Brexit Catastrophisation Watch, Part 1

Since there seems to be no imminent end to the petulant, childish rage of disappointed Remain supporters at the prospect of being forcibly ripped away from their beloved European Union, we may as well start cataloguing some of the most hyperbolic and far-fetched tales of woe and prophesies of doom.

The inaugural submission comes, naturally, from the Guardian:

Social services for older and disabled people face crisis because post-Brexit migration restrictions could cause a massive shortage of care workers, leading care organisations have said.

The 1.4-million-strong UK care sector’s reliance on European migrant workers means it is vital they are given the right to remain in any future migration arrangements, the charities Independent Age and the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) said.

Currently about 84,000 care workers – equivalent to one in 20 of England’s growing care workforce – are from European Economic Area countries. About 90% do not have British citizenship and their future immigration status remains uncertain.

The charities said failure to tackle workforce shortages would mean thousands of older people would lose out on support, meaning they could be left housebound, struggle to recover properly from a stroke or fall, or fail to get assistance in getting up and dressed in the morning.

Translation: overturn the EU referendum result, or granny gets it.

(Note too the hyperbolic doomsday assumption of “a scenario which closed off all migration”, something which no serious person expects to happen).

The counterargument to this mini-tantrum, of course, is that cheap, young foreign labour from the EU and elsewhere has helped to ensure that care workers in Britain are paid an absolute pittance – often hovering around minimum wage – for performing a physically and mentally taxing job requiring skill, tact, empathy, good humour and great emotional intelligence in order to look after our loved ones in their final years.

The surly Guardianista charities moaning about the potential impact of Brexit on their sector clearly have no qualms or concerns that a worker can often make more money flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant than caring for our elderly and infirm senior citizens. This is just fine, apparently. But the mere possibility that free movement of labour restrictions might force employers to pay less desultory sums of money to frontline staff sends these “charities” into paroxysms of terror and rage. Whose side are they on? Not that of the patients or the care workers, that’s for sure.

Want to stop the endless drip-drip of care home abuse scandals? Try getting outraged that care is a borderline minimum wage occupation in this country, understand that people who might just as easily be flipping burgers for a living won’t always display the same dedication as Florence Nightingale – and be inordinately grateful for those care workers who do possess these criminally undervalued qualities. And in the meantime, forgive me for questioning the calibration of these charities’ moral compasses.

But why should we be surprised by their intervention? Everything about modern leftism and pro-Europeanism revolves around signalling virtue and ostentatiously displaying the “right” progressive beliefs to the right people.

And right now, it is far more important to be seen opposing those awful racist Brexiteers than it is to question the moral sustainability of an industry which hits its profit margin targets by providing our oldest and most vulnerable citizens with a Tesco Value standard of care.

 

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Even Remainers Who Accept The EU Referendum Result Are In Denial As To Why People Voted For Brexit

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The EU referendum was not a question of “head vs heart”. When Remainers pretend that they occupied the intellectual high ground, they only delay their necessary and inevitable reckoning with the will of the British people

Remainers simply cannot help themselves. They cannot stop being arrogant and condescending toward Brexit voters, even when making otherwise admirable attempts to extend the olive branch and accept the nation’s verdict on leaving the EU.

Here’s Rachel Reeves MP, writing in the New Statesman:

Two days before the referendum, I visited the largest private sector employer in my constituency. I had spoken to many of the workers during the general election campaign a year earlier.

Although the chief executive works with a community centre to recruit local young people, like many businesses they also hire many Eastern European workers. It was a tough audience, as many blamed the EU for the squeeze on living standards and most felt immigration was out of control.

The people I met believed leaving the EU would mean less pressure on services and more money for them, because the downward pressure on wages would ease with fewer EU migrants.

[..] I knew in my heart at lunchtime on the day of that visit that we’d lost the referendum. My head had told me – the economist – that we would win because the consequences of leaving were a risk voters wouldn’t take. But, by Friday morning, we knew the Leave campaign’s emotional message was stronger than the rational arguments of the Remain campaign.

My emphasis in bold.

