Observations of an ex pat: Intelligence insulted

I hate it when politicians insult my intelligence. When they speak and act in a manner which implies that the voting public are no more than gullible poll fodder it undermines their credibility and damages the democratic process.

Not that the current prime minister had much credibility to start with. Boris Johnson is infamous for his deceits, distortions, half-truths, vacillations and outright lies in pursuit of political ends which are clearly designed to serve only the interests of Boris Johnson.

His latest porky is the claim that proroguing parliament has nothing to do with the Brexit debate.  That is so obviously false. It is right up there with the NHS bus, floods of Turkish immigrants, dismissal of the Irish border as “not a problem”, having our cake and eating it too, and the assertion that the German car industry will be on its hands and knees grovelling for a deal.

The Johnson government claims that using the tactic of an early Queen’s Speech to prorogue parliament in the middle of the run-up to the No Deal deadline of 31 October is perfectly normal.  It will, says Johnson, have no impact on parliament’s ability to debate Brexit. “Nothing to do with Brexit,” says Michael Gove. “A bit boring actually,” claims Jacob Rees-Mogg.

More accurate was the comment from Father of the House Ken Clark: “I don’t know how they keep a straight face.”

It is no coincidence that most ministers are being kept off the small screen in the wake of the prorogue announcement. So far only the three already mentioned have stuck their heads above the parapets, and that was only to issue a quick soundbite before ducking back behind the castle walls. No government minister has dared to subject themselves to a grilling by the likes of Andrew Marr, John Humphrys or Kirsty Wark.

Of course if any one of the above ministerial trio did deign to subject themselves to a thorough grilling, they would probably refuse to provide any answer which did not include the phrase “the will of the people” or “fear factor.”

The fact is that the fear factor is becoming extremely frightening—and we have yet to leave the EU. The pound is dropping. Jobs are disappearing. Foreign investment has slowed considerably. NHS waiting lists are lengthening because much-needed foreign doctors and nurses are staying home and British-born doctors are going elsewhere. Back in 2016 the Brexiteers said none of this was going to happen. It was all part of the Remain conspiracy to scare hardy Britons into staying in the EU.

As for the “will of the people,” what am I and the 16,141,241 who voted to remain in the European Union? Orangutans, chimpanzees, single cell amoebas? No, much worse, we are “Remoaners” who appear to be the British equivalent of German untermenschen or Indian untouchables.

The new political strategy—whether it is British, American, Italian or Hungarian—appears to be to identify a large dissatisfied group who perceive themselves to be unrepresented members of society. They are then promised their heart’s disease regardless of the damage to the national interest, and the rest of the population are sent to political hell with a string of oaths and insults.

Gone are the days when the government’s job was to unite political factions and represent the interests of the entire nation in foreign councils. Or, as Boris Johnson said: “F**k business.”

Seeking consensus has historically been one of the purposes of parliament and especially the Opposition. Parliament is currently deadlocked. But it should be clear that the deadlock is a reflection of the bitter divide within the country at large. As for the Opposition, its divisions and useless leadership has cleared the way for the ascendance of the Tory extreme right.

In one respect, Boris Johnson is right to treat parliament with contempt. It knows what it doesn’t want—No Deal. But it has no idea what it does want. In that situation the solution does not lie in circumventing the legislature. It lies in dismissing it and going back to the people to ask them to elect a parliament that does know what it wants.

 

* Tom Arms is membership secretary for Tooting Lib Dems. He also broadcasts on foreign affairs for US Radio, regularly contributes to Lib Dem Voice, lectures and is working on a book on Anglo—American relations which is due to be published next year.

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20 Comments

  • John Marriott 30th Aug '19 - 11:31am

    Just what IS ‘the will of the people’? Search me! What I DO know is that in 2016 just over 17 million people voted to ‘leave the EU’. In 2017 the population of the U.K. was just over 66 million. You do the maths. Yes, the largest minority of those who could actually voted (around 38%) supported ‘Leave’; but what kind of ‘Leave’ were they supporting? So, please, please, stop using that damn phrase to justify mangling our ‘Constitution’, to justify what you are attempting. Can you imagine the uproar from the Tory press is a Corbyn/McDonnell Government had pulled such a trick?

