. Brexit: The UK’s referendum on EU membership delivers a self-inflicted wound | London Progressive Journal
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Brexit: The UK’s referendum on EU membership delivers a self-inflicted wound

Wed 29th Jun 2016

It seems that all those forecasts predicting financial disaster if the UK voted to leave the EU were true after all. Not many people believed them because they came from various financial institutions headed by the Bank of England, and produced in support of the Remain campaign – led by prominent Tory MPs.

Labelled as ‘Project Fear’ by those dishonest optimists pushing the Leave campaign, also headed by prominent Tory MPs, it appears people preferred instead to believe the idle promises, now withdrawn, of all that extra money coming our way if we could stop it going to Europe.

But could any vitally important campaign be credible when both sides were headed by people who had sat on the government front benches in Parliament and next to each other in the Cabinet Room? British politics becomes more arcane by the day, and only understandable when you realise that the whole process was initiated by Cameron (with a very small majority in Parliament) to keep his MPs happy.

London, proudly hailed by almost-ex-Prime Minister David Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne as the ‘financial capitol of the world’, is bleeding money. Banking businesses are preparing to flee to Europe while stocks and shares crash. One of the many small business owners wrote that she had lost orders from Germany and France, representing 75% of her income. She said:

“And for what exactly? What was the point of this? I’m watching the news and it just looks like a spitting image farce to me – full of grotesquely cartoonish politicians grinning while ruining peoples’ livelihoods. To say I’m devastated doesn’t even really begin to cover it.”

RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland that was), bailed out by the government with taxpayers’ money in the financial crash of 2007-08 and still 73 percent owned by the taxpayer, lost £10 billion of its value. £10 billion. That is more than the UK actually pays into the EU each year, the rest of the British money staying at home and paid directly into research, farming and other subsidies.

According to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Project Fear has now become Project Farce, led by the noisiest clown of all, Boris Johnson, the Tories answer to Donald Trump. At least the Scots know where they stand. Voting firmly for Remain, the moment the UK finally divorces itself from the EU, the Scots will be looking at another independence referendum, and this time, winning.

The majority of Northern Ireland also wants to stay with Europe. Will that break away too, or will we have border disputes with Eire and return to the bloody troubles of the 1970s, stirred up mostly by those who want to both stay with the UK and leave the EU?

The whole campaign, from both sides, has been built on dishonesty. And both sides only addressed two things – money and immigration. Unless one was willing to research the figures we were given, and most were not, decisions were left to propaganda.

In a country of over 65 million people just 26% decided our fate. That’s without considering the thorny issue of postal voting. Of the 1.2 million British-born people living in other European countries, many complained they did not get their ballot paper in time, some claiming their papers had arrived on the morning of the referendum.

The EU Referendum results: 17,410,742 (51.9%) voted for Leave, 16,141,241 (48.1%) voted for Remain; voter turnout 72%

A country divided indeed – just over half voted to go and just under half to stay, and over a quarter didn’t vote at all. The decision is a non-decision taken on false information and has created arguments where there were none, divisions between communities, friends and neighbours that will go on for years. Everything divided down the middle to satisfy Cameron’s desire to keep his noisy MPs quiet.

Thus we have a divided and possibly ruined country created out of a political party’s internal squabbles; a combination of arrogance and small minds - and a big, big mess.

The figures are revealing. 70 percent of black people voted for Remain. London and other cities wanted to Remain. The young used their heads and wanted In, while the old used their xenophobia and voted Out. Did the old not remember what war with Europe had been like, and be keen to avoid such conflict ever repeating itself? In one small example of how opinion was split, West Dorset, where the main industry is tourism, towns voted Remain and the large rural population voted Leave. Leave won.

The endless speeches, leaflets, posters and news stories the public were subjected to resulted in one horrible thing: it made the xenophobia and racism we had been (mostly quietly) sitting on for years very clear. From the moment the results were known, there have been instances of unabashed racial abuse and intimidation. This is not a country to be proud of.

And now both the Conservative and Labour parties are in turmoil. Conservatives who backed Remain were falling out, while those on the Leave side were looking stunned, had no plan beyond winning the referendum and rapidly downplayed all the promises they made.

And with the Prime Minister resigning there will be a messy leadership election. As there will be for Labour.

What rightwing MPs are doing in the Labour Party is hard to fathom, but they want to resurrect Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’. Since the day Jeremy Corbyn was chosen by many thousands of Labour members and supporters as the leader of the Labour Party they have plotted to unseat him, claiming he is making Labour unelectable in any general election.

News regularly popped up in the media about (usually unnamed) MPs worried about the election prospects of Labour under Corbyn. While they claimed that people were leaving the Party because of him, local Labour groups were reporting a big rise in membership.

They and the media have totally ignored the successes of Labour candidates since he has been leader, culminating in the recent local government elections when, forecast to lose well over 150 seat on councils, Labour lost a mere 11 seats and the Conservatives 49. Labour also gained mayors in London, Bristol and Liverpool. But – he is ‘unelectable’.

And now they claim he was ‘lukewarm’ about the EU and didn’t do enough to get Labour members to vote for Remain. Like many people who wanted to stay with Europe, Corbyn recognises the problems and the desperate need for reform in the EU. Therefore his support would be conditional on working for that reform, something that many pro-EU people agreed with.

But was he truly lukewarm? Did he do the televised big speeches so beloved of the Blairites? No. But he did travel around the country talking to thousands of very ordinary people. The Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell headed a series of public forums with high-profile names, on the economics of the issue. Was any of this fully covered by the media? No.

And did all the Labour members vote to leave the EU? No. Something over 60% of them voted Remain, which compares well with the Conservative membership, two thirds of whom voted Leave.

It seems this constantly troublesome and disloyal bunch of Labour MPs don’t care about the country or their Party. They are now so fixated on getting rid of Corbyn they will happily destroy both. They cannot see that it is they, not Corbyn, who are making the Party unelectable. Rightwing as they are, they will leave what remains of the UK in the destructive hands of the Tories.

If for no other reason than that, they must not be allowed to succeed in ousting Corbyn.

There is also the fact that the results of the Chilcot Inquiry into the invasion of Iraq will be made public very soon and Tony Blair’s lies based on ‘dodgy dossiers’ will be back in the news. Trying to remove Corbyn is, for Blairites, a good way of deflecting any damage their hero might suffer.

Now, having forced Labour MPs to hold a secret vote of no confidence in Corbyn, they will be holding a leadership election. They will try to prevent Corbyn from being on the ballot paper. They may try to restrict the vote to MPs only. They will insist that only Labour Party members can vote and that Party ‘supporters’, who voted in last year’s election, will be barred from voting.

The MPs’ real failing, and Corbyn’s strength, is that he still has the strong support of the Party members and the trade unions. Too many MPs, once elected, ignore the members who got them there. Just as the country is divided over the EU, so Labour is now divided between the Labour Party (the members) and the Parliamentary Labour Party (the MPs).

Will Corbyn retain the leadership? Will the idiocy that is Boris Johnson become Prime Minister? Would we recover from the shame? And will the UK really leave Europe, or will we crawl back, cap in hand, protesting we really didn’t mean it? While we keep stabbing ourselves in the back, calls for unity seem to float away on the wind.

Lesley Docksey © 29/06/16

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