We Must Re-Create The Brexit Movement

The Brexit Movement, prematurely wound down after the EU Referendum, needs re-creating to continue making the case for it, so as to keep pressure on the Government to deliver it.

Note: this is the long (and updated) version of an article first published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 17th November 2017.

Like many ConWom readers, I suspect, I spent the early dawn hours of Friday 24 June 2016 in a state of ecstatic semi-euphoria that the British people had ignored the pro-EU hectoring of the massed ranks of the New Establishment and their globalist backers, and had voted to leave the EU. It didn’t last very long.

Such was the furious reaction of the Remainer-Elites and their compliant media courtiers to their unexpected defeat that, before the day was out, I’d become convinced that while we had won the Referendum battle, we certainly hadn’t yet won the war, and that the celebrations of some, on the assumption that all that was needed to achieve Brexit had been done, were hubristic and perilously premature.

I even tweeted as much, as this selection from my Twitter timeline between early that Friday morning and late that evening shows (with apologies for the profanities…)

But sadly, this is precisely what happened after the Referendum. The Vote Leave campaign wound down: its principal Conservative politicians dived headlong into the internecine strife within their party from which its Remainers emerged predominant, while its successful CEO, Matthew Elliott, decamped to the Legatum Institute.

On the Leave-EU side of the Brexit movement, an insufferably bombastic and complacent Nigel Farage resigned as leader of UKIP to forge a new career in the media as the man who won the Brexit that hasn’t occurred yet. UKIP meanwhile has collapsed into virtual irrelevance after the two most credible replacements were seen off by the residual Farageistes, is now led by a non-entity, and is near-invisible. 

A couple of pro-Brexit campaign groups persist, but active mainly on social-media only. One of them, connected to the Leave-EU movement, has a website where it’s comparatively rare that the space taken up by the text of a blogpost actually exceeds the space taken up by images accompanying it. 

In effect, the loose coalition that delivered that historic vote by 17.4 million people to retrieve their sovereign nation-state popular democracy from supranational unaccountable-elite technocracy, and the communications infrastructure that made it possible, has all but dissolved.

It’s this article’s contention that this has been a catastrophic error: that developments,  not only since the Referendum generally but specificially more recently, are placing Brexit in ever-greater jeopardy: and that the Brexit movement needs to be re-constituted and go back on to a war footing, to fight for what the British people voted for, and even contest if need be the second referendum which I personally believe to be the Unreconciled Remainers’ end-objective.

Although the Leave coalition subsided, the Remain campaign never ceased. Unlike Vote Leave and Leave-EU, the pro-Remain Open Britain campaign has never wound down, and continues to make the anti-Brexit case.

Readers will recall the ugly post-Referendum orgy of anger and hatred directed by ‘liberal’ Remainers and their cheerleaders at Leave voters, the constant attempts by the academic and judicial elite to delegitimise the Referendum result, and the sometimes near-hysterical anti-democratic polemic of, to name only two egregious but typical examples, the philosopher A C Grayling and Labour MP David Lammy, so I need not reiterate them.

It intensified once again during the Gina Miller litigation designed to facilitate a majority pro-Remain House of Commons vetoing the Government’s Article 50 notification. But it lessened somewhat after Parliament voted by 494 votes to 122 to authorise the triggering of Article 50 by 31st March, and matters reached a sort of uneasy equilibrium.

But then came May’s ill-advised, mismanaged General Election. When she and the Conservatives were returned drastically weakened, the Continuity-Remain movement was re-invigorated and its political, civil service, media, academic and judicial channels have visibly stepped up their campaigning by several levels of magnitude. They’re making the running: they look increasingly confident that Brexit really can be stopped and the Referendum reversed, and a majority-Remain Government seems at best half-hearted in response.

Now the fight is intensifying even more with the tortuous passage through Parliament of the EU Withdrawal Bill. The parties of the pro-EU Left have made clear their intention to conduct a guerilla war against it, voting against even the clause setting out its overall purpose, aided by 15 or more Unreconciled-Remainer rebels on the Tory back benches, some with considerably less honourable motivations than others.

In passing, let’s dismiss the disingenuous platitudes so many of these utter about wishing to do no more than “improve” the Bill. In many cases, it’s self-serving cant. They want to keep us in the Single Market and Customs Union, and under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice,  not out of genuine concern for our post-Brexit trade prospects or the position of UK-resident EU nationals, but to engineer either a Brexit-in-name-only, or one which is so close to EU membership that re-joining would seem like a logical step.

Many remain unreconstructed supporters of the EU Project and Britain’s submersion in it. It’s long been clear that, for them, the prime attraction of EU membership lies in is its very anti-democracy: it enables them to put as much policy-making and as many decisions as possible beyond the reach of what they see as the capricious domestic democratic process and an electorate whose views they by-and-large do not share and for whom they harbour a visceral contempt.

If some of the amendments being proposed already seem very technical and legalistic, be prepared: worse is yet to come. In this very detailed long-read published on 12th November at Brexit Central, Professor David Campbell of Lancaster University sets out how the legislative process of Brexit could become almost impenetrably bogged down in the morass of a quasi-constitutional conflict over the supremacy of the Judiciary, or Parliament.

