Monday 22 February 2016

What We Are Left With

Suzanne Moore writes:

The first time I was shown around Westminster a very long time ago, by a well-loved maverick, he took me to a large gloomy room in the midst of the rabbit warren.

It was full of towers of paper. “Do you know what that is? ” I obviously didn’t. “Its EU regulation. No one reads it. None ever will. One day though ...”

I did not understand then how the EU “worked”. I still don’t, except that now I see it depends on us not knowing. 

Much of its power rests on a deadly combination of mystification, officiousness, and being so boring that most people just switch off.

What we are left with, then, is instinct – a thing clever people disdain in politics but something that good politicians understand. 

My instinct now is pretty Brexitty, much to the horror of many of my left/liberal friends who equate being anti–EU with being anti-Europe. This is not the same thing at all. 

I have not yet decided, but voting for more of the same does not appeal. The argument that we can reform the EU (er, actually banks?) from the inside does not work. Why haven’t we? 

Over the past few years, the more we have seen of the actual workings of the EU, the more unattractive it appears: the troika pursuing regime change in Greece, then openly asset-stripping it. 

Or watching last week, as rooms full of middle-aged men fiddled around to sort the small change of a deal that Cameron could sell. 

It prompted me to ask: “Where are the women?” The answer I was given was Angela Merkel. As usual, my question was misunderstood – I had not asked: “Where is the one woman who makes up for it being an entirely male-dominated decision-making process?”

It doesn’t look to me like a democracy. Nor does it appear accountable. This matters. Not a single one of my pro-EU friends could name their MEP when I asked them. 

Maybe this pales among issues like security, workers’ rights and border control, but as a representative democracy it is sorely lacking. 

Now of course, this will all be overshadowed by Boris and his “personality”, after the shocking development that he will be doing what works best for his “king of the world” plan. 

The points about democracy and sovereignty matter, and I am not sure that they can be smoothed over by personalities alone – whoever they belong to. 

The only left arguments are variations on a theme from people like Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister who has told of witnessing “the banality of bureaucracy” – and who was told by the German finance minister that elections cannot be allowed to change the established economic policy. 

Nonetheless, Varoufakis thinks we should stay in and try to reform institutions that he acknowledged were set up as democracy-free zones. 

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, and his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, seem unable to rouse themselves at all. An opposition party ought now to be gunning for the momentous split in the Tory party that is happening from the bottom up. 

Labour seems completely absent, possibly because its leaders are naturally Eurosceptic, possibly because they would rather think about Venezuela, or possibly because their media strategy consists mainly of sulking.

But there are many people like me – about a third of voters – who are undecided and open to persuasion. Yelling “Ukip” or “business” is not enough. Nor is Boris’s last hurrah, either. 

The remain crew should not take us for granted, because voting for more of the same feels awfully like the way the worst parts of the EU function: by boring us into submission.

A lot of us want something that gives us a more direct connection to those who make our laws, and we won’t decide simply by choosing one Etonian over another.

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