Six million people signed a petition asking the government to revoke Article 50 - the mechanism by which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union - and stay in the EU. Leave activists talk of betrayal of the electorate. Had voting in the referendum been mandatory, would the past three years have seen the turmoil, discontent, and anger on both sides of the debate? Here Ciara Murray analyses the Belgian case to better understand how this might have played out in the UK.
Voting was made mandatory in Belgium in 1893, a mere sixty years after the creation of the state as a mechanism to avoid abstentionism and contain the emergence of radical political parties. Prof. Stephanie Wattier, professor of constitutional law at the University of Namur in Belgium, points out that without mandatory voting, the historical and ongoing conflicts between the French- and Flemish-speaking communities could give rise to dramatic electoral results and uneven vote distribution. Any imbalance in voter turnout between the communities would fuel accusations of political dominance of one community over another and in turn charge extremist parties’ discourse and propel them to greater vote share.
There is a clear parallel between the Belgian case and the Brexit crisis the United Kingdom is currently undergoing. Leave activists emphasise that the result of the referendum was democratic with 17.4 million votes in favour of Leave; Remainers point out that this number only constitutes 38% of the eligible 45.7 million eligible electorate. Both sides can agree that discontent fuels higher voter turnout among those discontented demographics and can skew the vote.
Professor Wattier emphasises that one of the key reasons for bringing in mandatory voting in Belgium was to avoid the rise of extremist parties. This past decade’s political turmoil in Belgium, with far-right separatist parties dominating the vote in Flanders and setting the discourse nationwide, is testament that this approach does not always work as intended. If the UK’s past political decade is anything to go by, something similar would have happened here, with UKIP and right-wing ideologies controlling the political direction of the country without a single representative in Westminster.
We would not be having the same conversations had voting in the referendum been mandatory in 2016. Parliament would perhaps feel more tied to the result of their constituents’ votes, especially if mandatory voting was brought in for parliamentary elections. More broadly, you can’t pander exclusively to the group you believe will be more likely to turn out to vote when you know everyone will turn out to vote.
Mandatory voting makes sense for referenda where the outcome can determine the direction of a nation for a generation. But the Belgian case demonstrates that it may not always be effective in staving off extremism in election results. It does seem, however, that compulsory voting would avoid a large amount of biased and politically-motivated speculation claiming to represent the nation’s true mood and opinions when less than half the electorate uses its vote.
Risk management writer Carolyn Cobbold describes how partnership working and community engagement helped to create Europe’s largest coastal realignment scheme, improving the environment, economy and resilience to climate change of a fragile stretch of Britain’s south coast.
The low-lying Manhood Peninsula south of Chichester is one of the most vulnerable areas of the UK when it comes to coastal, fluvial, surface and ground-water flooding. But by tackling the problems head-on and by encouraging partnership working, its local community has turned climate change risk into an opportunity.
In the late 1990s my friend and fellow Manhood resident Renee Santema, a Dutch spatial planner, and I were becoming increasingly concerned that a lack of long-term integrated planning was putting our coastal communities at risk. Climate change was likely to worsen existing water management and infrastructure problems. So, rather hotheadedly, we began making tea and holding meetings in village halls to encourage local residents to positively face up to their future together. Raising funds from businesses and organisations in the UK and the Netherlands, we organised a five-day workshop on the peninsula with 28 experienced Dutch and British engineers, environmentalists and planners. We briefed the participants, who stayed in dormitories in a local hostel and worked for free, with extensive background material provided by the area’s local communities and local and national authorities. We tasked them to brainstorm in mixed disciplinary groups and come up with ideas about a sustainable integrated planning approach for the future. The only restriction given was to not discount any idea, however radical!
Two decades on, many of their ideas have now been implemented as part of one of the UK’s first integrated coastal zone management plans.