It doesn’t look impossible that it could establish the supremacy of the Judiciary over that of Parliament. Just think what that would do to the prospects of Brexit happening at all. That partly explains, in my view why such an ardent anti-Brexiteer as Labour’s Keir Starmer is so keen to maintain the jurisdiction in post-Brexit Britain of the European Court of Justice.

Professor Campbell concludes that we may need an Assertion Of Parliamentary Sovereignty Act to make Brexit tamper-proof from judicial-activist usurpation of the powers of Parliament to implement the express instruction of the electorate.

If the EU Withdrawal Bill is set to have a rocky passage through Parliament, imagine how difficult it would be for a minority Government to push legislation, whose effect would be to prevent the pro-Remain Judiciary from blocking Brexit on constitutional grounds, through a marginally pro-Remain Commons and a majority pro-Remain despite unelected Lords.

Another potential complication emerged on 14th November, with a European Court of Justice ruling that EU citizens who become British do not lose the right to bring a non-EU spouse from a non-EU country to live with them in the UK. The continuing post-Brexit application of ECJ human-rights rulings is figuring strongly in debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill, so this is a further area where continued pro-Brexit advocacy is lacking.

May herself arguably opened a new front in the anti-Brexit campaign with her speech to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet on Monday 13th November. Yes, it is possible to interpret her remarks on Russian interference in Western elections as a desperate ploy to divert attention from her domestic travails: but it’s also possible to interpret it as a fresh attempt to de-legitimise by association the entire Brexit vote, especially the evening before the EU Withdrawal Bill was re-introduced into Parliament, with every prospect of the Unreconciled Remainers on her own back benches determined to vote it down on any pretext?

The signs are ominous. The EU is refusing to move on to talks about a post-Brexit trade relationship unless its exorbitant financial demands are agreed. Each UK concession on these is banked, not reciprocated, and met with merely a request for a larger sum. On 20th November, it even had the temerity to demand in effect an EU veto on UK domestic tax, environmental and business-regulatory policy after Britain has left the EU.    

Its intransigence is being encouraged by a UK media overwhelmingly hostile to Brexit and resolved to paint it in the worst possible light. Sir Humphrey, for whom Britain’s EU membership has been axiomatic for 40 years and thinks Brexit a monumental folly of crude populism-appeasement, is dragging his feet.

The Government is being forced by its weakness and wafer-thin, DUP-dependent, majority into unwanted concessions. It’s conceding votes in Parliament on aspects of Brexit which, with the clear instruction delivered by the Referendum result, should no longer be in play at all. In these circumstances, that it might, to win a crucial vote, concede a second Referendum, either on the terms of our exit, or even on the decision itself to leave, can’t in my view be ruled out.

If that comes about, the Remainers will have achieved what has been their prime objective – and also the EU’s, for it has an unsavoury record of ignoring plebiscites with unwelcome outcomes and requiring electorates to vote again and again until they come up with the “right” answer.

And then what? Unlike Vote Leave and Leave-EU, the pro-Remain Open Britain campaign has never wound down, and continues to make the anti-Brexit case. Continuity-Remain could gear-up for a second EU Referendum comparatively quickly. The money would come flooding in.

It’s victory, though, would be far from a foregone conclusion. Since June 2016, the electorate has seen the EU moving faster towards ever-greater integration and centralisation in ways the Remainers denied were even being contemplated. It’s seen how so many of the scaremongering predictions of Project Fear failed to materialise. A second Referendum could be won with another Leave vote.

But not without a campaign organisation. Even without a second Referendum, Brexit feels in enough danger to justify the reconstitution of the Leave coalition, if only to continue to make the case it made so effectively in the first half of 2016, and hold the Government’s feet to the fire. The Brexit movement needs to be re-created.

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The Tories Don’t Deserve To Win – Labour Deserves To Lose

Neither the Tories, with their statist, triangulating Manifesto, nor Labour, with its destructive socialist vision, deserve victory in this General Election

In a few hours, this General Election will be all over bar the results and their consequences.  Yet the usual anticipation of Election Night is muted by an almost palpable sense of relief at the approaching end of a campaign offering such a lacklustre, uninspiring choice.

For Theresa May and the Tories  it was supposed to be the Brexit Election: where, wanting both a bigger Parliamentary majority and her own popular mandate to implement it, she would offer a vision of a Britain mitigating the risks but also exploiting the advantages from recovering political and economic sovereignty.

Both, paradoxically, dictate some loosening of State and regulatory shackles on the economy, a facilitation of innovation and entrepreneurship: especially as the economy inevitably goes through a period of uncertainty and flux as powers are repatriated and trading relationships either reset or forged from new. But that isn’t what we’ve got.

The first intimations were reasonably heartening, But then came the Manifesto.

2017 Manifesto on Core Beliefs

Disparaging talk of “untrammeled free markets”, belief in “the good that government can do”, and abhorrence of “inequality”. The context leaves little room for doubt that the offer to voters is one of an interventionist State, concerned not so much with opportunities, but with outcomes.  

Further on, we are promised an Industrial Policy, a National Productivity Investment Fund, worker representation on boards, and a commitment to continue spending 0.7% of GDP on virtue-signalling foreign aid.

Finally, we get to this Greenery-gullible horror. Yet it accompanies a pledge to give British voters “the lowest energy costs in Europe”, notwithstanding that those two aims are mutually incompatible.

