Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Enemies of the People

The country is split; horribly horribly split. This week’s High Court judgement has opened the split even more.

But dig deeper and it is not a Brexit vs Anti-Brexit split. It is a deeper and more dangerous split amongst the people of this country. The split is between those who have given up on the major institutions of the country (Parliament, Judiciary, City, “Mainstream Media”) – as well as the EU and all its institutions – and those who are still trying to have faith in some of the institutions.

A vox-pop on the BBC TV News in Barnsley (deep Leave, deep Labour territory) had numerous people making comments like:

  • We voted, we should leave, any blocking is undemocratic
  • We voted, that’s democracy, the judges are wrong

We have the Justice Secretary, who only a few weeks ago swore to protect the independence of the Judiciary, silent as the Reactionary Press pillory three High Court Judges who merely asserted the Primacy of Parliament over ministers.

But to those who have lost faith and have moved into post-fact politics (as advocated by Gove) two things are either unknown to them or irrelevant to them:

  1. Parliament (including the leading Brexiteers) voted in the Referendum Act for the “In/Out Referendum” to be advisory.
  2. The High Court specifically said that the pros and cons of Brexit were irrelevant to their judgement, and they were merely saying that it should be for Parliament (the Sovereign Body – even over ministers) to approve the invoking of Article 50.

The post-facters believe we voted to leave the EU and therefore we must leave the EU and get on with it. The referendum campaigns (both sides) presented the choice as “simple”, so it should be no surprise that so many believe that implementation should also be simple: Invoke Article 50 today and leave the EU and all its shackles tomorrow.

Thus the Daily Mail (mistakenly thought of as a bastion of the Establishment) proclaims the three High Court Judges as “Enemies of the People” – for saying Parliament should be more powerful than a mere minister. It pictured them on the front page. Copyright would probably prevent me from reproducing the Daily Mail’s front page, but it looked something like this (names and faces changed to protect the innocent and identify the guilty):

Tweet by Sholom Anker (‏@Hapoel4)

Tweet by Sholom Anker (‏@Hapoel4)

So who is to blame (in this world someone should always be blamed)? And for what should they be blamed?

  1. The Media (who are pursuing their own agenda – probably Hard Brexit) but who do so in a most disreputable way.
    • Do we read anything into how the Sun reproduced the same photograph in a “darker tone” than did the Times:

      Gina Miller (Claimant at High Court) as depicted in the Times (natural colour) and the Sun ("foreign" colour). Same photo

      Gina Miller (Claimant at High Court) as depicted in the Times (natural colour) and the Sun (“foreign” colour). Same photo

    • Attacking one judge for being a gay ex-Olympic fencer. Are only straight boxers who failed to get to the Olympics allowed to be High Court judges? Are fencers known for being biased against Brexit?
    • So much of the media has distorted this judgement and indulged in ad-hominem attacks.
    • The same media presented the referendum arguments in a simplistic and distorted manner turning a blind eye to lies that suited their cause.
  2. Our politics, which over so many years has done its best to lose the trust of the people
    • Failing to either make the case for EU membership or grasp the nettle and explain why they are against EU membership, but instead chosen to sit on the fence hoping that the critics will just go away.
    • Appearing to be self serving, in some cases corrupt, yet many still wanting to self-regulate.
    • Failing to engage with the public either at elections or between elections.
    • Our Westminster system seeming designed to squeeze out diversity of opinion.
      • The party selection system means we have to take what the selection committees (often more dogmatic than supporters) offer us.
      • Safe Seats means that outside the marginals, the selectorate effectively choose the MP.
    • Westminster seeming unconcerned that in the European Elections (run on a form of voting that eliminates safe seats) gives a substantially different result to those of Westminster Elections.
    • Vast numbers seeing their opinion completely unrepresented, yet Westminster not wanting to do anything about it and being happy to legislate over us without being aware of our opinions.
    • Westminster seeming unconcerned that 24% of the electorate could elect a majority government (without even a majority of votes cast).
  3. Cameron, for being so certain of himself and so blind to the pent-up opinion in the country, that he went for a referendum with insufficiently defined options.
  4. The law, for being so expensive that it is only the likes of Gina Miller who can take action to ensure that Ministers do not usurp Parliament.
  5. Us, for giving up too easily.

Solutions?

  • A Lord Chancellor who stays true to her oath to protect the independence of the Judiciary.
  • Full implementation of Leveson which will make the press a little bit more responsible – particularly in how they treat individuals.
  • A “Public Interest” fund to allow those without massive wealth to take legal action against an overpowerful executive.
  • A fully representative Parliament
    • Brexiteers are partly up in arms about the judgement, because they do not think that parliament will do “the right thing” because it is not representative. But that is no excuse for cutting the Sovereign body out of consideration – particularly when UK Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Primacy of UK Courts were key issues for Vote Leave.
    • We would not be in this mess if over the last couple of decades we (voters) had been able to elect MPs who represented the diversity of opinion in society.
    • STV breaks the power of party selection committees, gives us voters genuine choice and, by avoiding split votes and wasted votes, ensures that votes count and the full diversity of opinion in the country is represented in Parliament.
  • A more engaged electorate, but if our votes counted,
    • perhaps we would be more engaged
    • perhaps we would question those who peddle simplistic solutions
    • perhaps we would accept compromises if we saw a consensual rather than a confrontational parliament.
  • A less visceral and tribal approach to our consumption of newspapers. This might then make it less acceptable for so much of the press to be in the hands of three men – who may be truly described as “the enemies of the people”.

 

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One thought on “Enemies of the People

  1. Better late than never, but decidedly tepid (so possibly not):

    The Lord Chancellor has backed the independence of the UK’s judiciary but stopped short of condemning attacks on senior judges over the Brexit ruling

    In a statement issued later, Ms Truss said: “The independence of the judiciary is the foundation upon which our rule of law is built and our judiciary is rightly respected the world over for its independence and impartiality.

    “In relation to the case heard in the High Court, the government has made it clear it will appeal to the Supreme Court. Legal process must be followed.”

    BBC political correspondent Ben Wright said the statement from Ms Truss would have been approved by Downing Street, but did not address the Bar Council’s call for her to condemn the criticism of the judges.

    Our corresponded added that the Lord Chancellor’s response would have also upset some in the legal community because she did not say the government believed the courts had a right to consider the case.

    Tory MP and former Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, has compared coverage in one UK newspaper to the Nazi party’s newspaper.
    He told BBC Radio 5 live: “Newspapers in a free society can do what they like.
    “But if you did decide to behave immoderately and whip up frenzied hatred you can do that in a free society if you set about it, and newspapers like the Daily Mail are no different from the Voelkischer Beobachter in Nazi Germany if they run headlines of that type.”
    BBC News Website, 5 November 2016 | Brexit ruling: Lord Chancellor backs judiciary amid row

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