Democracy V Politicians. Who or Which is more stupid?

My wife suggested I sign the petition. I thought about it. Then signed. Reluctantly. Why, given my recent posts and obvious disappointment with the result, the reservations?

The first point to make is that there is no intelligent argument to justify moving the goalposts after the game is over and that, if the Remain side had won by a similar margin and the Leavers had launched a similar attempt to overturn the result (as Farage threatened before the vote), they too would have been met with howls of derision. Hypocrisy isn’t restricted to the other side. That held me back for almost five seconds. Then I remembered that Politics has buggerall to do with Intelligent Argument whereas hypocrisy is it’s bread and butter.

My second objection, however, is the naïve wording of the petition. It demands “a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.”

This hints at what might be a reasonable principle – that for important decisions, nothing less than support from an absolute majority (of the electorate, not just the voters) should be required before anything changes – but still leaves the possibility that the decision could be carried by as little as 45% of the electorate (75% of 60%=45%) which isn’t, philosophically, any more defensible than what has actually happened (37.5% of the Electorate voted to leave).

It’s no surprise, of course, that the political class didn’t even consider the “true majority” question when framing the relevant Referendum law as, were they to concede such a principle for this issue, they might find themselves having to defend their own elections, which have NEVER achieved true majorities. Last year, for example, the present Tory Government achieved power with the support of less than a quarter of the Electorate. But so wedded are they to the need to be able to claim “mandates” on the basis of winning a corrupt electoral game with mediocre participation, that they are obliged to concede that, under similar “first past the post” rules, the Leave camp can now claim a mandate (50% bigger than their own) for our departure from the EU.

It’s not that they don’t understand the need for much more credible levels of democratic support. It’s just that they don’t think such restraints should apply to themselves. They should only apply to lesser mortals, like striking workers, whom the Tories would like to force to require a minimum 40% (electorate) support for any strike action.

In other words, shutting down London’s transport system or the Power Stations, or whatever, is regarded as so potentially disruptive that the workers should not be allowed to do it unless at least 40% of those entitled to vote support the call for (in)action. That, in my view, is actually a perfectly reasonable proposition and I have long been critical of my Trade Union friends for not treading the more democratic path.

But it is hypocrisy (or stupidity) on a truly gargantuan scale to suggest that shutting down the London Underground should require a democratic hurdle higher than shutting down the most important Political, Economic and Social Alliance in British history.

So that condition should have been part of the Referendum bill when it was enacted. And let’s just emphasise how little consideration was given to this aspect of the problem. There isn’t even a MINIMUM participation level specified in the Act. In other words, in principle, if just one person had bothered to turn up and cast their vote, that person could have, legally, at least, decided the referendum. And even that doesn’t plumb the depths of inanity in the legislation. Despite passing a law to enable the Referendum to take place, they deliberately excluded any obligation to obey the result.

Yes that’s right, it’s not even legally binding! (although they clearly don’t dare to hide behind that escape non-clause)

Now, you could argue that this was their backassed way of protecting themselves against the ludicrously low turnout scenario imagined above, but it’s not like they haven’t thought about such things. As you’ll read in that link, in 2011, when they held the referendum on the “Alternative Vote” proposal, it contained the explicit instruction for the Government to act on the result.

And it’s been interesting to hear how vociferously the Petition has already been rubbished by at least one member of the Leave campaign, Charles Walker, chairman of the Tory 1922 committee, who said on the “World this Weekend” (relevant snippet starts at 34 mins 20 seconds)

”That petition is not going to have any chance, whatsoever, no matter how many people sign it, of impacting the result that we heard about on Friday morning” [emphasis added]

Really?

As of 5 minutes ago that petition had gathered just over 3.2 million votes. This is already, by far, the largest ever response to an official Parliamentary Petition, since the scheme was set up a few years back, as a sop to make voters believe they can actually influence the political process WITHOUT something truly democratic like a referendum.  If you sit and refresh the page a few times, you can actually see the total shooting up at the rate of between 50 and 100 signatures per second.

It’s not going to happen, of course, but just suppose that reached a total of 18 million votes in the next few days. On what intellectually coherent basis could any politician argue that it should not be heeded?

Indeed, that’s the basis on which I finally decided to sign it. I would love to see the bastards wriggle to get off that hook! So, if you’re a UK voter and would be similarly entertained by the sight of wriggling politicians, pop along to the petition and add to the pressure.

But the overall conclusion we must reach is that the whole debacle is merely another illustration of how tenuous is the public or political grasp of the true meaning of “Democracy”.  Nothing since the Athenian model, has come close. The political class is fully aware of this and would rather like to keep it that way. Indeed, ironically, one of the biggest objections to edging back in the direction of true Democracy is the derogatory term “Tyranny of the Majority” – particularly in the USA, whose constitution was explicitly designed to AVOID Democracy in favour of Liberty (which they obviously perceived/perceive as natural enemies).

As the United States demonstrates better than most, the consequence of this historical and ongoing Patriarchal and Paternalist dictat, is that we all continue to suffer “Tyranny of the Minority”, which is exactly what Athenian Democracy was explicitly designed to avoid.

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Jo Cox Assassination could tip it for the “Remain” campaign

That’s the nightmare scenario for the “Leave” campaign. And it certainly isn’t helped by headlines like

Death to traitors, freedom for Britain

which is what the killer declared in answer to the Magistrates request for his name.