And there it is again – the infuriating “head vs heart” conceit, beloved by Remainers, that they unquestionably held the intellectual high ground when it came to arguing for Britain’s continued membership of the EU, and that the only reason for their defeat was that the base emotions and fears of Brexiteers somehow clouded their rational judgment and (to quote Lincoln, since Reeves tries and fails to do the same) shut out the “better angels of our nature”.

According to this cognitive dissonance-soothing rationalisation of defeat, Remainers were unquestionably right to warn of economic armageddon, and the economy was the sole worthwhile measure on which an existential question about national identity and democracy should be determined.

If this is the fruit of the Left’s attempt to understand Brexiteers (and we know it is, because the bottom of the article states that “This blog is based on a chapter Rachel Reeves MP wrote for the Fabian Society edited collection Facing the Unknown: Building a progressive response to Brexit“) then they have done an unspeakably lousy job.

The immediate post-referendum polling clearly showed that the strongest driver of the Leave vote was widespread concern about sovereignty and democracy:

The biggest issue, according to Lord Ashcroft’s post-referendum poll, was the overwhelming desire to preserve what remained of British sovereignty.

In “How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday … and why,” a survey of 12,369 voters in the United Kingdom conducted the day of the referendum, Lord Ashcroft found the No. 1 issue propelling people to vote “leave” was their belief that the U.K. should remain a self-governing entity not responsible to some supranational body writing rules and regulations about the economy and other matters.

Not hankering for a return to the 1950s.

Not an acute discomfort with dark-skinned people or eastern Europeans.

Not “Daily Mail lies” about curved bananas.

The people of Britain voted to leave the European Union because a majority of us quite rightly refused to accept the false claim that close and fruitful trade and cooperation with our European neighbours is somehow only possible by subsuming ourselves into the relentlessly integrating EU superstate. They were smart enough to realise that an organisation with a parliament, flag, anthem and ambitions for a combined military force has its sights set on something much grander than “friendship and cooperation”, and quite rightly wanted no further part of this doomed experiment in euro-federalism.

What’s more, the Brexit-voting people of this country were enlightened and dedicated citizens enough to see through the hysterical scaremongering propaganda of the Leave campaign, and accept that even if there were some short-term economic costs associated with Brexit, the Remain campaign clearly value our country and democracy too cheaply if they would remain part of a European political union through fear of a potential recession.

Were there oddballs, cranks and racists among the Leave campaign? Yes, of course we had our fair share. But the Remain campaign had Eddie Izzard, so let’s not tar an entire side based on its worst cheerleaders.

Look, I get it – daring to consider that one might have campaigned hard on the wrong side of history must be immensely difficult. The emotional investment of Remainers in their worldview, rhetoric and “identity” as super-progressive, tolerant and all-round awesome people is very strong and hard to see past. But if anyone should have the capacity to move beyond their own intellectual comfort zones it should be our elected MPs, people like Rachel Reeves. Sadly, there is little evidence that many are doing so. Nor will there be, probably, until a couple of decades’ time at which point warnings of economic cataclysm will have been taken over by events.

It is good that Rachel Reeves and some others at various points on the left-wing spectrum, Jeremy Corbyn included, recognise that the EU referendum result must be honoured and are reconciling themselves to the will of the people. But it is one thing to accept the country’s verdict while still sanctimoniously proclaiming that the people were manipulated and hoodwinked, and quite another to reach deep inside for some humility and admit that the people may actually have been right all along.

Nobody expects the Labour Party and other Remainers to make the transition overnight. But well-meaning articles like this from Rachel Reeves suggest that the majority have not even begun the urgently-needed process of reconciliation to the national will. And that is a real concern, for their own tenuous future political careers if nothing else.

 

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No Amount Of ‘Education’ Will Make Sceptical Europeans Love The EU

What to do when the continent’s biggest military power and second-largest economy decides to leave your crumbling, tarnished and perennially unwanted supranational political union? Finally consider meaningful reforms? Engage in a sincere listening exercise? Devolve power back to nation states and local communities? Do anything, anything at all, to signal that the European Union might be something that works for the people rather than something which is done to them?