Medmerry, the largest open coast realignment scheme in Europe when it opened in 2013, was a direct result of the 2001 and 2008 Going Dutch workshops. The scheme won the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award in 2014 and dozens of other awards for outstanding achievement in engineering, the environment and community engagement. But more importantly, it has created a more robust and sustainable sea defence for the area as well as creating 183 hectares of intertidal salt marsh, a habitat increasingly under threat globally due to sea level rise and development. Birds, as well as land and water-based wildlife, have benefitted as have local residents, who now enjoy cycle, bridle and walkways in the beautiful new coastal reserve. Meanwhile, the local economy is enjoying an influx of additional tourism.
As a result of the GoingDutch workshop, the Manhood Peninsula Partnership was formed in 2001. Meeting four times a year, the MPP brings together local councils and other stakeholders in the area, including businesses, landowners and local residents, and national agencies including Natural England and the RSPB. Over the last two decades this partnership working has led to better drainage and flood risk mitigation, improved environment and wildlife habitats, cycle routes across the peninsula, a visitor destination plan and related tourism initiatives.
All this from listening and talking with open minds, exploring new ideas, ignoring existing boundaries and working together with no party politics, lubricated with tea!
For more on Going Dutch, see http://peninsulapartnership.org.uk/abd/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Going-Dutch-book-a.pdf
For more on Medmerry and the MPP see https://peninsulapartnership.org.uk/
Brexit has brought politics in the UK to a grinding halt. This is no coincidence - the fundamental flaws that exist within our system mean that really, it was only a matter of time.
In perhaps an irregular pearl of wisdom, renowned ex-Tory Anne Widdicome made the following statement whilst speaking on BBC Newsnight.
‘We have the worst Prime Minister since Anthony Eden, the worst leader of the opposition in the entire history of the Labour party, and the worst Parliament since Oliver Cromwell’.
As brusque as they are forthright, the words are a stark representation of popular opinion. Venture out onto the streets of Britain and you’d struggle to find a single soul who still believes that our political system is anything other than a failure.
With just days to go until our second attempt at Brexit day, chaos has become normality, and Parliament’s inability to decide on a way forward has plunged the country into a biting constitutional crisis.
From the outside looking in, our current parliament appears intrinsically unfit for purpose. But make no mistake – the situation in which we now find ourselves is the product of a handful of untimely elements which, when combined, have resulted in this most perfect of storms.
Whilst the country remains heavily divided over Brexit, millions still undeniably want to Leave the EU. By now, many of them have been convinced that a no-deal is the best option, despite what was promised by the original Leave campaign. In any representative democracy, MPs have a duty to be responsive to the demands of their constituents. While the role this actually plays in their decision making is tenuous, the majority of MPs at least want to be seen as having loyalty to the folks back home.
After all, an MP has it pretty good; it’s hardly surprising that most are unwilling to risk the good wages, hefty pension and subsidised cafeteria that go along with the position. This generally means avoiding actions that will upset their constituents and result in them losing their seats.
An MP’s loyalties are also inextricably tied up with their party. This introduces the first in a web of complexities for MPs in deciding how to act. More often than not, MPs owe their position in office to their respective parties and in return for their election they are generally expected to toe the party line.
Conservative MPs in particular must factor in an additional loyalty – to their 2017 manifesto. The latest Tory manifesto commits the party to leaving the EU. It even explicitly states that no-deal is preferable to a ‘bad deal’, whatever that looks like. Of course, it’s possible to argue that there is no mandate for enacting manifesto promises given the Conservative’s failure to win a majority at the last election - though this is but an argument.
In a well-informed democracy, there should be no conflict between these commitments. The interests of citizens, businesses, party and nation should all be in alignment, with MPs able to take the whip and get on with the urgent business of looking important. All well and good, save for the fact that the Brexit decision was anything but well-informed.
A non-negligible number of representatives are now grappling with the pressure to back a no-deal when they most likely wouldn’t have otherwise. As well as being answerable to their constituents’ immediate demands, MPs are also bound by a duty to govern in the public interest. Once again, if the electorate is well-informed, there should be no friction between the two. But in today’s chaotic situation, this just simply isn’t the case. Take the example of an MP in a post-industrial Leave-voting area, faced with the choice between abiding by their constituents demands – to Leave the EU, potentially without a deal - and avoiding a scenario that they know (or at least believe) would have crippling repercussions for the region.