The decision on Thursday will be made by around 25-30 million citizens subjects for about 25-30 million different reasons. Probably less than one in ten of those reasons will constitute some degree of rational analysis. The rest will be controlled by the Amygdala. Which is not, I need to add, in case I get an accidental visit from the occasional gun totin’ conspiracy theorist  (like the idiots who believe last week’s Orlando massacre was “staged” to provide a pretext for seizing their guns) a newly discovered secret masonic Cabal.

National sporting success has been shown, for example, to dramatically improve the prospects of re-election for the sitting incumbents, but it’s difficult to map that effect onto an issue which isn’t so obviously partisan. So I was ruminating on what proportion of the decision would be controlled by the reptilian emotional control centre at the base of our brains, during the England Wales Euro match on Monday night, about 40 hours before Jo Cox was murdered by a man shouting “Britain First”.

You could feel the emotional shudder running through the entire country when that news came out. Bad enough to have a rising young “political star in the making” cut down, in her prime, on a British street while doing the job she was elected to do, but then to have her murder so nakedly dragged into the fractious political debate was far too hot a potato for the media to handle. And, to be fair, I haven’t seen any obvious attempts by the “Remain” camp to exploit it. Indeed the “serious” political response, on both sides, has been measured and dignified.

So I was a bit surprised to find so many “Leave” campaigners rushing to denounce any such attempts. Their denouncements have been far easier to find than the exploitation they’re obviously “frighted” by. Here’s a classic from the Daily Mail’s pet hater Peter Hitchens

If you scroll down below his forlorn dream that, if we vote to Leave, we’ll somehow get our 1950s version of England back, you’ll find

“I would not dream of exploiting the untimely death of a young mother for political purposes. I am grieved for all those who loved Jo Cox, and are desolated by her death. I extend my sympathy to them.

But I have the strong sense that others do seek to turn this event into propaganda for a cause. It has happened very swiftly. It needs to cease.”

No examples or links to examples, just “stop it!”

I can’t say that there are no such examples, but I certainly went looking and the only ones I could find were from those who had sympathy with the killer, such as this American nazi who actually thought that she put a target on her back or this British neo-nazi pleading that we mustn’t let the KILLER’S SACRIFICE be in vain! That story encapsulates the fear on the “Leave” side with the fantasist’s comparison between the current campaign and the Swedish campaign in 2003:

‘In 2003, Sweden was about to vote out of Europe. On September 11, 2003, three days before the vote, pro-euro Anna Lindh was brutally stabbed to death.

‘Debate was suspended in the media and replaced by eulogies for the politician. The polls reversed and Sweden adopted the euro.’

Not actually true. They rejected the euro but stayed in the EU. But the fear is on display.

And I suspect it will be justified. Things are so close that if it makes just 5% of  “Leavers” switch sides or abstain, and 5% of previously apathetic “Remainers” get off their arses to put in an appearance at the polling station, that would be enough to seal a “Remain” win.

Early indications are that just such a shift is on the cards. The “Leave” camp have been ahead in the polls for the past couple of weeks, producing ever more desperate tactics from the “Remain” campaign. They even dusted off Gordon Brown to see if he could reprise his role as the late game-winning substitute he played in the Scottish referendum. But this poll, taken just 2-3 days after Jo Cox’s death, is the first for some time, to show the pendulum swinging back.

Obviously a “Remain” win would be “what Jo Cox would have wanted” so it might be tempting to suggest that, if we get that result “at least she won’t have died in vain”. But that’s bollocks. If she’d been knocked down and killed pushing her children out of the path of a careless driver, you could argue, then, that she wouldn’t have been killed in vain. But nobody should have to die as the result of someone elses diseased and inflated Amygdala.

Vote “Remain” to Restrain (the Little England Authoritarians)

That’s the only criterion by which I decided which way to vote on June 23rd. As regular readers will be aware, I regard all forms of government as among our most dangerous enemies and in need of serious restraint.  The single most important advantage of our continued EU membership is that it is much more difficult for 27 governments to agree on an evil authoritarian policy than for any lone wolf government. The obligation to achieve consensus is a very effective constraint.

Consider, for example, which regime is more likely to concede threats to our privacy; the British government acting alone, with it’s already legislated criminalisation of password privacy, its already demonstrated craven submission to American demands for information and its naive echoing of childish American demands for cryptographic back doors somehow available only to “good guys” like them; or the EU collective which, in its various forms, is engaged in fairly significant resistance,  to similar American demands, following the demise of the “Safe Harbour” fig leaf.

TTIP is another instance where the EU Consensus requirements are proving a major obstacle to a cosy deal between the bureaucratic elites on both sides of the Atlantic. Can’t see the isolated Brits fighting anywhere near so hard to resist US demands for corporate control of trade legislation (for example). In fact, having left the biggest trading bloc in the world, British politicians will no doubt gladly bend the knee (or the back) to do any deals they can get with the likes of authoritarian China and the USA, just to preserve some kind of economic wellbeing.

But the most obvious area in which the Little Englanders have revealed their wet dream ambitions is the area of Human Rights; specifically those protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. Even some of the Tories campaigning to stay in the EU have declared their intent to divorce the UK from it’s obligations to operate under that convention, for the understandable reason that those laws already constrain our politicians authoritarian tendencies more than they are prepared to concede.

Even if we vote to stay in, it won’t stop the bastards from trying but the likes of Terroresa May will find it extremely difficult, for mundane legal reasons, to implement our withdrawal from that reasonably civilised and protective convention and they will probably be forced to back down. Conversely, if we’re stupid enough to vote to leave, then there will be no serious obstacle to that immediate assault on our rights and the many others to follow.

Concluding in haiku,

So Please Vote Remain
Let the Collective Restrain
It’s just a No-Brain
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