The Forgotten Referendum – Ireland 1998 353

The problem with making decisions by the blunt and heavy tool of referenda is now very apparent. One self evident difficulty is how to cope with contradictory results. Scotland had two referenda in two years. In the first the Scottish people voted narrowly to remain part of the United Kingdom, in the second they voted heavily to remain part of the European Union. The two results are now incompatible. So how did the referenda help to set the legitimate course of political action? They did not.

There is another incompatible referendum which has gone virtually unmentioned in the UK. Following the Good Friday agreement, Ireland had a referendum in 1998 to amend its constitution to allow it to subscribe to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Ireland amended its constitution to remove its unfettered claim to its entire historic territory, in favour of a contingent peaceful process. Mutual EU membership and no border control was absolutely intrinsic to that agreement and to what the Irish voted for in their referendum. The vote, incidentally, was by much the same margin as Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU. So in resiling from its EU accession due to its referendum, the UK is negating referendum votes in Scotland, in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. The UK cannot arrogantly claim its referendum is more important than Ireland’s. The famous “backstop” is to maintain at least the shadow of the arrangements on the basis of which Ireland voted in 1998.

The other reason referenda are not useful is they are insufficiently detailed. The Brexit referendum said nothing whatsoever about the UK’s continued relationship with the EU. It said nothing about the Customs Union, about EEA, or even about freedom of movement. The referendum was called by David Cameron to buy off party splits in the Tory Party, but failed spectacularly even on those sordid terms. as someone who wants the UK to fall apart, personally I am enjoying the chaos, but it was not the planned result by those behind the referendum.

I am probably a horrible elitist. I dislike direct democracy and am quite profoundly Burkean. I believe democracy should work through the people electing representatives they trust, to use their judgement and experience and adaptability to make the decisions of government. This is not a popular position given the appalling calibre of politicians currently. That is partly due to the UK’s antiquated electoral and governance systems; but something else is in play as it appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. It is to do with neoliberalism eating away at societal bonds and institutions, and requires a great deal more thought to delineate. But of one thing I am quite sure: referenda are not the answer to the West’s malaise of government.

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353 thoughts on “The Forgotten Referendum – Ireland 1998

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  • giyane

    There was time when Britain could enforce its will on the world. Like it forced its will on Kurdistan in 1918. But British power is now so diminished that it is unable to deliver on any of its promises. Cameron promised Al Qaida easy victory in Syria and political power for the Sinn Fein equivalent in Islamism , the Muslim Brotherhood. Praise be to god, it has not been able to deliver that promise. Cameron and Obama offered Al Qaida a Salafist province in Syria if they would wreck Syria to make way for the Greater Israel. The US electorate kicked out the democrats and Trump carpet -bombed the Daesh strongholds.

    Now May has promised to get Britain out of the EU and she has been proved to be totally incapable of delivering that promise on account of the fact that the EU has forced us to sign out without a trade deal, or a whiff of a trade deal. With regard to the forgotten 1998 referendum, it has only been forgotten because the british governments of all hues have been so busy making false promises to Al Qaida that they can’t keep, solely for the benefit of Israel, that they don’t have any brainpower to remember anything else, except of course , this morning, woodburning stoves.

    The power station next to my house, next to the HS2 line coming into Birmingham belches out a rank stink of burning cardboard, which it collects in a nice green way and turns it into electricity. I guarantee that every piece of waste wood I burn on my woodburner, saving £1000 per annum would be burnt elsewhere if not by me. It’s dry and clean. This Tory government will not be able to deliver on its commitments to close down coal-fired , or cardboard-fired power stations, owing to the question marks of Fukushima which has wrecked the Pacific ocean. And I won’t stand for them closing down my burner until they stop the scrapyard behind my house making dioxins from burning plastic.

    The reason Britain can’t keep its promises is because it still sees no need to consult the electorate in a meaningful way. Brexit wannit? is not a meaningful consultation. The unbelievable stupidity of Theresa May, today, when the HoC are in uproar about the Brexit deal, is to go and visit racist Stoke-on-Trent in order to get a venue outside Westminster. We are no longer a super-power , unless our super-annuated nuclear bombs can do anything to save us. So we have to learn to stop making promises we can’t deliver and talk to people in order to know what to do by concensus.

    The only person who can do that is Jeremy Corbyn. We need him as a nation to be PM today.

  • Sharp Ears

    As I said before, Cameron slid away to profit. He now owns four houses. His offshore fortunes were revealed in the Panama Papers.

    How David Cameron lost his battle for Britain
    The key moments in the battle that cut the UK adrift from its European moorings

    David Cameron began 2016 in 10 Downing Street and ended it at DePauw University in a small Indiana town, speaking for a reported £120,000 an hour. The former British prime minister is now paid almost as much for a 60-minute speech as he used to earn in a year, as he tries to make sense of his own historic failure: Brexit.

  • MaryPau!

