Brexit At Tiffany’s — The Full English And Sham Democracy
Miranda Husain looks at the manipulation and shoddy handling of Brexit and terms it a psychotic circus and pathological deflection by the British leadership.
The third time was supposed to be a charm. But alas and alack, Theresa May has enjoyed no such luck. After all, the speaker of the House put paid to such pretensions. Indeed, truth be told, the Prime Minister is rather sick and tired of the Brexit debacle of her own party’s making. For just as she should be readying to bask in the glory of a premiership legacy signed, sealed and delivered on March 29 — she must now muster the necessary gumption to keep calm and carry on. Even if this means playing hardball with both Westminster and Brussels once more.
That Britain will not be leaving the EU in a dignified and orderly manner according to a mutually agreed schedule — on the cards for some two years — isn’t reason enough to call for rich tea and sympathy. Even the PM would do well to recognise this. Not least because ongoing squabbles over extension deadlines represent little more than paperwork tedium. The real urgency rests not only in exposing the hubris of the country’s ruling political elite but also in holding them to account. To fail on both fronts will be too near to home. Too close to the bone. And as a wise man once sang: that joke isn’t funny anymore.
The Conservatives’ Problem with Europe
Euroscepticism has always been close to the Conservatives’ heart. Even if a buoyantly boyish David Cameron chose to disregard this with contrived devil-may-care nonchalance. Clutching at the reins back in 2010 with the insistence that he alone would be the one Tory leader not to be outwitted by that wily old fox: Europe. As if all that rugby really did put hairs on the chest. Of course, this was insufficient to quieten backbenchers across the great divide. And just one year into the job saw him confronted with the arrogance of his own youth: mounting pressure to hold a referendum on EU membership. There was no glossing over the damning numbers game. Of the 111 MPs who supported such a move, 81 came from within his own party ranks. Thereby prompting the BBC to not unreasonably term it the biggest rebellion on this particular question in Tory history.
Focused on maintaining his fragile hold on power as part of a coalition set-up, Cameron and his cohorts soon began viewing Brexit as a means of appeasing in-house insurrection. Not to mention the added bonus of keeping the Ukip wolf from the door. Thus the issue of an in-out referendum combined with pledges to reform immigration were reduced to electoral swagger rather than fully fleshed out policy directives; dependent upon a return to power. It was a gamble that would backfire. Spectacularly so.
The psychotic circus
Since then there has been no recanting. The show, everyone and their cat have been told, must go on. Regardless of whether or not the stalls are empty. For at stake is the will of the British people. Of course, had that really been the case, informed debate would have been the priority. Especially at some point over the 1,000 days since the vote; exposing the propaganda and untruths that tainted the entire mechanism of so-called self-determination. Yet in its place has been a psychotic circus of sorts. Where the elephant in the room continues to be not democratic process but pathological deflection. From the moment that Cameron pouted before the cameras while announcing his resignation — the essence of Brexit and all its ramifications has been sidelined.
From the diversion of the leadership race that also conveniently overshadowed the findings of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war of aggression. To a PM, having gone for gold, promptly busying herself not with overseeing the fine mess that her predecessor had landed her in but, rather, securing her own mandate. Meaning an expensive snap general election. The fallout of which was a reduced majority and leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn winning the people’s vote; thereby silencing dissenting Labour members who had declared him unfit to be party head. Thus spotlighting internal politics over responsible negotiations with the EU.
Forget a second referendum, it’s all about manipulation
The Tory leadership has remained petulant in refusing to consider a second referendum. Though not averse to trying to manipulate Parliament and the elected representatives of the citizenry. For months, May’s club classic disco remix “this is the only deal on the table” blared on repeat from ghetto blasters across the land. But when it became apparent that the final vote on her Brexit dossier would be defeated in the House of Commons — including at the hands of around 100 of her own MPs — she simply rescheduled. Albeit with little effect. At the beginning of the year, this was quashed by an historic 230 votes; the largest legislative defeat ever suffered by a sitting head of British government.
As things currently stand, the EU has been bulldozed into green-lighting a three-three-week extension of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty; falling far short of May’s anticipated three-month deadline. Nevertheless, the guarantee of plain sailing henceforth is anything but.
Brexit must win the backing of British lawmakers. Thus a new ballot is scheduled for this next week; talk of the PM getting cold feet notwithstanding. Failure in this regard will see the country crashing out of the Union without any deal in place. Or else return to Brussels; begging for more time to put forward a ‘new’ strategy including a soft Brexit or that hitherto elusive second referendum. Though both would introduce additional complications linked to European parliamentary elections. Cancelling withdrawal may be the only way out of this impasse. Indeed, more than five million Brits that have signed a petition towards this end; with one million taking to the streets demanding the same. All of which likely signals May Day for the premier who, in any given scenario, would unlikely stay on until the bitter end. Possibly posing reason enough to suggest still more set-backs. Bets are already being placed on the most likely pretender to the throne.
British democracy derailed
The upshot being that not only has Britain witnessed the active derailing of democracy — it has also scuppered any chance of talking about reforming EU institutions as well as the way in which certain power centres have been able to employ bully-boy tactics against weaker member states; such as in the case of the 2010 Greek bailout package. This is to say nothing of the need for Europe to revisit its colonial past or, indeed, its role in American-led NATO military adventurism across the Muslim world that has displaced millions. Instead, the soon-to-be 27-member bloc now appears more dedicated to Blighty’s democracy than the Tories themselves.
It’s hard to see how Mrs May can prolong this Brexit farce. Larry the cat — Downing Street’s Chief Mouser to the cabinet — has already seen off one centre-right premier. Slamming the door on a second would be no biggie. Especially if he has been listening to Cassetteboy’s Cameron Conference Rap which reminds every man, woman and furpot that “the last thing this country needs is us, the Conservatives. Worse than the alternative”.
Miranda Husain is a senior journalist and has worked as Deputy Managing Editor at Daily Times, Features Editor at The Friday Times (TFT) and Deputy Editor at Newsweek Pakistan. She writes on local and international politics; race and identity; and cats! She can be reached at [email protected] and tweets @humeiwei