politics

Dear Regretful Leave Voter,

I want to open this letter firstly by apologising to you for the way that the UK has let you down. You were openly and repeatedly lied to by the Leave campaign and by the right-wing media, and no one seemed to have the will or the authority to do anything about it.

If an advertiser lies, the Advertising Standards Agency can penalise them and stop them from doing it again. But the ASA does not cover political campaigning, so they were unable to stop the Leave campaign from lying to you.

When the media lies, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which took over from the Press Complaints Commission, can force a news organisation to publish a retraction or correction, but by the time they do the damage has been done. The press can pretty much lie as much as they like without having to worry about it.

Many of the Leave politicians lied to you too, and they are now walking back their claims about giving £350m per week to the NHS or stopping immigration. There are more lies, but we’ll stop with just those two because they are big ones, the pants-on-fire-sized lies.

No one had the political will to stop the lies. People did try to counter them, but that’s not the same as stopping them being made, repeatedly, even after they had been shown clearly to be lies. And I’m sorry for that. It’s a dreadful state of affairs when our national civil discourse is peppered with lies and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

I’m also sorry that it wasn’t made clear enough to you that your vote really counted. Really, really counted. We are so used to our votes being useless, no matter which side of the aisle we inhabit. I vote in a safe  Tory seat, so I am used to being in a minority of non-Tory voters. I vote all the same, but I can understand the urge to not bother, because what’s the point?

I haven’t read every single news article or watched every single bit of Brexit TV. Who could? But I don’t think that enough of a fuss was made that this was a vote where every single person’s opinion counted, and where all that was needed was a simple majority.

You voted to Leave, even though you didn’t really want to, and maybe that was a protest vote. Again, I understand why you would do that. I mean, who wouldn’t be ticked off at the nasty financial repercussions of the 2008 financial crash, a disaster for which no one was punished and, worse, after which there were no meaningful reforms. Could it happen again? Well, we have to hope it doesn’t, but the banks are no better regulated now than they were then.

And, of course, we can’t forget the years of Tory austerity, which hit people hard. Austerity was never the right way forward, and indeed, economists and financial institutions begged the Tories not to continue with austerity, but they carried on. We could discuss why, and that would be a useful discussion, but all we need to point out here is that austerity hurt people. It hurt them badly. It made them financially insecure, it made them struggle. Maybe it made you struggle. I certainly felt the pinch, as did many of my friends.

So I can understand why you felt that you wanted to protest. And I understand why you are now mortified at what has happened. And I am sorry that you are in this situation. But…

It’s not over. You can still fight. You can still be heard, you can still have an impact. We, together, can still turn this nightmare around. If I may, I’d like to make some suggestions:

1. Sign this petition asking for a second referendum. Whether or not the horse has already scarpered from this particular stable is not the point. This petition is a symbol of how unhappy we are about what has happened. Sign it, share it with your friends, ask them to sign it. It’s already well past 2 million signatories at the time of writing, and rising rapidly.

2. Contact your MP and tell them you regret your vote, and that you now want to remain. You don’t have to go into any detail about what happened, but just be brave, be strong, and tell your MP that you were lied to and that you want their help to make sure that we stay in the EU. It’s really easy to do — just go to Write To Them and that will help you get in touch with the right person.

3. Complain to your MP as well that the lies told by the Leave campaign amount to electoral fraud. You can also complain to the Electoral Commission. Even though they have no power to deal with political advertising, it is important that they understand the depth of feeling that this referendum was held under false pretences.

4. Talk to your friends about what happened, especially other people who voted Leave, or who were so unsure that they didn’t vote at all. See if you can persuade them that they have been lied to and that it is OK for someone to change their mind when they realise that something they thought was true is actually false. See if you can get them to engage with the political process, and help us to make sure that the UK doesn’t make this huge mistake.

Why bother doing any of this? Because if we come together to give our MPs, most of whom want to remain in the EU, a new political mandate to stay, then we might just get out of this mess before it’s too late. Article 50 has not been triggered (and don’t believe the scaremongering about it being done over our heads or whatever), and we have a short window of opportunity to make sure it never is triggered. But we have to act now. We have to lobby, and persuade, and make our voices heard above the lies.

I know that people like you are scared of being abused by some folks who voted Remain and are very angry about what happened. I can only, again, apologise if you have been on the receiving end of that kind of abuse. It’s not nice, and it’s not right, and it shouldn’t be happening. I shall make no excuses for it: I fundamentally disagree with any sort of abuse, no matter who it’s directed at or why.

But if you know people who voted Remain, and who are being civil, talk to them. Try to mend some bridges, as I will try to mend bridges myself with those Leavers who are civil. This referendum has created some deep divides and we all need to work hard to try to mend what has been broken. Do not give up hope. Do not feel useless or overwhelmed. Together, we can make things better, if we act now.

Finally, if you want some context about just how many people in the UK really voted to leave, this chart might be useful.

As you can see, there isn’t really a majority in favour of Leaving, not least because a lot of people couldn’t vote, either because they were not registered, not eligible to register, or not old enough to register. We cannot go forward with such a major change to our country, which will affect not just us but all future generations, but which only a quarter of the population actively supports.

Thank you for reading this, and thank you for being open enough to consider that your Leave vote was mistaken. That takes guts, and I admire you for being willing to rethink your position.

Best regards,

Suw

PS. Comments are closed, because I know that a lot of people feel very strongly, and that some of those people are unable to remain polite.

