Friday, March 15, 2019

What We Saw This Week in Westminster

It looks like utter chaos in Theresa May's House of Commons. The Conservatives are fractured, Labour is fractured, whipped votes aren't. The Scots want something, the Northern Irish want something else, the Welsh are playing it cool for the moment, at least compared to everyone else. Some are calling for snap elections. Others want another referendum. A small camp wants a hard Brexit, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes. Another group wants to settle for the withdrawal agreement May negotiated with the EU. That includes the "backstop" for the Irish border that infuriates the hard Brexit camp.

What the world is witnessing, with a lot of puzzlement, is a nation governed by representative democracy having to deal with the result of direct democracy. It doesn't help that the Brexit referendum was botched. Leave voters were seduced by empty promises that bordered on outright lies, coupled with financing irregularities and, of course, the manipulative prowess of Cambridge Analytica.

After two years of wrangling, there isn't a person today who can accurately define Brexit. What is it? Who knows? Having recently spent hours listening to Brit talk radio (LBC London) or the Guardian live stream coverage of the House of Commons, it's obvious that there is no central factual framework to this. One will eventually emerge, possibly by default. There may be no real managed outcome and that will be a cloud over Parliament for years to come.

The referendum was direct democracy. Brits were asked to choose Leave or Remain and the Leave camp won by a small margin. Team Farage might have spun Leave supporters with sugar plum dreams but they had no accountability once the votes were counted.  Like Jacques Parizeau their only challenge was to get enough "lobsters in the pot."

The referendum outcome then fell to Parliament, representive democracy, to enact in some form or another. That's where the real slogging began. MPs had to represent their constituents and the nation. And doing that meant dealing with other affected parties that had no vote, no say, including the entire European Union, especially the Irish Republic. There were fears of a resumption of "the Troubles" between north and south. It wasn't easy getting the UK into the EU and it wasn't going to be easy to get out either.

What lies ahead in the next few weeks? Nobody knows. Theresa May will keep trying to grind down MPs until she gets enough support for her withdrawal agreement. Third time lucky? Then she needs the support of all 27 other members of the EU for a postponement of the March 29 trigger date.

A lot of mistakes have been made since David Cameron called for the referendum. The United Kingdom, if it can even remain united, will be paying for those mistakes for years to come.


Trailblazer said...

This is what happens when we have rights without responsibilities.


The Mound of Sound said...

No question about that, TB. If David Cameron is to be remembered for anything it should be his terrible leadership. Theresa May hasn't been much better. Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, what a crew.

Owen Gray said...

This is what happens when so called leaders don't think through what they propose, Mound. There's a lot of that going around these days.

The Mound of Sound said...

Too true, Owen. There's an item in the Globe today, a commemoration of Mulroney turning 80. In the piece, Mulroney decries the absence of vision in politics today. As I read that I thought that it was Mulroney's vision, along with Reagan's and Thatcher's, that ushered in the neoliberal order that now holds us in its multi-tentacled death grip.

Trailblazer said...

, a commemoration of Mulroney turning 80
Jesus effing Christ ; we , Canadians, must be hard up for role models and heros when we turn to Mulroney as someone to celebrate.
Talking of fallen heros; remember Gordon Campbell, the groper in chief?
Ok, he pales to Michael Jackson , but we should consider and reconsider our heroes and role models.
We are sucked in at every corner; I confess to that I too have been so.


The Mound of Sound said...

True enough, Trailblazer

Ben Burd said...

"In the piece, Mulroney decries the absence of vision in politics today."
Yep what a wanker, problem is we have the egoinflated memories of the old fighting with the new reality of fragmented politics (identity politics). When we have compromise candidates - Theresa May being the best example, we are totally screwed. In Canada here we only have to look at the NDP and see the problem of modern politics. A new leader elected by "new" members (most of whom will have no effect on the bodypolitic or a real election) and the results of that stupid decision will not reflect on the idealism of those who created the situation - come on down Avi Lewis and the wife. Interesting that that duo now have no interest in party politics!

So all we can do in this new reality is to yearn for the past, as Mulroney in his dotage is doing.

The Mound of Sound said...

Well that's certainly depressing, Ben. It's made worse by realizing you're absolutely right.