May, he points out, is that it renders the exit itself painless. By means of this “Brexit now, pay later” ploy, the huge cost is kicked well into the future and the electorate robbed of an immediate reason to protest. But the good news, Liddle believes, is that rejoining the EU should be a feasible proposition when the country finally wakes up.

But we must stop Brexit now! That was the reaction of subsequent speakers. And indeed, I myself have emphasised the urgency for a second vote. We have nothing to lose, have we? Yes we have, says Liddle, because if we lost two referendums in a row, our long term prospects would be even worse.

And there is a high risk of such a defeat because referendums are inherently treacherous.

Furthermore we are severely outgunned. Much has been made of encouraging signs that the tide is turning, but the significant statistic about Brexit is that despite being unmitigated twaddle and a piece of criminal insanity, almost half the population still believe in it. That is, in large measure, testament to the success of the Brextremist propaganda machine – our rightwing press.

They were emboldened by their win last time, and are now cruising smugly along, so we are apt to forget their power. But the minute they sniff a referendum brewing you can bet they will go into overdrive.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 56 Comments

Cheer up Britannia, Brexit is coming

Cheer up Britannia, Brexit is coming. Can John King be writing this? As regular readers of my posts will know, I belong to the ‘Stay Angry and Fight Brexit’ school. And I still hope and pray that this madness can be averted.

All the same, in my more sombre moments, I sometimes wonder if we are clutching at straws. Even if we could turn back now, the Brexiters would cry betrayal for ever more. According to the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, many Remainers in parliament are privately wishing for disaster. Bound and gagged by the three line whip, they reflect grimly that Britain will have to learn the hard way.

Out of the ashes of cataclysmic devastation, by this calculation, a new Britain could arise like a phoenix, resolved never to make the same mistakes again. It is a scenario recalling not only Germany but also ancient Rome, whose Emperor Claudius, surrounded on all sides by perversion and foolishness, could only mutter “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out”.

But what if the country’s demise were relatively painless? What if the unacceptable gradually became the norm? It is a fact that with many serious types of sickness – and Brexit is a sickness – other people see a deterioration first, whilst the sufferer is mercifully oblivious. 

Posted in News | Tagged | 72 Comments

Reversing Brexit

Once out, the pin can’t be put back in. Or can it?

Yes it can, so long as the strike lever has not been released. And that is the position we are in with Brexit. In theory, article 50 can be revoked if we act fast, but the clock is ticking. And According to both Emmanuel Macron and Alastair Campbell, editor of the New European, we have little time left. At some point, the EU will go into full self-protective mode and focus on performing a clean amputation. In grenade terms, the strike lever will have been released and the explosion will be inevitable.

That is why we have to move swiftly. According to Campbell, the time window after our August holidays will be slim. “When the political season resumes, we had better have got our act together”, he writes, ”or else this thing is happening”.

There are formidable difficulties facing us. Though we see tantalising signs of a national change of heart, a lot of energy has built up behind the Brexit juggernaut which means that simply aborting it is well nigh impossible.

Disarming the grenade

Brexit has been aptly described as an act of national self-harm, and self harm has a considerable cathartic value. It is like a wave which rears up before crashing and dissipating its energy on the beach. Anyone who has ever been distressed enough to think of harming themself will tell you that it is not much use being told “forget it, and just carry on as normal”.

Posted in News | Tagged | 64 Comments

Creative campaigning as the mood on Brexit evolves

This image was among those rejected by the Government committee that oversaw the “stronger in” campaign. Saatchi and Saatchi complained that all their best work was vetoed by someone or other.

Well that is history, and we can learn from it. I count myself lucky to be a member of a small group of pro-European campaigners who are free to develop their own creative ideas, untrammelled by the need to answer to any committee.

Last week we were out on the streets in Stratford-upon-Avon, talking to people about Brexit. Any changes in …

Posted in Europe Referendum and Op-eds | Tagged and | 7 Comments

Brexit: an idea whose time has passed?

One view of our divided country is that it was always a land of potential Leavers and Remainers, the rift being merely exposed by the referendum. On this theory, Remainers were born rather than made and Leavers, like leopards, will never change their spots.

Yet the truth is that Leavers comprise all sorts of people, as do Remainers. They are not a different species. I am coming round to the view that our current turmoil is not the fault of the people themselves, so much as the power of a virulent ideology that has swept the country like a tsunami, sweeping away common sense, but which is now slowly evaporating.

It has happened before: ideas have taken hold with a force disproportionate to their merit, and caused mayhem. There are reasons why these belief systems gain traction. Let us look at a couple of examples.

Lysenkoism

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 60 Comments

Why I’m gambling on a second referendum

I’m not a gambling man, but a few months ago I placed a bet for the first time in my life. It was that Emmanuel Macron would win the French election.  It was an expression of hope, which paid off.

Today I am betting on the success of a second referendum on Europe – either staying in the EU or re-joining it, preferably the former. My hope is that the dice will roll in our favour and the people will get it right next time round.

Not that I’m any great fan of referendums, as readers of my previous posts will know. Much can be done to soften the blow without invoking another one. But to reverse the earlier result and stay a member of the EU is likely to require the voice of the people again.

How acceptable will that be to Brenda from Bristol? Well, the snap election was waved through without hesitation despite arguments to the contrary. It is in fact quite difficult to argue against putting things to the people.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 17 Comments

Referendums: an addendum to the conundrum

In my previous post I reviewed some of the problems associated with referendums, in particular the conundrum posed by the “once in a lifetime” proposition. It is no wonder that two of our previous Prime Ministers described them as un-British, and a tool for dictators and demagogues.

Here, as a break from all the election talk, I add a few more criticisms for good measure. But despite the shortcomings that referendums undoubtedly have, my conclusion remains the same: we still need another one. 

Chancy outcomes

Referendums can have perverse and unexpected consequences. To take a rather silly example, suppose the British Medical Association called a vote on whether flower remedies should replace the MMR vaccine. The BMA might think it was a sure win for the vaccine, which does a wonderful job of protecting our children. But in reality it would be an enormous gamble.

The problem here is that, just like the benefits of the EU, the benefits of the vaccine have been taken for granted for years. People have forgotten how serious illnesses like measles, mumps and rubella can be.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 14 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRoland 18th Feb - 12:15am
    No Rob Parker, the referendum didn't mandate anything, however, various influential fringe elements of the Conservative party, being worried about UKIP and wanting to appear...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 17th Feb - 9:22pm
    "middle-class Remainers of the north of England to be given more attention?" Why only middle class remainers? I live in the North too and, from...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 17th Feb - 9:06pm
    As always it comes down to wanting more money for the NHS and social services. We are always asked "But where is the money going...
  • User AvatarRob Parker 17th Feb - 8:56pm
    "May’s speech shows that staying in the EU is best for Britain’s security" Right, but the referendum result, which politically speaking May HAS to implement,...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 17th Feb - 8:40pm
    @JoeB, To be fair to Ricardo, he did float the idea of Ricardian equivalence, he later backed away from the idea. His entry in Wiki...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 17th Feb - 8:27pm
    Can I put in a plea for the middle-class Remainers of the north of England to be given more attention? It is reported that the...