Of course not. When faced with incontrovertible evidence that citizens are starting to rebel en masse against the idea of shared sovereignty, dissolving borders and supranational government, clearly the correct thing to do is to declare that European citizens simply don’t understand the wonderful gift bequeathed to them, and then pledge to funnel more money towards their re-education.

From the Guardian:

The European commission will spend tens of millions more euros promoting the ideal of the EU citizen, in defiance of British ministers, under plans drawn up by officials in Brussels in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Officials for the European parliament claim there is now a clear need for a significant increase in spending on the Europe for Citizens (EFC) programme, which aims to foster the notion of an EU citizenry. The programme had its budget cut from €215m (£185m) to €185.5m (£159m) after a request from Britain in 2013.

“Considering the current political climate, in which an increasing number of citizens question the foundations of the EU, decisive action is indispensable,” an assessment of the programme by officials in the European parliament reports.

“It is for this reason that the reduction in funding for the EFC programme is a serious handicap to successful implementation: to reiterate, the budget for the current EFC programme is €185.5m (down from €215m under the previous programme), which amounts to merely 0.0171% of the EU multiannual financial framework.”

The aim of EFC is said to be that of developing “a better understanding” of the EU across all its member states, to fund remembrance events for key moments in European history and combat scepticism about the EU project.

The assessment document says that funding “which promotes and enables citizens to engage in European matters is of vital importance, especially in times when Euroscepticism is on the rise”.

This only emphasises the degree to which the European Union is an answer to a question which was never even asked. If the various peoples of Europe had gradually come to realise over the course of the 20th century that they shared such a common heritage of laws, language, culture and strategic interests that they wanted to institute a shared common government then the EU or something like it would have developed organically.

But of course no such thing happened – the idea of supranational political union was artificially imposed on European people largely by stealth and in secret over the course of many decades. And while many members of the European political elite get misty-eyed over the EU, the majority of its citizens tolerate rather than welcome this extra layer of government. The flag and the anthem are utterly meaningless to most of the EU’s 510 million citizens – the spine does not stiffen nor the heart quicken at the sight of the twelve stars or the strains of “Ode to Joy”. And unlike the American founding fathers, the secretive “founders” of the EU are unknown, unloved and languish in richly-deserved obscurity.

The hard truth for the euro-federalists is that no amount of money spent on “education” will make people fall in love with the European Union. Love of family, community and country is something which must well up from within; it cannot be successfully imposed by external agents. And likewise, if people do not feel instinctively European over and above their distinct national identities, a true European demos cannot be created – despite the best efforts of the European Union’s architects to defy both human nature and democracy.

Double the peak budget and spend another €215m on idealising the European Union and creating uncritical, misleading propaganda and it will still make no difference, save lining the pockets of opportunistic “cultural” and “artistic” parasites who will happily take taxpayer money to plaster the EU logo over their concerts, plays and workshops.

In other words, it is the perfect EU project. Just don’t expect it to make the slightest bit of difference to anything at all.

 

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Nicola Sturgeon’s Failure Of Courage

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75 days after her massive tantrum about the EU referendum result, a meek and humiliating climbdown from Nicola Sturgeon

From the Guardian:

Nicola Sturgeon has shelved plans for a quick second referendum on Scottish independence after dire spending figures and a fall in public support for leaving the UK.

The first minister told Holyrood on Tuesday that her government only planned to issue a consultation on a draft referendum bill – a measure which falls short of tabling new legislation in this year’s programme for government.

Two months after telling reporters a referendum was “highly likely” within the next two years, she told MSPs that that bill would now only be introduced if she believed it was the best option for Scotland.

Her officials later said that consultation process could start at some time in the next year, with no target date in mind for its launch or its conclusion. Sturgeon’s official legislative timetable, the programme for government, described the referendum as an option and not as a goal.

Well, well, well.

Looks like a tacit admission that running a creaking, statist, big government petro-state north of the border – all based on a fiercely irrational cult of personality – doesn’t produce the kind of dynamic, resilient country which could frolic its way to independence without an economic care in the world after all.

Who could have possibly known?

