Multiple Crises in Democracy 398


There is a strong strand of belief among the political class that Boris Johnson has no intention of taking the UK out of the EU. His aim was to see off Cameron and install himself in No. 10, after which he will discover that leaving the EU is proving far too dangerous and call for a second referendum. I suspect that this credits Johnson with a Machiavellian genius he is far from possessing, though as a prediction of future events it is in with a chance. (Personally I am hoping for Theresa May, the reaction to whose elevation will speed up Scottish Independence).

The United Kingdom’s democracy is far from perfect. The massive anachronism of the House of Lords, the vast executive powers based on Crown prerogative, the blatant unfairness of the first past the post system, the lack of a pluralist media… I could go on and on. Referenda are a rare bolt-on to what is already a mess.

The demonstrable public contempt of the public for the political class has been mirrored these last few days by the demonstrable contempt of the political class for the public. This has been obvious in the response to the Brexit vote, and in the Labour parliamentary party’s move against Corbyn. Both are evidence that the political class feel that they should not be directed by a wider public. Alastair Campbell in discussing Brexit effectively dismissed the public as stupid and gullible.

I am not just pro-EU, I am an euro-federalist. But we have a referendum result, and it is not being respected. Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty should, in respect to the verdict of the people, be invoked in weeks not months. For the Conservative Party to view its leadership election as taking priority disrespects both the British people and the rest of the EU, who are kept in uncertainty.

The voters should be obeyed with facility. When there is a general election, the incumbent PM moves out in the early hours of the morning. There is no sign of haste to obey the public here. It is not a good attitude.

However, opinion can change. The truth is that by the time leaving the EU becomes effective in a bit over two years, over 1 million of the electorate will have died and over 800,000 new people will have come on to the electoral roll. If the margin of victory had been 5 or 6 million that would not have been relevant. But as it is the churnaround will be greater than the majority. That is not perhaps in itself sufficient argunent for a second referendum, but if the opinion polls show firm evidence of a switch in public opinion during the next 24 months, it could become important.

The question of when a second referendum on a subject might be held is a fraught one. But however the idea of further public ballots might be described, it is not undemocratic. Which leads me on to Indyref2 in Scotland. The idea is being mooted that Nicola Sturgeon may be able to secure some deal for Scotland with the EU, whereby Scotland is still part of the UK outside the EU but retains its EU privileges.

I have been puzzling over this one. I have a strong background in the subject, having been for four years First Secretary (Political and Economic) in the British Embassy in Warsaw with the specific responsibility for Poland’s EU accession. I cannot for the life of me think of any really substantive such arrangements that could work without Scottish Independence. If Scotland remains in the Union and the UK leaves the EU, there is nothing Scotland can gain by way of special relationship which is other than window dressing.

Besides which, even if a unique bargain could be struck and some special status obtained, it is indisputable that this would still constitute a “material change”. In respect for the mandate on which the SNP were very specifically elected, if the UK leaves the EU, that must still trigger a referendum on full independence.

Indyref2 must now be a given.

The Labour crisis is a result of that party’s lack of internal democracy. In the SNP, every MP and MSP must seek reselection as the candidate for every election. Sitting MSPs and MPS can be and are regularly deposed by party members without fuss.

In the Labour Party, the system has been designed to put in MPs for life. Members have no right to challenge them. An extraordinary number of the right wing MPs were parachuted in from HQ and have no connection whatsoever to the northern constituencies they represent. It is fascinating that two thirds of the Shadow Cabinet members who resigned yesterday ostensibly over Corbyn’s insufficient EU enthusiasm, represent constituencies which voted for Brexit. This might call into some doubt their own campaigning effectiveness.

Everybody knows that the Labour parliamentary party is well to the right of both the membership and the trade unions, and has been itching to get rid of Corbyn from day one. For those who have constantly stabbed him in the back for a year to criticise his effectiveness in fighting their opponents is ridiculous.

For England and Wales, Corbyn represents the only challenge to the neo-liberal values of the political class, which has succeeded in capturing an important institution. Corbyn represents a chance that democracy may have meaning, in the sense of actually presenting alternative views and policies to the electorate. The establishment is now in the end game of removing this “threat” to ensure that the next general election again just gives the English and Welsh a choice of which colour of Tory you want.

Those who see the Labour Party as just a career path (90% of its MPs and employees) really don’t care what it stands for as long as it gets into power. Power means money. Ask Tony Blair.

I do hope Corbyn hangs on. Even if he does lose the general election (by no means a given) he can provide an invaluable service by reawakening the notion that democracy should present the voters with a real choice, not just a change of troughing promoting the same ideology.


