Saturday, 25 June 2016

Making Sense Of It All

I guess we've all got to try and make sense of what happened on Thursday, why it happened and where things go from here. It's certainly a day to remember and probably the most significant domestic political event in most of our lifetimes.

For over 30 years I've acted as Presiding Officer at the same Polling Station in an edge of city community now comprised of the white working-class, students and immigrants from many nations. It's a harmonious community, has always been a safe Labour seat and over the years I've become pretty familiar with regular faces and voters grumbles such as 'we've had no leaflets' or 'no one's been round'. 

At the general election last year I'd already noticed that I'd lost nearly half of my register because students are no longer 'auto-enrolled' at their university accommodation and this time most had gone down for the summer anyway. We'd been warned to expect a high turnout and queues, but what really struck me was the number of people I'd never seen before and obviously from the long-term settled white working-class community. Something had galvanised them to turn out and vote.

To be perfectly frank I'd found the campaign a universally unedifying and disgraceful spectacle on the part of both sides. I really do not take kindly to being deliberately scared witless by my own government and treated to a succession of bullying threats of fiscal carnage by an endless number of highly-paid, mostly men in government jobs and suits telling me that effectively I'd be f*cking mad to vote anything but 'remain'. The figures were obviously being plucked from the etha and the official policy of predicting armaggedon eventually proved counter-productive to me and I suspect many others.

Strangely, I didn't find the other side quite so offensive, possibly because I decided early-on to ignore all the stuff about immigration and instead try and make my mind up on the basis of other factors such as politics both domestic and European, together with what I suppose might be generally termed 'sovereignty'. Each one of us had to make an extremely difficult judgement-call on a deceptively simple question and I suspect in the process just edited-out those aspects we didn't feel important or relevant or distasteful and zoomed-in on what we felt was.

John Ward is always worth reading:-

Whatever the result today (and the one clear signal from the polls is that not one of the companies involved has a clue which way it will go) it will not have been democracy in any recognisable form.

Proper democracy and genuinely free voting can only be said to have taken place when:

  • The electorate is genuinely informed about the issues and their relative significance
  • The voters have not been threatened or bullied in any way
  • The vote has been called willingly by the Government of the day
  • All the previously agreed rules and regulations have been observed by those on either side of the argument(s).
If anyone still believes the electorate knew which way was up on this, the second Referendum to be held about Britain’s EU membership, then they simple aren’t informed about just how uninformed the average voter was.

I have sighed, slapped my forehead, sworn at the television, and at times laughed out loud at the opinions expressed – and cynically encouraged – about, for example, how the UK will be frozen out of trade, how the EU can be reformed from the inside, why we must be safer attached to the biggest basket case outside Brazil, and how we should not be voting in the same way as people we dislike. Some of the ludicrous hopes and laughable aspirations have suggested that a great many Brits simple cannot extrapolate or discern conclusions from general events and governance behaviours any more.

And of course, the cancer of our age – ideology that was past its sell-by date long before best-before was invented – evokes denial on a delusional scale.

But the real culprit dissuading any exercise of rational assessment or emotional identification has, as always, been the disinformation dished out by mass market media. I have always found it amusing that while hacks call my profession ‘hidden persuaders’, the facts we used to persuade consumers had to be stood up using field tests and research data. No such onerous insistence on the Truth exists to worry the Fourth Easte: “never let the truth get in the way of a good story” as one apocryphal journo is alleged to have long ago asserted.

Nobody on either side of the debate has so much as managed to attach any glory to itself on this dimension….let alone be covered in it. I could, right now, pull out seventeen completely misleading articles and ‘news’ items quite deliberately glossing over contrary evidence in order to suggest bogus outcomes and malign motives. Twas ever thus, people say – but today no more than half a dozen reprobates with varied business agendas control how some 80% of all Western editorial is filtered. The abolition of Net Neutrality will make that situation even more distorted; but nobody gives a monkey’s about it, so I long ago gave up posting on the subject.

