Two questions to ask of a political future

At this referendum, many of the arguments by the leave side are focused on voting leave as taking an opportunity, free from the reams of European dictacts, laws and courts, to implement a newly imagined political future.

I’m all about asking the questions ‘how did we get here, why are things done this way, and how could they be done better?’, and so I support this honourable and necessary endeavour.

However, for this particular vote at this particular juncture the two issues I would raise are thus:

Identify the future

Firstly, what exactly is the alternate political future being promised by those who stand to be in power after a Brexit? We should note that the UK is 4 years from a general election and the official opposition to the government are the weakest in about two decades. In the event of a leave vote, certain individuals and organisations are going to have the authority, time and resources shape a new future in their image.

As far as I have found, it has not been well-defined at all, and is almost exclusively ‘trust us, we’re British’. The future cannot simply be defined negatively in terms of what aspects of the present it won’t be or won’t have. This was the mistake of the Vietnam war, the deindustrialisation of the North, the war on terror, the Iraq war… I could go on. Something will be positively constructed by someone to bring the future into reality. If nothing is identified and articulated clearly, then the result is what happened in the examples I gave. Misery, endless, pointless continuation down a self-destructive path, the strong rushing in to fill a power vacuum.

Without concrete policies that can be understood and measured, we have only trust. When I consider the past actions of Gove, Johnson and Farage, I wouldn’t trust them at all to deliver the kind of political future I want for my country. Far from it.

Understand the consequences

Secondly, what are the constraints on such a future, and consequences for pursuing it? Every decision is a trade off and a balancing act. In theory, in the political realm concrete ‘constraints’ per se don’t exist. Technically anything is possible, but the consequences of ‘anything’ are too great for that to be a conceivable action. As much as the status quo always benefits some at the cost of others, the others also draw clear benefits from certain aspects of the status quo and won’t be prepared to sacrifice them for a promised dubious, long-term gain.

I personally believe that the economic pain is too great a consequence, and the constraints the EU would place upon the UK if we wanted to continue a trading relationship closer than merely through the WTO too severe. The economic consequences of not doing so would be intolerable.

The voter’s Job

To my first concern, that is something each voter needs to decide for themselves. Do you understand and support this future? Do you trust those who will attempt to enact it?

To my second, I consider the following short lecture by Professor Michael Dougan of the University of Liverpool mandatory watching. He explains the consequences of, and constraints upon, this proposed political future outside the EU. After watching, it is again up to you, the voter to decide if they are tolerable or not.

2 thoughts on “Two questions to ask of a political future”

  1. Another great, well-written article, although of course I disagree with the conclusion.

    I can get on board with most of this. I do think people are being a bit short-sighted in focusing on who’s going to get into power just after the referendum, though. Boris and co will only be around for 4 years; we might not see another vote of this magnitude for decades*. I would suggest that we should probably ask the same questions about Remain, though. What is the future of the EU? The Five Presidents’ Report suggests it’s yet more ever closer union of the sort that’s worked so well since 2008, done by the same enemies of democracy. And while the economic consequences of Brexit will indeed be disastrous in the short term, is the EU looking so great in the long term? It seems the only two options are massive centralisation and unification (of fiscal policy and of basically everything else) – which will probably get it out of the euro mess, but which no-one in Europe except the EU government seems to actually want – or a slow and steady slide into decline, with the rise of far-right nationalism and the same failure to actually solve any of the big issues that has characterised the EU for a decade or so.

    On both sides the political future looks bleak, so the vote is basically making the best of a bad situation.

    I don’t understand why Corbyn didn’t just do what he clearly believes, and be the voice of Brexit. I think they would have won fairly decisively, Labour would have expanded its core working-class vote in the North without really losing any of the trendy student vote who have nowhere else to go, UKIP would evaporate, the Conservatives would have dissolved, and he’d have had a pretty good chance at winning the next election. What a missed opportunity.

    *Though one suggestion I’ve seen is that, if the vote is a close Remain (which is my prediction), then in 2020 UKIP will trash Labour in the North and the resulting Tory-UKIP coalition will be formed on the promise of yet another referendum

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