Saturday, 25 June 2016

A very British coup?

It's now about twenty-four hours since it became clear that the UK had voted to leave the EU in our momentous referendum. I can tell you exactly what I was doing when the Sunderland result was announced: I was drying up my dishes in the kitchen, preparing to go to bed, listening to the TV in the adjoining room. The returning officer read out the numbers and the whoops went up from the Leave supporters; the returning officer's voice cracked slightly, she paused, then she read the Leave number out again just to be clear. It was obvious at that very nanosecond that that would be the "clip" of the night, to be repeated on broadcasts and documentaries for generations.  

There has been profound shock in the UK since that moment; and that should not come as a surprise: effectively the government, indeed the system of government, has been overthrown. This was not a simple election, but a revolution.

I have been reading Robert Tombs' excellent The English and their History; irrespective of this week's events, I can highly recommend this history. I am currently at roughly the Boston tea party, the Declaration of Independence and the build-up to the war between Britain and its Atlantic colonies. But it is the parallel with the 1688 invasion which jumps out at me. In the "Glorious Revolution" England was invaded by a conqueror. We always like to think that we have not succumbed to invasion since 1066, but that is not right. William's forces invaded and took control of the government of England. Invited by various parliamentarians, yes; accepted by many, yes; but an invasion nonetheless. A coup; a resetting.

It is no wonder that David Cameron thought he ought to resign immediately after the referendum result was known. Effectively the referendum has toppled the constitutional order which has been built up in the UK over the last forty years or so. It has re-opened that longstanding British discussion which goes back to the days of the witan. Of course, this is 2016 not 1066 or 1688 or 1776 or even 1940. But it is no wonder that the British were in a state of shock yesterday: at about 5am on Friday 24th June 2016 not only was the government toppled, but our system of government was toppled.

In a previous era there would, no doubt, have been meetings and pamphlets and even riots. Luckily, in this peaceful democratic interconnected world, people turned to social media and broadcast debates. Many do not accept the result of the referendum, but it is hard to ignore that a majority of voters, in an election taken part in by a huge proportion of the electorate, after a long and well-rehearsed debate, decided to trash the status quo.

If Thursday was a coup, it was a very representative coup. This was not a well-armed faction seizing control. This was not a liberation from an occupying force, nor the takeover by one.

I argued in the run-up to the referendum that to vote to Leave was a revolutionary act, because to do so was to overturn the decisions that have been made, within the established constitution, by elected Parliament after elected Parliament. However, I also supported the holding of the referendum, because it was so obvious that many people felt frustrated by the lack of opportunity to have their views listened to on this topic. People often refer back to Maastricht, but while that was probably the treaty which fundamentally changed our relationship with our European neighbours, I think it was the way in which the Lisbon Treaty was ratified which set us on this course. It was the failure to hold the promised referendum on the "EU Constitution", which later so obviously became the Lisbon Treaty, which put so many people's backs up. We are now the third country to reject that Constitution.

It is not my intention to discuss the rights and wrongs of the Lisbon Treaty/EU Constitution. We are past that now. I am interested in the British limbo which we now find ourselves in. We seem to have voted to detach ourselves from the entire EU machine, but many were already suggesting beforehand that we may be able to cut ourselves loose from some without cutting ourselves loose from all. 

On Newsnight last night Daniel Hannan suggested that there might be support for going back to a system more like the one the UK initially signed up for - he was especially talking about the system whereby there was a right to go and work in another Common Market country, without there being a common European citizenship or general right to live as a national in any member state. Jonathan Powell convincingly argued that the government has absolutely no mandate to negotiate anything new until there has been a general election.

We are not used to this. We have not done this very often in our long history, and we have not done it for a very long time. We have not erected guillotines, not a single shot has been fired. The pound and the stock-market wobbled, but the sky did not fall in. But be in no doubt at all: we just tore up the rulebook. We will be discussing this for a very long time.

45 comments:

JuliaM said...

Well said.

Electro-Kevin said...
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Electro-Kevin said...

