Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Many miscarriages of justice have the same feature. The accused has confessed and the confession evidence is used to convict. What is important, though, is how that confession is obtained. The use of physical duress is one way, but the other is repetitive questioning until the moment the suspect cracks and says they did it just to make it stop. They withdraw the confession the next day, but that, and the hundreds of previous denials, doesn't matter, and they are charged. The one confession is all that counts. This is how May is approaching getting her withdrawal agreement through Parliament.

Parliament and MPs have failed in the past. They should never have voted for the referendum, nor should they have voted for article 50 without a detailed and agreed plan. But the current crisis is not a Parliamentary failure. They have woken up - belatedly. The Speaker has paused the interrogation process. Parliament is holding an overbearing executive to account. The crisis is that the executive refuses to listen or even accept the fact that it has suffered an historic defeat. There is no majority in Parliament for any one form of Brexit. The same applies in the country.

However much they try and blame someone else, the failure is the government's. The failure is the Conservative Party's. The failure is the Prime Minister's.

To negotiate a way through the thicket created by a badly designed, legally non-binding, pre-legislative referendum, with no methods for leaving specified, would have taken intelligence, imagination, flexibility, good judgement, alliance building, listening, and negotiating skills. May has none of them. Instead we have a pretence of strength, that is really cowardice in the face of the bullying of the far right ERG in her own party. I fear that she is neither intellectually or psychologically suitable for the task. This Spiegel piece is damning, but seems to hit the target.

Ultimately, the blame lies with Brexit itself. It's a stupid policy with no consensus to back it. The referendum only gave a weak mandate (a narrow majority of the vote, making Leave the largest minority of the electorate on that one day). Never mind the illegalities or the lies, Leave promised what could never be delivered. A weak mandate to deliver the impossible is why we are here.

Accept that Brexit has failed. Accept that it has gone wrong. There's nothing humiliating about recognising the truth. And remember that suspect under interrogation. Even if Parliament accepts the withdrawal agreement under duress, that acceptance will be withdrawn afterwards. The result will be years and years of wrangling over our future. And as it goes on, the country will become poorer and our international reputation will collapse even more. We are already an international laughing stock, we will then be seen as untrustworthy as we are ludicrous.

I meant to write an analytical post about democracy, I meant to answer my blogger friend Harry Barne's comment a couple of posts ago. Instead, this is just a long scream into the void (or to the handful of people who read this blog). Stop it! Don't mess around with another referendum. Stop it now. Revoke article 50. It's time to begin the task of rebuilding our international relationships, to repair the economic damage, and to reform ourselves - to renew democracy, promote equality, and extend social protection. Let's reject the spivs and demagogues and deal with reality. Let's rethink our relationship with Europe in a sane, considered, and consensual manner. But will we? That's the biggest question of all.

1 comment:

SP said...

Spot on.

I have been most angered by this - “solemn duty” to deliver the referendum result - line.

As MPs, and especially as PM, you have a greater and more “solemn duty” regarding the state of the nation and those you govern.

On the basis of what is know now, simply about the process, let alone future relationships, Brexit is unworkable. As you say there is no dishonour in making this assessment and voting to revoke A50 – frankly the opposite is the case.

Exercise that solemn duty.