Friday, 3 June 2016
The quiet death of democracy
There have been a number of referendum television events. I have not subjected myself to any of them. I am not in the least bit interested in the opinions of either official campaign. In fact the media has made very little impact on me during this whole campaign. I have tried to remain focussed on the issues and respond mainly to themes as they emerge through the white noise. Certainly the BBC has not been anything like as central as we might have expected.
And to some extent we might even welcome the fact that the leave and remain campaigns are equally shrill and repellent. Because that means we can ignore them both. The dialogue is between real people. You and I. In that, the standard of debate among ordinary people on Facebook as been worlds apart from the media sideshow. And in terms of informed commentary the blogs have left the mainstream media standing. In particular, Sam Hooper, White Wednesday, Lost Leonardo, Ben Kelly and the Leave Alliance bloggers.
In our own way, with a little help from our friends, we have made more of an impact on the intellectual content of the debate than any of the mainstream sources. Sadly though, we are still a force small enough to be ignored. So while we've had the sporadic mentions in the Telegraph and elsewhere we have still be unable to break the debate wide open in ways we had hoped. The debate is still beset by euro-parochialism without any reference to what is happening in the real world. Our entire political discourse lives in a cocoon of its own.
By the end of this month, most likely having lost the referendum, the media machine will have lost interest entirely and will seek to resume its usual fare of reporting bubble gossip, reading runes and charting the leadership prospects of personalities within the bubble.
They will have succeeded in fending of a serious threat to their business as usual. Interest in the blogs will fade and certainly this blogger will have to resume life in the real world. We will go back to watching clueless politicians flailing around on Question Time, pontificating on issues about which they know nothing - and we will watch and listen with incredulity and impotence.
Having failed to break the political deadlock the referendum will be used as an excuse to ignore the dissent and resentment bubbling under the surface. They will be free to do as they please as though a remain vote was a mandate. The cycle of introverted navel gazing will continue among our political class while the vitality of the media continues to drain away and journalism slides into the abyss.
And having surrendered the substance of government we shall see a further abdication from grown up decision making. We will have lost any kind of effective early warning system by way of having totally dysfunctional politics and we will be forever be on the backfoot, responding ineptly to crisis after crisis without the means to defend ourselves and lacking the political intelligence to formulate policy.
In that regard, one might have some sympathy with the remainer view that Britain does not have the capacity for self-governance. We have already squandered much of it. And if that be so, and the verdict from this referendum is that we should simply surrender and fade into obscurity, travesty though that will be, then this really is the end of Britain as an independent nation.
I suppose that's fine for those who do not care about politics. I suppose that's fine for those who do not wish to participate. I suppose that is fine for those who would rather not trouble themselves with events in the world that adults inhabit. But as much as it marks the death of British politics it will mark the beginning of a cultural decline where we no longer own decisions made in our name. We may protest, we may shout, we may complain but that is the fullest extent of how we make ourselves heard. And nobody will be listening.
This, dear readers, is why this referendum is a landmark event. There is a fork in the road. One road leads to a reboot; a collective reorganisation of everything to reshape our country to meet the challenges of the future. The other road leads to subordination, irrelevance and the quiet death of democracy.
In this, should we choose to remain, I don't expect to see a big implosion. Just a very gradual crisis of competence. Things will break down without anybody quite knowing why - or even noticing that they are broken. Taxes will go up, prices will go up, the number and quality of services will decline. We will find ourselves paying for that which we assume we have already paid.
Corporates and government will do as they please to us as they will have figured out that all of the power is theirs and we won't resist. We won't rock the boat. We won't risk anything radical. We will do anything to preserve the status quo and not let anything difficult intrude on our lives. Obedience is always the path of least resistance.
In that, you will be free in your gilded cage. Free so long as you live within the margins and pay your bills on time. If you make a stand individually you will be picked off. The whole weight of the system will come crashing down on you. You will have no democratic recourse. No day in court. No defence. No justice.
When that day comes, in the not so distant future, you will wonder where all those EU protected rights come in. You will find them as worthless as the paper they are printed on. And that's exactly what we'll deserve. There will be a price for turning our backs on democracy - and pay for it we will.