STILL GOING: Member of European Parliament Nigel Farage speaks at a pro-Brexit, Leave Means Leave rally at Central Hall in London, Thursday, January 17, 2019.
STILL GOING: Member of European Parliament Nigel Farage speaks at a pro-Brexit, Leave Means Leave rally at Central Hall in London, Thursday, January 17, 2019. Kirsty O'Connor

Dishonest politics a threat to democracy

WITH so many of us being of British/Gaelic heritage, it's hard not to be concerned about the debacle being played out in the House of Commons. Even if one doesn't have such ancestry or have family or friends there, it provides a working model of how the political process shouldn't function - if what we are witnessing can be termed "functioning”.

Britain leaving the European Union was never going to be a simple process. But negotiating a deal acceptable by both sides has not been helped by elements who refused to accept compromises. Perhaps emboldened by cues given by Trump's approach to negotiation, they foolishly believe that Britain should have come to the table expecting the rest of Europe to buckle.

The English were perhaps displaying an arrogance best left to a past era; when they had the strength of Empire. The likes of Jacob Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson hold fervently to a delusion that they can bully the EU into submission. These two MPs (along with ex-UKIP leader, Nigel Farage) in particular were at the forefront of the Leave Campaign. And to the regret of the image of politicians everywhere, they were not averse to spreading mischief and falsehoods.

As University of Liverpool's expert on European Law, Professor Michael Dougan has described the Leave Campaign as "one of the most dishonest political campaigns the UK has ever seen”. With their arguments about constitutional law being easily debunked as false.

It is unfortunate that like Australia, some British politicians are equally resistant to any moves to make their trade subject to the Trade Practices Act (or equivalent), in terms of proliferating false advertising.

Like Australia's Labor Party's Mediscare campaign in 2016, certain English politicians targeted the fears and misconceptions of a chunk of the general electorate. A lie based on people's deep prejudices are easy material to use. It becomes almost impossible for the facts to effectively combat such propaganda.

Just as Labor homed in on some people's misguided fears that the Coalition was out to dismantle Medicare, the Leave representatives played on people's fears about uncontrolled immigration, loss of control of their own laws and targeting particular nationalities as the source of all their woes.

Sound familiar?

The Brexit referendum exposed deep rifts in UK society. In a land where voting is not compulsory, 72 per cent of eligible voters turned out on a weekday to cast their vote on to either Leave or Remain in the EU. The largest turnout for such a vote in UK history, perhaps but just how significant a factor is that when Leave was only successful by 51.89 per cent to 48.11 per cent was the point that just over a quarter of eligible voters chose not to vote at all? Would a compulsory vote have delivered a different result?

It's clear that the Brexit divide is a widening gap as the damage of this debacle continues. The greater metropolitan area of London voted to Remain by roughly the same margin as regional England and Wales voted to Leave. That exposes a difference in the attitudes of the city vs the counties. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted resoundingly to Remain; in Scotland's case by 62 per cent to 38 per cent.

A Hard or No Deal Brexit could potentially cause ruptions between London and Edinburgh and Belfast. With the threat of a hard border between the Irish Republic and that bit that England still claims to be theirs, one wonders if that would be a catalyst to the re-opening of old wounds. Scottish leaders have also made no secret of the fact that if Brexit results in economic pain for Scotland, then a second independence vote is back on. (I must confess that, as a descendant of Clan Macgregor, that option is an extremely attractive one.)

The likes of Farage, Johnson and Rees Mogg have obviously given little consideration to the economic damage their undermining of PM May's negotiated deal with Europe will cause. It was the best and only deal possible. Britain was in no position to demand more. Perhaps, like their Australian counterparts, being wreckers is solely aimed at cementing their own power bases rather than having any real concern for the nation as a whole.

And to what end? For all of their anti-EU rhetoric about British industry being destroyed by European regulations and free trade, how do they explain why so many small businesspeople have been moving their businesses to the continent of late? Unpatriotic maybe. But patriotism never put food in your children's mouths.

Perhaps the greatest irony of all is the Leavers' rhetoric about unfettered immigration due to Britain having to abide by EU laws.

With so many Brits openly considering immigrating ahead of an economic catastrophe, one can only mock the Leave leaders on that argument.

But with the threat of many Englishmen leaving the Old Dart for better climes, it sounds a warning for us here in Australia. Remember. The last time we had a flood of economic refugee Poms, they included Tony Abbott.

Gympie Times


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