“They shouldn’t have left the [Brexit] decision to the public, due to its importance,” one of my friends just said.
The counterargument is obvious: democracy takes precedence, even if the electorate is so uninformed that after voting to leave they were googling “What is the EU?”
The question of whether to remain or leave should have been democratically decided aside, the EU Referendum was not born out of democracy. Nor was the vote to leave a working-class rebellion against the establishment.
Those who led both the Remain and Leave campaigns — David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith, Boris Johnson and others — are the elites, some of them responsible for our now-crumbling NHS, our benefits-sanction starvation deaths, our jobcentre harassment-related suicides. Voting Leave was not a protest vote. It was voting the way the Establishment told us to — as was voting Remain, of course.
My point is that there can be no ‘protest vote’ given that the establishment backed both positions.
There are existing cuts and privatization to healthcare, public services and welfare, and future cuts which no doubt will come. This means that the gap caused by the loss of the EU’s social welfare and services (e.g. EU-funded internet) provision to vulnerable groups as well as rural and poorer areas, will not be effectively plugged by our government. This loss will be keenly felt.
As middle-class individuals are less likely to live in poorer areas and less likely to become vulnerable (though this varies), it is the working class who will be most affected. The EU’s European Court of Justice, which paradoxically safeguards our human rights more efficiently than the European Court of Human Rights, will cease to have jurisdiction. We will lose all the case law which kept families from being torn apart.
The ECJ recently gave us protection — unique in the world! — against Google storing harmful statements about us which prevent us getting jobs or adversely affect our reputation. This ‘right to be forgotten’ as it’s known will now not apply to Brits.
ECJ decisions also prevent age, sex, religious and race discrimination at work and secure our immigration rights and civil liberties. While these losses will affect every one of us, those with fewer options and who are more likely to be oppressed by the authorities will be most affected. Again, these people are more likely to be working class than people who have enough wealth not to need to work or those who run the authorities and corporations.
Tens of thousands of us marched in London in April protesting government cuts to vital services which began under the previous coalition government and have worsened under the Tories. Last year, as police snipers watched from the rooftops, 60,000 took to the streets of Manchester in an anti-austerity demonstration — the biggest demo in the city’s history, though the media mainly focused on a single arrest for spitting despite the police force’s praise regarding the participants’ conduct.
There have been protests against workfare, privatization of the NHS and ‘work cure therapy’ given to people with mental health issues who are claiming benefits. There have been multiple protests across the UK under the current and previous government over austerity and related issues, and many protests against bombing Syria. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were heavily protested at the time.
Despite the hard work of millions of ordinary people — some attending demonstrations in wheelchairs just to make their voice heard — the government did nothing. In fact, things got worse. The NHS continues to be privatized. Benefits cuts now affect the employed as well as the unemployed. Workfare increased to a duration of 6 months.
Though Ian Duncan Smith’s resignation has been demanded umpteen times — most notably trending continuously for three days on Twitter — his resignation was nothing to do with the public’s wishes. The anti-war demos against military action in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan likewise achieved nothing. The lesson is clear: When we tried to participate in the democratic process, nothing changed.
We didn’t protest the EU. In fact the only EU-related protest which ever happened is the one which occurred yesterday — against Brexit. We didn’t protest — but we got an EU referendum. What does that tell us? It tells us that democratic participation is not what gets results.
We get the results that those in power want.
David Cameron instigated a referendum to please fellow Tories who would otherwise have defected to UKIP. We got a referendum as a result of party politics and political gamesmanship aimed at securing Cameron’s position as Prime Minister for a second term — a job he has now played himself out of. For Cameron’s one more year in power we have sacrificed the economic, diplomatic and strategic future of our country. We have exchanged security, local services provision, human rights and social welfare for this one year of Cameron’s rule.
The Brexit is not a story of a lone underdog standing up for ‘independence’ from an EU which didn’t affect its sovereignty as much as NATO. It isn’t a story of the working class rebelling against the 1%. It isn’t the story of a democratic triumph. It is the story of one man’s Game of Thrones-esque quest for power, and how he lost.
And actually I’d be fine with that. I’d be fine with that if only he hadn’t set our country’s future alight in the process.
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