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November 03, 2016


Dave Timoney

I'm dubious that there has been a deterioration in the British character, both because the degree of change in social matters is generally over-estimated and because there is no such beastie. It's a bit like the nonsense of "British values".

In fact, the problem with people like Farage and Evans is that they believe there is such a thing, and it just so happens to coincide with their own characteristics and prejudices. Reactionary bigotry, including contempt for the courts and Parliament, is a fine old British tradition, like riotous assembly.

I think explaining this in terms of narcissism and tantrums obscures the genuine (and rational) fury that many people have felt towards the political class since at least 2000. Farage and Evans are simply the noxious froth on a bubbling cauldron.

This is a full-blown constitutional crisis in which the Crown (the executive) seeks to subvert Parliament by an appeal to a popular sovereignty that it actually has no intention of honouring. The danger is plebiscitary dictatorship. Serious politics is happening.


I think you may be onto something, although as events overseas suggest, it's clearly not just a problem of British character (whatever that is).

There are major changes taking place in consumer behaviours and attitudes throughout the developed (rich) world. We'd be naive to think that those same changes weren't affecting people's behaviour as voters too.

Narcissism does seem to be becoming more of a thing, probably thanks to social media. Over-entitlement/instant gratification are perhaps the outcome of a relentless barrage of advertising that persuades us that, whoever we are and whatever our merit, somehow we "deserve" stuff. Cheap, easy credit has given us the means to collude in the fiction.

Unsurprising, then, that we are becoming spoilt brats, who won't be reasoned with and won't be denied.


No. Its not “I want, I want” most, and certainly any parent daily distinguishe I need from I want. For how many years have we effectively been ruled by 'public opinion' – by our politicians pointing to any old poll to justify their analysis of 'need'. The problem is the years and years of colourful pretence; perhaps it will turn out that Cameron marks the point a social environment fit for serious participatory politics became a necessity.


Immediately prior to the Referendum Farage said that a narrow victory by the Remainers would be just cause for a campaign for a further Referendum. Naturally when the result was indeed narrow his desire for an action replay evaporated because the result went his way. (This is an early example of Trump's declaration that he'd accept the result of the Presidential election if and only if he won.) Brexiteers are whining because they aren't democrats and don't accept that 48% of the population that voted in opposition to their proposition continue to have a say in their future.

Ralph Musgrave

Government's publicity prior to the Brexit vote said "The government will implement whatever you decide". I assume that had he blessing of Labour. Thus parliament effectively gave the choice to the British people.


Ralph, The Cameron government may have said that but the current one did not. May could argue that Cameron's running away has absolved her of any actions his government took. She can also argue that as no parliament can bind its successors she is not bound by any promises made by the Cameron government as parliament will ultimately pass legislation to implement Brexit.


I'm more sanguine about the judges decision than many fellow leavers. If we voted to restore parliament as the sovereign body then it seems reasonable for parliament to have a debate. A version of Leave debated and passed by parliament will be a stronger Leave than one dreamt up by the PM.


Chris I'm an admirer of yours but I think you have missed the point here. The real question is "who are the people" and what does "their will" mean.

Here the key issue becomes time scales and breadth of impact. There are law changes that need to be evaluated in short time scales (like the rate of income tax) and laws that have much wider and longer lasting impact (like constitutional changes). The fact is that "the people" have different opinions and those opinions change volatilely over time. Long lasting laws needed to take account that the impact all the people and their impact will only become fully apparent after a considerable time. They therefore demand and more deliberative approach and a higher degree of approval (many constitutions require a super majority).

Look at Turkey. It must be clear that Turkey is basically no longer a democracy even though the "majority" seems to be in charge. The problem is that it no longer governs for all the people and doesn't protect the rights of minorities, or respect their right to express their opinion.


To put it another way, the referendum was like treating the decision to have a heart bypass, like the decision to buy a pair of socks.


