Monday, June 27, 2016

A Rudderless Ship

Yes, I do understand democracy.  I also understand the British constitution.  A referendum might well be a democratic expression of public opinion, but it is not legally binding upon Parliament.  As David Lammy MP pointed out over the weekend, it is only advisory.  You see, we don't have direct democracy in the UK (nor in any other nation I can think of off of the top of my head).  Instead we have a representative democracy, whereby we elect representatives, who we hope are better informed than us on a range of issues, to make political decisions for us.  Moreover, here in the UK only parliament is sovereign - only it has the power to make binding laws for the whole country, the legitimacy of its decisions deriving from the fact it is elected by the people.  I feel that I have to say this after a weekend of utter confusion politically, following the EU referendum, during which I had to endure a lot of crowing 'Leave' morons spouting utter bollocks.  I'm amazed that they don't seem to grasp the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, as they've been banging on about how the EU usurps this sovereignty.  But the fact is that nothing can become law for the whole UK unless it is passed by parliament.  This includes all those EU laws 'imposed' on us - all have to be ratified by parliament before becoming UK law.

But now we have an interesting situation: on the one hand we have a less than decisive referendum vote to leave the EU, on the other we have a sovereign parliament elected by these same voters only a year ago, in which all the members but a single UKIP MP were elected on pro-EU party tickets.  Arguably, it would be perfectly legitimate for parliament to ignore the referendum result and simply take it as an indication that the government should return to Brussels to try and negotiate a modification of the UK's terms of membership.  Of course, all of that is entirely academic as, until the now infamous Article 50 is invoked by the government, the UK remains a member of the EU.  And right now, it doesn't seem that that will happen before September and the election of a new Tory leader (and, by default, new Prime Minister).  Even then, it is unlikely to happen for quite some time.  Meanwhile, the UK continues to drift, rudderless and leaderless, with, apparently, nobody at the helm of the Ship of State.  Or even on lookout duty, for that matter.

Usually at times like these we'd look to the opposition for a lead.  But instead of offering any coherent way forward, the Labour party is busily descending into civil war.  Now, I'm no particular fan of Jeremy Corbyn - I respect his principles and his attempts to conduct himself in a dignified manner, but I also don't like the sort of disloyalty shown by much of the parliamentary Labour party.  That said, he has failed to privide any strong leadership and I'm still not really sure what Labour is supposed to stand for under him or what its policies are on most issues.  As an opposition, Corbyn's Labour party has been woeful, missing open goal after open goal and utterly failing to hold the government to account.  Also, whilst Corbyn might have been elected by a huge majority of ordinary party members, the fact is that he still has to have the confidence of Labour's elected representatives, which he clearly doesn't have.  Even more importantly, Labour, under any leadership, has to appeal to more than just its own members if it hopes to win elections.  Sadly, under Corbyn, it seems to be a long way from doing that.  Sure, I know there are some polls giving Corbyn a higher approval rating than Cameron, but let's face it, right now dead dog could get a higher approval rating than Dave.

Finally, I keep coming across 'Leave' voters complaining that they are, by association, being labelled as racists.  But we voted to leave on principle, they say, or because of long held, perfectly legitimate reservations about the EU.  Yeah, but the fact remains that you lined up on the same side as Farage and his UKIP fascists and the official leave campaign was happy to accept their support and failed to condemn them or other far right groups for their racist scaremongering. It's a sad fact of life that when you lie down with dogs, you get fleas.  OK, I promise that I'll try harder to stop ranting about politics for the rest of the week.  Only try mind.  In the meantime, after my despair on Friday, I've decided to take a leaf out of Professor Quatermass' book: at the end of the film version of The Quatermass Experiment, after he's electrocuted the hideous monster threatening London that his former colleague had become, he's asked by an assistant what he's going to do now - 'Start again', he replies as he marches back to his rocket project.  

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