398 thoughts on “Multiple Crises in Democracy

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  • James

    Lets follow Norway !
    Well, here’s the (current) figures….

    The U.K.’s contribution to the EU 18 billion
    It receives a rebate of 5 billion
    And was paid 4.5 billion in EU funding, from EU coffers.
    So the UK’s NET contribution, paid by the UK to the EU was 8.5 billion.

    What do Norway pay ?

    338 Million. EEA and Norway Grants Scheme
    447 Million EEA Projects (Horizon 2000, Erasmus+, Galileo, Copernicus….and so forth)
    25 Million Euros for programmes under the European Territorial Cooperation (INTERREG)
    6 Million Cooperation with EU in the field of Justice and Home Affairs

    896 Million in total…to the EU.

    The population of Norway is 5 million people.
    The population of the UK is 64 million people.
    A “factor of 12.8

    So….
    12.8 x 896 million euros = 11,468,800,000 million euros !

    To “replicate” Norway, the UK will need to “invest” in the EU a figure of 11.4 billion
    ….we paid 8.5 billion previously.

    Boris…your master plan is brilliant. As long as no one EVER picks up a calculator

  • James

    ….and what do Norway get ?

    Free trade of goods and services in the EU.
    No borders. No tariffs
    But they have to use the “common regulations” of Europe.

    People from Norway can live anywhere in Europe.
    …and people from Europe can live in Norway.

    No voting rights in the EU.

    So, when we pay our “Norway Model” payment of 11.4 Billion, we’ll get that to.
    Brilliant.

    I know we got that BEFORE and only paid 8.5 Billion for it (and had a vote)….
    ….but “the people” have spoken.

  • James

    …. the state of the Pound at the moment, it’ll be “like for like” in a few days !

    But “point taken”. So 9,532,554,383.20 !

    Still a billion more…..and no voting rights.

    • michael norton

      Farage: You’re Not Laughing Now!
      http://news.sky.com/story/1718503/farage-tells-meps-youre-not-laughing-now

      Nigel Farage has told MEPs “you’re not laughing now” as he was jeered and booed at an emergency meeting of the European Parliament to discuss Brexit.

      The UKIP leader said they should be “grown up” and accept Britain’s decision to leave the EU after 43 years.

      He also warned the UK would not be the last country to quit the 28-member bloc.

      I think the European Union is sliding to its inevitable demise.

        • michael norton

          The construction of the FRENCH Hinkley Point C nuclear reactors in Somerset has been beset by problems for years;
          it was originally planned to produce power by 2017, but Électricité de Francehas been delaying approval of final investment. Boris Johnson, a likely Tory leadership candidate, is no fan of the project due to spiralling costs and slackening public support for nuclear energy. In September, Ars reported that George Osborne was trying to save the project by bringing Chinese investment in. George Osborne will be gone before Christmas.
          Before the referendum, Emmanuel Macron, the French economy minister said the final decision would be made in September this 2016.

          Both EDF and AREVA are essentially businesses owned by the FRENCH State, without the FRENCH State they would essentially be bankrupt.

          • michael norton

            The FRENCH State largely owns the FRENCH NUCLEAR Industries, they are financially failing.

            NUCLEAR Finnish EPR: Areva and TVO halt negotiations

            Negotiations between Areva and the operator of the Finnish EPR, TVO, which claim huge compensation payment for delays and additional costs of the Olkiluoto site, are now broken, said Thursday the head of TVO who blames the french nuclear group.

            “We were negotiating positively for some time and our feeling was that we had found common ground on the key points that we were not far from agreement,” said Jarmo Tanhua in an interview in Helsinki. “That’s why we were a little surprised to learn that a settlement is not possible.”
            EPR under construction since 2005

            The OL3 EPR called designed and manufactured by Areva and German Siemens Industrial is under construction in Olkiluoto (Southwest Finland) since 2005.

            The site has accumulated nine years behind the date of commissioning originally planned under the effect of defects in the structural work and technical and financial disputes with suppliers and customers reciprocally impute responsibility.
            The International Chamber of Commerce entry

            Already in January, the site had delays caused gray hair Areva, which was in the red for the fifth year of the group. Emmanuel Macron, Economy Minister, had asked both parties adjuster their dispute within a month …

            Before their inability to resolve their disputes amicably, Areva and TVO applied to the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, where both parties are demanding billions of euros in compensation. Meanwhile, they continued to talk until the recent breakdown TVO says.

            This divide between TVO and Areva could cost nearly 8 billion euros in the French nuclear group.

            http://www.ledauphine.com/france-monde/2016/05/26/epr-finlandais-areva-et-tvo-stoppent-les-negociations

          • michael norton

            Now FINLAND is having the EPR built by AREVA in Finland, this is the same EPR design, the Frogs have planned for Somerset.
            FINLAND is as EUROSCEPTIC as the UNITED KINGDOM

            so watch this space

            It could be FINLAND next for the off.