 

Postscript: But let us not be too smug. The same report also tells us that the SNP plans to use the Scottish government’s discretionary fiscal powers cut the outrageously high Air Passenger Duty tax by 50% – a good first step in reducing it even further, back to the kind of levels which no longer put passengers off flying to or connecting through the UK:

She confirmed that the SNP would cut air passenger duty at Scottish airports by 50% from April 2018 to stimulate spending, a plan lambasted by Labour and the Scottish Greens as it would damage efforts to tackle climate change.

The day that the Conservative Party can lecture Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party on pro-consumer, supply-side economic reform with a straight face will be the day when Philip Hammond stands at the despatch box and promises an even greater cut in APD for the rest of the UK in his first Budget.

Until then, the Conservatives continue to disappoint expectations, preferring to virtue-signal their environmentalist credentials and rob leisure and business travellers of their money than usher in the aviation revolution that this country sorely needs.

 

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Top Image: Daily Record

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Picking Through The Wreckage Of Defeat: The Electoral Reform Society’s Report On The EU Referendum

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You don’t commission an urgent post-mortem report to look into something wonderful that has just happened. So the mere existence of the Electoral Reform Society’s tremulous report warning about the danger of future referendums tells us all we need to know about their attitude to Brexit and the people who voted for it

“The people have spoken. Or have they?”

So begins the Electoral Reform Society‘s autopsy report of the EU referendum and Britain’s shock decision to leave the European Union. The simpering “or have they?” tells you everything that you probably already suspect about this report – that despite whatever other good work the ERS might do, this is a metro leftist, superficially and uncritically EU-loving effort to come to grips with what they evidently view as a political disaster.

If something bad like a plane crash happens, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch will pick over the wreckage and file a report outlining the chain of events leading up to the tragedy. It is the kind of report which damns by its very existence – nobody commissions a sober post mortem report about something delightful that has just happened. The ERS’s perspective on Brexit is established in the first seven words, and even before then by its very existence.

That’s not to say that the report is worthless – despite its clear bias (I’ll eat my hat if author Will Brett or any of the other major contributors actually voted to leave the EU) there are some thoughtful deliberations on how to get citizens involved in any future referendum planning process so that the procedure feels less like something which was suddenly foisted on the people, the rules being made entirely by shadowy people in Parliament.

Nor can I argue with the report’s recommendation to extend citizenship lessons in primary and secondary school. This blog has long stood for mandatory civics classes thoughout the duration of secondary education, not only as a way of developing good future citizens in place of self-entitled little snowflakes, but also as a means of celebrating, transmitting and reinforcing core British values on classes which may be very ethnically and culturally mixed, thus helping to end self-enforced apartheid.

Read the whole thing here – it touches on more areas than this single blog post can feasibly analyse.

But soon the wheels start to come off the report. This first happens when the ERS make egregiously misleading use of the “factoid” that there was a large spike in Google searches of the phrase “What is the EU?” in the immediate aftermath of the result. This was immediately taken by the stunned Remainiac establishment to be proof that we bovine Brits had voted for something which we did not even understand.

But this scandalous interpretation is wrong, as the Telegraph patiently explained:

Google Trends data isn’t actually representative of the number of total searches for a term, but a proportion of all searches at a given time. The company highlights spikes in searches based on what else is being Googled at a given moment in a geographical area.

So in the early hours of Friday morning searches for “What is the EU” briefly spiked compared to what else was being asked. To put it in context, the search only outstripped that for “weather forecast” between 01:30 and 04:30 in the morning, but by 05:00 that had changed.

Data from AdWords, which offers more specific numbers for search terms, shows that the 250 per cent increase in searches actually correlated to about 1,000 people asking the question.

In other words, bitter Remainers called into question the intelligence of half the country based on the Google search activity of no more than a thousand late night stoners who didn’t know what the European Union is but who were also far too moronic to find their polling station, let alone put an X in a box. Yet the ERS still considered this deceptive factoid worthy of inclusion at the beginning of their report.