    I always thought that the original aspirations of the EU were socialist not neo-liberal as they are today. Was I wrong? Or when did it change?

    • Johny Conspiranoid

      Or at least social democrat (or maybe that was a stalking horse). The Lisbon Treaty would be about the time the neo-liberal thing surfaced. Its a project that proceeds by stealth, i.e. by conspiracy.

    • SA

      It changed slowly after the fall of the Soviet Union when the EU started to follow the NATO agenda of surrounding Russia both economically and militarily. This was done without consideration as to the consequences to some of these countries, such as Bulgaria and to a lesser extend some of the Baltic states who lost a lot of its useful man power to the more privileged part of the EU. In effect the EU became the economic and then political arm of NATO. That is why I would think that the creation of a European army could signal political independence of the EU and may be a positive development.

      • bj

        That is why I would think that the creation of a European army could signal political independence of the EU and may be a positive development.

        Exactly for that reason it will never materialize.

        Not that I’m complaining.
        In my opinion, anything military should be torn down — today.

        • SA

          I am not in favour of any armies I just think that a European army is more likely to be defensive than the offensive belligerent attitude that characterizes NATO.

    • Laguerre

      “I always thought that the original aspirations of the EU were socialist not neo-liberal”

      They are not particularly neo-liberal even today, though more than before. At any rate a zero level compared to neo-liberalism in Britain. If they were neo-liberal, they wouldn’t impose all those rules and protections of workers that the Brexiters object to so much. I never understood how the EU could be a monstrous dictatorship, as you claim, and at the same time neo-liberal, which after all implies liberating from control (at least for the bosses).

          • pete

            Re Mary Pau! @ 9.13
            Thanks for the FORBA paper link I think their analysis seem to be correct. I draw a slightly different conclusion that it was the influence of the UK in the EU project that was malign, but the evidence might support either conclusion.
            UK, stay or leave the EU, it seems there is a case for either.

            I was glad to see that Craig is suspicious of direct democracy, whatever other defects the UK’s representative democracy has, and it has many, direct democracy too much resembles the authority and wisdom of the mob. I was however surprised to find he was Burkean in his outlook, luckily Burke held sufficiently contradictory views, and was exemplary in his eloquence that this is forgiveable. Of all of Burke’s works I can recommend his satire, A Vindication of Natural Society as well worth a read:
            In spite of our copyright laws I would guess the work is in the public domain now and may be on the Gutenberg or Archive sites

      • SA

        They are not as neoliberal as Britain, one of the founder members of neoliberalism but they still have strong neoliberal policies, to give two examples: Enforced privatisation of all public assets and enforced austerity. If the treatment of Greece by the EU was not a neoliberal action then what is?
        Secondly: Neoliberalism as you well know is not about liberty it is about concentration of riches and power into fewer hands.

        • Dave

          European Unity is a good idea, the problem was Britain, pursuing a traditional, but outdated, foreign policy, joined to wreck it from within and succeeded, hence why I doubt the EU are unhappy to see Britain go, if that happens. The creation of the Euro, adopted by an over-expanded EU, turned it from a confederation into an empire, and all empires ultimately fail.

    • fwl

      Start by considering the French experience in Algiers and what came out of that and then also consider what was going on in Germany and also in those countries not then in the EEC such as Portugal and Greece. Then consider how elements from these countries may have co-operated.

  • Dave

    Referenda are an instrument of delegate rather than representative democracy and are a good way of getting popular consent for constitutional changes. This means a government normally promotes them to confirm rather than reverse a government policy, which is why the Leave vote was so traumatic.

    I’m sure Cameron held the referendum as he wanted to use a Remain win to progress fiscal union to resolve the EU/Euro crisis, by trumping an earlier promise to hold a referendum on joining the Euro-currency. The establishment would have said you’ve voted (they expected convincingly) to Remain and that means full membership and that means joining the Euro.

    This Remain objective is evidenced by both austerity and the mickey-mouse PFI accounting to stay within the Euro joining rules, when that became politically possible.

    The solution for the Irish border question is for a border poll in which the Republic and N. Ireland vote for a United Ireland within a United Britain outside the EU. If the economic arguments for Britain remaining in EU are so compelling (albeit rejected) then the same argument is compelling reason for the Republic (and Scotland) to Leave the EU, because they have far greater economic and social links with Britain than the EU.

    • Vivian O'Blivion

      Your final paragraph. Your premise is that England is ENTITLED to make a move that even Jacob Rees-Mogg accepts will be economically damaging for a period of decades and that Scotland and (bizarrely) Ireland are hostage to England’s will and must jointly don the suicide vests. Ireland that is running a budget surplus, has a growing population and economy and has bounced back from a global financial crisis and local speculative bubble faster than almost anyone would have predicted.
      Your ‘avin a larf, right?

      • Dave

        If you are happy for the Republic to surrender its independence to a more distant European Union, hostility to a Britain and Ireland Union is irrational.