Let’s be generous and assume that the majority of MPs are genuinely trying to do the right thing. What’s one to do when faced with a dilemma of this kind? The most obvious place to look first is the party leadership. Here lies the crux of the current predicament; the nation’s two major parties are both simultaneously in crisis.
The Prime Minister has lost control of her fractured party, which, in spite of her most desperate rescue efforts, has split almost entirely down the middle. The anti-European minority is both large and vocal and has the backing of major donors and the media. Her approach has been to seek a compromise which, in an attempt to appease both warring factions, has failed to provide a version of Brexit that satisfies anybody. MPs, meanwhile, have been whipped against supporting any other option.
Labour is also split, though nowhere near so critically. It should be easy for Labour MPs to vote with their party; but Labour faces another obstruction. Corbyn’s renowned Euroscepticism has meant he has failed to provide decisive leadership, particularly to pro-remain MPs. The leadership of both parties is unusual – in their inability to govern and in their political convictions. Their combined leadership is as unfortunate and it is unprecedented. Circumstances would likely be different, were either of the more typical creed.
Perhaps most importantly is the responsibility of the corruption and recklessness of the media in bringing about the Brexit shambles. Free press is indisputably essential to the health of a democracy, and it is the responsibility of news outlets to hold politicians to account and champion the interests of the people. The reality is starkly different –media companies spread fear, disinformation, and engage in illegal activity and politicians cower in fear. Even when the phone hacking scandal emerged, there was no major reform of how our national media is run.
Brexit and its aftermath are undoubtedly a product of some very unfortunate timings. Despite this, though, there is something that feels somewhat inevitable about our current circumstances. While the situation today may not be typical, the knowledge that our system is even capable of producing such an outcome should be enough to get us thinking about how things could be done differently. Let Brexit be a lesson; radical reform of our politics is long overdue.
In today’s fast-moving short-term political games, James Dilley argues for the long view, incorporating history and philosophy to better understand Britain’s identity - as well as our own individual identities.
After the fireworks of 2012’s Olympic Opening Ceremony had faded away, the New York Times wrote this:
“Britain presented itself to the world as something it has often struggled to express even to itself: a nation secure in its own post-empire identity, whatever that actually is.”
Yet in 2019 this perspective reads like ancient history. Ever since the EU referendum cast our future into doubt, the United Kingdom’s place in the world has become utterly uncertain. It seems like our leaders don’t know what our country should try to be, or how even how to help us become it.
Rather than being “secure in [our] own post-empire identity”, millions of Brits are profoundly insecure. Just as many seem unhappy with the increasingly cosmopolitan and diverse makeup of our towns and cities, millions more are angry with what they see as a nostalgic cry for the quaint Britain of yesteryear from Brexiteers.
It is no longer enough to talk of past glories and put on a good show as Danny Boyle did for us in 2012. That summer is long past, and a cold winter of discontent followed the closing of a competition in which London undoubtedly did itself, and the country, proud.
But perhaps we never had enough of a conversation about what the UK should be in the first place, way before 2012. In my opinion, that comes down to our failure as individuals to philosophise on what it means to live a good life and engage honestly with our collective history.
I think, therefore I am (British)
Our education system hammers facts and figures into our minds from the moment we can walk. Yet, despite their many redeeming features, our schools often fail to hammer introspection into citizens who could commit to finding out about themselves before they discover trigonometry. An early-years focus on philosophy - a discipline which is all about how to live and how to die - might go some way to filling this gap. And, were our society to bring up individuals better able to look inwards at their own souls, perhaps this same awareness could then be applied to the heart of our nation.
An awareness of Britain’s heritage is also crucial to this story. Although history curriculums in the UK have modernised with some success in recent years, many people here are still shockingly ignorant of our past.
