Anyone with some sort of political acumen has an opinion on the primary issue dominating British politics, Brexit. It has hard to employ the word in any sort of discourse or context without feelings of dismay ascending, either because of the lies or connotations that come by implication to the word, these obviously include identity, nationalism and immigration. Whether or not one is a Brexiter, the issue has become heavily polluted, however the thing that I find most infuriating and most dangerous is that the EU debate, held over a year ago, was devoid of any holistic examination about the implications and consequences of the United Kingdom’s potential exit from the European Union. Only now are we seeing the consequences of this, as Prime Minister May struggles to gain any sort of traction in her quest to depart the institution.
Firstly, it needs to be acknowledged that the EU are a bureaucratic and aristocratic panel of unelected and undemocratic, sovereign representatives, existing purely to satisfy and satiate cooperate interests. They are largely responsible for the centralisation of capital and wealth in Europe and the West and have contributed to the dearth of progress in developing counties. Yet, despite this very sufficient ineptitude, the argument most heavily proliferated against the EU has been related to immigration. This may be a question for another debater article, but are there deeper structural powers at play here? Because, surely, if the EU’s politics was the problem, then the aforementioned reason would be a more prudent and politically legitimate issue to raise.
Moving on however, by implication of the EU’s political sovereignty, the EU are integral to every part of British infrastructure. As Britain continues to establishes it self as a champion of the single market, propositioned by the EU, essential facets of British society engrosses itself into the EU’s remit. This includes the foundations of society’s structures; trains, buildings, planning regulations all go through procurement processes laid down by the EU and this is essential to Britain’s economy in both a financial and functionality capacity. The importance of this is evidence, yet it begs the question, why was this not mentioned in the debate?
Furthermore, the EU is heavily engrossed in Britain’s research assembly. This is again by implication of having a political system that is so heavily engrossed into the EU’s productivity The UK is one of the largest recipients of research funding from the EU. Over the period 2007 to 2013 the UK received €8.8 billion out of a total of the €107 billion expenditure available to research, development and innovation in EU Member States, associated and third countries. This represents the fourth largest share in the EU. In terms of funding awarded on a competitive basis in the period 2007 – 2013, the UK was the second largest recipient after Germany, securing €6.9 billion out of a total of €55.4 billion. Why again, was this not mentioned in the debate?
Then finally, economics. Through access to the single market, London has been able to attract institutional and corporate investment from Europe and beyond these shores. Why again, was this not mentioned in the debate? Conversely, on a different dynamic, with an estimated population of 8,615,246 residents, London is the most populous region, urban zone and metropolitan area in the United Kingdom. London generates approximately 22% of the UK’s GDP, with 41,000 private sector businesses based in London (at the start of 2013). The lack of economic, political and opportunistic devolution in the UK is indicative of the EU’s operational structure. The single market is the most lucrative version of itself in a centralised system where money, labour and politics transpires in the same space, because investors would rather invest in one super-economy with extravagant returns (London), than invest in a split of many healthy economies around where the returns may be more stable but less spectacular. This surely, like my first elucidation, is a far more prudent argument to make against the EU, than a largely fabricated narrative about immigration (which I will clarify in another debater article).
Conclusively, the thing that I am most trying to infer here is that the current format of political destitution and reporting, from both the politicians and the media, needs renovation. In the context of Brexit; the state of political analysis was repugnant. The aforementioned issues, that both highlights the advantages and disadvantages of being an EU member state, was largely ignored and a narrative manifested itself that seemed to purely oppose the establishment or at least a perception of an establishment. Is politics not supposed to be about creating a better society? Well you could have fooled me!
The recent treatment of Jeremy Corbyn is the latest blow to the representation of the views of young people in politics. This comes in the wake of an EU referendum result that revealed a serious generational divide between the views of the young, who overwhelmingly voted to remain, and older members of society who voted to leave. Encouraging younger people to become more involved in the political process is a democratic necessity. However, more effort must be made by younger people themselves and the political establishment to progress toward this goal.
Corbyn clearly enjoyed strong support amongst young people who supported his election as Labour leader and who have made up the bulk of the subsequent surge in Labour members. However, he has been consistently mocked in parliament, belittled and criticised from almost every conceivable angle. He has not been respected at any point by his political opponents or even by many from his own party. Proof, if any where needed, that many in the political establishment either do not take the views of young people seriously or simply do not believe that they need to. If further evidence of this was required, Nick Clegg’s infamous ‘selling out’ over the issue of tuition fees in 2010, the coalition government’s stubborn stance over their increase and the decision not to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the EU referendum would seem to offer it.