  • James

    I predicted various things weeks before the EU Referendum.
    And I’m not doing too bad. Next week, I’m picking the Euro Millions Lottery numbers !

    On “Brit Exit”

    1. Resignation of DC (check)
    2. Fall in the GBP (check)
    3. Fall in the FTSE (check)
    4. A Right Wing Leadership of the Conservative Party (TBA)
    5. Early General Election (TBA)
    6. Scottish Referendum on an Independent Scotland (TBA)
    7. A “Con” victory in the early General Election
    8. Continuous poor negotiation between “Brit Exit” and the UK Government (TBA)
    8. A project to privatise large areas of the National Health Service (TBA)

    I left out predictions on “wide-spread anti-immigration sentiment” and “wide-spread divisions between generations” as they are more “the mood”.

    The effects of that “mood” will be the background music to the “poor negotiations” with Europe (and a trade deal that will take at least a decade to bright about) and the cuts in National Pensions to appease the lack of investment in “the youth”

    I didn’t have to “guess” much. I merely took logic and looked at the policies of Boris !
    The next ten years will prove to be quite a decade !
    I wonder what the “United Kingdom” will end up calling itself ?
    Better hold a referendum on that !

  • James

    You’ve just “voted in” a “massively Right Wing” Conservative government….
    ….and there will be little that can be done when they “get busy”.

    As Boris and Nigel said….
    ….we’ll be able to write our own laws !

    How they will be looking forward to that.

    • michael norton

      French industries are worried that last week’s Brexit vote threatens to undermine business dealings between the UK and France, with London ranked as one of Paris’s top trading partners.

      The French agriculture industry was one of the first to sound the alarm the day after the Brexit vote. The British love to eat “à la française”, and according to a statement from France’s National Association of Food Industries (ANIA) the sectors “most touched [by Brexit] will be wine and dairy products, which make up the bulk of French agriculture exports”.

      It’s a valid concern: in 2015, France exported €4.54 billion in food products to the UK, or 14 percent of total exports from that sector. The pound’s drop in value relative to the euro following the Brexit vote means that UK buyers will have to spend more to buy the same goods, which risks diminishing the zeal of those British businesses that import from across the Channel.

      Up to €2.9 billion in losses?

      The consequences would be felt well beyond the agricultural industry. The UK is France’s fifth-largest export market. The more the pound falls – on Monday it was at a 30-year low – the fewer Britons will be tempted to buy French products as they become more expensive. Plus there’s the spectre of a possible post-Brexit return to import tariffs. Insurance company Euler Hermes predicted in a May report on the economic effects of a Brexit that French exports might plummet, with the analysis offering a worst-case scenario of a €2.9 billion drop in the short term. In addition to agriculture, the industries most affected are likely to be machine and equipment supply (including agricultural, electronic and nuclear equipment), with losses estimated at €480 million, and the chemical industry, which could lose some €520 million.

      British imports to France might also increase as the “Made in Britain” label becomes less costly. But this would be bad for France’s balance of trade: The UK is, by far, the country with which France has the highest trade surplus – exceeding €10 billion.

      To better understand the trade ties between France and Britain, FRANCE 24 presents a sector-by-sector breakdown of the principal exports and imports between the two countries.
      http://www.france24.com/en/20160628-how-will-brexit-affect-french-industry

      Things look to be tough for FRANCE

      • michael norton

        So that piece was in a FRENCH rag.
        Yet they seem to suggest the advantage will be to the UNITED KINGDOM
        because they sell us more than we sell them and the pound has crashed against the Euro.

        So from our point of view Hunky Dory

        • James

          Total trade exports for April 2016 were £25.0 billion
          The UK was a net importer this month, with imports exceeding exports by £16.0 billion.

          HMRC April 2016 report.
          https://www.uktradeinfo.com/Statistics/OverseasTradeStatistics/Pages/OTS.aspx

          Hunky Dory…. far from it.
          Maybe we can trade with the USA ?
          We actually export more there in a month that we buy from them !
          We exported £4.5 Billion ! That it. That the lot.

          Ever worked out why China is so rich ?
          Yep, they “make things”. They’re a “net exporter”.

          • James

            Who does the UK deal with…
            …here’s the Top 5 for April 2016

            The UK imports…..
            £5.2 Billion from Germany
            £3.4 Billion from the USA
            £3.4 Billion Switzerland
            £2.8 Billion Netherlands
            £2.7 Billion China

            We imported (April 2016) …..
            £9.5 billion from “Non EU” countries
            And £8.0 billion from “EU” countries.