    • Casual Observer

      Shades at the end there of Dev’s comments about England regarding Ireland as its kitchen garden ?

      Too many Irishmen still live today who can remember the raggedy arsed days before the EEC/EU, and how escape from English coat tails brought economic improvement, albeit with some bumps along the road 🙂

  • SA

    The current analysis of Brexit as a choice between aligning with one neoliberal grouping the EU, and another, The US and five eyes creates a big dilemma for people who want neither. Of course there is a third way and that is Brexit with non-alignment. I think the latter is what Corbyn would like to achieve under a Labour government. But is this achievable in the modern world with the current economic and political and military power blocks?
    The majority of Tory Brexiters are very strong Atlanticists, Johnson, Fox, Gove Mordaunt, Williamson and so on. Their dream is to realign UK with the US and the five eyes. But none of the first two choices are really about regaining sovereignty because realigning with the US loses the UK more sovereignty than remaining with the bureaucratic EU. At least in the latter we have a bigger seat and louder voice in influencing the direction. The position of those favouring Scottish independence may therefore be influenced by whether Corbyn gets in and would like to remain part of a non-aligned UK with much more share of interests than to be a much less significant part of Europe.
    The role of NATO in these alignments is of importance. At the moment the two alignments, the EU and US are joined together by NATO with US being the major influence. This is why there is renewed talks of a European Army or force and although the talk is that it would not overlap with NATO the long term would surely be that it would replace NATO. Europe sees that some actions and policies resulting from this alliance is countering the European interests, such as the sanctions against Russia and Iran but is powerless to act.
    If you look at things in the above way, one starts to see the role of the recent major Russophobia campaign on both sides of the Atlantic and where the Skripal narrative comes in.

  • Andyoldlabour

    Craig said – “I believe democracy should work through the people electing representatives they trust, to use their judgement and experience and adaptability to make the decisions of government.”

    Except of course Craig, when these elected representatives do anything which YOU do not agree with. Most of these elected representatives are lying, cheating, expense fiddling warmongers, who don’t care about the people who elect them. They only care about staying in power, accumulating money, looking out for their own interests, keeping the party donors happy, keeping their friends rich and keeping the vast majority of people downtrodden.

    • SA

      The whole political system in the West needs an overhaul. Basking under the self congratulatory echo chamber of this very flawed system that they call democracy because the rest of the world is less democratic, the system has turned against the people and has had power centralised in the hands of the few against the many. You have to be extremely rich or have rich and powerful backers to be elected to the senate or house of representatives in the US. You have to have the right friends to be appointed to the House of Lords in UK and it is also becoming more important to have lot of money to back your campaigns in the HoC. The lack of proportional representation also mitigates against minorities and innovators.

    • lysias

      Elections, which have so obviously failed, are not the only way to select representatives. The ancient Athenians chose them by lot, from the whole citizen body. It worked.

      • pete

        “The ancient Athenians…”
        Are you sure you want that, the citizens with the votes were the men and not the women and the whole economy was underpinned by slaves…

        • lysias

          We don’t have to adopt all features of the Athenian system before we can adopt their very successful mechanism of choosing officials and representatives by lot.

        • Iain Stewart

          The Republic of Venice had a similar electoral system too (rather like choosing people for jury service) but that doesn’t mean it would only work if you use a gondola.

  • 7 Kings

    It looks like you’ve also forgotten about the forgotten 2011 referendum on AV.
    Looking at the history of “asking the people” the Thatcher’s governments certainly seem to agree with you.

    • nevermind

      7kings, a one option referendum that excludes fair proportional means is a backward move, id call it an ultimatum.
      why did our MPs, who should be eager to give us a fairer more modern system, exclude STVor AMS?

  • TFS

    ‘in the second they voted heavily to remain part of the European Union.’


    I’m sure like everyone else because they voted as THE UK. END OF STORY

    The vote was a UK vote. Stop acting like a CHILD.


    • SA

      Your use of capitals and expletives is interesting with regards to this sort of usage by the underage, something you accuse Craig of being.
      Also the story has not ended. If this was such a clear mandate why is it that a minority government without a clear democratic mandate and with the help of a small bribed party, get to have all the say as to how this complex process that affects all of us, whilst overriding the wishes not only of the 48%+ but even of those who voted for a meaningful brexit?

      • john hartley

        SA- this of course cuts both ways. With the General Election we saw the only party offering to look to reverse the exit from the EU was sound defeated by other parties pledged to Brexit who received over 80% of the votes.

        Of course have he fact that in reality no party really “won” the election showing the rejection of the state of UK politics and current incarnation of the party system rather than any necessary rejection of “Brexit” itself.

        You may contend that such a mandate doesn’t exist in via the votes in a General election as the issues are multiple (and tribal), which is of course plausible. However that then means that there has never been a mandate for politicians to sign the UK up to the series of integration treaties culminating with Brown’s signing of the Lisbon Treaty without reference to a referendum (which had been promised in the election manifesto.)

