The Politics We Deserve?

Well tonight is a fucking disaster. Even if the reality is lower than the exit poll, it looks like it’s going to be a landslide for the Tories. We’ll get a hard Brexit starting in a month and a half (and taking years and years before it “gets done,” of course). We’ll see more privatisation in the NHS. We’ll see more austerity, I don’t doubt, despite the spending pledges that might have been in the Tory manifesto. And we’ll see moves to restrict what parliament and the courts can do to protect ordinary people.

Our best hope is that Johnson is incompetent, and that’s not something we should have to rely on.

What is wrong with this country? Why do people continue to vote against not just the interests of the most vulnerable in society, but against their own self interest?

On Twitter a lot of people are blaming Corbyn, and I think they’re right. I said just the other day that I didn’t understand the dislike; but a thread by @RussInCheshire has helped to clarify my thinking. This regards not so much why people generally dislike him, but why he was ineffectual or worse as a leader. The key points:

People will say “the media is biased”. Yes. But that’s the environment Labour leaders always operate in. Complaining about it is like trawler captains complaining the sea is wet. Yep. Learn to thrive in those conditions, or get off the boat.

People will say “they treated him worse than any previous leader”. They did. Cos he was shit at working the press, had a history of opinions that could be easily made to look awful, was inept on antisemitism, shifty on Brexit and cantankerous on TV.

People will say “no way is he racist”. Perhaps. But if people accused me of antisemitism, I’d be able to clearly defend myself, demonstrate my credentials, and put in place a strategy to stop accusations. He couldn’t. If he’s not antisemitic, he’s inept.

People will say “voters love him in person”. I’m sure. But we’ve been in the age of broadcasting for 80 years. What the hell use is being warm and cuddly to 600 people in a field, when you come over badly to 60 million people on TV?

The thread starts here, but it might be easier to read here, as expanded by the Threader App.

I still don’t understand — I never will — people who switch from Labour all the way to Conservative. They just vox-popped someone on the telly who used to vote Labour, but “couldn’t, in conscience,” vote for them with Corbyn as leader. Fair enough. But she voted Tory. Why go all the way over to the party that diametrically opposes the values she claims to support, when there are other progressive parties, that support some of those values. The party she voted for opposes those values.

Baffling. Utterly baffling.

Partners

An ‘Equal Civil Partnerships’ badge
Equal Civil Partnerships badge

We went to Parliament Square this morning for the passing into law of Equal Civil Partnerships (the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registrations etc) bill — or now, act — to give it its full name).

It has taken a long time, but different-sex couples can now have a civil partnership if they want to. Or will be able to, later this year or early next, once all the paperwork has been processed.

It’s not the biggest issue in the world — it wasn’t even the most important thing happening in Parliament Square this morning (those kids were noisy, and rightly so) — but it means a lot to us. Those of us who have problems with traditional marriage. Which just means that it isn’t right for us; it’s up to everyone else what’s right for them.

Rebecca Steinfeld & Charles Keidan
Rebecca & Charles Addressing the crowd

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who took the case to the court, and ultimately the Supreme Court, were there, as was Tim Loughton, the Liberal Democrat MP whose private members bill it was. The government supported it, which is why it was able to get through; but of course they had to do something once the Supreme Court had told them that the existing situation was unlawful.

Tim Loughton MP
Tim Loughton MP addressing the crowd

The stupid thing is that all the time and money and stress could have been saved if civil partnerships had included mixed-sex couples in the first place. I was sure I’d had this thought back when they were introduced for same-sex couples. I thought I had written about it here. Not much, it turns out. There was a post expressing disappointment with a setback at the Supreme Court before the final decision.

But there was this post about Tony Blair’s legacy, where I said in an aside, “though why not for het couples?”

I took a few pictures. Did you know there’s a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square? I didn’t. Seems rather strange, but why not, I suppose.

Statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square
Statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square

After a week of Brexit insanity and a on a day of horror in New Zealand, it’s good to have some positive news.

Beginning of the End

A total of 47 Labour MPs voted against the Brexit bill, joining 50 SNP MPs and seven Liberal Democrats. Just one Conservative MP, Ken Clarke, joined them in the division lobbies, to applause from Labour rebels.

A fifth of Labour MPs defy three line whip to vote against article 50 bill | Politics | The Guardian

Well done to all the rebels. But really, Tories: only one? Only Ken Clarke? Is that really you doing your duty, acting in the best interests of the country?

We’re living through the death of representative democracy.

Democracy, Representation, and the Will of the People

Further to my letter to Diane Abbot, I saw her last night on Question Time. Disappointingly she was trotting out the line that, irrespective of what they believe, MPs are now tied down by the “democratic will of the people.”

That is utter nonsense.

Did the Referendum Give a Democratic Mandate?

The referendum, as I have said before, did not provide a sufficient
majority to change the country’s constitution. In fact, it did not provide a majority at all: thirty-seven percent of the electorate voted to leave. That is under no circumstances a democratic mandate.

Do MPs Have to Abide by the Referendum’s Result?

The referendum was advisory, not binding. That was very clear in the act of parliament that enabled it, though it wasn’t mentioned at all in the discussions running up to the event itself. The MPs were asleep at the wheel when the bill went through parliament: if they had given it the thought it deserved, they would have made its advisory nature explicit in the wording of the question; and more importantly, they would have set a proper threshold for it to take effect. A two-thirds majority is common in cases like this.1

MPs make up the house of commons, half of parliament, the sovereign body in the UK. Their role is to scrutinise legislation and to vote on it in accordance with what they understand to be the best interests of the country.

No-one can say that Brexit would be in the best interests of the country. (Well, OK, they can say it; but they are demonstrably wrong.) MPs not only can vote against the triggering of Article 50: doing so is their duty.

Why Have Most MPs Switched to Being in Favour of Brexit?

Or at least that’s the way it seems.

I honestly don’t know. I have my theory, though. They are running scared of the tabloid newspapers. And maybe, as one of my friends suggested on Facebook the other day, literally scared for their lives if they were to resist the Brexit onslaught. Remembering the tragedy of Jo Cox, of course.

If the latter is really why they are doing it, then the terrorists have won. And even if it’s only fear of the tabloids, then the tabloid terrorists have won. If I were inclined that way I would call the Daily Mail and Sun traitors to their country for trying to ruin the British economy and damage British society, by forcing us out of the EU and assaulting the European Convention on Human Rights (which, if it needs to be said again and again, was written by Britons and is nothing to do with the EU).

What’s to be done?

Buggered if I know. If our democratically elected representatives won’t do what they’re elected for and act in the best interests of the country, then I can only conclude that we’re fucked.


  1. And to be fair, we, the public, and the media, were equally inattentive to what the bill actually said. []