Worse still, it’s to be achieved, not by slashing Green taxes and encouraging more competition among energy providers via supply-side measures, but by capping prices: the same policy that, as recently as 2015, the Tories rightly damned as economically-illiterate when included in Labour’s election manifesto by Green-Left Red Ed Miliband.

So, in aggregate, a largely social-democratic policy programme, advocating a version of active-state Rhenish corporatism that would not look out of place in the manifesto of any milquetoast European Christian-Democratic party.

One can speculate endlessly on the reasons why. Possibly they lie in the fact that May is an instinctive paternalist (should that be “maternalist”, I wonder?) technocrat who’s unconvinced of, as Martin Durkin puts it, the potential of free markets to liberate and enrich.

Perhaps, because Labour has gone so far Left, she was persuaded that a Clinton-Blair style triangulation, with the Tories parking their tanks on “moderate” Labour’s lawn, would work electorally. Maybe she was afraid of frightening off the 2 or 3 million Labour voters who voted for Brexit and want to see it happen, and also the One-Nation tendency in her own party still looking for any excuse to derail Brexit. Who knows?

Then there’s been the campaign itself. May  – and it has been almost exclusively May, from battle-bus, through campaign literature, to media, and all points in between – has come across as by turns either robotically evasive, or uncomfortable and unconvincing when pressed on detail.

The forced U-turn on Social Care brought her campaigning deficiencies into sharp focus, but combine that with her natural somewhat leaden, flat-footed demeanour, plus a requirement to face an inquisitorial public & press far more often than she’s ever had to do before, and the result has been, not failure, but certainly sub-par performance.

Both she and her Party, have emerged from the campaign diminished, and not just in opinion-poll ratings, either. “Strong and Stable” has become something of a stick to beat her with. The whole thing has been rather insipid, disappointing, and very far from enthusing.

Consideration of Corbynite-Labour’s hard-Left manifesto need not take us as long. “Insipid” isn’t a description that could remotely be applied to it: “terrifying” or “economically-catastrophic” hardly begins to cover it, such is the red-in-tooth-and-claw programme that unrepentant socialist Jeremy Corbyn has in mind for the country.

The appalling consequences of a Corbyn-led Labour government have comprehensively dissected, with this by Andrew Lilico being merely one of the latest.   

As Lilico points out, fiscally and economically Labour would impose on Britain the highest level of taxation since World War II: the nationalisation, almost certainly without compensation, of the most important industries: a return to widespread (and excess) unionisation: deliberately punitive taxes on financial services designed specifically to deter private capital: and the effective collectivisation of private business property through imposing public interest duties inimical to both private property rights and commercial interest.

Moving from the general to the particular, just one example can suffice to show hard-Left Corbynism’s economic wrong-headedness. Despite favouring continued uncontrolled mass immigration, Labour proposes to deal with the housing shortage by a price-cap on new houses.  

All that that is likely to achieve is a shortage of new houses. If Labour really wanted to boost the supply of low-cost new houses, it would pledge to ease planning restrictions, not threaten to impose State price and even purchaser – priority to State employees, naturally – controls on builders. 

Non-economically, a Corbyn-led Labour government would see restrictions on the police, the reduction of the Army to a notional force only, and the withdrawal of Britain from its role in international security.

And this before even considering the implications of Corbyn’s 30+-year record of not only sympathy but vocal backing for all manner of anti-British, anti-Western groups, including those engaged in active terrorism, even on British soil.

And thus we come to the end of a singularly uninspiring campaign on what should have been the most important election in Britain for decades. The great issue for which it was ostensibly called to reinforce has been barely discussed beyond trite soundbites and banal generalities.

Hard-Left Labour certainly deserves to lose this election, and lose it heavily: but the Conservatives, on their manifesto and especially on their stuttering and lacklustre campaign, really don’t deserve to win it, either.

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The People-In-Parliament

Unreconciled pro-Remain MPs cynically exploiting an interpretation of Parliamentary Sovereignty to try and negate the EU Referendum result have highlighted the urgency of radical post-Brexit Parliamentary reform

uk-supreme-courtThe Supreme Court decision in Miller – that the Government’s powers under Crown Prerogative did not include the power, despite the unequivocal popular mandate given it by the result of the EU Referendum, to issue notification under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, so that a specific Act of Parliament was required – has re-activated the question of what Parliamentary Sovereignty actually means.

I was brought up to believe, and was in fact taught, that what the doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty expresses is the supremacy of Parliament over the Crown – that the Crown cannot arbitrarily compel the passing of laws or the raising of taxes without the consent of Parliament, but by extension also, therefore, without the consent of the people whom Parliament merely represents.

In other words, that Parliament is sovereign over the Crown, but not sovereign over the people, comprising as it does merely their temporarily-elected representatives.

Admittedly, the question is disputed by constitutional writers. Burgess suggests that this is indeed the case, and argues that, by asserting or assuming sovereignty over the people, successive Parliaments have exceeded their powers. Loughlin, on the other hand, suggests that Parliament is indeed supreme over the people, and infers that this is legitimised by freely-held, non-coercive elections under our system of representative, rather than direct, democracy.

I’ve always been uneasy with this latter interpretation: to me, it seems far too conducive to an elective dictatorship, able to act with impunity in defiance of the people’s expressed wishes. When we send MPs to Westminster, we are not relinquishing or transferring ownership of our democratic powers to them: we are merely lending them, and delegating temporary custody of them, to MPs until the next election – and nothing more. 