        It seems that pro-remain types usually conveniently find themselves suffering from temporary amnesia when it comes to previous events. Agitation for referendum was a direct result of Brown’s hubris and lack of principle over Lisbon. The agitation was not just confined to the Tory party, though its proponents may have been more vocal there. We can trace the exponential growth of distrust in party machines from this point imo.

        • john hartley

          Excuse the fat fingered typo which was meant to read “Of course have we have the fact that in reality no party really…”

    • tony

      Apologies , a quick perusal of the link contents and I dont see any evidence of what you claim’
      On referendum night , as the results were coming in , Enoch Powel acknowledged that he had no qualms about the 2 campaigns, saying the continued membership campaign had been honest to the public.

  • MBC

    The Scottish Government did at least publish a White Paper on its independance offer which answered questions about what it entailed. The British Government did no such thing. The Scottish Government allowed for a long campaign to ensure people were as informed as they needed to be. The British Government favoured a short campaign which allowed the lies of the Brexiteers to shout louder.

    Unlike you I do believe in direct democracy but I do agree that it cannot settle complex issues UNLESS the electorate are informed citizens. This is where a responsible quality media comes into play.

    Alas the British public are ignorant and that is largely the fault of the media.

    • giyane

      So where did they put the BBC ‘s bxxxxcks after castration post Gilligan in 2003? And how come an entire parliament of Zionist troffers all believed pinching Iraqi oil might help the UK ?
      Why can I remember reading huge amounts of analysis about Yugoslavia in the Sunday papers and now the media is totally hijacked by citizens or friends of Israel?
      They can’t live peacefully with their neighbours so they’re going to do their level best to destroy any peace enjoyed by this country.

    • Iain Stewart

      “Alas the British public are ignorant and that is largely the fault of the media.”
      For British read English I think.

  • Dave

    Ironically Brexit being reversed will be a greater revolutionary act than the Leave vote! It will lay bare Labour and Conservative occupation government for all to see. Not that those who follow as in Scotland, with a tame SNP, will take full advantage of a moment in time.

    • giyane

      I agree with you. . The problem is the red and blue Tories ganging up with the alt right of the eu. The only thing we can do about that is to remove them once and for all tomorrow

  • Rhys Jaggar

    Mr Murray

    You may be better informed than I about how Bolivia transformed its political structures in the 21st century.

    It appears they go rid of antiquated electoral systems, the turned foreign hydrocarbon extractors into State contractors with a radical shift in revenue sharing arrangements and they told the USA to get its meddling NGOs the hell out.

    They may have got away with it because they are a small nation with small GDP, whereas bigger nations trying the same may have seen more deadly Us reactions.

    Nonetheless, the general principle of Morales’ reforms seemed to be to focus on feeding, housing and educating the populace; maintaining and replanting their indiginous forests; and ensuring that the gains from extractive industries reside in Bolivia, not with foreign corporations.

    Whether it is fiscally sustainable I do not know: the Americans would not like it to be.

    The problem in UK is that MPs are biddable wastrels in the main and do not primarily Represent their electors, being more interested in jobs on the side and lining up lucrative post Westminster careers. The EU is anti-democratic, Washington vassal, answerable to Americans rather than Europeans.

    So what European populations feel is that power resides in Brussels but Brussels does not answer to them. So they either take to the street or accept vassaldom. At present, the French, the Italians and several Eastern European nations are not accepting vassaldom lying down. However the arrogance in Brussels is emerging and the Americans expect their neoliberal Gauleiter to keep the populace at heel.

    My view is you need a government of principle that gets an absolute majority by FPTP then promptly abolishes it to ensure Representatives are representative of the true voting patterns. There needs to be a taxation system which rewards corporate and citizen geographic loyalty, since rate tarts and those constantly threatening to up sticks should get a worse deal than those who have committed long term to this country. There needs to be leadership which values per capita GVA in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland rising to equal that of England (that is anathema to London plutocrats). There needs to be an historic shift of decision-making out of London (since insular Londoners care only about London and its environs). There needs to be an historic revolution of the media to remove the pugilistic, tribal, biddable, corrupt cartel of Oxbridge PPE opinion formers. And there needs to be a decisive loosening of ties to both NATO and the USA.

    I find it unlikely in the extreme that this constellation of longshots could all occur within a five to seven year period.

    But all that is necessary for real change, shifting away from the greedy 1% to the hungry 40%.

