The Death of Democracy?

Leavers like to say that a referendum on the deal would be “the death of democracy”.  A stronger argument is that democracy, if it hasn’t been killed, has already been given a severe kicking.

The structure of the 2016 referendum was a poor, cobbled together affair voted through by parliament because of a lie.  In the face of considerable opposition to the referendum proposals David Cameron promised MP’s that they needn’t worry because the result would be advisory.  The result was the referendum structure and content was passed and immediately David Cameron announced the result would be binding.  Strictly speaking the referendum result is not binding legally but politically it is another matter….with alarming ramifications.

Lies;  Remain vs Leave

Leavers like to claim that there were lies on both sides, that the economy did not instantly tank and that therefore any leave lies can be ignored because there is parity.  Both sides lied so it cancels each other out.  It doesn’t.

The most one could accuse Remain of is lies of exaggeration….we did not go into instant recession (but on the other hand the Bank of England immediately released huge amounts of money to ensure that we didn’t).  If the treasury’s forecasts were overly pessimistic they remain more accurate than those of pro-leave Minford……and the trend they predicted is correct….ie down.

 

forecast wars

(Chris Giles, Financial Times, April 27, 2018)

Leave also had exaggerations too; and they were monsters!  Turkey was nowhere near entering the EU then and isn’t now.  An EU army requires unanimous agreement from the member states and though it has been pushed up the agenda (since Trump has shown America cannot be relied on and Russia is more bellicose) it still remains true.  If the UK as an EU member opposed an EU army we could have blocked it.

Leave additionally had lies of fact….lots of them.  Not just the infamous £350m on the bus (which some people still believe) but also polar bears…..

.polar bears

Tea….

tea

 

 

 

And of course geography, the implication being that we would be flooded with lots of brown faced, not Christian, potential terrorists…

turkey

A meme Nigel Farage used to great effect while ignoring that non EU immigration is nothing to do with the EU and is outside of Freedom of Movement

.breaking point

and who was supporting Brexit.  In fact Nissan, who supported Remain, sued Vote Leave – though by then of course the damage was done.

 

nissan

(Simon Goodley, The Guardian, 20th June 2016)

NOT JUST LIES BUT ILLEGALITY TOO.   Remain vs Leave

Remain:  80 transactions were found to be lacking adequate receipts and were fined £19,000.  The leaflet by the government, though contentious was legal because it was produced and released before the regulated period.  Arron Banks provided £12 million in services during this period too.

 

Leave: The electoral commission found that Vote Leave and BeLeave had coordinated their campaigns (illegal) and overspent by nearly £500,000 (illegal) almost all of which was spent with targeted FaceBook ads.  Vote Leave has been fined £70,000 and Darren Grimes of BeLeave £20,000.

A question mark also exists over the source of Leave funding.  Arron Banks donated more than £8 million but from where?  Banks is refusing to say (a weakness in UK electoral law) and the case has been passed to the National Crime Agency.  Russia is known to have meddled with Brexit and Arron Banks is known to have close links with Russia, including a rather suspect Russian diamond mine deal.

The summary is Remain has been fined for poor accounting.  Leave has been found guilty of breaking electoral law and there is a strong possibility that foreign funding (illegal) was used in the vote Leave campaign.

 

What About Democracy?

The irony is that were the referendum binding rather than advisory then the result would have been thrown out and the referendum re-run.  Whether the result would have been different had Leave not broken the law is a moot point.  The olympic sprinter who wins the race on drugs might well have won without them….but is still disqualified.

The situation is actually a very bad joke.  The high court accepts that there is  a legal case which could be made against vote leave and for an overturning of the result but said that it is now too late as the case would have to be put within 3 months of the expenses being lodged….except that no-one knew a crime had been committed then.  It’s rather like saying you cannot try someone for murder if the body isn’t found for a year.  Ridiculous.

Lawyer Jessica Simor explains to James O’Brien on LBC

 

A Second Referendum….Democratic or Not?

Given the illegality of the first referendum a vote on the deal is actually an opportunity to restore democracy rather than overturn it.  Cries to the contrary are, I believe, not based on concern for democracy but more because Leaver’s believe they might lose.  (One Leaver rather sweetly admitted this on the Leave.eu twitter feed).  Even leavers agree it’s a good idea…..or they did except they feel they might risk Brexit.  Jacob Rees-Mogg famously said a second referendum on the deal would be a good idea and David Davis said that nations are not democracies if they cannot change their mind.

Personally I think Leavers might be worrying too much anyway.  A recent survey found that 40% of voters think no deal and remain are the same, others still believe the £350m on the bus, still more think WTO will be just peachy (despite even some leave activists saying it will be a disaster).  The Leave group is back to spreading lies so even as a remainer I don’t regard a second referendum as a done deal…..it’s just the other options are worse.

Democracy and a People’s Vote

Though I am a Remainer myself I fully understand why Leave voters find Remainers bleating on that the referendum was advisory and should therefore be ignored annoying.  I get fed up with it too.