This has even more resonance when Parliament, without our approval, agrees to transfer power or jurisdiction over domestic policy matters to unelected, unaccountable supra-national bodies like the EU. Because our democratic powers as a people are only lent, not relinquished, to MPs, they do not become the property of a transient Government or those MPs to dilute or even cede to another polity, without our specific consent.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller, however, making implementation of the clear popular mandate given the Government by the EU Referendum in effect subject to approval by Parliament, appeared to reinforce the interpretation that Parliament is supreme, not only over the Crown, but over the people also.

Crucially, however, that is certainly the way it has been gratefully interpreted over the past three days by very many anti-Brexit MPs in the current Parliament’s inbuilt near two-thirds to one-third pro-EU, pro-Remain majority: a pro-EU majority that stood in stark contrast to the UK electorate’s 52% to 48% vote to leave the EU, and which, translated into Parliamentary seats, has been calculated would produce a pro-Leave landslide.

2017-02-07-hannan-on-parliamentary-sovereigntyWhen Parliament voted, by a factor of no less than 6:1, to hold the EU Referendum, what it did was to hand back to the British people, in relation to the specific issue of remaining in or leaving the EU, the powers that the British people had, once again, temporarily lent to it, via the 2015 General Election. Dan Hannan’s tweet above perhaps clarifies how.

ref-leaflet-contract-with-the-votersFor this particular issue of Britain’s EU membership, Parliament gave back to the people the sovereignty which we temporarily lend it. It said, in effect: “this is for you to decide, not us on your behalf”. It even emphasised as much – “The Government will implement what you decide” – on its information leaflet.

And the decision of the British people, and its implied, consequent instruction to its elected Government, was clear and unmistakeable.

To have, therefore, seen diehard-Remain MPs trying over the past three days to confect and exploit a cynical, self-serving  misinterpretation and distortion of Parliamentary Sovereignty to mean Parliament supreme over the people, to further their own nakedly anti-Brexit aims in defiance of the democratic decision of the UK electorate which they voted by over 6:1 to confer on it, has been utterly nauseating.

We’ve seen unashamedly pro-EU MPs, who for years accepted torrents of EU legislation into the corpus of UK law with near-zero scrutiny, suddenly converted to the apparent necessity of line-by-line scrutiny of Brexit aims and negotiating strategy.

snp-mps-hoc-may-15We’ve seen Labour, LibDem and SNP MPs, supported by unreconciled Tory Remainers, proposing amendments to the Article 50 Bill which were blatant attempts to slow the Brexit process to a standstill: and making it clear that many want either not to leave the EU at all, or else remain in it in all but name.

We’ve seen the vast majority of Labour, LibDem and SNP MPs, again with support from unreconciled Tory-Remainers, making it abundantly plain that their wish to “scrutinise” the Government’s Brexit negotiating strategy is only to expose & weaken the Brexit negotiators’ hand, before negotiations start.

We’ve seen pro-EU MPs, who for years were so eager to give UK voters’ democratic powers away, now fighting hard to stop them coming back. Many of their disingenuous amendments clearly were mere devices to negate implementing the decision which Parliament gave to the electorate to make, and some of those pro-EU MPs could barely be bothered to conceal it.

We seen unreconciled pro-Remain MPs, one after the other, indulging in competitive hand-wringing over the post-Brexit plight of EU nationals currently in the UK. Their cynicism has been quite breathtaking: it’s easily ascertained that approximately 84% of EU nationals residing legally in the UK would not be affected one iota.

soubry-distraught-hoc-wed-07-feb-2017Their speeches were in effect re-fighting the EU Referendum itself, and re-running the combined Remain campaign’s Project Fear. They left no doubt that, for them, being pro-EU means being anti-democracy, and that the prospect of leaving the anti-democratic EU horrifies them.

It’s difficult to deny that, when Leave-ers voted on 23rd June 2016 to recover Parliamentary Sovereignty, what they meant was leaving the EU altogether – so that, in a Britain once more an independent, self-governing country from being outside the European Union, their laws & taxes would in future be decided by, and only by, the MPs they elected to Parliament, and by no-one else.

why-people-voted-leave-2In other words, that Parliament would be sovereign over any foreign legislature in the determining the laws they have to obey and the taxes they have to pay. Remember, both the Government and Remain campaigns to stay in the EU had been totally unequivocal in warning that a Leave vote meant exactly that – leave completely.

I suspect what they did not mean by recovering Parliamentary Sovereignty was Remainer MPs interpreting it instead as Parliament in effect deciding whether the UK is to leave the EU at all. Yet it’s been obvious from the last three days’ Article 50 Bill debates that that’s how the Diehard-Remainers see it, and have tried to interpret it. Their conduct has been nothing short of pro-EU anti-democracy chicanery.

So what implications does this have for the future of Parliament, and our democratic politics, once Brexit has been achieved?

One consequential necessity above all, I’d contend, has long been pre-eminent: that, having succeeded in retrieving and repatriating our democratic sovereignty, we cannot risk merely entrusting it once again to the same body of MPs who for 40 years eagerly and arguably illegitimately gave it away without our consent in the first place: at least not without imposing some very robust limits on their powers in that respect.