    You notice I have used quotation marks because, quite frankly, I don’t think much of our so called ‘Constitution’, nor of our current parliamentary set up. Surely the present mess exposes for all to see that neither are fit for purpose in the world of today. The problem is that Joe public doesn’t seem to recognise this. He prefers to see everything in black or white.

    It might not seem very sexy; but, until we overhaul our political institutions, our ability to cope with the challenges of our world is about at the level of a chocolate teapot to cope with boiling water.

    Brexit aside, we need:

    A Written Constitution
    A Bill of Rights
    A Referendum on the Monarchy
    A move towards a Federal UK

    and then there’s how to devolve real power to the English regions. But perhaps not for this post.

  • Politicians of all parties are guilty of disgraceful behaviour in this mess. The deadlock exists because the only deal being contemplated by the EU is May’s agreement which gives the EU everything it could wish for including the decision of whether or not the UK could ever be permitted to leave. That leaves no deal as the only realistic alternative, a prospect being shut down by Remainers using every possible means.

    The damage to politics, trust and democracy is immense. Remainers are blocking a no deal exit and the EU is blocking the chance of any other type of exit, both groups intent on having endless A50 extensions until A50 is revoked. Leavers are intent on having the referendum result delivered and will not sway from that.

    Most people want a free trade agreement, a smooth exit and the opportunity to get on with other matters but the EU will not permit that. It will not abandon May’s agreement. As long as they keep to that position, they need do nothing but watch the UK factions destroy their own country. The process is beginning now with Corbyn urging his hard left supporters to take over the streets.

    Only the perceived certainty of the UK leaving with no deal will cause the EU to change its position at the last moment. Please think through this logic. This is a high stakes gamble that may get a deal or no deal. These are better than certain ruin as our political, constitutional and social cohesion head for obliteration.

  • Indeed.

    A bit like those court cases trying to block Brexit being nothing to do with trying to reverse Brexit.

    A bit like those opposing “no deal” being nothing to do with trying to reverse Brexit.

    Oh well at least World War 3 hasn’t arrived and Western Civilisation seems to be carrying on.

    I agree with you about replacing this unrepresentative parliament. I look forward to the VONC.

  • nigel hunter 30th Aug '19 - 11:46am

    Etonites do think that the voter is poll fodder.
    Contempt is hidden by the actions of those who are devious.
    They believe in their own invincibility.
    They can keep a’ straight face’ cos they are inveterate liars for years and have honed it to an art.
    They can therefore get away with smooth talking lies
    THEY ARE SNAKE OIL SALESMEN
    They are afraid of slipping up under a grilling.
    The ‘will of the people’!!?? only 37% out of a 100% voted.
    What about the other 67%?
    As for the fear factor.The true extent of Brexit consequences will show up over the years.
    Off to make a cup of tea and bikkie to recharge my batteries!

  • “I agree with you about replacing this unrepresentative parliament.”

    If a Prime Minister cannot get parliamentary support for a specific policy, he cannot simply bypass parliament, as Johnson aims to do. Instead he / she can seek an election, and ask the voters to elect a parliament which will support the policy.

    Oh wait! It has all been done! In 2017, well after the referendum and May’s declaration that “Brexit means Brexit”, May called an election, and asked the electorate to vote for a Brexit – supporting parliament. The vote happened, and a more balanced parliament was chosen by “the will of the people” (to coin a phrase), a parliament which was unwilling to vote for Brexit.

    Isn’t it time for the Conservative Party to respect the 2017 election result, and let Parliament decide whether to accept No Deal Brexit?

  • Peter 30th Aug ’19 – 11:37am:

    Good post. Although referring to the deceptively named Withdrawal Agreement as “May’s agreement” is a bit of a misnomer. Essentially it’s an EU surrender treaty largely dictated by Germany…

    ‘A German Brexit? A scandal of subversive statecraft’ [March 2019]:
    https://independencedaily.co.uk/a-german-brexit-a-scandal-of-subversive-statecraft/

    If this account of the meeting is true, the Withdrawal Agreement was written within the German administration, and our ministers and MPs are being bullied and cajoled into passing this into law by a Prime Minister who seems far more interested in pleasing Chancellor Merkel than the 17,410,742 voters who delivered their verdict on the EU in June 2016.

