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“There used to be a functioning democracy over there….”


When European excellence was something to relish and enjoy...

When European excellence was something to relish and enjoy…

Legend has it that Keith Burkinshaw – Manager of Spurs from 1976-84 – (at the minimum) assented to the sentiment “there used to be a football club over there” as he left White Hart Lane after a disagreement with the Board having just won his second UEFA Cup trophy. Whether he did or not, there is no question that UK representative democracy as we have known it and as it has evolved in, say, the century since the end of WW1, is now effectively over.

A country that gives ABSOLUTE precedence for an extended period to vague preferences 17M voters (26% of the population) articulated in June 2016 in response to an illegal, lies and hate-based campaign, supported by a foreign power – regardless of the considerable negative consequences for the rest of the nation (48M+) and against the best interests of the majority of the 17M – is many things. But none of them are positive and NONE of them are democratic.

A Prime Minister who ploughs on creating ‘hostile environments’ – with our closest neighbours, our devolved nations, our immigrant and any non-little-Englander communities, and who can only command the confidence of 200 of her party’s MPs in a leadership motion is also many things. But none of them are positive and NONE of them are democratic.

A Leader of the Opposition, elected on a listening to party members platform, who then ignores those members’ overwhelming preferences; professing commitment to disadvantaged communities but then ensuring those communities will become even more disadvantaged; and who cannot muster a winning coalition when the ruling PM only has the confidence of 200 MPs (or 1/3 of the House of Commons) is many things. But none of them are positive and NONE of them are democratic.

In +/-100 days these highly negative, totally undemocratic features of the UK reach their disgraceful and self-destructive culmination – as the two-year Article 50 period expires and the UK leaves the EU.

Now no one, and certainly not I, has ever claimed that UK democracy was perfect or even particularly admirable. No one, and certainly not I, has ever claimed the EU was perfect – but with reforms I can certainly argue it could be admirable.

But UK democracy, until Cameron started messing around with party-political-motivated referenda and May determined that ‘hostile environments’ will be her calling card and enduring legacy, was infinitely better than what the UK will become on March 29th2019.

It gives me no satisfaction that the pervasive narrative of this blog has called the terminal decline of (UK representative) democracy right since well before the ‘Leave’ and non-dom media campaigns’ criminal conspiracies to buy the EU referendum. Similarly, there is no real pleasure that, on the balance of probabilities, my 2014 forecasts of “the most probable Cameron/Clegg legacy – break-up of the UK, detachment from the civilising influence of ‘Europe’, and supremacy of a nasty, intolerant, ‘little Englander’ parochialism” will lead Northern Ireland and Scotland to follow Gibraltar out of the UK family at some stage in the 2020s.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and even Gibraltar will at least have a chance at re-finding democracy and building progressive, tolerant stories of their own. A progressive, tolerant England (and Wales) is much more problematic and unlikely.

One only ever expected hostile environments from May and UKIP-leaning Tories. I must admit I never expected Labour to live with Corbyn’s gross betrayal – could a neo-lib sleeper have done any worse?

In a professional career of over 35 years, I have seen many highs and, of course, some lows. I was always frustrated that even the peaks were in some ways diminished by the limitations of the political contexts and systems in which they were delivered. But the frustrations of the eighties, nineties, noughties, and up to 23rd June 2016 were nothing compared to the UKs political context and systems now and into the 2020s.

Heh – back then, for all its faults, there used to be a functioning democracy over there….!

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