One of the big objections to a People’s Vote is that it would make things worse. Too late, Steve Bullock explains.
One of the big objections to a People’s Vote is that it would be “a full assault on every institution of political stability with added venom for foreigners.”
That’s what Brexit is now.
The quote below was from Robert Shrimsley (Editorial director and UK political commentator at the Financial Times), and was used by David Allen Green in his article in the Mirror, “5 reasons a second Brexit referendum can’t happen - despite huge People’s Vote march”, earlier this week.
It is a serious concern, and has to be taken very seriously. Anyone who thinks it cannot get any worse than it now is is, of course, hopelessly naive.
My contention though is that Brexit:
a) has already been a full assault on every institution of political stability;
b) has been conducted with, promoted, and for many made acceptable, appalling venom for foreigners; and
c) has been continuing with, it embeds and reinforces a) and b).
A full assault on every institution of political stability.
Parliament, the Civil Service, the Judiciary, devolved Governments and settlements, constitutional conventions, Cabinet government, electoral law, common honesty and decency have been undermined, trashed, and assaulted.
This has not been done by a few extremists, but, in some cases, by the Government, its ministers and its MPs. In other cases it has been done by a tame Government-supporting press, with little-to-no condemnation by the Government.
Under a constitution such as ours, which evolves with comparatively few checks, continuing on this path embeds this as the new reality.
It embeds doubts sown about institutions into public consciousness. It embeds the ignoring of conventions as the new norm. It embeds avoiding Parliament as a legitimate method for governments, and collective responsibility as purely optional.
And the same goes for the appalling venom for foreigners that this has all unleashed. The dreadful, sustained, volume of abuse and threats Professor Tanja Bueltmann gets has been, effectively, officially sanctioned by a racist Leave.eu campaign, and a Government playing to people’s worst instincts.
This was not new of course. The populist Hostile Environment has been official Government policy for years. Foreigners have been treated, officially, like shit in the UK before Brexit.
What the 2016 referendum campaign, and the Government’s subsequent demonisation of Freedom of Movement, use of the The3Million as bargaining chips, and othering of anything and anyone not deemed British enough by them, has done is to make it, for many, publicly acceptable.
Will it ever stop?
This will not stop once Brexit is over. On the contrary, with the effects of Brexit inevitably hurting, scapegoating will be even more attractive and effective.
It’s naive to think that stopping Brexit would put the racist/xenophobic genie back in the bottle. It won’t. It also won’t fix the broken institutions of the UK, or fix the issues that led many to vote for it in 2016.
What it will do though is to give at least some sort of opportunity to do that, if there are politicians and activists strong enough and committed enough to do so.
Continue on this path though, and that opportunity vanishes. Continuing tells everyone that undermining institutions, cheating, lying, winning at all costs, scapegoating and demonising is how you win now. That is the system we have.
It says that those that cannot or will not do that are losers, and deservedly so. “They’re weak. They lost. We’re in charge now, and we can do what the hell we want to whoever we want.” And trust me, they will.
We are in a deep hole right now. We can keep digging, even as we watch it fill with water and the sides start to fall in, or we can stop and consider whether this hole idea was so great. The problems might not get fixed, but they certainly won’t be from the bottom of it.🔷
P.S. Sorry to Professor Tanja Bueltmann for hijacking her Twitter post. It was what prompted this piece though.
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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s conscent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)