A Bit of Tolerance

I apologise in advance to non-UK readers, as this post will have no relevance, and even less interest, for you.

I caught a post the other day. It alluded to Brexit supporters being brainless morons. I know, you thought Brexit was done and dusted, but it still rankles here. This particular one has been a common refrain for the last five years.

If your politics is to the right, some very prominent people supported Brexit. Even somebody like Margaret Thatcher came to want out of the EU. Somebody like Enoch Powell (as right as they came) argued against the EEC way back in 1975. Plus of course, many Conservative MPs of the recent past have supported Brexit. In the same vein, Major, Cameron, Heath… all of them wanted to be inside the EU.

And if your politics is to the left, again, people Like Michael Foot, Tony Benn, remember Eric Heffer? They all wanted out. Far from being “extremists”, out on the edge, Foot actually became Leader of the Labour Party, and Benn came within a cat’s whisker of being elected Deputy Leader. If you think Brexit was about immigration, these people had sounder views on immigration than you or I!

And ex-Labour PM Tony Blair, not to mention current leader, Keir Starmer, have both been vocal supporters of the EU.

I mean, many of these people, far from being brainless morons, actually played a large part in shaping their respective ideologies. So, before anybody condemns people as idiots, they should find out the various reasons which made these people think as they did. So it cuts across the divide.

Whatever their view, some people are idiots, no doubt about it. But on both sides of this argument, there are reasoned principles. We should be tolerant of people who might not agree with us. It’s kind-of an easy refrain, but I think when we uttere it, it shows us to be the idiots.

Homeward Bound

I very gratefully got a lift home from Salisbury yesterday, another volunteer. Of course, the subject got onto our forthcoming election. She quite openly said that she intended voting Liberal. I made the same point I made on here a few weeks ago, that I thought every party was pretty fatally flawed, so I would spoil.

The reason, by the way, that I think the Liberals are fatally flawed, is because we [i.e. the UK] had a plebiscite to decide an issue, and the Liberals have said openly that they will do the opposite of the result. So, I’m left wondering how much they respect the whole electoral process.

The subject, inevitably, turned to Brexit. The Liberals, after all, are overtly anti-Brexit, it is their flagship policy. I’m not sure, these days, if they have any others. This woman advocates another plebiscite. I mean, we don’t have to have a view on Brexit in this case, we can argue it just on the basis of what we want out of a political system. I said: for starters, there is no precedent for voting many times on the same issue. Second, when you decide that some plebiscites count and others don’t, I think you’re on a slippery slope. Who decides, for a start?

There were various arguments about the result of the plebiscite being too close to determine policy. Something I happen to agree with. But you have to say all this before the actual plebiscite. When you don’t think of it until afterwards, it’s just sour grapes. In fact, if the plebiscite had been taken more seriously by its organisers, there was every opportunity that we could know a lot more than we do.

There was that old refrain, what is there to fear? The fear, dare I say it, is obvious, at least to me. That we will have become a society which ignores the result of the ballot-box.

Then the comment that gave the game away. There are more youngsters now, and fewer oldies, so there is a chance that the result will go the other way. So, rely on the electorate changing, until it becomes sufficiently proportioned that we can get our way! Every election is a snapshot of people’s views at a particular time. For better or for worse. If people are not happy, they can change their minds next time around, as I am sure will happen in this case.

Fortunately, by that time, I was home.

About Turn

All the news programmes here are predicting a general election here soon. It’s quite perverse, because Boris Johnson is now saying he wants an election. The reason? Because he won’t get anywhere with the current numbers in parliament. Conversely, the opposition parties, who you’d think would always want an election, are wanting not to trigger an election. At least, not until the no-deal option is taken off the table.

I have to say, I’m with them all the way. I speak as somebody who supported Brexit, as somebody who still supports Brexit. A very soft Brexit which reflects that 48% of us wanted to remain in the EU, that, actually, a lot of things we have taken from the EU, like standards, are good things. Of course, we will diverge over time, but certai ly in the first weeks and months it should not be possible for anybody to see the difference.

Having decided to quit the EU, I wouldn’t have objected to a process in which we gradually split apart, in a managed way. That would have taken as long as it took to keep control of events. But no, the ideologues felt it had to be sorted within a couple of years, so triggered Article 50. So I’m quite sad that that chance to keep control of events was missed.

I’d also go so far as to say that it should have been announced that there would be some form of deal very early on. At that stage, terms would still have been negotiable, but it could be a declaration of intent. The question you tackle first is the future of immigrants in both the EU and the UK, to provide certainty. If you are a government, your people are your main priority. So I’m quite sad that that chance to secure people’s futures was missed.

Businesses. Probably a bigger subject altogether, but again, the goal should have been certainty. So I’m quite sad that that chance to firm up our trading relationship was missed.

I have to say, though, that it is not just the UK side which made me sad. Does anybody remember the £39bn? What was that for? At the time, nobody knew. Nobody explained. Was that for outstanding commitments? If it was, fair enough, but that was never explained to us. And our House of Lords seemed to think we didn’t actually owe anything. You know, you wouldn’t even pay your hotel bill without knowing what you’re being charged for.

So, to agree an amount, with no detail about what was, this was almost as though a number had just been plucked out of the air. For which the EU is equally culpable. Both parties must agreed this number, after all, and agreed to make it public without a word of explanation. So I’m quite sad that that chance to inform people what the money was for, was missed.

Maybe the sum was just monies owed? If so, wouldn’t it be a good idea for the EU to amend its rules so that countries could only leave at the end of a budget cycle? Another chance missed. On the same kind of thing, wouldn’t it have been a good idea for the EU to understand what had caused Brexit in the first place? To hopefully head it off when the Italians, or the Greeks, decide that they want to come out? Chance missed.

And then the events of last night. Dare I say it topped the lot? I couldn’t say I particularly give a monkey’s what the Conservative Party gets up to, but even I think it is madness when you end up suspending two former finance ministers, plus many former cabinet ministers, over this issue. For a guy without a majority in the first place…how did Johnson think it would end?

I despair. I feel let down, although I’m not really surprised. I suppose I’m not really in any different a situation to all those people who saw their futures inside the EU. I’ve got no problem with politicians’ final goal to be outside of the EU, but this whole exercise could all have been done so much better. It’s not unreasonable to start to wonder about Brexit itself, not because it’s a bad idea, just for the inability of the politicians to get the job done.

I realise that this post is something of a rant, but that’s exactly what I feel I need to do right now.