But here’s where it really goes wrong:

At the start of the regulated period the Electoral Commission, or a specially commissioned independent body, should publish a website with a ‘minimum data set’ containing the basic data relevant to the vote in one convenient place . A major source of complaint about the conduct of the referendum was the supposed lack of independent information available about the vote. While there are real difficulties in separating out fact from political argument in these cases, a minimum data set ought to be possible.

In other words, rather than assuming that the British people are mature and capable enough to frame the debate in the terms which matter most to them, the Electoral Reform Society would have some shadowy committee decide in advance the terms on which the referendum should be fought, and then produce a “minimum data set” of presumably quantitative data to guide decision-making.

This is a truly terrible idea. The EU referendum probably meant something slightly different to every single one of the millions of Britons who voted. Even assuming that an approximate minimum data set could be hammered out, what was included and what was left out would inevitably reflect the biases or interests of those involved. We have enough trouble trying to come up with a referendum question which both sides feel eliminates bias or inappropriate suggestion. What makes the ERS think that producing a commonly agreed “minimum data set” would be anything but fraught, contentious and ultimately impossible?

Besides which, the key issue of the EU referendum was intangible: do we think that British democracy is best preserved inside the EU or without? One can come up with endless (often contradictory) statistics debating the economic benefits, but what could one possibly collate to form the “minimum data set” to vote based on democracy?

As political blogger I have read scores of history and politics books including some of the definitive critiques and praises for the EU, and the more I learned the less I realised I knew. In fact, as referendum day inched closer and closer and I saw other, established journalists and politicians make continual fools of themselves with their superficial and misleading analyses, I found it harder, not easier, to write. There is so much that I don’t know about how the EU works in practice and how international trade functions that I’m loathe to write much at all, and I actually spend spare moments reading some of this stuff and trying to learn. So what would be the Electoral Reform Society’s ideal minimum reading list for the country?

But of course they are not suggesting a reading list at all. When the ERS propose a minimum standards set, what they really mean is a short list of bullet points emphasising all the ways that Brexit could harm the economy in the short term, assuming a worst case scenario. They want a beefed up version of the government’s already utterly immoral £9 million propaganda leaflet sent to voters before the EU referendum. Just to altruistically ensure that people are “better informed”, of course. Right-o.

Is the current system perfect? No. Many Britons did complain that they felt they lacked sufficient information, or that they could not trust the information they were given. One could scarcely escape these modern-day Hamlets bleating their confusion on BBC Question Time. But in fact, while the status quo may be far from perfect, the giant flaws in more activist approaches like that proposed by the ERS are far worse.

Will people sometimes make their referendum decision judgements based on poorly chosen criteria? Yes, of course they will. Would seeking to prevent this by artificially restricting the terms of the debate be any better? No, it would be a thousand times worse. Rather that power sits with sometimes-confused citizens than with politicians or civil servants with very fixed ambitions of their own.

Besides, the awkward fact remains that while many voters may have liked to complain about not having all of the required information handed to them on a silver platter, a proportion of them were simply covering for their own laziness. As an ardent Brexit supporter I know I’m supposed to be waxing lyrical about the deep wisdom of the British people right now, but the fact is that there are a lot of stupid people out there, on both sides of the debate – people whose bovine cries of “but nobody is giving information” belies the fact that they haven’t watched the news in years because the TV remote got buried under a pile of pizza delivery boxes.

But the worst recommendation from the ERS report is yet to come:

An official body – either the Electoral Commission or an appropriate alternative – should be empowered to intervene when overtly misleading information is disseminated by the official campaigns. Misleading claims by the official campaigns in the EU referendum were widely seen as disrupting people’s ability to make informed and deliberate choices. Other countries including New Zealand have successfully regulated campaign claims – the UK should follow suit.

Again, this reeks of mistrusting the electorate – of course, we already know that the ERS does so, it is the very reason for this report in the first place. But to see it spelled out quite so blatantly is remarkable indeed. For in the opinion of the ERS, citizens are not mentally equipped – even in the Age of Google, when everybody has a smartphone in their pocket capable of accessing the accumulated knowledge of mankind – to analyse political messages and determine truth or untruth, validity or invalidity. Rather, we are apparently in need of some external authority to pre-screen our reality for us.

