The great Brexit rip off

A draft report from the Electoral Commission is reputed to say that the official leave campaign broke the law during the Brexit referendum campaign. This has of course got those opposed to Brexit all of a flutter, declaring that this nullifies the result and that article 50 can be revoked and all manner of other things. One thing I haven’t seen them calling for is for the vote to be run again. Suddenly a “peoples vote” is off the agenda no need for that just revoke the result and award the referendum to remain.

This is of course only a leaked draft and the final report is likely to be challenged. There are also questions about the Electoral Commission itself, did it do things properly, is it biased and why has it so far not investigated complaints made about the behaviour of the remain campaign? The latter I can see a pragmatic reason for, why investigate the side that lost whatever they did obviously didn’t work after all. There have also been a few previous investigations by the Electoral Commission which found nothing, so this is starting to look a bit like taking multiple bites of the cherry.

However lets put all of that aside and consider a few other things. Since the referendum result Remain have repeatedly told us that despite Government leaflets telling us that the result would be implemented the referendum was only advisory so the Government could ignore the result. Well if that was the case then even if the referendum result is annulled it was only advisory anyway so no reason not to press ahead with Brexit if Parliament thinks that best represents the wishes of the people. If it was only advisory then it doesn’t really matter what the result was as Parliament is free to take whatever action it likes in light of the result. I suspect that Remain wouldn’t be too happy with that.

So what are the alternatives? Well we could revoke article 50 and rerun the referendum with new campaigns and very close monitoring of both sides. Whilst this would be expensive what price democracy? Mind you I suspect it would go down with the EU like a cup of cold vomit, and I doubt it would do the economy an awful lot of good either. Which wouldn’t please remain as they seem far more worried about banks, big business and purely economic factors than the Brexit side. Which is something I’ve always found odd as it wasn’t that long ago that the same people were supporting #Occupy with shout to get rid of the city and big business – but hey ho. Starting over from scratch probably isn’t the best idea then, and Remain clearly won’t be happy with carrying on with leaving the EU on the back of a dubious but purely advisory referendum. Which leaves us with the option that would probably please Remain the most, discard the referendum, withdraw article 50 and tell the EU “oops that was all a terrible mistake,lets pretend it never happened”. I suspect the EU won’t be that keen on that and will probably won’t to inflict a price for such an action so we probably won’t be allowed to go back to what we had before. No “status quo” for a repentant Britain (not that there is such a thing as a status quo in an organisation which has the stated goal of ever closer political union).

Let us though ignore all such trifling details. Let’s assume that Parliament does indeed just say “right you lot cheated, so we’re staying in”, further let’s assume that the EU goes “No problem old chap, lets just pretend the whole thing never happened”. I know this is really unlikely but just humour me as it leads to an interesting question. Ever since the referendum result Remain have been saying that Brexiteers need to compromise to reflect the closeness of the vote, that Brexit should be softened to reflect the will of the people. So unless they’re going to try and claim that the official leave campaigns transgressions were so great that actually the vote wouldn’t have been close at all – what I want to know is what “soft remain” looks like? If we withdraw article 50, and stay in the EU what compromises will Remain make to implement a “soft remain”, to properly reflect the will of the people? Mr Cameron after all tried to engineer a soft remain before the referendum and that didn’t go well, since the referendum the EU hasn’t stood still and has proposed centralised EU taxes and a shared military. We’ve been repeatedly told that is we leave we can’t pick and choose what bits to be part of, that it’s all an all or nothing deal. So if Remain got their wish would they then also abandon the idea of compromise to reflect the close divide in opinion, or just how would the engineer a “soft remain”? I know what my money would be on.

An open letter to Labour supporters

Hi,

I’m afraid it’s time we had a talk. I’ve been concerned about the anti-Semitic elements within and around the Labour party for a while now, but recent events have shown the problem to be much worse than I imagined. I’ve listened to what your party has said about wanting a “kinder gentler politics” and not tolerating bigotry, and yet the more this has been said the worse the problem seems to have got. I’m reminded of some of the things some of you have said about other parties in the past, how that if a party didn’t have a problem with being racist it wouldn’t need to keep saying it’s not racist, and how you can tell a lot about what a party or person things by those they associate with. Now I’ve always felt that a little unfair as you can choose who supports you and people can support politicians and parties for all manner of reasons.

However it’s only fair that I consider you by your own standards and you seem to be attracting the support and company of a lot of very unpleasant people these days. There seems to be something about your party that is attracting people with violent tendencies, that want to oppress free speech, that are racist and well then there’s the anti-Semitism. It’s a bit of a problem isn’t it, and getting worse despite all the promises of action and zero tolerance. Now I’m sure that some of you are going to tell me that other parties are worse, well I’m not talking about them and other people being worse doesn’t make you good. I think given the recent speeches by your own MPs that claiming the problem is being blown out of proportion or is some sort of coordinated smear campaign can’t really hold water either, not given come of the groups Mr Corbyn has been members of. Given all of this and your own standards for other groups I have to say that it looks very much as though you may be supporting an anti-Semitic party with violence tendencies – based on who seems to be attracted to and supporting your party.