In particular, the UK’s colonial history, contrary to what that New York Times journalist suggested in 2012, remains a pressure point for our country. Whilst some play it up with fond ‘memories’ of gunboats and The Raj, an increasing number of citizens understandably view the British Empire with anger and disdain. In a diverse country such as ours, it is absolutely right that we have a conversation about what that imperial history meant and means for all of our citizens. Like in Spain, where the legacy of the dictator Franco and the Spanish Civil War continues to cause deep divisions, the UK has not adequately dealt with its imperial past. It’s difficult to have an honest conversation about it, particularly when its aroma is disingenuously wafted by Leaver politicians in an attempt to define our post-Brexit future.
If political renewal is to succeed, then, we would do well to make better use of our shared history to understand what we can become today. But the use of that history for positive growth will be determined by our ability to introspect and empathise with one another as philosophers. Only then can the UK renew its identity for good.
It may have rained in Wales last week, but the Renew parade was safe. In the Newport West by-election, we made a real statement of intent by securing 879 votes – 3.7% of the popular vote. For a party that was barely known in the city at the start of the campaign, this is no small feat.
So how did we do it? What did we learn? And where can we go from here?
Hard graft pays off
It may sound straightforward, but simply talking to people went down a treat. Out canvassing, I lost count of how many said they’d never had a political party knock on their door during any election campaign, let alone this one.
In total, we knocked on over 5000 doors and delivered letters to every voter in the constituency. Our candidate, June Davies, did an excellent job of nailing the crucial local issues, such as a sustainable plan for the M4 relief road, whilst presenting an ambitious programme of reform at the national level. She’s also a relatable individual with loads of experience outside the political arena, which in an age of disillusionment and distrust proves attractive.
If any other fledgling political movements were interested in finding shortcuts to the electorate’s heart, I’m afraid I have some bad news: nothing beats face-to-face canvassing and a convincing message. Achieving this is hard work, but great fun, and ultimately pays off at the ballot box.
The two-party system is crumbling
In 2017, the Labour and Conservative candidates together gained 91.6% of the vote share. On April 4th, they could only muster 70.9%. That’s a reduction of over 20%.
While the UKIP candidate Neil Hamilton came in third with 2,023 votes, there wasn’t exactly the hard-Brexit backlash that some had been predicting. Were you to add up all the votes for pro-European parties (not including Labour, naturally), you’d get a grand total of 4076; more than double the UKIP vote.
Either way, it was clear from the voting patterns and even clearer on the doors that many, many constituents of Newport West had abandoned hope in the Conservatives and Labour. Both were rightly blamed for failing to deal with the Brexit challenge, or, in the case of the former, bringing us into the mess in the first place. Jeremy Corbyn remains deeply unpopular; I spoke to a number of elderly folks, Labour voters all their lives, now politically homeless. They just couldn’t back Corbyn’s extreme platform and his nasty, Momentum-y backers. In Newport West, he remains a toxic figure, which perhaps explains the collapse in Labour’s vote share even at a time of grand Tory incompetence.
Meanwhile, it appears that Renew was able to corral hundreds of moderate voters abandoned by the two main parties, suggesting that enough people are happy to take a leap of faith this year.
People are ready to back something new
Ultimately, I was astonished at how many people in a Leave-voting constituency were prepared to support an open-minded, pragmatic and modern political start-up in 2019.
But then, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Newport is an up-and-coming city; you could see that from the amount of new builds on its outskirts. The constituency only voted to leave the EU by a fine margin, and there are plenty of exasperated, reasonable voters currently without a political home.
Renew’s two-pronged approach, which involved a charismatic candidate from outside politics and a commitment to pragmatic government that recognises the state’s abilities and limitations, was clearly refreshing for the 879. We will now take this approach to other seats around the country, inspiring the backbone of our nation to stand up and be counted.
G4S and other private prison contractors have failed in their duties to the public. And yet, they continue to be awarded new contracts and bailed out with government money.
In the latest in a long line of scandals to hit the company, global security giant G4S has been relieved of its responsibilities over HMP Birmingham for a further 6 months.
The Ministry of Justice was forced to take urgent action in the summer of 2018 after a damming report was released documenting the deterioration of conditions in the privately-run prison.