But my dear Leave friends, my brothers and sisters consider this….were the referendum not advisory then the referendum result would have been thrown out due to leave breaking electoral law.  So much for your incessant cries of “Democracy”.  Not you personally but the Leave campaign has already shat all over democracy and it looks like it’s happening again.

 

Now to be fair this latest instance might be nothing to do with vote Leave as such.  After all Russia and Iran have both been shown to be interfering pro Brexit and want to destabilise the west and you might want to question your motives if you support foreign attempts to subvert the democratic process.

 

But let us ignore the breaking of electoral law and let us ignore foreign attempts to subvert and more let us even ignore Jacob Rees-Mogg’s, Nigel Farage’s and Arron Bank’s links to Russia and concentrate on the vote itself.

£350 million was promised to the NHS.  Although Leaver’s like to say knew this was a lie, top leaver Dominic Cummings says according to his research the issue of the NHS was decisiveThe British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing are unequivocal that Brexit will damage the NHS.

Prior to the referendum Leave was promoting a Norway option; in the single market but outside the customs union.   They mentioned it a lot.  Further immediately after the referendum polls were taken by the Adam Smith Institute and BMG which confirmed that not only did many Leave voters want to stay in the single market but that they were willing to accept freedom of movement in order to do so.  There is no mandate for chequers or any form of hard Brexit and there never was.

I heard a chap say that going for no deal would “unify the country”.  No one voted to have a minister for food (rationing), no one voted for the M26 to be turned into a lorry park and even the LeaveHQ say to have no deal would “be the end of Britain as a trading nation” and call it “the suicide option”.  The ultra right Brexiteers have drowned out the voices of the moderate majority.  This is not democracy, neither is breaking electoral law and outside interference.

 

The “People’s March” could have been called the “March for democracy” because democracy has been subverted and both Leavers and Remainers should be opposed to that.

America, Guns, Brexit and the Death Penalty

School shootings in the US seem to follow the same pattern, atrocity, Democrats plead, Republicans ignore, NRA pushes for looser gun control.

Social media goes mad, positions become entrenched. Where to go from here?

Is there a lesson to be learned from Brexit? In Brexit polls show that there is little apetite for a repeat of the referendum. HOWEVER there is an appetite for a referendum on the terms of the deal.

Maybe the same is true in the US. A call for a ban on guns is going to be met with huge opposition (or to quote a dad whose kid goes to school in Florida where the shooting happened- “I don’t want the government to take my gun”). However a call to have stronger background checks is pretty hard to be against (though hey they have managed it in the past) and may have a better chance of success. Possibly a ban on automatic rifles, bump stocks, large magazines etc. A call for an outright ban polarises and stalls. Maybe baby steps will work better?

 Pondering the death penalty.

Florida shooter Nicolas Cruz, is 100% guilty of the shooting in Florida which left 17 in a school dead.  He is allegedly offering to plead guilty if the death penalty is waived.   This is a cut and dried, no possibility there is a mistake, case and there are strong cases for vengeance, not paying to keep the bastard alive and in jail, and what the heck to discourage others.  If it was my kid who died I would be considering switching lethal injection for something painful….and yet…..

The bible says though shalt not kill.  It doesn’t make exceptions for wankers.
Cases are not always cut and dried – miscarriages do occur and will occur.
Would his death help survivors and the families of the dead heal?

Further reformed criminals make great spokespeople.

I think of these words by Despmond Tutu – I used them at the funeral of my father, a concentration camp survivor.


 

On forgiveness:

 

I know it is the only way  to heal the pain in my heart.

Forgiveness is not dependent on the actions of others.

Yes it is certainly easier to offer forgiveness when the perpetrator offers remorse

…this is the most

familiar pattern of forgiveness.

We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves.

Forgiveness, in other words, is the best form of self interest.

 

Forgiveness takes practice, honesty,

Open-mindedness and a willingness to try.

It isn’t easy.

 

(The Book of Forgiving: Desmond and Mpho Tutu)


I don’t have an answer – I wish I did, but as a Christian I guess I feel the bastard should live?  Maybe?  I could almost certainly kill him, but without guilt?  I don’t know.  I suspect not.  And if I cannot kill him without guilt, is it right for me to ask another (ie the state) to do so on my behalf?.

Islamaphobia

Islam seems to be banging into me a lot this week, whether it is the one time Muslim extremist who I “met” on twitter who has now renounced Islam (while loving her culture and her people), or a rather extreme gentleman of whom more later.

As a liberal leaning white Christian male whose knowledge of Islam is limited to minimal reading on the subject I could be justifiably accused of knowing bugger all on the topic I am about to opine on….and yet despite my limitations when I read this…

“I doubt that we can eliminate the Islamic terrorist threat all together, but we can start by abolishing Madras Schooling, demolish all the mosques and close Muslim meeting places, instead of actually encouraging them. This is not persecution, but rather moves to safeguard Western culture, Western laws and Western lives”.