The spread and digestion of information in 2016 is nothing more than the reassurance of the somnambulant by the sociopathic. It causes direct democracy to change, imperceptibly over time, into passive bondage.


Essentially it was an impossible task, confirmed in my view by the relative closeness of the result and inability of most commentators to predict the outcome. But one of the most unedifying and unpleasant aspects of this whole bloody mess has been the widespread and arrogant assumption by the political class that there was only one 'right' way to vote and anyone who was for Brexit was clearly either a racist, had been hoodwinked or was just plain thick. There could not be a more clear illustration of the class divide and it was indeed the working-class who have been so often patronised and ignored in the past who revolted on Thursday and stuck two fingers up to the political class.

Some readers will recall that I've mentioned the urgent need for electoral reform several times on this blog and each time I think it's fair to say the issue has been dismissed as irrelevant. I would venture to suggest that the failure to address this utterly untenable democratic deficit was probably one of the key reasons we've ended up in the mess we now find ourselves in. Whether you agree or not with the views of groups like UKIP or the Green Party, I find it arrogantly contemptable that the political class simply dismisses the case for electoral reform as unimportant and unnecessary. More worryingly, many seem to feel that ensuring these groups are not represented is actually best.  

Well, I believe this arrogant view was a significant contributing factor in the result that was delivered on Thursday when the usually disenfranchised realised that this time every vote would actually count and they duly turned out and made a protest. Not the best way to cast a vote on such an important issue, but how else do they get the attention of the political ruling class?

In trying to pull together some thoughts on what has happened and why, I feel the need to comment on some more arrogance, this time from the new President of the EU. I think I heard him threatening the UK on the day before the vote and yesterday I heard him demand that effectively we 'f*ck off' at the earliest opportunity. He strikes me as a most unpleasant bully, but of course as the top guy in Brussels we must presume he is representative of the club we are expected to be happy being a member of?            
This from the Telegraph:-

Jean-Claude Juncker's most outrageous political quotations

The former Luxembourg prime minister expected to become European Commission president tomorrow has a pragmatic approach to politics, the press and the public – and is rarely afraid to show it:-

On Greece's economic meltdown in 2011
"When it becomes serious, you have to lie."

On EU monetary policy
"I'm ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious ... I am for secret, dark debates"

On British calls for a referendum over Lisbon Treaty
“Of course there will be transfers of sovereignty. But would I be intelligent to draw the attention of public opinion to this fact?,”

On French referendum over EU constitution
“If it's a Yes, we will say 'on we go', and if it's a No we will say 'we continue’,”

On the introduction of the euro
"We decide on something, leave it lying around, and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don't understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back."

On eurozone economic policy and democracy
“We all know what to do, we just don't know how to get re-elected after we've done it”


Then there was all the stuff about a vote for Brexit would just mean an even worse Tory government. I notice Ian Lawrence, General Secretary of Napo had something to say about this yesterday in his blog:-

Britain Divided?

See EU later David”, is about the only bit of humour that I can muster this morning after what is probably the most seismic shift in British politics that I have witnessed in my lifetime, and no doubt there will be many of our members who share that view.

Given the size of the vote and the fact that the result reflected a range of opinion from across the political spectrum, it’s probably worth saying that there will be many trade unionists who took the Brexit line on the basis that they believed that once we are out of the European Union we can get on with the essential business of rebuilding Britain’s manufacturing base, nationalising our railways, postal services, utilities and energy companies and making much needed investment in public services and the people who provide them. Taking this further, those comrades I have spoken to have passionately explained how we can protect our NHS from the dreaded TTIP or equivalent trade agreements, how we can better develop our schools under public control, and start to provide workplace security and decent wages and pensions for all.