Despite all of this I just want to reassure you that I still know that many of you are actually good people. That despite the fact you choose to continue to freely associate with anti-Semites and violent thugs that you probably don’t actually agree with all of their views. Maybe you think that you can reform your party from within, or that it has enough redeeming features that you can hold your nose and ignore the stench. I don’t know, I assume you have your reasons and that most of you aren’t actually bigots with violent tendencies. So I’m not going to demand you de-friend me, I’m not going to socially ostracize you, or shout you down every time you express an opinion. I believe that despite the company you are currently keeping you do actually believe that you are working towards the benefit of your fellows. So lets keeping talking, though I know some of you aren’t actually keen on that, and maybe go for a pint and try to set the world to rights maybe you can explain why you continue to stomach such company in your midst. Please though do take a long hard look at the people you’re consorting with as the stench is getting really rather bad and it’s getting harder to avoid thinking that maybe you do agree with their views.

Yours in hope and optimism.

Consent and respect matter more than numbers

Keystone Cops There has of late been a lot of talk about rising crime, particularly violent crime, with the predictable cries that it’s all due to insufficient police numbers. Now it may well be that the police force is under manned, or possibly that it’s got too many of the wrong people doing the wrong things. However it occurs to me that to a great extent the absolute numbers of police really doesn’t matter. By and large the number of people employed in the police force doesn’t have any direct impact on the amount of crime committed. Much like ticket inspectors don’t stop fare dodges, what they do is catch fare dodgers and the risk of being caught and the repercussions of being caught prevent people fare dodging. So it is with the police, a bobby on the beat might stop someone in the process of committing a crime but generally the police are there to take action after the event. It’s the action they take that causes crimes not to be committed. So to have a deterrent effect the police have to be able to take suitable action and the resultant cost to the ne’er-do-well must be such that crime doesn’t actually pay.

So to be effective a police force needs to be perceived by our would be miscreant as likely to take actions that will result in a greater cost to the miscreant than the potential gain. To this end the police need to be taken seriously and dare I say it be respected. We are ( at least in theory ) policed by consent. The police’s power is dependent on the co-operation of the public as the third principle says:
To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

I would suggest that to achieve such respect and approval the police need to enforce laws consistently and impartially, indeed as the fifth principle says: “by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws”
Now I’d suggest that some of the police over recent years by their action, inaction and own media portrayal have consistently eroded at least the appearance of being impartial and by ill-conceived public announcements squandered what respect the public had for them. They haven’t been helped of course by the ever-increasing number of jobs worth and busy bodies strutting around in faux police uniforms, and I include PCSO’s in this camp. If you have some jumped up jackanape who looks remarkably like a police officer trying to throw their weight around and making up rules and penalties as they please it erodes respect for the police by association. Mainly because there are now so many bodies that have this enforcement power or that ability to charge penalties that as far as the general public are concerned they’re effectively a single amorphous enforcement blob headed by the constabulary.

The rozzers haven’t helped themselves in this matter, and I’m not entirely blaming the feet on the ground here so much as those that instruct them and represent them. We’ve had riots where the police stood by watching cities burn, rather than defending property but condemning those that were prepared to defend things for themselves. We’ve had rules and laws suspended for some groups due to “cultural sensitivity”, and lower sentences given because of the same “cultural concerns”. We’ve had millions spent to find the child of a pair of media savvy middle class parents that if they’d been working class would have been investigated for neglect, whilst the abuse of thousands of working class was ignored for the sake of “community relationships”. Violence at demonstrations has been prosecuted with an uneven hand, with no visible action taken even against people filmed carrying out violence directly in front of officers. There are repeated boasts from various forces about all the resources they’re dedicating to prosecuting hurty words and upset feelings, whilst telling us they don’t have the resources to tackle theft or crimes against the person.

All of which would be bad enough but then they go and trumpet the success they’re having with getting illegal weapons off the street, by headlining it with a legal antique air pistol, or the contents of someone’s tool box or even a table knife. This doesn’t convey a sense of a zero tolerance approach, so much as a sense of farce and if people are laughing at you then you don’t have their respect. Rainbow coloured patrol cars and twerking at carnivals fun as it might be also really doesn’t help support an image of a serious force, ready to prevent crime and disorder. If you want to have a zero tolerance policy, and tackle “smaller” crimes to create an atmosphere inconducive to crime that’s fine and dandy – but you can’t do so by prioritising such matters over more serious offences and to convey such a message you have to be taken seriously and be respected.

So really it doesn’t matter how many police we employ if the perception is that they’re all seconded from the keystone cops. When the perception is that in the unlikely event they do see you breaking the law they probably won’t do anything about it ( if there’s a risk that it might be culturally insensitive ), and if they do do something then the courts won’t give out a meaningful punishment, and if the courts do hand down a fearsome sentence then don’t worry because the parole board will make sure you don’t actually have to do it. Now you may claim that all of these things are “isolated” instances or are inflated by the media. Well maybe, but the police forces have their own media voices that do nothing to counter such impressions, preferring instead to threaten action against people removing flowers from a fence commemorating a dead burglar whilst the victim of the burglary can’t go home as it wouldn’t be safe. So the flowers will be protected but not a pensioner in their own home. It’s a bad narrative, and it’s a frequently repeated bad narrative. It is sufficient that justice be done but it must also be seen to be done and these days it very rarely is. So call all you like for more clown cops on the street or behind desks, it won’t make much of a dent on the crime figures until you the police are once more a force that is respected and working with the consent and approval of the populace.

As a final note I’d observe that when the police aren’t considered to be up to the job then people will take over the role, and then when they’re prosecuted it can’t help but erode things further. Most people want to leave things to the police and the appropriate authorities but that only works if those authorities are seen to be doing their jobs and protecting the people who have entrusted them with the task.