Sunday, July 10, 2016

Where Now Is The Passion For Brexit ?

The ongoing fallout from the Brexit vote has produced a number of interesting outcomes, and the ongoing effect on the democratic process is one of them.

In the normal state of UK politics, when a vote has been called and made, and pledges have been put into the public sphere, there follows a set of checks and balances with an official opposition to ensure rigorous adherence to promises. We have seen recently how a government which has tried to impose things which were not manifesto promises, the imposition of Academy status on all schools, was met by a tide of protest. In the case of Brexit, things seem very different, indeed we seem to have entered an age in which the winners, not the losers, want to abandon political precedent.

If you came to my restaurant because I had advertised "Britain's Biggest Lobster - £20" but then sold you a single langoustine for the same money you would have every right to complain, and your complaint could be supported by law. If you make a promise to send £350m a week to the NHS, and then renege on that promise as soon as the vote is counted, what happens ? We are living in an age when lying to the electorate has fewer consequences than the false advertising of a fish special.

There have been accusations that the Brexit side never expected to win and that they had no strategy whatsoever for the actual Brexit if they did, and the rapidity with which many of the Leave camp leaders have fled the political scene following the vote seems to add credence to this notion. An ennui has set in with Leave supporters, they don't want to hear the howls of outrage from the 48%, and they don't seem to care that the cause they supported so passionately has withered away. The alternative is more disturbing, that many Leave voters did not believe the claims of the Brexit camp, that they accepted the possibilities of economic decline but voted Leave anyway in a warm surge of fuzzy nationalism.

Other people have voted Leave for entirely different reasons. If you live on some council estates in, for example, South Wales, and you haven't got a job by age 20, then the chances are you might never have a job for the rest of your adult life. Some communities devastated by the loss of the mines, steelworks and shipyards have not recovered economically 30 years after the main employers collapsed. If you've lived for years on benefits and austerity and no hope and David Cameron says the EU brings wealth and job security then you had every right to cast your ballot the other way because at least the other side promised a change of some sort when the status quo had brought your family nothing for generations. Perhaps these voters didn't expect to win, and didn't expect a win would bring them change anyway, after all, they've voted so often and received nothing in return.

For the rest of the 52% though, what is going on ? You were promised a new golden age, you were promised a well of funding for the NHS, a dramatic slowdown in immigration, and end to faceless bureaucracy and a booming economy. Leave leaders have first backtracked on their commitments, and then departed the political scene as if recognising that the Leave win is a poison chalice with the power to taint and harm all whom it touches. This perhaps is the nub of the matter, if things do not go according to Brexit promises over the coming years then the blame for each and every economic and social failing is going to be laid at the Leave door. Brexit and its leaders will become a scapegoat, imagined or real, for every political problem and fiscal woe. In this Theresa May is probably in the strongest position to benefit politically if she becomes the next PM. As a Remain campaigner, however fainthearted, May will not be tainted by a failing economy, her defence will always be that she believed we took the wrong decision, but that she is working hard to make the best of a bad lot.

The Leave website was purged of speech transcripts and promise documents days after the vote, highly prominent members of the Leave campaign have admitted that promises made were either unrealistic, or just would not happen. Leave voters, are you not outraged ? Many economic indicators predict that the UK economy will slow down, or perhaps slide into recession, you were promised better times. Leave voters, are you not outraged ? You were promised a crackdown on immigration, but Leave leaders have publicly admitted that the actual triggering of Article 50 may cause the largest surge in immigration the UK has seen in its involvement with the EU. Leave voters, are you not outraged ?

Or are you apathetic, not bothered, unwilling to use the fire and passion you burned with those few weeks ago to pressure your leaders into holding true to their promises. You surely didn't vote Leave just so you could hold your Union Jack a little higher and wave it a little more vigorously, you didn't embark on this project only expecting a bit of nationalistic pride in return, because I took a wallet brimming with nationalistic pride to the bank yesterday to pay my mortgage, but they said that I'd have to pay just like I did last month, in cold hard cash.