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A divided polity, no clear solution… September 24, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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John Harris has it about right here, I think.

…does anyone seriously think that another referendum campaign and a public vote would really settle the furies that Brexit has kicked up? In the absence of a no-deal option Nigel Farage and the Brexit party, using their online expertise, alongside Tory Brexiteers, would decry the whole thing as illegitimate. And whatever the result, the losing side would hardly be likely to go quiet.

And I wonder if this too is tending in the right direction:

“Bringing the country back together” is the political cliche of 2019. But in the midst of all the polarised noise, just about every mainstream political response to the Brexit crisis looks like it will either further our divisions, or leave things much as they are. The Tories’ embrace of the headless politics of no deal, coupled with the picking of fights clearly designed to show they mean it, is by far the most egregious example. By way of a mirror-image, the Liberal Democrats’ new belief in ignoring the referendum result simply encourages the most partisan remainers to rejoice in division and self-righteousness. Labour’s belated offer of a second referendum – with, if Jeremy Corbyn gets his way, the party’s position to be decided by a “special conference” some time after the election – is probably the best thing on offer.

The British polity appears to me to be divided in a way not seen there or in a peacetime state in many many decades. Perhaps the 1970s, when there was talk of coups and profound political differentiation, perhaps the 1980s, under Thatcher. But even then – and I say this as someone adamantly opposed to Thatcher – the structures were regarded as in some sense legitimate.

Now, all is different. Perhaps part of that is social media – the fact of reinforcing feedback loops that function all day ever day for some (it is beyond striking to me how engaged people are with mobile phones. It worries me a lot to be honest. I was at Gary Numan the other night in the Olympia. Someone in front of me, about my age, was checking out their twitter feed throughout the gig. Why? Harris notes that so much information comes through social media, enriching Californian fortunes). Perhaps part of that is the softening of party affiliation. Working out the tangled threads of causality in all this isn’t easy. What is responsible for what?

But I think Harris is correct – a simple Remain (quite apart from politically being, at least as matters stand, a non-starter) is unfeasible in the context of the UK. Brexit will occur in some form. I’m not fond of Corbyn’s rhetoric that being outside the EU will be good for Britain and possibly better than being in it – I don’t believe it for a moment, and more importantly almost no economists think so. But I think it will be good for the EU, and I think that in the long run the UK will return to a closer position – most likely something like EEA/EFTA.

But the problems in Britain seem to me to run deeper than the issue of Brexit albeit it is the proximate issue of the moment. Harris writes about ‘a growing culture of mutual loathing’. I remember all too clearly ten years ago visiting people in Britain and being amazed at how easily terms like ‘chavs’ and a bigotry around that term was used in general conversation. It struck me then that that was a function of a sort of subdued class antagonism. The subsequent riots were no great surprise. But they too were a symptom and in no real sense alleviated the problem.

And so much is wrong in Britain – class structures, lack of investment, alienation, a state that is in retreat in various areas, but beyond that pools of privilege and wealth that make a mockery of the efforts of those less privileged to get ahead on their own terms.

Addressing all those and Brexit is a decades long project. And assuming Brexit reversed alone will somehow alter matters for the better is, I suspect, implausible.

I’ve noted it before, in some ways Britain’s Brexit is Britain’s problem, bar how that impacts on this island. I have sympathy for those workers in Britain, but my concerns are much greater for those on this island. That’s the key at this point – to ameliorate the negative impacts of a very poor British decision.

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1. tafkaGW - September 24, 2019

I have sympathy for those workers in Britain, but my concerns are much greater for those on this island. That’s the key at this point – to ameliorate the negative impacts of a very poor British decision.

Indeed. I wish they’d just get on with it at this stage.

The British Labour Party just produces despair in me at the moment – the Lexiteers are still in control and regars ‘winning’ at conference as more important that winning a general election election.

The current policy from conference will alienate not only remainer party members and voters but will also put off the ‘just get it over with’ voter.

As John Curtice notes:

There is no doubt that the Labour party faces the challenge: how does it keep the coalition [of remain voters and leave voters] it has together. But at the end of the day the arithmetic doesn’t lie. For every one voter who voted Labour and leave, there were two in 2017 who voted remain.

And the difficulty about believing that Labour’s latest variation of its compromise designed to appeal to both groups is going to work is that the party has lost ground heavily among remainers and among leavers. It lost that ground such that by the end of May it was only running at about 25% in the polls across the electorate as a whole. There is no evidence at all of any recovery in that figure. And so therefore it is not clear why yet another compromise – a compromise that looks unlikely to appeal to either Labour remainers or Labour leavers – is actually going to succeed in repairing the damage.

Remember, around two-thirds of those people who are Labour leavers say that actually their preferred policy is Boris Johnson’s policy of just: let’s get out by 31 October. Meanwhile Labour remain voters are, if anything, closer to Jo Swinson’s view, let’s just revoke article 50 and wanting another referendum. So how either of these groups is going to get attracted back by the policy is not immediately obvious.

Which is frankly tragic given the quality of much of the other policy being proposed at the conference.

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tafkaGW - September 24, 2019

The point is that the option of a renegotiated Brexit deal (which Labour may or may not campaign for – for if the Lexiteers remain in control of a top-down party), will remain a unicorn, especially with a Brexit position that makes it unlikely that the BLP will even be able to form a majority with the SNP.

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2. Roger Cole - September 24, 2019

The British Imperial State has always been the main enemy of a United Irish Republic. If the BIS is in trouble over Brexit to such an extent that Scotland & Wales becomes Independent States and Ireland becomes a United Irish Republic, then one of the major consequences is an Independent England. Shorn of their imperial heritage, the English, the Scots, Welsh and the Irish could concentrate on building better public health service etc. If they left the EU they could negotiate a Customs Union as advocated by Corbyn, so much the better. The EU, without the military power of a BIS would find it more difficult to create a European Empire with its own Army via PESCO, an objective to which FF/FG are totally devoted. So when it comes to Brexit, look on the bright side.

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3. CL - September 24, 2019

“Nichols then called on an interpretive dance troupe to explain Corbyn’s Brexit position through Dadaist performance art. That wasn’t much help either. Still, no one had ever pretended Jeremy ever took anything but the road less travelled”
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/23/labour-elite-wins-a-battle-but-it-might-have-just-lost-the-war

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