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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Election Antics Part 2: The Denial of Democracy

By VORTEXICA - or; Vortexica complains about British politics ad nauseum.

Last we-... I mean MONTH, in my last article (E3 reactions notwithstanding), I broke down the main results of the May UK General Election and remarked on possible implications for the British gaming industry. This time I want to take one of the main talking points from the election and really lay into it for the sad denial of democracy that it is — or rather was. You can think of this article as me simply letting off steam about something I had to listen to over and over again during the campaign. So if you don't wish to hear me drone on about this incredibly dull topic in an overly verbose way, I warn you, turn back now. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

I'm speaking of course about the debate over whether or not to hold an in/out referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union (EU). Since the former European Economic Community was reformed into the far more politically-integrated EU in 1993, the British public has never had a say on the matter, and since many in this country are highly euro-sceptic, they're hankering for a fix of referendum goodness.


However, while various parties (eg, Conservatives, Greens, and UKIP obviously) committed to holding referenda regardless of whether they were pro-EU or not, the Labour Party made it a point of not doing so on the grounds that it would be a disaster for the UK's recovering economy and put jobs at risk. As a pro-EU guy myself (like most of Britain's main political parties), let me say that I share this stance that leaving would be overall detrimental. But I'm also objective enough to realise that this opinion, like a lot of things in politics, is just that; opinion. You can back up either argument with evidence, but until such a thing occurs, I don't believe any of us can truly know for sure what the actual effect will be. UKIP leader Nigel Farage for instance seems to believe leaving the EU would save billions and that a referendum is "nothing to fear". You'd think that if widespread damage was such a certainty that those kinds of viewpoints just wouldn't be as prevalent as they are.

How the Labour Party thought they could ever justify not offering an EU referendum boggles the mind, even if they did think leaving would be disastrous. The decent, respectable thing to do in this situation would be to allow democracy to work and let people decide for themselves, and throw everything and the kitchen sink into fighting your corner. Have a big, open, and honest debate with everyone included, and let the people examine it all, then vote. Even Nigel Farage, Mr. UKIP himself, has said he wants to leave in a democratic way, instead of unilaterally pulling out given the chance. After all, a fairly recent poll by YouGov showed that pro-EU sentiment was at a record high, and since the announcement of an imminent referendum, pro-EU numbers have tended to go from strength to strength.

Latest YouGov EU referendum poll data

As far as I'm concerned, it's irrelevant whether you're pro- or anti-EU, or whether you think it would hurt the economy or not; everyone should be pro-referendum in the same way everyone is pro-democracy. And if your side loses the argument in the end then, well, I'm sorry, that's just too bad. The people have spoken. Vox populi, vox Dei. Just front it out and soldier on.

After all, this isn't simply an issue between who'd like to stay and who'd prefer to leave. There are many nuances of opinion involved. I expect some people do indeed believe that leaving would prove detrimental economically, but would still vote to leave because other things may be more important to them. Maybe they're more concerned about the record levels of immigration in recent years, or they place stronger emphasis on national sovereignty and want our EU-devolved powers repatriated, or they simply detest supranational organisations altogether. It's people with these variable kinds of views that often fall between the cracks and aren't represented by any flavour of party policy, which is why holding a referendum is so important so they get to have a say too.

And the sooner we hold that referendum, the sooner we can have this issue dead and buried one way or another, rather than trying to keep the lid on the boiling pot until euroscepticism and resentment at being further denied a vote on this matter explodes in our faces. Better to open the lid on that pot and get all this pent up tension out of our systems through measured debate on the issue.

Former leader Ed Miliband fought the election for the Labour Party

Now it's true I didn't particularly care for Ed Miliband or his flavour of politics. Neither am I here to talk about what others dubbed the "general undercurrent of unlikeableness" he gave off, nor the sense of slimy, supercilious smugness I get from many of the Labour top brass. But as Labour leader, he spearheaded party policy during the election, which includes the anti-referendum position, so excuse me while I vent at him for a bit.

Now, I basically equate that attitude of seeking to deny a referendum with "Oh, well, the British people are too stupid to know what's good for them, so we'll just make the choice for them by not giving them a choice at all! Just trust in the most wise and beneficent Miliband to know what's best for you!" That is nothing more than arrogant presumption. Believing you know best and everyone else should be thankful to have you around to safeguard their interests.

In fact, on an election Q&A special of the show Question Time on the 30th of April, Miliband was asked by a questioner: "What makes your view more important than the British people's when it comes to the EU and an in/out referendum?"