Followed by this “I wouldn’t dispatch them to a camp, at least one which our government is paying to sustain, but deport them to their country of origin.”

It DEMANDS some redress.

I doubt that we can eliminate the Islamic terrorist threat all together, but we can start by abolishing Madras Schooling, demolish all the mosques and close Muslim meeting places, instead of actually encouraging them. This is not persecution, but rather moves to safeguard Western culture, Western laws and Western lives”.

“I wouldn’t dispatch them to a camp, at least one which our government is paying to sustain, but deport them to their country of origin.”

If that’s not persecution what the fuck is?  If you are in any doubt about this then replace Muslim with Irish Catholic in the time of the troubles….. we will destroy the catholic churches and the Irish pubs…..this is not persecution.  Adding the words “this is not persecution” does not make it not persecution.  Heads up….if you have to say “It’s not persecution” ….IT IS!

Deport to their country of origin!  Even ignoring the fact that increasingly terrorists are home grown, during the troubles was anyone seriously declaring round up all the Irish in the UK and send them to Dublin?  No?  Because it is a nuts idea which even if possible would radicalise  people.  It seems to be that anyone who is not white should be deported …..but it’s not persecution because we put not persecution in the text!

I am not an apologist for Islam.  I might be persuaded that it is a religion that prone to be subverted to violence (as all religions seem prone to be….look at the “Christians” in the US who seem oblivious to “love your neighbour as yourself”).  I certainly think that intelligence services targeting radical Muslims is entirely rational.  You focus on where the threat is.  Is it discriminatory – Yep, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Extreme anti Islam positions, verging on the fascist do not only foster Islamic extremism they are also blind to the good that the Islamic community can do.  I used to work in St.Thomas’ hospital – an entire ward was paid for by Muslims.  You won’t read that in the Daily Mail.  Nor will you read about Zakat – the obligation to give a tithe of your earnings to good causes.  We have it in Christianity too….except that people actually doing it in Christianity is rare.

Civilisation exists in nuance – the recognition that things are shades of grey.  These days the drive is to polarise, whether it is Trump, or Brexit or Islam – and civilisation is being throttled by it.

Immigrants? What’s That Mean?

I have a friend, nice guy intelligent, educated (chartered accountant), of mixed Filipino/ UK heritage who lives abroad and is against immigration (his thing is Muslims and headscarves).  Listening to him made me realise two things.  One I agree with him on a lot of it.  Two “immigrants” is a catch all term that is as misleading as it is informative.

When people say immigration do they mean cultural or financial or both?

Cultural Dilution: 

Contention:

Western Europe pretty much monoculture ( the Irish, French, Germans, Italians etc are pretty much like us).
Africa is also a monoculture (excluding Arab Africa).
Arabian Africa and the Middle East are also a monoculture.

If someone from Ireland or France moves to the UK it is unlikely to change anything much.  On the other hand someone from Saudi Arabia brings with them a whole set of cultural values and norms that are anathema to the UK.  While it is OK for a limited number of people to emigrate here from Saudi (and may enrich our culture/ understanding) I would suggest we don’t want wholesale migration – and this is true for the other continents also.

 

Economic Migration:

“They come here stealing our jobs.”  In much the same way when people complain about immigrants they are not, in the main, complaining about highly skilled workers from other western European countries where pay scales are similar to (or better than) ours.  The complaints relate more to Eastern Europeans coming here, being paid less and under lower conditions than the indigenous workforce.  I have heard this from Leave voters in the NW of England that low paid, unskilled foreign labour does indeed cut the pay etc for some UK workers.  I have no reason to believe it is not true.   There is a suggestion that the inclusion of Eastern block countries into the EU was in part a deliberate attempt to provide low paid workers to bolster western European economies.  I am not sure I believe that.

Some Thoughts.

  1. Legitimate concerns about cultural dilution are used by the far right to promote an “Islamification of Europe” narrative, which is extremist fear mongering.  It’s like a small child breaks your window and all of a sudden a wave of child vandals are sweeping the nation.  A sense of perspective is required and awareness that cultures evolve.  We are not stuck in the 1950’s.
  2.  Immigrants from outside the EU are nothing to do with the EU – if we let them in that’s our choice.  Concerns about immigrants from the Middle East and Africa are still being lumped together with immigrants from within the EU.  It confuses the argument and is wrong.
  3. We already have record low unemployment – if the low paid foreign workers leave who will replace them?  If our manufacturing costs go up will companies stay competitive (depends on their margins on a case by case basis), or will they go under?
  4. If we make all foreigners unwelcome then we also risk losing the highly skilled workers we need – and this is already happening.  Just because you say to someone “we’ll give you a visa” does not mean they want to either arrive or stay

When we talk about “immigrants” we need to be much clearer about who we mean.