They have shown that, quite simply, they cannot be trusted. The reaction of too many to the, for them, unwelcome Referendum result has betrayed their disdainful attitude towards their electorate.

Many remain unreconstructed advocates of the EU Project: it’s been clear that, for so many, the prime attraction of EU membership is that it enables them to fulfil a visceral desire to put as much policy-making as possible beyond the reach of what they see as the capricious domestic democratic process and an electorate whose views they by-and-large do not share or even find repugnant.

We cannot assume that a future Parliament, especially a left-leaning, residually pro-EU one, would not surreptitiously resume the powers-ceding process of the last 40 years all over again. Their hands, in short, need to be tied.

commons-chamber-normalSo we must strengthen the post Brexit Parliament’s democratic accountability to the electorate. To more of a People’s Democracy that makes legislature and executive work, not in the interests of the Establishment cartel, but in the interests of the people.

We need, and urgently, a proper Recall Procedure, in the hands of voters. The Bill presented in the last Parliament to allow a minimum percentage of constituents to recall an errant MP to face re-election was voted down: instead, Members decreed that only a committee of MPs was fit to decide whether one of their fellow-MPs had misbehaved sufficiently to have to account to his electorate – his constituents, impliedly, were not . So much for “trust the people”. Real voter Recall is a cause going by default.

We need Open Primaries for candidate selection. We may no longer be in the days of the Cameroon Cuties’ A-List, and Labour’s infamous all-women shortlists seem to have fallen out of favour: but with the occasional exception, none of the main parties seems at all keen to open up the candidacy process and make it more accessible, less subject to capture or manipulation by party hierarchies, and more transparent. The case for Open Primaries is strong, but not being robustly made.

evelA fairer constitutional settlement for England, shamefully neglected in the rush to confer domestic powers on the devolved assemblies, is long overdue: but the issue of an exclusively English Parliament, or English Votes for English Laws, has retreated towards the back burner.

Yet by re-advancing it, English MPs would rightly be re-asserting domestically the fundamental principle on which the EU Referendum itself was fought and won: that the laws governing the citizens of a discrete polity can legitimately be those, and only those, made by, and only by, the representatives directly elected by the citizens of that polity, and whom they can remove from office via the ballot-box at the next election.

For national-level democratic participation, we have to rely on a once-in-5-years cross-marking exercise, based on manifesto commitments which few expect their parties to honour, once the inconvenience of an election is out of the way. But – in an age when we can book a holiday with a few mouse-clicks, or apply for a university course with a screen-touch, why should this be?

confidence-in-govt-switz-topThe Swiss manage successfully to hold referendums on issues other than major constitutional questions like their voting system or EU membership. It’s no coincidence, to my mind, that the Swiss, who have the most direct say in their government, via localisation & frequent referendums, express the highest confidence in their government and regularly show highest public-engagement in politics. We can achieve the same. We need more referendums, not fewer.

The political-class, of course, hates them. They’re “divisive”, they’re unpredictable, they take control of campaign messaging away from party machines, and, worst of all from their point of view, referendums let voters take control of a single issue outside the 4/5-year election sequence when an entire manifesto is voted on.

There can be few better reasons for having more referendums than a demonstrably unrepresentative, voter-averse, political class being opposed to them. If we were more accustomed to using them as an instrument of democratic consent, they’d be far less “divisive”.      

Whatever method of future democratic engagement we adopt, we need, too, to eliminate the loopholes, if not downright electoral fraud, made possible from now rampant abuse of the postal (or virtually proxy) voting system. There have been too many instances reported of, as just one example, multiple postal votes per household, to continue leaving glaring abuses unchecked. A return to the previous very tight criteria for postal voting eligibility, plus a requirement for photographic ID at polling booths, is necessary if the democratic process is not to be further subverted.         

We need, also, enshrined in law, an absolute bar on the transfer away to any other body, whether domestic or international, of any part of the democratic sovereignty temporarily and conditionally vested in Parliament by the electorate. Remember, it’s not just to overseas or supranational unelected, unaccountable institutions that our democratic powers have been transferred – think how much policy-making has been put beyond the reach of democratic disapproval or change over the years by being delegated to quangos or semi-autonomous government agencies insulated from the democratic process.

The Coalition purported to remedy this with its 2011 European Union Act, essentially requiring a plebiscite on any further significant transfer of powers from Westminster to Brussels. Crucially, though, it largely left to Cabinet discretion what actually constituted a significant transfer of powers which would trigger a referendum. It was basically a sham, designed principally to head off demands from a growing-Eurosceptic Conservative Party and public for an EU Referendum while in coalition with the fanatically pro-EU, referendum-averse LibDems. We need a new law which is far more prescriptive.

The EU Referendum and its aftermath – especially the disconnect it revealed between, on the one hand, an electorate the majority of which is opposed to both EU membership and continuing uncontrolled mass immigration, and on the other, a Parliament largely in favour of both – has dramatically exposed how the traditional model of representative democracy is no longer working, in that, patently, it increasingly fails to represent. And as representative democracy’s disconnect between the views of rulers and ruled grows more and more apparent to more and more people, dissatisfaction with it will only grow.