Peter Clarke, chief inspector of prisons, gave a statement describing “some of the most disturbing evidence that inspectors […] have seen in any prison.” Gang violence, poor hygiene, vermin infestation and drug use were rife, Mr Clarke noted.
The findings followed a string of crises to rock the institution, including a violent 12-hour riot in 2016 involving more than 600 inmates, the most serious since the Strangeways riots of the 1990s. The riots were only quelled after an intervention by 10 government-ordered Tornado swat teams were brought in from around the country.
HMP Birmingham became the first UK prison to enter private hands in 2011, when G4S was issued a 15-year government contract for its operation, but control of the institution was returned to the public sector after it was deemed to be “in a state of crisis”. Extra staff were drafted in with immediate effect, and around 300 inmates transferred to other facilities. The government initially assumed control of HMP Birmingham for 6 months, a period that has since been extended by a further 6 months as the prison is still said to be operating in “a fragile state”.
According to prisons minister Rory Stewart, “What we have seen at Birmingham is unacceptable, and it has become clear that drastic action is required to bring about the improvements we require.”
G4S is a British multinational based in Crawley, described on its website as “the leading global integrated security company”. With a 610,000-strong workforce and annual revenue of £6.863bn in 2015, the company is the world’s third largest private sector employer and the largest in Europe and Africa.
Despite its international status, the company is beleaguered by its chequered history, and has been plagued by a string of accusations of malpractice and mismanagement.
In 2017, the Home Office was forced to launch an enquiry into ‘deliberate acts of humiliation and abuse’ suffered by immigrants at Brook House, a G4S-run detention centre, which resulted in the suspension of 9 members of staff. The Home Office announced that the company would nevertheless retain its contract.
Another abuse scandal was reported just two years earlier at the Medway Secure Training Centre, a young offenders institution run by G4S in Rochester, Kent. This firm, too, was eventually handed back to the Ministry of Justice after criminal charges were brought against 8 of its staff.
The company also found itself mired in controversy after it was revealed that Omar Mateen, the shooter responsible for 49 deaths at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was a former G4S employee.
Its chaotic handling of the 2012 Olympic Games also proved disastrous for the company’s reputation. Contracts were issued for almost 24,000 security staff, but just 16 days before the Games began it emerged that the security giant was 3,500 staff short. Emergency military personnel were drafted in at the last moment to make up for shortages. Nick Buckles, G4S’s then-CEO, described the situation as a ‘humiliating shambles’.
Finally, in 2013, the charges of fraud were filed against the company after it was revealed that it had been overcharging the Ministry of Justice for electronic tagging of criminals, some of whom had since been re-emitted to prison or even died.
The fact is, the array of crises involving G4S is emblematic of a far wider issue surrounding the outsourcing of government contracts, and it’s an issue that crops up time and time again. There are few more damning reports of the ineffectiveness of a program than the one produced recently by the Prison and Probation Inspectorate on the ‘Through the Gate’ resettlement service that came into practice in 2015. Contracts were issued to 21 privately-run Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) who were given responsibility over the release and resettlement of prisoners. CRCs were found to have focused the bulk of their efforts on meeting contractual targets and producing written resettlement plans, at the expense of the needs of prisoners. The program was deemed almost entirely ineffective in terms of its impact on reoffending rates. Those providing it were reportedly ‘unaware that the work they were doing was having little or no impact.’
The lack of insight and oversight in the delivery of these services is breath taking. One would assume that a result like this would instigate change in the private sector vehicle delivering the programme, but this hasn’t been the case. G4S, for instance, continues to be bailed out with public funds when it fails, and to be awarded new contracts in spite of its consistent failures. Surely, we can change what isn’t working. It goes without saying that the crisis in our prison system has left prisoners, guards and staff in chaotic and dangerous conditions that must be prioritised.
If we have learnt anything this year it must be that we need to hold politicians to account. Our government has created failing vehicles of social justice. It is not a popular issue, but it’s an urgent one. We can’t stand by. These systems need fundamental change to provide better results, let alone good ones.
