The result of the EU referendum has further exposed huge flaws in the way we do politics. There is widespread dissatisfaction with how we do politics and desire for radical change – even more so after the referendum. Then there is the question of the validity of a referendum on such a complex issue as our membership of the EU discussed in Richard Dawkins’ Prospect article Brexit Roulette – How dare you entrust such an important decision to ignoramuses like me? This dire situation was brought about by a Government elected with the support of less than 24% of the electorate, arguably for party political reasons, rather than in the interests of the nation.
I go further and challenge our current belief in so-called majority government. I believe in the principle of getting the whole system into the room i.e. all stakeholders in order to create solutions that will have the largest support and be most likely to work. The absence of this approach over the past thirty years has led to conflict and failure to resolve key challenges facing the nation. Recent examples include the alienation of teachers and young doctors many of whom, despite their dedication, are finding their working life intolerable.
Given the great challenges (and opportunities) humanity faces, collaboration and consensus building rather than continuous conflict is required as I argue in my blog post Is Majority Rule fit for the 21st Century?
The EU referendum produced a 72.2 % turnout, a Leave vote of 51.9% and 48.1 % for Remain- a difference of just 2.8%. Furthermore, 28% did not vote. With such a small margin, surely Parliament can decide not to implement the result of a referendum which is only advisory. Brexit loophole? MPs must still vote in order for Britain to leave the EU, say top lawyers . The Leave vote is described as a majority. In detail the results reveal a deeply divided nation. It can also be interpreted as a strong protest against the Westminster establishment, their failure to represent the whole nation or listen to and act on the concerns of many people about many issues. That always leads to trouble. Such worries include the consequences of globalisation and new technology on employment. The internet of things and zero marginal cost may revolutionise work even further The Zero Marginal Cost Society There is also the failure to present an inspiring and positive vision of a radically reformed EU that addresses the major concerns of all member countries. Positive strategies to address all these issues need to be developed and presented to the public.
We could be at the beginning of a benign transformation in British politics. Corbyn calls the 100,000-strong surge in Labour supporters since the EU referendum as evidence of a “political sea change”. Labour supporters now stand at over 500,000 – their highest membership in modern times. Labour could split unless it reconciles the differences between their members and MPs. I agree with Paul Hilder’s article Progressive voters must ditch party differences to gain a voice in Brexit Britain. It’s time for politicians and activists to put aside their tribal loyalties.
Corbynism is an interesting phenomenon – a refreshing force for change, with much in common with emerging leaders in other European countries. I admire him for his strong values and integrity with which many people, especially the young, are in great sympathy. He deserves credit for recruiting large numbers of people to Labour and making Labour a people’s party. Some of his colleagues simply don’t get it! He is a very different kind of leader. We need transformative leaders who offer a vision and enable others to do likewise. They are not necessarily charismatic – Attlee, arguably one of the great 20th Century leaders, was not charismatic. Charisma can be dangerous as we are seeing through the Chilcot report on the Iraq war. Of course Corbyn has his flaws – we all do. Whether he could lead Labour in a successful election campaign is a big question that could be tested very soon.
I believe we need an alliance of progressive people who want a sustainable, fair and truly democratic Britain. Such an alliance is needed for radical constitutional reform that is required if we are to have progressive government. How refreshing it would be if we bring about such an alliance in the next Parliament. In my blog post We need a new Magna Carta to give power to the people I argue for a new written constitution.
There are grounds for hope. Following the devastating criticisms of the Chilcot Report it is arguable that that the British state is at an all-time low. Furthermore, we lack the great leadership needed to address impending environmental catastrophe, the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. It is at times like these, and the public are ready to support them, that great leaders emerge. Remember it was only after the catastrophe of Dunkirk and the general incompetence of government was clear that the two greatest British leaders of the Twentieth Century, Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee emerged. The war was won and the Britain’s much admired post-war social settlement was established.
To make this happen, all of us need to get engaged in whatever way we can – and challenge the feeling that this is all too idealistic and there is nothing we can do. Hope and idealism have bought humanity a long way; so-called realism has not!
Acknowledgment: I was inspired to write this blog post after reading Mary Dejevsky’s recent article in the Independent An astonishing power vacuum has let us down as a continent looks on.
Bruce Nixon is the author of The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness Published by Acorn Independent Publishing.