I don’t suppose any of us would disagree with those objectives; but, as I have been reminded by those who told me why they were voting to remain: it’s not the agenda that we were ever going to get under this current government. Indeed, today’s news of David Cameron’s intended resignation and the prospect of a new prime minister being installed with a mandate to push on even harder with an already devastating austerity programme can only fill everyone who believes in a progressive socialist agenda with total dread. 


Finally, isn't this the opportunity for the left to take advantage of the turmoil in the Tory Party and sort itself out? This by Slavoj Zizek is taken from Newsweek:-


Europe is caught into a vicious cycle, oscillating between the Brussels technocracy unable to drag it out of inertia, and the popular rage against this inertia, a rage appropriated by new more radical Leftist movements but primarily by Rightist populism. The Brexit referendum moved along the lines of this new opposition, which is why there was something terribly wrong with it. Look at the strange bedfellows that found themselves together in the Brexit camp: right-wing “patriots,” populist nationalists fuelled by the fear of immigrants, mixed with desperate working class rage—is such a mixture of patriotic racism with the rage of “ordinary people” not the ideal ground for a new form of Fascism?

The intensity of the emotional investment into the referendum should not deceive us, the choice offered obfuscated the true questions: how to fight trade “agreements” like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which present a real threat to popular sovereignty and how to confront ecological catastrophes and economic imbalances which breed new poverty and migrations. The choice of Brexit means a serious setback for these true struggles—it's enough to bear in mind what an important argument for Brexit the “refugee threat” was. The Brexit referendum is the ultimate proof that ideology (in the good old Marxist sense of “false consciousness”) is alive and well in our societies.

When Stalin was asked in the late 1920s which political variation is worse, the Right one or the Leftist one, he snapped back: “They are both worse!” Was it not the same with the choice British voters were confronting? Remain was “worse” since it meant persisting in the inertia that keeps Europe mired down. Exit was “worse” since it made changing nothing look desirable.

In the days before the referendum, there was a pseudo-profound thought circulating in our media: “whatever the result, EU will never be the same, it will be irreparably damaged.” But the opposite is true: nothing really changed, except that the inertia of Europe became impossible to ignore. Europe will again waste time in long negotiations among EU members that will continue to make any large-scale political project unfeasible. This is what those who oppose Brexit didn’t see—shocked, they now complain about the “irrationality” of the Brexit voters, ignoring the desperate need for change that the vote made palpable.

The confusion that underlies the Brexit referendum is not limited to Europe—it is part of a much larger process of the crisis of “manufacturing democratic consent” in our societies, of the growing gap between political institutions and popular rage, the rage which gave birth to Trump as well as to Sanders in the US. Signs of chaos are everywhere—the recent debate on gun control in the US Congress descended into a sit-in protest by the Democrats—is it time to despair?

Recall Mao Ze Dong's old motto: “Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent.” A crisis is to be taken seriously, without illusions, but also as a chance to be fully exploited. Although crises are painful and dangerous, they are the terrain on which battles have to be waged and won. Is there not a struggle also in heaven, is the heaven also not divided—and does the ongoing confusion not offer a unique chance to react to the need for a radical change in a more appropriate way, with a project that will break the vicious cycle of EU technocracy and nationalist populism? The true division of our heaven is not between anemic technocracy and nationalist passions, but between their vicious cycle and a new pan-European project which will addresses the true challenges that humanity confronts today.

Now that, in the echo of the Brexit victory, calls for other exits from EU are multiplying all around Europe, the situation calls for such a project—who will grab the chance? Unfortunately, not the existing Left which is well-known for its breathtaking ability to never miss a chance to miss a chance.


  1. Not all those who voted for exit are rascist and no one seriously campaigning would ever have said that.However all racists are highly likely to have voted leave so you do have to be careful who you sup with and a long spoon is not enough.
    I voted remain with a peg on my nose because as a Labour supporter I thought Cameron fought a dismal campaign and the austerity programme he has overseen has cut a swathe through poor communities,north and south.
    Hitler was terribly fond of referendi (plural?) and Attlee warned Churchill not to have one at the end of WE II.Check out what Herr Goerring had to say on the matter when he wss tried for war crimes.