The current anti-politicians (but NB not anti-politics) sentiment isn’t a mere passing phase. It augurs a permanent change in the relationship between rulers and ruled, to one where the balance between representative and direct democracy shifts more towards the latter.

That’s why, after Brexit, radical Parliamentary reform is needed to make MPs more accountable to their electorates, and ensure they can never again give away democratic powers which, because they are merely custodians of them our our behalf, are not theirs to give.

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The LibDems Can’t Half Pick ‘Em

The LibDem candidate for tomorrow’s Richmond Park by-election is an unconvincing combination of contradictions. She deserves to be defeated.

We’re used to the LibDems occasionally picking slightly iffy parliamentary candidates to contest either General Election or by-election seats.

The case of one Ibrahim Taguri, the alleged “fund-raiser” forced to resign as candidate in Brent Central after a “donations-in-return-for-access” scandal, comes to mind: as does the case of George Cunningham (Chair of “Brussels & Europe LibDems”, incidentally), suspended as parliamentary candidate in Thanet North after allegations of impropriety which included bringing in donations from abroad.

In the case of Sarah Olney, candidate in the Richmond Park by-election being held tomorrow, though, the LibDems appear to have picked a candidate whose problem isn’t so much one, as it were, of convictions, as of contradictions.

Firstly, on the central issue behind the by-election occurring at all, i.e., former Tory Zac Goldsmith’s resignation as an MP on principle to re-stand as an Independent on his declared opposition to Heathrow runway expansion. Olney, as one would expect, both as a Green-tinged LibDem and, to be fair, on local nuisance grounds, is also opposed to the third runway: but here’s the contradiction – her husband is a town planner who played, it appears, a key role in developing Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

olney-richmond-3 That of itself is perhaps a tad awkward, but probably no more than that if fully disclosed – it’s his profession, after all, and everyone has to live – but the contradiction has been exacerbated by her decision to play down the fact almost to the extent of concealing it.

Her campaign leaflets, we learn, make a point of mentioning his “significant experience in implementing large-scale infrastructure projects”, but, er, omit that one particularly “large-scale infrastructure project” he helped to implement was the last-but-one major project at the facility whose expansion she vehemently opposes.

There’s an interesting potential conflict of interest here. If Olney wins, on an overtly anti Heathrow expansion ticket, she acquires all the pecuniary and status rewards of an MP. On the other hand, the development will probably go ahead anyway, so her husband, with his experience, also stands to gain professionally. Win/win for the Olneys?

If she loses – and bear in mind that the least she’s likely to achieve is a good second, because neither the Conservatives nor UKIP are contesting the seat, and the Labour candidate looks like a no-hoper –  she’s no worse off than she is now, and the Heathrow development probably proceeding anyway still stands to benefit her husband.  No-change/win for the Olneys?

The contradiction between the public position (and it’s without doubt sincerely held) and the limited potential for personal downside is intriguing.

That’s the local factor at issue in the Richmond Park by-election. The national one, of course, is the EU Referendum, Brexit, and the desire of the LibDems either to dilute it to the point of virtual impotence or preferably frustrate and overturn it entirely, whether by parliamentary or judicial manoeuvres. Which is where the second contradiction arises.

As you’d expect, and again as a fairly standard LibDem Europhile, Olney is opposed to Brexit. As their candidate in Richmond Park, where over 70% of votes cast in the EU Referendum were for Remain, she’s also an at least implied backer of the anti-democratic Unreconciled Continuity Remain cabal’s machinations – prominent in which are two of the party’s former leaders and also its current one – to delay, diminish and preferably negate it, whether by Judicial Review, parliamentary vote(s) or even by pressing for a second Referendum.

The contradiction here is this: Olney is on record as previously saying that people must accept the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and that the government should not seek to “re-run” the vote.olney-richmond-2She had even gone as far as calling for Leavers and Remainers to “come together”, and “make a success of Brexit”. But with her party leader Tim Farron already having pledged to make the contest a “Brexit by-election”, the question arose as to how Olney would handle such an embarrassing contradiction.

Very much in the same way, it turns out, as she handled the Heathrow contradiction: by concealing it. On the afternoon of 26 October, apparently, she deleted her personal website and its call for the democratic verdict of the British people to be respected. She now suggests that Theresa May should commit to a second Referendum on our EU-exit terms “to buy herself time and negotiating capacity”. That’s quite a U-turn, even for a LibDem…..

When Olney started her campaign, it was mainly, though in fairness not exclusively, a local one. Airport expansion was the key issue, she claimed, and a vote for the LibDems would “make a stand against Heathrow”.

Whether the third contradiction – the switch of primary focus from the local to the national issue – has come about from anti-Brexit conviction or from embarrassment at family connections with Heathrow expansion is a moot point, but come about it most certainly has.

olney-richmond-4Far from being a “stand against Heathrow”, a LibDem victory would now be nothing less than a “Brexit game-changer”, seemingly. [Notwithstanding the fact that it would bring the number of LibDem MPs up from only 8 to only 9, presumably, and hopefully thereby make not one whit of difference to the Government’s proceeding to implement the democratic Referendum result.]

olney-letter-richmond-parkThat was on 23 November. In the space of a mere week, however, it has mutated into something even more momentous. No longer a mere “Brexit game-changer”, the Richmond Park by-election tomorrow is now, we are told, “the most powerful vote you ever cast”. 