We've just thrown off a coup, not had one.

This country was taken over by stealth and now we've rejected it. The losers appear to have a serious problem with democracy, don't they ?

Electro-Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Electro-Kevin said...

Samantha Cameron looked more choked than David.

My suspicions are that she wears the trousers in number 10.

Anonymous said...

I've been searching for comments of support from world leaders for the "coup" but can only find ones from right-wing nutters in other countries.

Has anyone a good word to say about this glorious decision - or are you just whistling in the dark.

Electro-Kevin said...

Anonymous - You lost. You can stop campaigning now. That's a good word to say about it, is it not ?

Electro-Kevin said...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36616385

This is a good word to say about it too. Other world leaders do not speak for us.

Barnacle Bill said...

@ Electro-Kevin

I don't think it was the trouser wearing issue that was upsetting Sam Cam yesterday as the dread Quisling Cameroon might find out she voted "Leave"!

I don't think it was a coup yesterday, nor do I think we threw off a coup, I just think enough of us had decided we wanted our country back. To decide it's future using "elected representatives and not the dictats we were having shoved down our throats from across the Channel.

Bill Quango MP said...

Not sure it was s a coup, in the strictest sense. It was more a flower revolution. A Hungarian uprising. People had had enough and wanted a little more freedom.
And were angry enough to take on the authorities to get it.

But I agree with the general theme.The entire power of the establishment was used to try and influence the decision.
Political, military,local, national and international politicians, business,financial, broadcast media, sporting, celebrity and emotional pressure applied daily.
Bar the unions who were mostly for out and half of the right wing print media, it was all for In.

Out looked like a very desperate outfit alongside the massed suits of the Inners.

Yet, against the odds, the ragtag army of old soldiers and peasants won the day.

As for your suggestion that the Lisbon treaty was the turning point for distrust of the establishment; couldn't agree more.

A stitch up in plain view. The tail end of the Blair spin era and the start of the 'cast iron' twisting of words. The rise of UKIP as something more than a fruitcake fringe group begins from that period.

dearieme said...

It's a second win for the Anti-Corn Law League.

Anonymous said...

@EK - Campaigning has just begun. On Tuesday you'll see the sight of just how much "influence" we have in Europe when a lame-duck PM goes to Brussels. Forget about 2 years - 12 weeks is more likely.

This weekend, a number of blue chips boards will be meeting to re-configure their businesses in the light of the decision so they can announce plans to the Stock Exchange next week.

Enjoy a quiet weekend - a shit storm is ahead

Democracy is only fair if my choice wins said...

Looks like "Project Doom" has started

Blue Eyes said...

Anon - I think your view is based on the premise that the UK will go for a renegotiation-and-stay approach. That seems far, far away now.

Guy Verhofstadt (apologies if mis-spelled) said the only sensible option without free movement must be an FTA. Fine, let's go with that. No "influence" needed.

Electro-Kevin said...

A shit storm was coming anyway.

Giles Morris said...

Not sure if the gloating by some is warranted yet, all we've done is made a decision, that's it, in 10 years time we may have a sense if it was or wasn't the right decision. People are confusing voting for out with Britain being a better place, if they get confused over this then imagine what else they get wrong...

auralay said...

At least now the EU can't stop us buying full sized anti-shit umbrellas. We'll weather the shit storm and come out smelling of roses.

Thud said...

Many of us unwillingly voted UKIP in local elections as a shot across the bow,the warnings went unanswered and so here we are,Cameron etc can not say we didn't give them a chance to make good.

Electro-Kevin said...

In answer to anonymous and Giles.

I admit that both of your comments have thrown me into turmoil. Thud introduces a timely explanation of how many warnings were ignored, over and over and over again.

I have had a few hours of introspection to ask myself if, indeed, I am a small minded racist. And that I am so anxious to ask that I may be such, I conclude that I am not a small minded racist but regret that a tiny minority of those who cross the venn diagram of shared opinion are.

So be it.

