Sunday, 29 May 2016
Laugh it up Cohen. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Nick Cohen is getting an easy ride of it in attacking the Leave campaign. Vote Leave and friends have made it exceptionally easy for him which is why he is being so unbearably smug. (no change there then). There's a lot to agree with in that you wouldn't trust our lot with the TV remote. I make no argument in their defence. It makes for a very grim read but alas, there is still a case to argue. In his closing remarks he asks "do you feel that the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Bank of England, IMF, OECD and the hundreds of economists we survey this week are all lying?"
I think they are politically slanted toward the status quo. I think they are exploiting the weakness of Vote Leave to disingenuously cloud the issue. I think they are wilfully ignoring facts they don't like thus lying by omission. And I also think they are wrong because (and I say this in full knowledge of how it sounds) I have examined it from more angles than they have, and have thought about it longer and harder than they have, and I have explored areas they are barely aware of. They are largely ignorant of the political and practical dynamics. Their forecasts are of limited use and only their short term forecasts based on the immediate aftershocks have any real worth. I will argue that til the cows come home.
Cohen then asks "Do you feel that all our allies who are begging us to stay wish to lead us to our ruin?"
This is a shallow question. Firstly who governs us is absolutely none of their business. But there is a consensus groupthink at the top of global politics where they believe their own rhetoric and the rhetoric upon which the EU stands. That drives their calls for Britain to remain. But this is not about what they want. That is why we are having a referendum. I also feel that Brexit threatens to disturb that cosy consensus and it threatens their agenda for the accumulation of power. I think that is a good reason to leave in its own right. Brexit is a message that the power belongs not to them but the people. And that's what this is fundamentally all about.
Cohen asks "Do you feel that Boris Johnson is fit to be prime minister or any kind of minister for that matter?"
Categorically not. I think this campaign has exposed the man as a buffoon and a fraud and I do not think the Tory party would select him. But let us suppose they did, he wouldn't last very long. Brexit will cause a good deal of political turmoil followed by several big rows about who is fit to govern and who is best placed to shape the new Britain. That process will be merciless on frauds like Johnson - which is a seriously good reason to leave I would have thought. We need a clear-out and if it means tolerating a single term of Johnson then I'll put up with it because the alternative is to maintain the existing political decay.
Cohen asks "Do you feel that Scotland won’t leave?"
Public mood has changed in Scotland. The SNP have squandered their credibility and spent their political capital. The oil industry is not the cash cow they assume it is. Re-entry into the EU will not be guaranteed and London will make that clear. Given that the UK will be in a transitional phase it is more than likely that for self-preservation they will let the dust settle first. Should Scotland then want to leave, they would likely join Efta, probably alongside the UK. That is tolerable in the remote scenario that Scotland departs.
Cohen asks "Do you feel that Irish politics won’t darken?"
Interesting question. I don't know. But if it does it proves one thing; that the Northern Ireland question has not been resolved and the peace that exists is one underpinned by a lie. And so if it could fall apart in the wake of Brexit then it can fall apart for any reason. So we must ask if it is right to perpetuate a limbo where nothing is actually settled.
That said, if we remain in the EU, UK politics as a whole will darken, not least because Leavers have been utterly betrayed by a largely crooked and incompetent leave campaign they had no say in. Moreover, with the entire weight of the establishment pressed into supporting the government, there will forever be a question of legitimacy lingering over the result. One thing I know for certain, if we lose this vote, we most certainly will be having another referendum. It is only a matter of time.
Cohen asks "Do you feel that Putin won’t rejoice?"
I don't care either way. Rewind to 2008 and the invasion of Georgia, we saw no decisive EU action. Sarkozy's "triumph" allowed the Russians to call their troops peacekeepers. French mediators caved in and allowed this, thus the stipulated withdrawal of combatants did not apply. Under the ceasefire agreement Moscow could claim - in a strictly legal sense - that Russian troops could stay in Georgia indefinitely. Europe has persistently caved into Russia. The EU has repeatedly shown itself incapable of decisive and robust action - not least in Ukraine and Libya. Britain leaving the EU will reaffirm NATO and the UN as the top table and that will be better for everyone. I will not be basing my vote on what Putin may or may not think.
Cohen asks "Do you feel the Leave gang will find answers in June to the questions it cannot answer in May?"
Quite possibly yes. You see, for starters, the government will not be in a position to tell the lies it is presently telling. Nor will the leavers be spinning to win. Also, the lead leave campaigners will be told in no uncertain terms by civil servants which of their demands are politically impossible. There is enough opposition to them in the House of Commons to prevent any outright suicidal moves.
The majority of MPs oppose Brexit thus, whatever happens, we will have to go forward on the basis of a consensus. Cohen assumes the Brexiteers have total say in what happens afterwards. He is wrong and probably knows full well he is. He has a penchant for intellectual dishonesty. In the end it will be up to all of Westminster to find its way through a robust debate where there will be little time for frauds like Cummings, Elliott and Johnson.
We may even see an early general election in order to sort it out. In that eventuality we will see all of the political alternatives are unpalatable. Corbyn certainly has nothing to offer and we're not going to get much in the way of credible leadership from anywhere. But that is largely a consequence of the political atrophy that our EU membership has caused - where Westminster is rusty in the art of governing.
Reacquainting ourselves with the art of government is a process we will have to go through and a very necessary one - and there is never going to be a convenient time to do it. To stay in the EU is to avoid any kind of far reaching political reform at all. And that is ultimately why the EU is bad for Britain - and it is this above all why we should leave. It won't be pretty, but it will be worth it.
There will be a period of political and economic upheaval and there is no denying that. We will need to reshape our entire government and have detailed and far reaching debates on the shape we want it to take. It will present many opportunities to reform that which has stagnated, and in this we will, for once, see some credible political figures emerging. It will be the ones who come forth with answers who will be in the best position politically.
As much as Brexit will reignite public participation it will be a renaissance of UK politics and a real opportunity to take the power back. All the EU is doing is keeping a lid on a debate that we badly need to have. If we don't have it now then when?
What I do know is that remaining in the EU will resolve nothing. We will not get a reformed relationship with the EU, it won't quell any of the resentment nor will it bury the issue. If we don't have that debate the the political ground will turn sour and we will probably leave the EU in much less amicable and controllable conditions. Or worse. The EU issue is a boil that needs to be lanced and it will continue to fester until we do it.
But by this point, it's looking like Leave has already lost. We have missed the window of opportunity because of Dominic Cummings and Matthew Elliott. And if you think Cohen is unbearably smug now, wait until the gloating comes in June. The europhiles will be in their element rubbing the noses of the plebs in their victory. But it won't last long because then the burden of proof is then upon them.
When we lose in June the remainers must demonstrate that the EU really is the right choice for Britain. They will be challenged to come up with the answers. Fast. They will have to show how we can resolve our many problems while still shackled to the EU. And though Vote Leave's case looks pretty thin right now, it will be the likes of Cohen who stand naked with no answers at all. And that's why we'll be back here again - and we'll wipe that smirk off Cohen's face.