He responded with: "It's about leadership ... and what I want to achieve as PM", and then proceeded to deliver a spiel on having more important issues to worry about than a referendum, such as the economy.

This flies in the face of what happened during the 2011 referendum on whether to adopt the 'alternative vote' system. Lo and behold, amidst economic fragility and uncertainty surrounding a fairly new government, we somehow managed to hold that referendum. So why couldn't Miliband commit to the same? It's very clear looking back these were simply transparent excuses.

Moderator David Dimbleby came back at that with: "And supposing she wants her voice heard?"

To which the questioner added: "Yes, your views more important than mine and everybody else here."

Miliband responded: "I do respect that point of view, but I don't agree with it, because I'm putting my views forward..."

Questioner: "Then let us put ours forward."

Miliband: "Well you do at the General Election... You don't always do what the polls tell you to do, you do what you think is the right thing for the country."

He finished by saying: "You've got to make your own judgement about what is the most important issue to you. For me, it isn't about trying to get out of the EU."

Well, fair enough then. What he essentially said right there is that if having a say on Britain's EU status is something important enough to you that it could potentially swing your vote, then you should flat-out vote for someone who's actually offering it. That is to say, not Labour. Is it still any wonder why Labour lost when they were saying things like this?

But wait, it gets better. In a similar vein, former Labour "spin doctor" Alastair Campbell said on the May the 8th edition of Question Time that having a referendum or even debating it would be "dangerous".

I just couldn't believe what I was hearing. I mean, it's not just me, right? Is this real? Is this happening? He should try telling that to the nearly four million people that voted UKIP. And people have a go at me for saying Miliband's position was antithetical to democracy? That attitude is the very anathema of democracy.

Now, all this that I've said so far may seem a bit academic, seeing as the Conservatives already won the election and have committed to a referendum within the next couple of years or so. I still feel this is relevant conversation because the Labour Party is currently undergoing a period of soul-searching and internal policy analysis while they seek to find a new leader and reconnect with voters, and this issue in particular is one that I am sure cost them potentially vital support.

One of Labour's rising stars tipped for the leadership was Chuka Umunna.

"Chuck a Munna?"
No, silly!

Umunna used Future Sight! Umunna foresaw an election defeat!

Chuka Umunna has previously been dubbed by some "the British Obama". Hmm, does that mean from now on I should call him "Chuka Harrison Umunna"? Nah, that's stupid. Who in their right mind would do that? Anyway, he's currently the Shadow Business Secretary and briefly threw his hat into the ring in running for the leadership of his party, and was the candidate tipped by many as being most feared by the Conservative government. Surprisingly however, citing overwhelming pressure from being in the public eye, he withdrew his candidacy after having stood for just three days! A shame really. He was fairly young and charismatic, and could've brought about the shift Labour so badly needs.

But I digress. In this humble critic's opinion, if Labour is to successfully re-invent themselves rather than just choose a new leader and get into the headspace that everything will work out fine like they did last time, they need to take a long and serious look at some of their policies and honestly determine if that's really what they should've been offering and what will really resonate with voters. If they fail to do that, they'll have once again failed to learn anything at all from another crushing election defeat.

Heck, some prominent Labour figures have already admitted they overspent in government before the financial crisis struck, after strong denial during the election campaign. Even if they're just saying that to appear humble, it's what everyone else thinks, so plaudits for that at least. They've even changed their tune on opposition to a referendum by siding with the government in a vote to ensure it can be held between now and 2017. Again, bravo to them for that. Took 'em long enough, but better late than never.

I for one hope Labour can succeed in finding themselves again. A strong and, quite frankly, credible opposition is vital in any democracy to fend off tyranny of the majority. Just don't expect me to plonk down the £3 fee to vote for the next Labour Party leader. I don't care that much!

Vortexica wishes he didn't have to wade into the murky waters of politics—British politics no less—in such a negative way. Here at KoopaTV, there is a belief in getting things off your chest, and it's damn therapeutic. You can also bet Vortexica will have more to say in 2016-17 when the referendum is held, only don't expect that article to be titled "Election Antics Part 3", mainly because Vortexica finally realised he uses the word 'antics' far too much in his articles. In addition, as a keen follower of American politics, Vortexica is looking forward to 2020, when both nations will hold their principal elections in the same year! What an exhilarating time THAT shall be.

In America, there is voting, but democracy is denied because it's rigged.
While it's not Election Antics Part 3, Vortexica followed through with his promise in the footer.

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