I am intensely sorry for my early display of exhuberance in gloating at the celebrity class which mocked and condescended my own so much - we had held the dignified moral high ground that far at least.

We have taken away their assumed mandate and I can't help but be joyful at the sight of their pricked pomposity.

I am full of foreboding but certain that we have done the right thing.

A 'better' Britain ?

Well at least we may still have England.

Lilith said...

They really do.

Lilith said...

Kevin the condescension of the cognoscenti was utterly extraordinary. They oozed contempt for anyone with a yen for a return to a self governing free trading democracy. Marie Antoinette or what! These ghastly people shouldn't be allowed to vote was a popular refrain from Remain.

Electro-Kevin said...

Lilith - with the painted court jester, Eddie Izzard.

The best advert for Brexit ever !

Electro-Kevin said...

cognoscenti - a new one for the E-K lexicon.

Thanks, Lils !

Lilith said...

I went to a window blind shop with Dad today and the owner said he'd give us a better price as we were Brexiteers. He said he'd helped loads of people decide how to vote :"You join a squash club, it costs £100pa to be a member. The following year they charge you £1000pa membership. The club explains that not all the new members can afford to join so you need to cover their costs. :-) Simples

Lilith said...

The three witches making it all about Boris helped as did an endorsement from Anjem Choudhury. Polly Toynbee excelled herself.

Lilith said...

You're welcome ��

Electro-Kevin said...

Yes Lilith.

I don't think we'll be leaving the EU. A second referendum is already being sought (which is precedented)

Sorry to all for having a private conversation with Lilith. A long while since we last spoke.

lilith said...

I'd like to see them try...

MyBrexitName said...

I cut myself because you wouldn't let me cry.
I cried because you wouldn't let me speak.
I spoke because you wouldn't let me shine.
I shone because I thought you loved me...


― Emilie Autumn, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls

This is why we voted out.

Blue Eyes said...

No worries EK, just don't post any knob-pics.

Suff said...

Late to the party as usual. SHOCKED at the result. I even took my tinfoil hat off for five minutes. While it's fun to watch the Westminster bubble squirm, it's plane to see that just don't get it. They are supposed to represent the will of the people. Labour blaming the result on the conservatives giving the people a voice, when 60% of their own voters voted for out. Nearly every politician of all parties talking the country down (UKIP excepted). Every one of them saying there is no plan.
I want just one of them to be asked, if you have known for three months that the referendum was too close to call, why the F#€k haven't you got a contingency plan?
Bojo and his team need to get themselves on the TV and get this message across. With the tv channels interviewing any old racist they can find and bedwetters gaining momentum on social media we can see the usual suspects demanding another referendum.
This is the time for reflection and construction

Anonymous said...

@Suff ... it was a referendum and not a General Election. Blood on the carpet at Party HQ's will be followed by blood in the financial markets. And if you think the political classes a.ka. parliament will vote this through, you'll have a long wait.

On the other hand, Germany is just itching to dump Britain and complete their European aspirations - ably helped by a Buffon, a racist, and a perennial backstabber.

Y Ddraig Goch said...

Anonymous @ 1:29pm

I've had enough of this nonsense.

I have a question for you. The UK is the second largest net contributor
to the EU budget after Germany. Once we are gone, how do you think they are
going to resolve that? Does Germany have a spare 4 billion Euro lying around
annually to just drop in the kitty? If not then which one of them does?

Bonus question. Sturgeon wants out of the UK and into the EU. Yet Scotland
gets billions from England. Will the EU make up the difference? If it
does, Scotland will be one of the top three net recipients of EU cash
(competing with Poland for 2nd place). How likely are Poland to support that?

Final bonus question. Why isn't any of this being discussed on the BBC?

Electro-Kevin said...

Anon at 1.29

How long before a referendum referendum ?

The greatest danger to our country at the moment is resistance to the referendum result.

The big lies are from the Remain side and are these:

– the EU was in a steady, complete and secure state

– the EU did not threaten us with economic crisis (it will need bailouts and redistributive taxation forever more.)