  • N_

    This is about the only thing recently that supports the idea that the ruling elite may possibly be planning to install a Labour government in the near future: a book by Francis Green and David Kynaston pushing a pathetically weak and partial criticism of British private schools. This is the kind of “criticism” that those who run such schools welcome, because with “enemies” like this they hardly need any friends. (Much better work has been written by George Monbiot.) For at least 100 years these vile, abusive, cruel and utterly corrupt institutions have been engaged in public relations about how beneficial they are for society, including for example by funding children’s clubs in poor areas. In recent years they had no problem whatsoever with the regularisation of their own charity status. (Previously many that are charities were unregistered and unregulated by the Charities Commission). Why didn’t they? Because it was all public relations. They were probably behind the change in the law in the first place.

    Attack these places full-on and you attack the British (largely but not exclusively English) elite full-on. Between the 1940s and the 1970s there was some willpower in parts of the Labour party for doing exactly that. The only possible serious left-wing position is to abolish them, ban them, and have the state seize all their assets. Nobody who wants to allow their continued existence should be encouraged to imagine that they see a genuine socialist when they look in the mirror. Abolish. Ban. Seize assets.

    I say it again: the true ideology of the Tory party is Malthusianism and Social Darwinism.

    Enough of the “process” crap. If there is any hope in the Labour party the following three issues must surface: the private schools, NATO, and the monarchy.

    • N_

      On a Tory website that I spy on, where some extremely well-connected individuals hang out, one Palace of Westminster-connected businessman recently “joked” about bathing in disinfectant after being in the presence of some proletarians, while another who is a Navy officer spoke of the inadvisability of shooting down a reputed drone over Gatwick because of the public relations hit that might have ensued if “some chavvy kid” were killed by stray ordnance just before Christmas. You can read similar remarks if you hang out at the Army’s main forum site too, Do you think any of their peers express any discomfort or criticism after reading such remarks? This is what private schools are all about. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

      • giyane


        I expect every country in the world has the same military class of brave upright individuals. I’m got great respect for them. What galls is the fact that without lies and spin there would be no wars so the military needs politicians.

    • N_

      In their forthcoming book, I reckon Green and Kynaston won’t even address the fact that it’s the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge that control admissions to those universities, nor the fact that they almost always interview people before they “give” different “offers” to different candidates. Few (no?) other countries in the world do it like that. Those institutions have been involved in bullshit public relations about how they fight for social mobility and equal opportunity, and how they bend over backwards to help children from poor backgrounds, for as long as the private schools that most of the colleges are so similar to have been doing the same.

  • Tom Welsh

    “Scotland had two referenda in two years. In the first the Scottish people voted narrowly to remain part of the United Kingdom, in the second they voted heavily to remain part of the European Union. The two results are now incompatible”.

    This is a classic outcome of generally-accepted democratic values, which was demonstrated by game theorists long ago. It’s not in any way limited to referenda, but affects elections as well.

    • N_

      It’s just a rhetorical trick, is what it is, slipping through a conflation of two very different entities because the two processes they were involved in were similar or the same.

      England and Scotland as political entities had no role whatsoever in the Brexit referendum, any more than Glasgow, Edinburgh or Shetland did in the indyref.

  • Sharp Ears

    May concludes her speech in Stoke on Trent. There was a 70% Leave vote there in 2016.

    Then ‘I’ll take a few questions now. Laura!’ ie the usual prime spot for the state broadcaster’s chief broadcaster.

    Brexit – live: Theresa May delivers last-ditch speech urging MPs to back her deal after preview contained false claim
    Follow live updates on the eve of the meaningful vote

    • N_

      If someone wants to wind up some journalists and cause a kerfuffle, they could choose a place to inject the following information:

      although the Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2011 removed the monarch’s authority to dissolve Parliament except when statutorily mandated (after five years; two weeks after a no confidence motion without a successful confidence motion; or after a two-thirds majority in the Commons), it does NOT remove the monarch’s prerogative to prorogue Parliament. In fact it specifically confirms in s6(1) that she retains such authority.

      And it’s the prime minister’s role to advise the monarch on how to exercise her prerogative.

      If “the Commons traitors try to steal the Brexit happy ending”, a surprise prorogation could be described in the press as a “shutdown” or “furloughing”. Old hands will recall how Gough Whitlam was brought down in Australia 🙂

      *innocent face*

      • N_

        It would play so well with US-Britain parallel tracking too.

        The Prime Minister has declared a state of emergency and on her advice the monarch has prorogued Parliament for six months. Until the end of that period, all necessary legislation will be passed by Orders in Council.

        How about it, Jennifer Gavito, “Minister Counselor for Political Affairs” at the US Embassy in London? What do you reckon?

        Military planners have already been installed in the main governmenr departments: Foreign Office, Home Office, Cabinet Office, and Transport.

        • Sharp Ears

          N_ I had already posted about the military being sent into government ministries. It is ominous.

          Do you remember the times when we all feared the Generals were going to be in charge?

          In Cameron’s time at the height of the inland terror attacks.

          and earlier, there were tanks at Heathrow in BLiar’s time in 2003 under Blunkett.

          Callaghan as Home Secretary sent the Army into Northern Ireland for Wilson in 1969.