    The pejorative term “no deal” is also a misnomer. There’s a raft of agreements already in place which apply however we leave (WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, Common Transit Convention, etc.).

    If our vote to Leave had been conditional on obtaining a ‘deal’ that would have handed the EU a veto over our decision. They could simply refuse to negotiate (as they have done for a trade deal) or dictate a punitive surrender treaty that turns us into a “colony” (as they have boasted to have done with the Withdrawal Agreement). We voted to Leave the EU, not to ask the EU’s permission to leave.

  • David Allen 30th Aug '19 - 1:01pm

    Jeff,

    Shorn of the anti-German hate speech, your post basically just complains that the EU holds all the cards. If the UK wants to retain the EU as its key trading partner, and is not prepared to see its trade with Europe decline catastrophically, then the UK (whether inside or outside the EU) must agree mutually acceptable trade rules with the EU.

    Why did Brexiteers originally accept that point, and describe the prospect as “the easiest deal in history”? Were you trying to kid the public, or delude yourselves, or both?

  • David Allen 30th Aug ’19 – 12:35pm:
    …May called an election, and asked the electorate to vote for a Brexit – supporting parliament.

    In the 2017 General Election just over 90% of MPs were elected (with 85.1% of the votes cast) on a manifesto commitment to leave the EU in its entirety. In the case of Conservative MPs their manifesto specifically stated that “We continue to believe that no deal is better than a bad deal” (pg 36). It soon transpired that many of those MPs had no intention of honouring their manifesto commitments. The problem lies within parliament (pun intended). The Prime Minister and her cabal of remainers were installed in order to sabotage our leaving the EU and they’ve been supported in that endeavour by many MPs. As I expected, the EU overplayed their hand. The Internet has made the electorate rather better informed than they thought resulting in a collapse in voter support for their surrender treaty.

    Isn’t it time for the Conservative Party to respect the 2017 election result, and let Parliament decide whether to accept No Deal Brexit?

    It’s time for ALL MPs to respect the manifesto commitments on which they were elected. For Conservative MPs they specifically stated “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The EU’s Withdrawal Agreement has been widely described as “the worst deal in history” and a “surrender treaty”. It doesn’t honour the EU Referendum result in any meaningful way. In short, it’s a bad ‘deal’, even without the so-called ‘backstop’.

    Many MPs have obtained public office by misrepresentation. If us voters misrepresent ourselves at a polling station that’s a criminal offence. It should be for the candidates too.

  • @Jeff “It’s time for ALL MPs to respect the manifesto commitments on which they were elected. ”

    Forgive me, but weren’t all the Conservatives elected in 2015 standing on a manifesto that promised to remain in the EU? Including the ERG ones and all the ones who then went on to campaign to leave? What happened to that promise?

  • As David Allen suggests, it is normal for trading partners to agree mutually acceptable trade rules. He omitted to say that the Withdrawal Agreement is effectively a surrender treaty, as pointed out by Jeff.

    The so called “soft Brexit”, favoured by many, was not acceptable to the EU who demanded total control or no deal. Amazingly, the former was accepted by Mrs May. Parliament rejected it three times and we are in the same place today, with the same choice. Remainers are frantically trying to remove the no deal option. That would effectively give us the choice of becoming a state with no influence controlled by Brussels or revoking A50. This would severely damage democracy would not be acceptable to half of the population, hence the deadlock.

    I see no other solution in sight, other than to select the No Deal route and hope that the EU changes its position. The EU always takes negotiations to the wire, so the UK has to be prepared for the chance of no deal. Even if we leave with no deal, new negotiations can commence immediately on a level playing field.

    The alternative is to destroy our parliamentary democracy which already commands alarmingly low levels of trust and respect.

  • The “full control or no deal” position of the EU seems unbelievable to many people.