– the working class will suffer most from the Brexit result. (The working class knows that the exodus of UK firms or the importation of poverty – mass immigration – amounts to the same thing to them.)

We have made the right decision.

Let’s get on with it.

Electro-Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Electro-Kevin said...

Y Ddraig Goch

A very good reply. Germany has just become a single mother to many children and the father does not want to pay maintenance.

Our people can handle this and will adapt and be better for it in the end.

The EU is going to fail and I'd rather not be in it when it does.

Anon must realise that our people have seized an opportunity rather than missed a boat - one which is holed below the waterline anyway.

Suff said...

@Anon 1:29
I was making two points
The first
The contempt the political class has for democracy and the disgust it feels towards its voters. All those hard working families are now racist old uneducated bigots and should be stripped from the electoral roll. Self, party ant only then country. They don't realize, it's that attitude to the populace that has brought about this result.
The second
In my line of work I have to come up with designs that cover multiple variables. I'm legally responsible to consider all outcomes and possible failure modes and the likelihood of each. For all these I have to have a plan to minimize the risk. So these superior beings that are saying I'm too thick to vote, have a vote with two possibilities and a likelihood of it going either way at 50% and all they say is there is no plan. I call for a vote of no confidence in ou political class.

There are lots of things rotten in the EU not least our own government

Suff said...

Ps
I may not have a diploma in Juggling and circus skills from university of niceness but I do have a masters in mechanical engineering.

Electro-Kevin said...

Suff - Indeed. Why aren't the likes of John Redwood now being pushed to the front benches ?

How on earth did we end up in a situation where 2/3rds of MPs are pro EU yet over 50% of the electorate are sceptical ?

(I'm sorry to the Unslickers for showing too much face on this blog. I will desist if they tell me to.)

Anonymous said...

Suff,
re post @ 5.14 -absolutely spot on.
Our 'Rolls Royce' highly paid politicians and top civil servants and they don't have a contingency plan!?
Unable to negotiate a political/trade agreement!?
Avin a larf at our expense.
Referendum result should be the start of a process of cleansing and renewal as far as our politics and institutions are concerned. The 'LibLabCon' has now been exposed big time.

CityUnslicker said...

Ek, your always welcome.

Plenty for us to discuss for years to come.

andrew said...


the civil service will have a brexit plan
they have plans for just about everything.

if they do not, then it is time to not vote con for the next 15 years or so as they only way there is no plan is if cameron explicitly ordered them not to and as others have mentioned as it wasnt far off 50/50 for the last couple of months that is a complete dereliction of duty.

@1.29pm - a Buffoon, a racist, and a perennial backstabber.
i can see where you are coming from but ascribing BJ all 3 aspects of an unholy trinity is over-ascribing qualities to him.

As I have mentioned before ad-nauseaum, my view was (is) not that the eu is a bad thing but the way power has been progressively centralised (in brussels and london) ever since the second world war is the bad thing - and leaving the eu is not going to help here.
i.e. not much will change for better or worse as a result of brexit.

The world is rapidly changing, you need a supra national body that can rapidly set new rules (like controls on pollution - acid rain ) but you also need to keep that body in check and it wasnt

We will brexit - to not do so is unthinkable.
Also, places like paris and frankfurt are going to start to fight over which bits of the city they take.
Currently reading up on offshore financial centers (as that is what we are now) - "the offshore world by ronen palan" only just started so not sure how good it is. There is a good sentence in the intro:

"the advanced industrialised countries whose representatives tend to have close links with business have a primary concern with accumulation [of capital] , to ensure political and economic stability, and only a secondary concern with social issues such as just taxation, income distribution and so on. Bearing this in mind makes developments during the last two to three years more comprehensible"

- i think he wrote that in about 2005

All sorts of odd stuff is about to happen. His view was less that international capitalists are teh evils and more that these people are what they are because they are very good at identifying and exploiting new opportunities that arise as the result of change - and this is where we are.


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