Wrong, Sarah. The most powerful vote any of us alive have ever and will ever cast was the vote of 23 June 2016, when no fewer that 17,410,742 of us voted to defy the imprecations and exhortations of the globalist-utopian political, economic, financial and cultural ‘liberal’-elite, and recover our political and economic sovereignty to our own shores and our own ballot-boxes, to be determined democratically by us and us alone.

For that reason above all, it’s important that the LibDems don’t win this by-election.

I’m frankly ambivalent about Zac Goldsmith. His Mayoral campaign was abysmal: his languid environmentalism is a turn-off: his susceptibility to, and collaboration with, Exaro’s rightly now-disgraced “Westminster Paedo Ring” campaign was misguided or worse: and I believe his opposition to Heathrow expansion is strategically wrong.

But I admire his principled decision to abide by his commitment to his constituents over Heathrow, even at political risk to himself: his advocacy of more direct democracy via a proper MPs’ Recall Mechanism: and above all, his unswerving devotion to the Brexit cause. For those reasons alone, I hope he wins.

But there is another. If Goldsmith does manage to win, it will mean that the Europhile, anti-Brexit LibDems, for this by-election allied with the Greens instead of competing with them for the same voter demographic, and in possibly one of the most LibDem-friendly, Remain-supporting, anti-Brexit constituencies in the country, will have failed.

That would send a powerful message to the egregious Farron, Clegg, Ashdown and all their motley crew of embittered, anti-democratic Remainer plotters, intent on ignoring or overturning the expressed will of the people.

And that will be a very fine contradiction indeed.

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Does Democracy End At Dover?

To support English Votes For English Laws, yet argue that the UK should stay in the EU, isn’t merely politically inconsistent, but intellectually incoherent

Conservative Party MPs, coming as they do overwhelmingly from English constituencies, have discovered a new enthusiasm for more representative democracy in the current Westminster Parliament. Whether this is solely out of high-minded philosophical principle, or from rather grubbier psephological considerations, one cannot say: but that the election to Westminster, at the May 2015 General Election, of 56 Scottish National Party MPs has re-awakened awareness among English MPs of the iniquities of the West Lothian Question is an indisputable fact.

SNP MPs HoC May 15To their credit, they’re right to be concerned. Despite the SNP’s pre-election pledges that its MPs wouldn’t use their votes in Westminster on issues affecting England which are devolved matters in Scotland, it wasn’t long before those promises were being broken. Scottish MPs have been inventive – some might say speciously so – in deploying a tortuously-constructed argument, that policies intended to apply only in England can somehow also have unexpected and (conveniently unspecified) adverse knock-on effects in Scotland, as a rationale for resiling from their prior commitment.

And so the issue of an exclusively English Parliament, or English Votes for English Laws, has come back into prominence. Irrespective of the precise method that will eventually be chosen to implement EVEL, English MPs are rightly re-asserting a fundamental principle: that the laws governing the citizens of a polity can legitimately be those, and only those, made by, and only by, the representatives directly elected by the citizens of that polity, and whom they can remove from office via the ballot-box at the next election.

So far, so democratically-exemplary. But after this point, things start to get more tricky. Because many of those English MPs have also declared that they will both campaign, and vote, for the UK to remain a member of the European Union. And the EU, as a polity, is a very, very long way from being democratically-exemplary.

To understand why, we have to consider the very concept itself of the demos. The collection of people, almost always most-definable territorially, whose citizens – even when not mutually-acquainted, or ethnically-homogeneous, or religiously-affiliated – nevertheless feel that they do share enough of a common identity, set of values, and sense of being (even distant) co-partners in a joint enterprise, that they will accept one legislature, and one body of laws, as being legitimate to govern them all.

There’s undoubtedly a strong English, and even a strong British demos. Superficially, I might not appear to have much in common with someone of a different ethnicity in Birmingham, or a different religious-affiliation in Bradford: but the point is, I do feel sufficiently like them, and sufficiently part of the same collective political enterprise with them, that I’m prepared to live politically-alongside them, under a democratically-elected government chosen by us all, and a body of laws, made only by that government or its similarly-elected predecessors, applying equally to us all. Even to the extent of consenting to part of my income or wealth being abstracted by a government which we have together elected, and redistributed to them if they’re in need. That’s what the demos means.

But there’s no EU-wide equivalent of this. I don’t feel remotely xenophobic or hostile towards someone in, say, Bialystok, or Bologna, or Bilbao: but, crucially, I also don’t feel anything remotely approaching such a sufficient degree of affinity, or sense of co-partnership with them in a common “European” political enterprise, that I want or am prepared to consent to be part of the same pan-European political space, under the same pan-European government, and the same pan-European body of laws.

There is little evidence of such unwillingness being anything other than strongly reciprocated, among hundreds of millions of people, all over Europe. That does not, as the EU likes to pretend, equate to “xenophobia”, or “nationalism”. It means merely that the criteria which must be fulfilled for a democratically-legitimate polity encompassing all 28 EU member-states to emerge and subsist aren’t capable of fulfilment by popular consent.

The ineluctable conclusion, therefore, is that, as history has so often proved but the EU is philosophically-resolved to ignore, the territorially-defined sovereign nation-state, governed exclusively by its own legislature that is democratically-elected by universal suffrage, is the largest political entity in which the pre-conditions required for a politically-legitimate demos can be fulfilled. To emphasise, there is no “European” demos.