However, young people cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves. They must make their voices heard at the next Labour leadership contest if necessary, forgive the Liberal Democrats and listen to the progressive choice offered by the Green Party. They must however, be given help from the establishment. Political parties must realise the power that young people have to swing elections and political decisions and reach out to them. In the long term, plans must also be put in place to educate children from a young age about the political process and the importance of voting.
Young people must engage and be engaged by the current political system. The consequences of doing nothing are clear. The voice of young people in politics will fade into nothingness in both the present and in the future, and leave current and future generations at the whim of a political caste that they have no power in influencing. This scenario, quite simply, cannot be allowed to become reality.
Nigel Farage’s recent claim that the Leave campaign has carried an ‘upbeat’ message further evidences the Leave side’s attempt to portray itself as the more positive of the two referendum campaigns. However, the disheartening truth is that both sides have quite clearly been motivated by fear and political opportunism. Debate will rage after June 23rd on what the future holds for the nation depending on of the outcome of the vote. What will be beyond debate, is the undeniable truth that this referendum campaign has been a deeply costly one in terms of the divisions that it has created in British society and politics.
Proving that both of the campaigns have been motivated by fear is not difficult. One cannot deny the incessantly negativity of the arguments produced by the Remain side. David Cameron has implied that a Brexit could put peace and stability in Europe at risk, while the criticism of the Leave campaign’s plans for building new trade relations with the EU and other nations has been constant. It has also become clear that the Leave campaign’s very existence is based on the fears that people have over the impact of migration, the strain being placed on the NHS and housing markets, terrorism and loss of sovereignty. If these fears were not present, there would be very little debate over Britain’s EU membership.
There are also a number of question marks over the motivations of politicians from both sides. Is Boris Johnson using the Leave campaign to put himself in contention to fill the power vacuum at the head of the Conservative Party once David Cameron steps down? Why were articles on Jeremy Corbyn’s personal website that espoused eurosceptic views deleted prior to his becoming Labour leader? Amongst the viciousness of this debate, the opportunistic and untrustworthy nature of many politicians has come to the fore.
This referendum has brought out the worst in modern day politics. Facts and arguments have been exaggerated and twisted, with fear mongering and opportunism clearly evident. Healing public faith in politics and reconciling members of the two political factions to work together again will be as much a challenge as dealing with the result of the referendum. There is already the potential of a second referendum if Britain votes to remain. For many, the thought of having to go through another campaign like this one is too much to contemplate.
Public trust in politicians has reached such depths that even estate agents and bankers are more trusted to tell the truth. In addition to widely stated reasons such as the expenses scandal, empty rhetoric and broken promises, I believe one underlying reason is the lack of expertise and professionalization in British politics across all parties. The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice is an English graduate without any legal experience. An ex-Labour shadow Chancellor, without any relevant qualifications or experience, admitted to needing a book in economics for beginners when given the role. The Education Secretary is a former corporate lawyer without any teaching experience. The Equalities Minister voted against gay marriage. The list of examples is endless but the random nature of the government ministerial appointments does not inspire public confidence. Furthermore, ministers could feel less confident introducing policy reform especially in the face of civil service opposition. Therefore, relevant expertise in their field would not only make the public more confident but the minister in the implementation of their own policy agenda.
My policy suggestion would be for the Prime Minister to insist on previous experience or qualifications before awarding a portfolio to a minister. This criterion could be met through previous and/or current academic studies, extensive professional experience before entering politics or a mandatory acclimatisation period of, at least, 12 months if the party is currently in opposition. This mandatory training period would involve work placements, shadowing and academic study of relevant policy issues facing the department. This training period could be necessary in order to compensate for the lack of expertise around more modern departments such as the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The initial problems of narrowing the talent pool for current Members of Parliament would be far-outweighed if political parties started to look at potential parliamentary candidates from professional bodies, for example Keir Starmer as a prospective Secretary of State for Justice. Although future reshuffles would be more limited as promotions would effectively be ‘in-house’, junior ministers, who were familiar with their brief, would be able to take on more senior positions.
This relatively cost-free policy would bring credibility to Cabinet ministers, improve public confidence in politicians and increase the levels of professionalism and expertise in British politics as a trend emerged away from ‘career politicians’ towards distinguished experts in their respective fields.