A namesake, fellow engineer, and former colleague/boss from my pre-expat days makes a welcome return to my comments section with this observation:
The brexit aftermath has been a clusterfuck of the highest order
I couldn’t have put it better myself!
I get asked a few questions about Brexit by overseas folk. One of the common ones Europeans ask is “Why were they allowed to have a vote? Ordinary people can’t make these sorts of decisions!” Which is as compelling an argument for divorcing ourselves from Europeans as any I’ve seen put forward to date. The answer, of course, is UKIP realised a lot of British people didn’t like being part of the EU (for whatever reason) and demanded a referendum. The Tories, fearing they might lose seats otherwise, acquiesced to UKIP’s demand in their manifesto leading up to the 2015 General Election. In other words, the people were denied a vote for decades and eventually got one when politicians thought they might lose their seats over the issue. It’s the same reason why unemployment is so high in France: their population demands it. Democracy in action!
I also get asked why Nigel Farage was “allowed” to resign and walk away from “this whole mess he created”. Foreigners have this odd perception that being on the winning side of a referendum campaign entitles you to run the country. Supposing I campaigned for an airport to be built on Skomer Island because I thought it was vital to Britain’s economy and long-term national interest. I launched a website, whipped up local support, went on TV, and generated enough support that people were considering putting themselves forward for election on this single issue in Conservative safe seats, and the incumbents were worried. A lot of people, it seems, really wanted this airport on Skomer. Eventually the Conservative government, who were heading into a tricky General Election, decided it might be prudent to adopt this odd policy and put it to a popular vote, as is the custom with new airports on Skomer. They did, the Conservatives won the election, and a referendum was held. We won. After twenty years of non-stop campaigning, I find my lifelong ambition has been achieved: Skomer will get its airport. Now I can sit back and let the government’s Department of Airport Construction get on with building it. I can’t wait to take a flight out of there and buy a toy puffin in duty free. Except the next morning there’s a knock on the door. There’s a mob outside, and they’re angry.
“Oy!,” they say. “Why are you still in your pajamas? You need to get cracking on that airport!”
“Eh?” I reply.
“”C’mon!” they say. “It was your idea! So we need to know where the runway will go, how many passengers we can expect in the first few years, how much concrete is needed for the terminal building, where the batch plant will go, what potted plants go in the departure lounge! There’s a lot to do, sunshine.”
“But what about the government’s Department of Airport Construction?” I ask. “What are they doing? What did they do when Gatwick got built?”
“Oh, they never wanted this airport in the first place, so they’ve decided not to get involved. Yeah, that’s the way it works apparently. So, about that access road, my friend has a pub nearby and he’s worried that…”
You get the point. Nigel Farage was not permitted to assume the role of government of the United Kingdom because he lead a successful campaign for Brexit. This simply isn’t how Britain works. The elected government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, is responsible for running the country and they were responsible for implementing the outcome of this referendum – not Nigel Farage or anyone else.
David Cameron must take the lion’s share of the blame for this. He ought to have put in place a plan of action in the event of a Leave vote winning. I fully understand that he didn’t want to be Prime Minister in such an eventuality, but his resignation ought to have formed part of this plan. This should all have been thrashed out by the Conservatives and possibly even put to the public before the vote. Instead, our political classes assumed the Remain vote would win and everything would carry on as before. Only things didn’t go according to plan and they got caught with their pants down. Cameron – who was the man responsible for running the country regardless of the result – just threw his hands in the air and walked away. He makes the captain of the Costa Concordia look like Chesty Puller.
Since that moment it has been a complete mess. The Tories are making an utter hash of the whole thing because they have been caught totally unprepared. You can blame Farage and those who voted to leave all you like, but the Tories are the ones who put themselves forward to run the damned country – and that includes managing every eventuality, not just the ones they like (such as telling us how much sugar we should be putting in desserts). The Remainers are all over social media lamenting that Labour is in such disarray and the country needs a competent opposition. Oh yeah? What would Labour do? Simply repeat the complaints of the losing 48% in the hope that things will improve? Or would they just ignore the wishes of the winning 52% and dismiss them as racist thickos? In other words, do exactly what they did when in power for 13 years. Yeah, that’ll work.
The problem is the political classes are useless. This is the reason why Brexit is a clusterfuck, because our current crop of politicians – from any party – would make a clusterfuck out of just about anything. They couldn’t empty water from a welly boot if the instructions were written on the bottom.
Take a look at the mess that is the British railway system. I have neither the knowledge to comment authoritatively on this nor the desire to acquire it, but it went from an awful state-run British Rail to an awful mess of private and quasi-private operators who seemed to be caught in a veritable thicket of regulations and bizarre incentives which has resulted in misery for the travelling public but doesn’t prevent the company executives from doing very nicely out of it. And the taxpayer is still footing the bill. The Lefties in Britain who get misty-eyed when thinking about giant factories belching smoke and producing substandard goods in grim towns oop narth think this is evidence that the railways should never have been privatised. In other words, because the political classes have screwed something up we ought to leave it in the safe hands of the political classes. Uh-huh.
The scenario where doing something sensible (e.g. getting rid of British Rail) and demanding it is done it competently seems as alien to British minds as a house without a minuscule patch of rough concrete they call a “garden”. Which is why, despite my free-market ideology, I think privatising the NHS would be an absolute disaster. It would be exactly the same as the railways: a cosy stitch-up between politicians, civil servants, and private “service providers” where conflicts of interest and back-handers abound and the result is a conspiracy against the public who will see worse outcomes and bigger bills.
That politicians have demonstrated time and again that they make a clusterfuck out of everything they touch is a strong argument in favour of severely limiting their remit. The political process is simply not a good instrument for handling more than a select few issues, and there are an awful lot more that it is manifestly unsuitable for. Yet the supposedly cleverest people in our society – the self-declared experts – think that expanding the remit of politicians and continuing in a supra-national, continent-wide political regime that determines power limits for our kettles is a good idea.
I have another plan. Start hanging politicians at random and when the screaming reaches a crescendo tell them the fun’s over and their remit’s been reduced. They can start by keeping the streets clean and the bins empty and we’ll see how they’re doing after a couple of months and take it from there.