Constructive change requires a realignment of our thinking. As with anything, we must invest well, and be smart about pouring resources into a service. There must be balance; social responsibility and economic strength are two sides of the same coin. If we are to fight for serious change then we must make sure that both those elements work in cohesion otherwise one or the other will suffer.
We’re big supporters of apprenticeship schemes as an alternative to university for school leavers, but take up fell by a quarter last year. Here, our young apprentice Callum Clifford talks about his experiences - and how our government could do more.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m originally from Brentwood, Essex, and finished sixth form last year. I jumped into an apprenticeship scheme straight out of school, as I didn’t want to go to university. I didn’t know what I wanted to study, and right now it’s too much money to take a risk on something you’re unsure about. Loads of my mates felt that way, but they were too scared to take an apprenticeship because the school wasn’t presenting it as a good way out of education. It’s a shame, but that’s how it is right now.
What have you got out of the apprentice scheme?
It’s great exposure to see how the working world functions. It’s been good to have a year out in the ‘real world’ before going to university and I think more people should be able to seize that opportunity.
I’ve been able to work in start-ups, which are great fun, if a little crazy. You have to be independent and ready to seize the initiative; you can’t just let people feed you things but rather have to find things to be fed with. The apprenticeship scheme has also taught me how to network and, importantly, budget. Nobody tells you how to do that at school, but it’s really important to understand how to manage your money.
What would you like political parties like Renew to do with apprenticeships?
It would be great for our leaders to give people confidence in another route out of school. There seems to be a stigma right now on apprenticeship schemes and there needn’t be. The government could certainly encourage schools to advertise apprenticeship schemes more to students.
And how could the government incentivise schools to do that?
Based on my experiences and those of other apprentices I’ve spoken to, I actually feel like the apprenticeship schemes themselves need to be improved before schools can do that. So the best thing the government could do would be to invest in the schemes themselves, allowing them to be seen as a credible alternative to university to school boards. There’s no shying away from the fact that, right now, many students are pushed towards apprenticeships as an ‘easy’ alternative to university - a last ditch ‘safety net’ for academically weaker students. We need to make a positive case for them as I have done here - it’s completely unfair to pitch them as a secondary option, since they really can set you up well for life.They’re not just for ‘academically weaker’ students and never were, but no one seems to bother to find that out.
One of the many reasons Brexit is such a bad idea is the fact that it takes up so much time, money and effort. Parliament failed to back any of the Brexit options again yesterday, and the people of the UK became even sicker of the whole damn thing.
If you voted for Brexit, you might have reasonably assumed that the government would have produced some form of it by now. If you voted to Remain, you probably realised that today’s deadlock was bound to be the end result of an unclear referendum that asked an unclear question and produced an unclear mandate.
Perhaps Parliament has its reasons for rejecting the various Brexit options yesterday, but at some point we have to ask what the endgame is. Now that various solutions designed to stave off a disastrous no-deal exit have been rejected, where will we go next?
One option is to leave the EU with Theresa May’s deal, which remains a possibility if she decides to seek MPs’ backing for a fourth time.
Another is a complete renegotiation of the deal, but this would require a longer extension of Article 50 and the blessing of the European Union.
Other potential solutions include a second referendum, revoking Article 50, a general election or a no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister. Stopping the Brexit process entirely and going back to the drawing board is probably the only one of these outcomes which at least gives us a clear idea of where we are.
Regardless of where you stand, it is unarguable that Brexit has sucked up almost three years of precious time. Parliamentary sessions in which our representatives should have been ending austerity, protecting the NHS and coming up with a radical plan to save the environment have been lost. Instead, we’ve had to make do with endless Brexit nonsense, watching politicians bang on about abstract hypotheticals while our communities suffer from neglect.
Luckily, there is a groundswell of grassroots activism that is starting to work. Renew’s reformist project centred on people from outside politics has already caused quite a stir in Newport, Wales, where a local by-election has turned into a referendum on the two-party system. Aside from us, there are many other interesting groups around the country united in their desire to make politics work for individuals rather than narrow party interests.
If nothing else, then, was Brexit the bitter tonic we needed to spark a renewal of our political system? Only time will tell.