            Who do we export to….
            The USA £4.4 Billion
            Germany £2.7 Billion
            France £1.8 Billion
            Netherlands £1.5 Billion
            Ireland £1.4 Billion

            We exported £7.4 billion to “EU” countries
            And just £4.4 billion to “Non EU” countries.

            The EU needs us more than we need them ? Really ?
            The Top 5 figures say not.
            We “import and export” to them, about the same (we are a “net export” to the EU).

  • James

    So the UK is an “overall NET Importer” of approx £16 billion per month
    And a “European NET Exporter” of approx £0.6 billion per month.

    We better get trading with Africa and South America, because the economy will collapse !

    • michael norton

      EU BACKLASH: Brexit ‘TSUNAMI’ expected as 34 referendums set to rock union
      THE EUROPEAN Union (EU) is about to be rocked by a “political tsunami” with right-wing parties across the continent calling for dozens of in-out referendums.

    • michael norton

      We can trade with all the Americas, all of Asia, all of Australasia and all of Africa,
      plus we could regain trade with Russia.

      We do not need the hated European Union.

      • michael norton

        ‘No trade deal with EU still better than what UK has now’ – Farage to RT

        https://www.rt.com/uk/348782-farage-eu-trade-brexit/

        That’s more or less what two people just said on BBC Radio4

        as the pound has dropped 10% even with 4% E.U. Tariff
        not being part of the E.U. Single Market we will be better off completely out of the stinking lot.

        “Oh, gosh! Who would’ve believed it? Who would’ve believed that despite all the threats and bullying from the international community, President Obama, the OECD, [British Chancellor of the Exchequer] George Osborne, the Bank of England… who would’ve believed the British people would have the courage to say: ‘No, no, no, no. We’re not listening. We actually want to take back control of our country, our democracy and our lives.’ That’s what happened.”

      • Dave Lawton

        @ Michael Norton.

        “We can trade with all the Americas, all of Asia, all of Australasia and all of Africa,
        plus we could regain trade with Russia.
        We do not need the hated European Union.”

        We definitely need to trade with Russia as they are steaming ahead with LENR the energy source of the future as we should do. We do not need Nuclear power stations they are a dead end. Also we need to recover our engineering industry and innovation skills until Thatcher killed them.
        It has been shown the EU Neo-liberal policies have been a complete failure.
        “Europe’s Crisis without End: The Consequences of Neoliberalism”
        http://cpe.oxfordjournals.org/content/32/1/29.abstract

  • James

    “We can trade with all the Americas, all of Asia, all of Australasia and all of Africa,
    plus we could regain trade with Russia……”

    And we could before, we just weren’t any good at it.
    Has that changed to ?

    Lots change though….. like these “facts” and “pledges” for example

    IMMIGRATION

    The campaign claim:
    Immigration levels could be controlled if the UK left the EU.
    This would relieve pressure on public services.

    The current claim:
    Immigration levels can’t be radically reduced by leaving the EU.
    Fears about immigration did not influence the way people voted.

    THE NHS

    The campaign claim:
    We send £350m a week to Brussels, which could be spent on the NHS instead.

    The current claim:
    The claim was a mistake, and we will not be able to spend that much extra on the NHS.

    THE SINGLE MARKET

    The campaign claim:
    Some on the Leave side suggested the UK does not need preferential access to the single market.

    The current claim:
    The UK should get preferential access to the single market but will not have to accept freedom of movement to get it.

    Seems to me…. the Leave Campaign are having to massively back track, as they know what the “promised” there is no way to deliver.
    And even their “new claims” (post vote) are “at best” dodgy !

    You have basically voted in a Far Right Wing Party.
    And as for “the little people”, they could not give “two hoots” about them.

    The term is “hoodwinked” I think !

    • michael norton

      James,
      I do not think the Elite of the E.U. are interested in the UNITED KINGDOM remaining in the the club,
      they want us to sling our hooks as soon as possible to prevent contagion.

      Brexit: E.U. Elite warns UK on freedom of movement
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36659900
      There can be “no single market a la carte” for the UK, EU leaders have warned, after meeting in Brussels to discuss the UK vote to leave the bloc.

      Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said anyone wanting access to the EU’s internal market had to adhere to strict criteria “without exception”.

      There could be “no negotiation without notification”, he said.

      The German and French leaders and the Council President said the same.

      Donald Tusk said there would be another meeting of EU leaders, excluding the UK, on 16 September in Bratislava.

      German Chancellor Angela Merkel also reiterated that there would be no discussions until Article 50 was formally triggered by the UK government.

      “We wish that that would happen as soon as possible,” she said.

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