How on earth this is supposed to work is beyond comprehension. Set 100 top-tier university students the essay question “The EU brought peace to Europe. Discuss” and you will get 100 different subjective arguments, each with a unique perspective and most drawing from at least some unique sources. Say the Leave campaign takes a dislike to such a claim by the pro-EU side: what threshold would they have to meet to bring a complaint, and who has the final say as to whether the statement is misleading or not? And if a statement is found to be misleading, what should be the remedy? Front-page advertisements by the Electoral Commission in every national newspaper? Another propaganda leaflet through everyone’s door? Interrupting Coronation Street with some breaking news?

As a policy prescription it is entirely unworkable, but as a middle class, metro-leftist sulk at the supposed lies and deceit of the Bad Man Nigel Farage and the Evil Tor-eees it makes perfect sense. And sadly, that is precisely why the idea of a Referendum Censor entered the Electoral Reform Society’s report.

And shockingly, this leads the Electoral Reform Society to conclude that given the nature and outcome of the EU referendum campaign, maybe we would all be better off eschewing future freewheeling referendums for the safety and security of “parliamentary democracy”, preferring this to even their recommendations for more pre-determined, moderated, government-mediated future referendum campaigns:

Given the frequency of party-political imperatives behind the calling of referendums, it is worth asking: what are the conditions where a referendum is really the best way of settling a political question? Perhaps parties and politicians should make a habit of reflecting on some of the difficulties around calling and then responding to referendums, and – where possible – seek to find a way through the thicket of representative democracy instead.

Douglas Carswell sees many of the same flaws in the ERS report that this blog also identifies:

How do you give people more control over government? I’ve always believed the answer is direct democracy: more decisions made by voters, fewer by politicians and officials. But the Electoral Reform Society seems to think the opposite. They want to give officialdom more control over direct democracy. Why?

The ERS’s latest recommendations come from its scathing report on the referendum campaign. I also thought some of the conduct in the campaign was disgraceful. But much of their critique is misplaced.

There is, for example, barely any criticism of the Remain propaganda issued by Downing Street at taxpayers’ expense. And no mention of the use of the civil service as an extension of the Remain campaign. Apparently, co-opting the organs of the State to gain an unfair edge is no big deal.

The report also says people felt ill-informed, and the campaigns provided disinformation. Yet there is no admission that many of the outlandish claims came from supposedly independent “experts” – many of whose warnings, especially on the economy, have already been proven wrong.

And concludes:

But the big problem with the idea of official arbiters for campaign information is not the practical execution, but the premise behind it. In a democracy, we already have an arbiter: it’s called the people. The whole point of democracy is that voters analyse what they are told by the opposing sides, and make their own decision.

Underlying the ERS’s report is the sense that people can’t really be trusted to know what they are voting on, so instead we should let unelected technocrats decide for them. That’s not the kind of electoral reform Britain needs.

And yet the report makes some worthwhile observations despite its inherent biases. The information made available to the general public through the media was indeed shockingly bad, as the ERS complain, with MPs and household name journalists alike vying with one another for the title of Most Ignorant on a daily basis. More galling for sites such as this, those of us who strove to deepen our knowledge were routinely shut out of the discussion.

I doubt there is a better-researched and thoroughly produced political blog in the whole country than eureferendum.com, and Dr. Richard North’s “Flexcit” Brexit plan, yet few have ever heard of it thanks partly to the establishment closing ranks against somebody they view as an outsider but also to the fact that the Westminster political/media establishment are lazy, and don’t like putting in the hours of work it takes to speak confidently and knowledgeably on the real intricacies of Brexit and international trade.

But whatever the individual merits of each point in the report, it still ultimately comes back to the question of why the report was produced in the first place. Had the EU referendum result been inverted and the Remain side triumphed in a 52-48 victory, would the Electoral Reform Society still have produced a report, albeit one streaked with fewer Remainer tear stains? I’ll be generous and say yes, they probably would.

But would the content of the report and the ensuing recommendations be identical to the current version, with its overt worries about misinformation and an ill-informed population? I very much doubt it.

And that tells you everything you need to know about the political bias of the Electoral Reform Society.

 

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