The ‘sensible middle’ are making a comeback. That was Renew member Paul Gerken's overwhelming feeling as he walked amongst the million who took to the streets last Saturday to demand their voices be heard.
The atmosphere was delightfully British. It was all the people I thought had disappeared since June 23rd 2016. The sensible, good-humoured, pragmatic tea-drinkers with dry-witted signs and a burning desire to apologise.
It was the strongest and most visible display that we reject the notion that the British will is being enacted by our government today. We are constantly being told that this Brexit is on behalf of us; our decision, our desire, as one homogenous whole. So we took to the streets in record numbers to say “not in my name, Theresa; ask us again.”
Because that was the point of the march. Although it was undoubtedly Remain in spirit, a Leaver could have proudly joined the march for a second referendum to confirm that Britain is still fully behind Brexit. After all, what do Leavers have to fear, having made their case so well over the past three years? We did not march to remain, we marched to be asked again if this is the Brexit we want, and if not, we have to have an option to remain.
Asking people again, three years later, is not an affront to democracy.
Our democracy has indeed suffered because of this Brexit, but it will not suffer more by having more votes. It suffers because of the framing of democracy as a zero-sum, winner-takes-all competition. It is an endemic problem of our British political institutions. With ‘First-Past-The-Post’ there is no need and no room for compromise; once I have the biggest majority, I no longer need to listen. We won, you lost, get over it. We’ve had a vote, decision made, move on, *repeat without further rational*.
But democracy three years ago does not replace democracy today. People can, will and have the right to change their mind. They also have the right to continue arguing for what they believe in, as long as they have breathe in their lungs. No vote, in a democracy, is ever a mandate to silence the people from expressing their opinions or beliefs in the future. It is a poll, a communication between Governments and the people, to understand what they want to happen. It is fluid, and it can change. It is never a carte-blanche, nor a suicide note, nor a title to remove our rights.
The people of Britain deserve to be asked again if this is the Brexit they want. However, after three years of chaos and disorder, I believe the sensible-middle are ready to wrestle back control, and return Britain back to the global community of nations. We can and should be a committed force for collaboration and contribution with our closest friends and neighbours.
Let us start rebuilding our reputation and standing in the world.
“Extend the implementation period to the end of 2021 if necessary; use it to negotiate a free-trade deal; pay the fee; but come out of the EU now – without the backstop. It is time for the PM to channel the spirit of Moses in Exodus, and say to Pharaoh in Brussels – LET MY PEOPLE GO.”
Boris Johnson wants us to go back to biblical times. Here Renew Leader Annabel Mullin suggests why that might not be such a great idea...
Among the various noises coming out of the House of Commons this week, from the anger of those realising that Parliament is sovereign to the hope that we might at last find some collective will on Brexit, was the sublimely ridiculous from Boris Johnson.
After he encouraged Theresa May to channel Moses in his weekly Telegraph column, I wondered how Johnson hadn’t understood what that meant - namely 40 years wandering in the desert. I suppose it’s better than Jacob Rees-Mogg’s vision of 100 years to reap the ‘rewards’ of Brexit.
What we learnt from this piece is that Boris appears to see the British people as God's chosen ones and has no issue with comparing the EU27 to a country full of locusts, boils, and where every firstborn needs to be killed.
I think we can safely say that he has moved on from lies about bendy bananas.
You’d think there are many better ideas from the Bible, like turning the other cheek and coming together as one, that we could channel if we were looking for a resolution to the intractable Brexit issue. Neither of those require decades wandering aimlessly in a desert without the safety and security of a stable home.
And that is the ultimate goal. The biggest shout from the referendum (we know because we asked) was a demand for the failures of local and national government to be heard. People want a renewed vision for the future and an end to the fear of not having a stable home or job, of a failing and chaotic NHS, of a lack of competent planning for education and of climate change. Ultimately, people want the political class to actually wake up and start to tackle the challenges that we face.
Boris proposes forty years in the desert, but that won’t provide the answers that we need for our country to prosper.