          Weaponry was also deployed on rooftops for the 2012 Olympics.

          So we are always close to homeland military interventions as well as the lethal foreign variety in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria in recent years and very many since the end of WW11.

          • N_

            Yep – tanks at Heathrow in 1974.

            At least one Tory MP has now called for a prorogation of Parliament – Desmond Swayne. This doesn’t need a vote in the Commons. The government can lawfully suspend Parliament until April or indeed for as long as it likes, using the royal prerogative.

            “A general election isn’t in the national interest”


            “Parliament is obstructing the will of the people”



          • Sharp Ears

            Goes to show –
            1974: Heathrow was briefly occupied by the Army, ostensibly as a training run in case of possible IRA terrorism. However, in a documentary, The Plot Against Harold Wilson in 2006, Baroness Falkender asserted that the government was not informed in advance. The occupation of Heathrow was privately seen at Number 10 as a warning to Wilson by the Army, or even a dress rehearsal for a coup d’etat.

            ex History of Heathrow Wilipedia

          • fwl

            Re: miscellaneous rambling thoughts re coups both military and parliamentary:

            I had also been thinking back over Wilson / Lady Falkender’s comments about 1974 and 1968.

            Elements of a successful coup would presumably require:

            1 Civil Service – cabinet
            2 Airports
            3 Ports
            4 Media

            (& i Army & ii police to play ball).

            4 Media generally play ball anyway.
            3 Portsmouth to have increased importance, but doesn’t necessarily mean anything
            2 Bizarre recent events at Gatwick, but don’t necessarily mean anything.
            1 Apparently we have an unusual choice for the Cabinet Secretary with a security background as opposed to a Treasury background, but that obviously doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

            These do not necessarily add up to anything. They are just curiosities.

            Of course there would also need to be a 5th factor namely an acquiescent Crown and I can’t see the Queen playing ball in the same way as your average jobbing news hound. So – God Save the Queen.

            Of course last week’s parliamentary coup is all the more subtle and of potential interesting long(or not so long?) term effect because by introducing a means for backbenchers to introduce legislation it may enhance Labour’s election chances. It creates a precedent to neuter a weak government i.e. legislation and control for back benchers would allow Blairites to influence legislation and override a Jeremy Corbyn / Momentum Gov. This would be quite a curious phenomena and presumably would not last for long, but in so far as it comes to pass it should at least allow Corbyn to experience the curious world in which May finds herself of being in nominal charge (like a newly qualified teacher) whilst those who are meant to be mere back bench pawns (children in class) run rings around her / him.

            Possibly some wavering new labour types might be willing to vote for such a scenario if they think it gives them a check on a Momentum Gov. Have Dominic Grieve and Bercow helped open the door to a labour administration…….

    • michael norton

      Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the E.U.’s most senior officials, co-signed a letter to Mrs. Theresa may offering her a chance to let things “hang” until 31/07/2019.

  • Vivian O'Blivion

    What chance a united Ireland this decade? Not much I suspect, but if things change they will change fast.
    The DUP are by some margin of comfort the most cynical and corrupt political party in the UK. I am old enough to remember them as a woman me man band. They have slithered their way to Westminster, Unionists hegemony by stoking fears and peddling ancestral rejectionism from the comfort of opposition. No to the Belfast accord, no to the Good Friday Agreement and no to the decommissioning process. Not once contributing to the peace process and positive change ’till Stormont was formed and a trough to snuffle in presented itself.
    The journey from one man band to Westminster hegemony and Stormont preeminent Unionist party took decades but the fall is likely to be of the Ceausescu variety. Resentment at their shenanigans must be boiling just beneath the surface. Two years of Stormont hiatus and still drawing their salaries. Championing Brexit against the wishes of a substantial majority of the NI electorate. Baby Doc Paisley the professional holidaymaker. Snarlene’s corrupt ash for cash scheme. And the UUP wait in the wings, theoretically an EU Remain party if they can distance themselves from the Sinn Fein tar baby.
    What impact the merger of the SDLP and Fianna Fáil? Not much unless they can wholesale remove Sinn Fein and make it possible for moderates within the Protestant community to reconcile to a united Ireland. Ironic that the biggest impediment to a united Ireland is Sinn Fein (the cynical may suggest that the status quo (perpetual salaries for no show jobs at Westminster and Stormont) suites the profession politicos at Sinn Fein down to the ground).

    • frankywiggles

      In five to 10 years there’ll be a nationalist majority and the matter will be resolved.

    • N_

      The DUP are complete sectarian nutters, whose main objection to the EU is that they think it’s run by Catholics and who are never happier when claiming that continental Europe (and we’re not talking about Scandinavia) is in cahoots with the Irish government to ban bowler hats, force Ulstermen to kneel before the cross, and flood the six counties with Poles and Lithuanians crossing themselves.