Another way to put it, is that the problem is not narcissism but hyper-partisanship. People no longer have any sense of who is "we" (i.e. of when they need to be inclusive.) You like football analogies - it is like Manchester United wanting to destroy City (and Arsenal and Liverpool and Chelsea), instead of realizing that they are essential part of their own identity.


I agree with FATE, and see this as a great test for the UK's politics. Duncan Smith gave his reaction on the radio yesterday, that this was the sort of thing wars have been fought over - not sure if he's Cavalier or Roundhead, certainly no Leveller. But he's on the margins and I guess the people in play will be reacting to events with the assurance that the judges have firmed up the constitutional pitch.

The consequences will be fascinating. Is the monarchy at stake? Maybe then we can talk about British character.

Meantime - cheer up, CD! Seem to be losing hope lately.


I note that UKIP were not too bothered against the ruling of judges when one of their kind took up a plank of wood and smacked a man speaking Spanish in genteel Bournemouth about the head, knocking him unconscious to the pavement. The kindly judge gave the thug a suspended sentence.

Little has been said about the appallingly poor quality of legal advice the Government is still getting.

The will of the people has apparently changed and 51/49% are now Remainers. Who knows what the proportions will be in 2019 onwards? Theresa May has gone out of her way to totally ignore the 48%s will of the people. She cannot risk an election when the 48% and 52% will be voting purely on Referendum remain / leave issues for whoever promises them their wishes.

After 4 months the Government is falling apart. Can it go on for another 2 years on a single issue subject? The Scotland and N Ireland issues remain unresolved and it is becoming increasingly obvious that the best solution is now the simple one of admitting to the public that we tried but regretfully there is no way that an viable exit solution can be found without lasting damage to the UK economy.


The problem in my lifetime has always been to devise an accurate, reliable, truthful system by which we the people might be informed. The media is a total failure, the Government does not seem to care (except in wartime when they suddenly realise they need us and create a Ministry of Information) so I see no hope on this score.


I am sure Thatcher was correct that Parliament deciding things is the tradition in the Uk and Roy jenkins agreed! The irony of the EU issue is that people like Tony Benn supported a referendum to defend the very idea of Parliamentary Supremacy as he argued that the EEC was antithetical to that idea. While Roy and Maggie disagreed with that view. This matter gets every one all worked up so they end up in a confused mess. logic out the window, even when the politicos have all studied the same PPE course at Oxford.

I suspect that the EU vote is really as much about the unpopularity of many policies approved by Parliament as the EU. It has been argued by a number of people that if you look at the reasons given by brexit voters very little has to do with the actual EU. The framework of policy is set by the net result of the competition between parties and the changes within them. However the system of Parliamentary representation gives no direct control of the voters over the system. Many of the Brexit voters will be disappointed by the result of this Plebiscite as the control they assumed they were getting will prove an illusion. Something I pointed out at the time!


I should add there is no ideal system and I am not sure Parliament can be relied on to protect minorities who ever they were, or do anything else for that matter. Gay men did badly out of Parliament until 1967, and the Miners at Orgreave fared no better in 1983-4. May be maggie was thinking of the 1 per cent of rich as a minority in need of protection? They seem to do well under all systems....


Thatcher was correct to say that "the people" cannot look at every little detail and that Parliament should be a body that scrutinises legislation logically and in detail.

It is absolutely correct that Parliament needs to scrutinise, carefully and logically, the Government's intentions as there is a great deal of "detail" (which isn't detail) to be settled: whether the UK leaves the Single Market or not, whether ending free movement of EU nationals is to be a priority even if doing so forces the UK out of the Single Market and crashes the economy.

Farage would, no doubt, like the UK to leave the Single Market even though that is far beyond what was decided in the referendum. And no doubt he believes he could benefit politically from the consequent economic downturn. He probably doesn't want parliamentary scrutiny because all these issues would become clearer to the public.

One problem is, though, that the record of parliament in holding the executive to account is poor, and this is partly what fuels the anger at politicians.

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