  2. The new left in Spain ,Greece and Britain is a socialist Left that wants to build a new Europe. This is what Corbyn has been arguing. I'm a member of Momentum and this is top of our agenda. Things are really dire at the moment that's why we see the rise of both the Left and the Right and its time we all took sides we need to get involved.


    1. Papa . I'm in momentum too .helped set up the group in my city.

  3. Juncker's response shows that at heart it is ultimately the right decision - but it would never have come to this had the politicos earlier embraced PR as the way to give a voice to the broad range of disaffected voters that has now combined in an unholy alliance to bite them on the bum.

  4. Is Boris and his brexit members, now panicking after a shock vote out. Do they have a plan for exit? If that plan exits, has it been written on the back of a fag market by Grayling et al, like TR failed policy

  5. Give Grayling and ID'S were all sacked by Cameron and London voted for Khan as mayor and Remain very strongly.Does not speak well for any of them with their exit plans.Farage will try to write them on the back of his fag packet

  6. No point trying to make sense of it all. It is one enormous farce!

  7. This article is the best I have read

    "There are liars and then there’s Boris Johnson and Michael Gove"

    MY comment is here

  8. Hatton killed the convo for going of topic

  9. Anon 20:20 it's not off topic and will you STOP having a pop at Andrew whenever the posts. It's not big or clever

    1. Ditto!☺

    2. I feel deflated! With the shambles going on around us no one will be interested in the plight og the crc and the likes of serco and WL will be abke to carry on quietly dismantling and destroying what is left. How can we get our voice heard now? For anyone who is interested in what is happening in south west there are some new posts under napo at work in the SW! I have heard via a friend who works for NOMS that they have been inundated with complaints from crc staff so they are certainly aware of the situation! She suggested i contact my MP but to do so anon. However seeing as their inboxes will be full of people terrified about leaving EU , including many who voted out (don't get me started) i am not sure it will have any effect?

    3. For goodness sake there is no need to be anonymous in contacting your MP, that is not how the UK system of parliamentary democracy works.

      Any public worker who believes their employer is acting wrongly almost has a duty to tell their MP.

      I once told my MP when the detail of an Act of Parliament allowed a dangerous criminal to be too lightly sentenced and thus released automatically, back in about 1993. (Parliament eventually responded with IPPs, yet more flawed legislation, with which we are still stuck!)

  10. Er, excuse me but this was a civil servant working for noms who is the daughter of an mp giving a friend advice and warning me that private company could 'get rid of me' for speaking out. Thanks for the advice Andrew and for your high moral tone but i am not close to retirement age and have two teenagers to support so i think i will stick with my friends advice! I have already had to leave one job because i blew the whistle and reported abuse. I will still blow the whistle but will be more considered about how i do it. Don't judge others unless you have walked in their shoes!

    1. Oh dear i think you may have revealed too much already - not too many MPs daughters working in NOMS - so not that hard to work out her identity.

    2. Ha, i have covered that one already!

  11. You can say what you want Mr Hutton without reprisals as you retired a while back! The rest of us are hanging on by the skin of our teeth. Ok for the baby boomers with decent pensions!

    1. In response to Anon at 15:38 we all have no idea of anyone else's true personal circumstances - I am well aware of what I have previously termed "an inner wheel of government & justice."

      An alternative is too anonymously contact the media with information although it maybe better to use a trades union as conduit but as anon at 15:38 is experienced I guess she already knows that.

      I am very sorry probation folk are in such awful situations and have no ready solutions but believe that information can be powerful, although it can be hard to believe that at times as what is known about TR should have bought parliamentary revolt long ago, but as we have seen in recent days with the lies of the Brexiters & now the duplicity of some senior MPs close to Corbyn, parliament is not simply about getting the best policies for all as in my naivety I still believe it could be.