      Oh wait, did I say nutters? Well they’re not so crazy where filling their Calvinist pockets with money corruptly gained from state contracts is concerned. They’re really down to earth then.

      Editors can’t ask why it is that a party that wants the Irish border to be as soft as velvet also wants it to be an external EU border between an EU member state and another country that is outside both the customs union and the single market. Because then they would have to ask what on earth this party has got against the EU.

  • Hmmm

    You are a horrid elitist! I bet you’d be more respectful of referenda if Scotland had voted for freedom!!!

  • Deb O'Nair

    “That is partly due to the UK’s antiquated electoral and governance systems;”

    The problem is more to do with people being ill informed, due to the vast majority of the corporate press being in a handful of peoples hands, and the blatant level of partisanship they display. This leads to voters making catastrophic choices based on the lies and propaganda that they have been exposed to almost continually.

    Cameron and his Eton chums are a classic example; not only did they receive vast levels of funding but also the unquestioning support of the media, to the extent that fundamental errors of judgment, corruption and incompetence by the former Bullingdon members were largely ignored.

    Cameron was first elected an MP in 2001, by 2005 he was leader oft he Tory party and 5 years later he was PM without ever having served in a cabinet. This is unprecedented in modern times and is largely due to the press and the uncritical cheer-leading they engaged in. It is not possible to have a healthy democracy when a handful of vested interests can directly dictate public opinion.

    • SA

      Its even worse with Macron in France who never had any direct political experience before coming from nowhere to be president.

    • NotSoGreatBritain

      “The problem is more to do with people being ill informed”. Are you not one of these people who still believes the official version of 9/11? There is a definite smell of irony when someone who is themselves totally ill informed waxes lyrical about public opinion being directed, as if you know better or are not similarly brainwashed yourself.

      • Deb O'Nair

        “Are you not one of these people who still believes the official version of 9/11?”

        On the contrary, what makes you think that? Are you keeping tabs on peoples views and have me mixed up with someone else perhaps?

  • Goose

    UK’s antiquated electoral and governance systems

    Might be flogging this like dead horse. But the electoral system used(FPTP) winner take all, is so central to how things are structured here. So much of what Craig and many others here bemoan; namely, excessive state secrecy and poor oversight , would be unthinkable were the UK to use PR, a coalition wouldn’t be formed in which one of the parties forming that coalition didn’t demand reform of oversight and secrecy practices. It’d happen very quickly into electoral cycles too. Take a red-green coalition for example, the Greens are very keen on these matters. The Lib Dems who were also very strong, in their 2015 manifesto, got 22% in 2010 , had that translated to 143(22%) seats out of 650 they’d have had a lot more say over the Tory-led coalition, although Clegg was completely useless so maybe not so much. The price of coalition admittance from a minor party would force reform far faster than waiting for the big two to do anything different.

    • Vivian O'Blivion

      In practice, Proportional Represetation is not without its drawbacks. In Scotland, the Additional Members System (as hideously complex as it is) is preferable to FPTP. The downside is you have to stomach borderline retards like James Kelly and Annie Wells getting in on the Party list and collecting full pay for drooling in public whilst not even having to hold a constituency surgery.

      • Goose

        It depends on the precise system STV , MMV , open or closed lists etc. Those problems can be easily overcome if there’s the will.

        As for Scotland, I reckon were independence to be won the(YES/NO) polarisation would end; the SNP would disband and you’d get true multi-party(full spectrum) politics, as similar sized populations in Scandinavian countries have. No worries about Scotland.

      • Goose

        There is nothing to prevent open candidate lists per party, within a proportionate system. Or you could just have local primaries to decide the list order(closed) prior to the election.

  • Dungroanin

    If anyone is wandering what exactly PM May achieved by delaying the vote by 30 days, clues are emerging.

    Profit Diversion Compliance Facility published by the Inland Revenue on 10th January 2019.

    All a bit of a rush? What is the sudden urgency to grant amnesty to tax cheaters? Why would they be let off without sanction or publication of their identities? What future charges, financial and legal, would they be exempted from? Was it even in spreadsheet Phil’s budget recently?

    Two possible reasons I suggest.
    1. Brexit does not mean brexit – before new regulations come into effect;
    2. General Election leading to a Labour government – bringing in new regime to enforce regulations at tax evasion.

    ‘But .. but .. we have this pass from the Tax Man, ha ha ha ha’

    • michael norton

      Gareth Johnson said he putting his “loyalty to the country above loyalty to the government”.
      He has quit the government today, so as a committed Brexiteer, he can vote against May’s “deal”.

  • djm

    ” But of one thing I am quite sure: referenda are not the answer to the West’s malaise of government. ”

    Especially when they give the right people the wrong answer…..

  • Roderick Russell

    I would have to disagree with Craig’s comment “I dislike direct democracy and am quite profoundly Burkean”. I believe that a country like Switzerland has achieved the very high standard of living it has, whilst avoiding involvement in the horrid wars of the last century, simply because of its commitment to direct democracy.