    I guess that many party members here find it impossible to imagine why the UK should want to leave the EU. That sentiment is shared by the EU. It has become common knowledge that pro-remain senior, retired UK politicians advised the EU that if they made the deal bad enough the desire to leave would crumble away. Project Fear was employed in the UK to compliment this strategy.

    The British people become more tenacious when under attack, a trait which has been underestimated by the EU and some of its supporters. If this is indeed what happened, it does not help us today, though my suggestion above may help the EU to realise their mistake and stop relying on it working.

  • There not insulting your intellect Expats, you are not their target audience. They are not even insulting the intellect of John Peter’s, Peter or Jenny Barnes, they can’t insult what they havn’t got, but lord how they can play to their predudices. As ardent Brexiteers they are wedded to Brexit, if it isn’t achieved it will be the fault of the Germans, if it means throwing the DUP under a bus ( border in the sea) well under the bus they go, if it means the loss of the car industry ( well it would gave gone anyway), if it means we will be poorer than we could have been ( not a problem). They will say this until the cuts hit them and when they find their pensions don’t quite pay for things or health care costs too much to have, my how they will squeal, but it still won’t be there fault.

  • I believe that Jenny Barnes is right. Our economy is fundamentally strong and employment continues at record levels. Brexit offers opportunities with many countries anxious to strike trade deals. We shall have the freedom to make our own decisions.

    Little is said about the future of the EU. Why is that? It is an uncertain future. Germany has the largest economy but is likely to enter recession. Her green policies are closing down the automotive industry and destroying manufacturing competitiveness. Italy, the second largest economy, may bring down the Euro and the entire project.

    Desperate times will force desperate solutions. Merkel is on her way out and Macron is seeking urgent integration in an attempt to save the common currency. This will involve central control of taxation, budgets, spending and sharing of debt. The net recipients of EU largesse will find that they are expected to become contributors.

    The UK, if remaining in the EU, would find that her opt outs are are being phased out. The EU cannot afford a fragmented membership that disrupts future integration. These factors are as important in the UK’s current decisions as any impact of a no deal Brexit.

  • Paul Barker 30th Aug '19 - 7:40pm

    @Jenny Barnes
    Yes the shortages of Medicines & Vaccines will probably be temporary but any resulting Deaths will be permanent.

  • Jenny Barnes
    Don’t get bogged down trying to argue with Young Francis. He fancies himself as a wit, and he’s half right.

  • The issue in Parliament has of course been centred on the Irish question. The situation in Ireland results from the Good Friday agreement. It is responsibility of the U.K. government to find a solution. They have failed to do so. In fact the government has failed to put on the table any solution.
    There is a certainly an obligation under the Good Friday agreement to consult with the Irish government and the parties in the North.
    This is simply a question of trust. Can the U.K. be trusted to keep its word.
    The answer at present is no.

  • I agree with Tom Harney when he says “It is responsibility of the U.K. government to find a solution. They have failed to do so.” Quite simply this is because it just isn’t at all important to Conservatives, particularly those who surround Boris Johnson. At best it is a problem for other people and at worst if it kicks off they can just put the army in again.

    However I wish he had carried on in that vein in his final paragraph where he says “This is simply a question of trust. Can the U.K. be trusted to keep its word.
    The answer at present is no.” It isn’t ‘can the UK be trusted’ but more accurately ‘can the UK under a Conservative government be trusted.’ I don’t think this would have arisen, for all their other faults, under a Blair, Brown, Major or Heseltine.

    If we get to the situation where the Irish believe they can’t trust the UK again, we are just one step away from being in very serious trouble once again, and trouble that won’t be cured by a change of government.

    We have to make the blame stick where it belongs – with the Conservative party.

  • Peter Hirst 1st Sep '19 - 11:17am

    You’re being a bit hard on our parliamentarians, Tom. They are working in an outdated system that rewards dogmatic policy. They do need to realise however that they must change or better allow the system to be changed so it reflects what the people want in terms of a codified constitution that they have created. We cannot continue with this ramshackle set of conventions, that depend on good will and a sense of fairness.

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