A result of a flawed process

'˜I think, therefore (I know that) I am', partly wrong.

Saturday, 19th November 2016, 12:00 pm

After the justifiable anger expressed in both our EU referendum and the United States, I seek help on ‘where next?’

My present wish is a new UK, united within a developing EU and an open fairer world.

Given that I’m a (Liberal) Democrat, how do I square that with these two ‘popular’ votes? And why would I want to?

I invite readers to consider my thinking and even try to change it, but with more than angry slogans like ‘sour grapes’ and ‘remoaner’.

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I ask three questions, replying with space-limited pointers.

1. How did we get to the EU vote?

For decades people increasingly became frustrated at rapid change with decreasing public benefit. They were getting an ever poorer personal deal, while a few got undeservedly richer. They felt angry, unable to change things.

Hence the various protest votes over the years – NF, BNP, Green, Lib Dem, UKIP, SNP, Corbyn-mania. Now even Trump.

The ‘system’ paid little attention and the rich got richer, the social offer got poorer, and more people lived in poor and insecure jobs and housing.

Then the EU referendum was called, but for party advantage, and with important sections of the public, especially the young, refused a vote.

Both campaigns were seemingly run by ‘the right’ and to a limited agenda. They played not on hope, but on blame, anger and fear. They failed to offer credible solutions to the causes of that anger and fear.

An angry country protested again. It split nationally and into three, roughly same-sized groups – 37 per cent Leave, 35 per cent Remain, 28 per cent Abstain.

Farage had said he would demand a second referendum if he lost on those figures.

2. Where has it left us?

The main dangers and blandishments trumpeted by the ‘winning’ campaigners then instantly disappeared. Despite Iraq lessons, neither side had prepared for afterwards.

It now seems probable that, even in the campaigners’ narrow economic terms, we will pay an increasing price for years.

The emerging non-economic price includes increased violence and racism; a trashed reputation for fairness, tolerance, reliability, common sense and stable democracy; lost friends; UK break-up; gloating Putin, etc.

But the new Prime Minister, so suddenly forced upon us, insists that this flawed process and damaging vote oblige her to fulfil “the will of the people” along lines which 63 per cent did not support.

3. Can/should we reject the vote?

Parliament now has to accept or reject the advice from the referendum. Parliament should reject it (reasons above).

Either way, the first job of the ‘system’ is to tackle the major issues in which it has failed so many people for so long and caused the anger reflected in referendum votes.

These include: immigration (mishandled by the UK, not the EU); the low wage, low skill economy; the associated greedy and short-term business culture; growing inequality in income and wealth; the constant reduction of the social offer; review the way we govern ourselves, our party political system and the methods of some media and politicians; sort housing and its costs; recognise the potential of the EU and help it to learn from this referendum experience to rectify its faults, many aggravated by the UK’s decades of semi-detachment.

Over the years I have become ashamed of aspects of my country and its under-performance. We – the public, media, big business, politicians, etc – cocked it.

We now have a chance to restore a proper pride and do better, not for us but for our children and grandchildren.

Peter Watts

Scott’s Place