    Why? Well, direct democracy keeps the politicians on their toes, and it keeps them in touch with the wishes of the the people. The problem with Burke’s approach (whose constituents disagreed with him as he lost his election on this issue) is that it requires politicians of great calibre who will put the interests of their constituents before those of the “deep state” or of their political party. Such politicians are a rare animal indeed, at least in British or Canadian politics.

    Of course I am not talking about the ”pretend” direct democracy that the UK has had in its occasional referenda, on questions the government has developed, for votes that are only advisory and don’t count for much anyway. Under a true system of direct democracy, the question asked is developed by the people in a petition and the result of the resulting referendum is legally binding. Whilst I am aware that as a people we have many failings, I would nevertheless trust the people before I would trust our politicos.

    • Carl

      Before abandoning referenda there would first need to be a democratic backlash against our Burkean representatives. These people routinely use their “judgement and experience and adapability” to work against the public interest to serve their own interests and those of big capital.

      Britain is an extremely corrupt country at its highest levels and it’s almost all entirely legal. For a long time our government and public institutions have been in an anaconda-like grip of corporate and financial power. Politicians, civil servants, bankers and corporate advisers swap jobs, favours and insider information and Inevitably see their interests as mutual and interchangeable. Our Burkean representatives, charged with protecting the public interest, are bought and sold with barely a fig leaf of regulation.

      This used to be a Tory preserve. But when New Labour embraced corporate power it became a cross-party affair. Blair is in a class of his own, of course, raking in £20m a year from banks and autocratic governments; but he was closely followed by dozens of New Labour ministers who moved out of government into lucrative corporate jobs, often for firms hustling for contracts from their former departments.

      Can anybody seriously doubt that New Labour politicians were encouraged to champion light touch regulation before the 2008 crash by the lure and lobbying of the banks, not only by their Neo-liberal ideology? The web of lubricated relationships has also been massively extended by privatisation. A £100 billion business uses jobs and cash to foist a policy that is less accountable, lowers standards and is routinely more expensive on the public realm. The Tory-Lib Dem health bill that opened the way to sweeping outsourcing was voted through by over 150 peers linked to companies involved in private healthcare. The number of private landlords in Parliament determining public housing policy is similarly huge.

      Corporate and financial power has merged deep into the British state, leaving the public at the mercy of self-serving charlatans who cannot credibly be viewed as wise Burkean representatives.

      • nevermind

        How very well said, Carl, we are already in a Burkeian nightmare, have grown up being bamboozled by their nonchalant, blatant eywash.

  • MJ

    “The two results are now incompatible”

    Not really. Had Scotland voted for independence in 2014 it would have been automatically ejected from the EU anyway. It was only entitled to participate in the EU referendum because it had voted to remain in the UK. It was a not a Scottish referendum, it was UK-wide.

    • lysias

      There is, of course, a way in which Scotland can leave the UK and stay in the EU. It can form a federation with Ireland

  • Republicofscotland

    .”as someone who wants the UK to fall apart, personally I am enjoying the chaos,”

    We must break this union between Scotland and England, the Brexit chaos is a good time to begin pushing to dissolve this charlatan partnership.

  • Vivian O'Blivion

    If Brexit is nullified in the next couple of weeks, this presents one hell of a business opportunity for Farage. Consider, party membership of the SNP rose from 40K to 80K either side of the 2014 referendum and has since risen to 120K.
    If Farage can wrest control from (insert name of swivelled eye loon in charge of the UKIP office keys this month), or more likely form an alternative party, he stands to make a fortune.

      • Republicofscotland

        Do keep up Geoffrey “swivelled eye loon” is a term used by Scottish nationalists to describe certain idiotic unionists, such as the PM. It has absolutely nothing to do with Sturgeon no matter how hard you try to link it to her.

        • Geoffrey

          Republic, Vivian has explained how it is connected to Sturgeon above or below….riding a populist bandwagon can be lucrative, suggesting that he thinks she may be making money and that Farage may try and do the same.

      • Vivian O'Blivion

        Just pointing out that riding the populist bandwagon can be a lucrative venture. Think Laxley-Lennon moving into a £1M house with a previous conviction for mortgage fraud on his record.

  • Republicofscotland

    “The other reason referenda are not useful is they are insufficiently detailed”

    The SNP should be flooding Europe, and beyond with delegates in an attempt to curry favour. So if UDI is declared by the S&G (The quickest way to break the union) that the majority of international opinion would hopefully favour our position.

    Westminster, be it Tory Labour or a LibDem government will never ever agree to a independent Scotland.

    • Dave

      And neither will the SNP whilst wedded to EU and open door immigration. Indeed as the SNP definition of a Scot is so fluid, perhaps the best way to save the Union is by renaming Britain, Scotland and then declaring independence.

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