So, I contend, the European Union is democratically-illegitimate as a concept at the fundamental level of political theory, even before we confront the physical democratic deficit of the European Parliament as its purported legislature.

Interior EU Parliament

To start with, even the basic numerical comparisons are strikingly unfavourable. The entire aggregate UK electorate elects a full 100% of Westminster MPs: but no more than a mere 9.7% of MEPs. The average number of electors represented by a Westminster MP is c.68,000: but for each of the UK’s 73 MEPs, that figure is c.840,000. (Intriguingly, the equivalent Luxembourg figure is c.77,000). How any UK MEP can properly represent and address the EU-relevant concerns of nearly 840,000 constituents is a moot point. But an irrelevant one: because even their theoretical ability to do so is so severely constrained by the democratic deficit of the Parliament itself.

EU Parl processMembers of the European Parliament, despite being elected, must be among the most politically-emasculated and impotent legislators in the democratic world.  MEPs, whether individually or collectively, can neither initiate, propose, reject outright, or repeal EU legislation. Those are all rights reserved exclusively to the unelected, and therefore both lacking-in-mandate and democratically-unaccountable, members of the EU Commission.

In the European Parliament, it’s the appointed, not elected, members of the European Commission, meeting in private, who have the sole right to propose, repeal or amend the corpus of EU laws, directives and regulation that constitute up to 70% of the new legislation having application in the United Kingdom. As the graphic shows, the Parliament’s role is barely even consultative: its legislative influence, I’d suggest, is, in practice, negligible.

Contrast that with the Westminster Parliament, where any MP may introduce a Private Member’s Bill, and moreover, via one of no fewer than three different methods available. Two of the greatest social reforms of the last 50 years – the decriminalisation and legalisation of both homosexuality and abortion – were both the outcome of Private Members’ Bills.

To pretend that this sham legislature somehow equates to, or confers on the EU, any democratic legitimacy whatsoever, is little short of a linguistic travesty. It is truly a Potemkin Parliament, rendering the European Union democratically-illegitimate in practice.

Paradoxically, one of the greatest, yet most perverse and least-deserved achievements of the EU is somehow to have convinced so many citizens of its member-states that, while, yes, there may be an element of democratic deficit about it, this is:

  • just an accidental by-product of the EU fulfilling its main aims of friendship and trade via economic co-operation; and/or-
  • regrettably necessary anyway to ensure the smooth functioning of the trading bloc.

To propagate this myth is a grotesque lie, and is cynically to stand both history and truth on their heads. For, as anyone with knowledge of the EU’s founding and history knows, not only was the EU primarily a political-integration project right from the start, with trade and economic convergence being merely its ostensible purpose to conceal that: but it was also deliberately conceived, designed and constituted specifically to be, not just undemocratic, but anti-democratic.

The EU’s founding fathers, particularly Monnet and Spinelli, were profoundly distrustful of voters, and viscerally antithetical to nation-state democracy. Building on original semi-utopian pan-European ideas circulating in the 1920s and 30s, they drew from the two World Wars the wrong conclusion: that it was the mere existence of nation-states in themselves, rather than the emergence within some of them (and only some of them, remember – when did Switzerland, Luxembourg or Norway last launch an aggressive war?) of fundamentally bad ideas like aggressive Communism, Prussian-Militarism, or Fascism, that inevitably led to war. It is this same self-delusion and deception that today leads the EU to claim implausibly that it, rather than NATO, has been and is the guarantor of a Europe at peace.

Monnet on subterfuge 2They set out, therefore, to promote the creation of a supra-national political entity in which the decisions and preferences of the citizens of sovereign democratic nation-states, expressed through the ballot-box, would be bypassed, ignored and ultimately superfluous, enabling rule by an appointed class of technocrats-bureaucrats, immune to the caprices of voters and the need to obtain their consent.

That ethos still prevails in the EU of today. It isn’t even particularly concealed or denied. It was expressed perfectly by the former President of the European Commission, the Maoist Jose-Manuel Barroso when insisting only a few years ago that “democracy is dangerous”. The EU’s democratic deficit is neither accidental, nor incidental. It is deliberate and fundamental to it, and was designed-in from the start.

This, then, is the gimcrack-polity, demos-lacking, democratically-flawed in both concept and practice, artificially constructed and imposed top-down by successive cadres of an unelected, unaccountable, largely self-selecting, pluralism-contemptuous, voter-consent-averse, bureaucratic-technocratic elite, and maintaining a near-powerless Potemkin Parliament as a sham legislature to provide a wholly unconvincing facade of democratic legitimacy, inside which so many of those English MPs who enthusiastically support EVEL – ostensibly in the name of representative democracy, remember –  nevertheless fully intend to vote to keep the United Kingdom locked..

F Scott Fitzgerald speculated that the ability to hold two contradictory opinions at the same time and still function was the mark of a first-rate intelligence: Leon Festinger suggested, on the other hand, that it was a strong indicator of cognitive dissonance. As far as those English MPs simultaneously supporting both EVEL and the UK’s continued membership of the EU are concerned, my inclination is to regard Festinger’s explanation as the more likely. Because their stance isn’t merely politically inconsistent: it’s also manifestly intellectually incoherent.

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