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Journalist Simon Ricketts wrote an excellent piece about Labour in which he argues that because there’s no real way that Labour can win the next election, they need to get a hold of the narrative and own it. They need to actually move the debate to the left, to be seen to stand up for what’s right, rather than trying to find out what would make them ‘electable’. They need to find some spine and create an opposition party that’s actually in opposition to the Tories.

They should fight, they should stand up, they should campaign and they should vote against. For the people who need them.

For the people who didn’t vote for austerity – and it’s worth remembering that is the majority of the country – they need to grab their bloody rifles, wrap their paws around the triggers and FIRE.

The only way you move the Overton window is to get outside of it and PULL. You need people who aren’t concerned about how their haircut “plays” in the eyes of the electorate, or whether they should put the words “reach out” or “going forward” in their latest dribble-filled speech.

You need brave people. Unselfish people. Ready to stand outside, prepared to be mocked. Passionate, committed and determined. I don’t see that in many of our politicians.

Last night, I heard a lettuce-fuelled Labour leadership hopeful tell a TV reporter that he is re-evaluating the ‘core values’ in the eyes of the electorate, as if by merely saying those words with his mouth, then the answer will turn up in a taxi.

Let me tell you the core values, sunshine. They are to stand up to inequality, punch hard for those who cannot, and REFUSE to be bowed in the face of battle. Save yourself the money you were going to spend on shiny leaflets. You won’t need them. Just stand up, charge forward and bloody fight.

It’s well worth reading the whole post.

When I first read it, I wasn’t really sure that Labour was actually dead. Wounded certainly, but actually dead? The next election’s five years away, surely they weren’t so mortally wounded that they couldn’t recover?

And then I read about the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, a bill that Labour should have been in vocal opposition to. But instead, they put up a pathetic amendment, and then put their MPs under a whip to abstain instead of vote against. If they had voted against, the amendment would have failed, and about 48 Labour MPs voted with their conscience and did in fact vote against.

The Welfare Reform and Work Bill, in case you haven’t read about it, “slashes tax credits, cuts the benefit cap by £6,000 and takes up to £30 a week from sick and disabled jobseekers”. It is a regressive bit of legislation, punishing the poor and the disabled even more than they currently are under Tory policy.

Why on earth would Labour want to abstain? Why does Harriet Harman support this sort of legislation? It’s just baffling. Utterly baffling. How is this supposed to appeal to people on the left, who believe in the welfare state, in the NHS, in social mobility, in equality?

(UPDATE: Some folks on Twitter have pointed out that it’s all a bit more complicated than that, and fair enough it probably is, but the thing is that people believe Labour should have voted against, not abstained, and so the harm is done regardless. If there was a good reason to abstain, Labour didn’t communicate it well enough.)

But is one bad vote, by itself, enough to ensure that Labour are dead? Probably not. But things get worse for Labour.

Before the election, I think a lot of people on the left assumed that UKIP would split the Tory vote in England, giving an advantage to Labour. But that’s not what happened. Instead, UKIP stole Labour voters in England, way more than Labour anticipated:

Analysis of the results by The Independent shows that Ukip won more votes than the size of the Conservative majority in nine seats the Tories gained from Labour. They included Morley and Outwood, where the former shadow Chancellor Ed Balls suffered a shock defeat by 442 votes after the third-placed Ukip candidate won 7,951 votes. Although not all of these Ukip voters would have switched from Labour, defections from Labour could have tipped the balance in the Tories’ favour.

The pattern was repeated as the Tories gained Labour-held Bolton West, Corby, Derby North, Gower, Plymouth Moor View, Southampton Itchen, Telford and Vale of Clwyd. In 48 seats retained by the Tories, their majority over Labour was lower than the number of votes won by Ukip.

That’s bad. Who would have thought that UKIP’s ridiculous, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic platform would have appealed to Labour voters? You can answer that question yourself.

But that’s not even the worst of it. A study out this week shows that the reason that the polls were so different to the final result was not the fabled ‘shy Tory’, too ashamed of their Conservative ethos to tell a pollster. Oh no. The Tories voted the way the Tories said they would vote. The huge difference was down to Labour supporters who said they would vote Labour, but didn’t bother to vote at all.

The pre-election polls for the 2015 UK General Election missed the final result by a considerable margin: underestimating the Conservative Party and overestimating Labour. We analyse evidence for five theories of why the polls missed using data from the British Election Study. We find no evidence for Shy Tories, late swing or systematically different preferences among “don’t knows”. We find strong evidence that respondents overstated their likelihood of voting and their actual turnout after the election and that these respondents systematically lean towards Labour. This differential turnout can be predicted above and beyond respondents’ self-reported likelihood of voting using demographic variables and past behaviour. We also find evidence that samples are likely to underrepresent some groups in the population and that current weighting schemes may not be adequately correcting for this. In particular, we find that the oldest respondents in our sample are greatly underrepresented.

The media, rather cruelly, called them “lazy”, but I suspect what we’re talking about is a swath of disillusioned voters who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Tory Lite, and I can quite understand their position. Calling them lazy is a cheap get-out-of-jail-free card for Labour, though, because it means Labour can tell themselves that they don’t have to bother with these terrible, indolent lefties, and thus will never ask why those people felt unwilling to vote for them. Tip: It’s not laziness.

So what have we got here? Well, the three shots to Labour’s foot that have resulted in fatal blood loss:

  1. The Labour party elite have lost the plot and are no longer representing the progressive electorate (and haven’t for some considerable time now)
  2. Labour voters defecting to UKIP
  3. Labour voters feeling unable to actually vote Labour

I don’t see how Labour can come back from this at all, so what’s the point in considering “electability” when choosing the new Labour leader? Why toss Corbyn out because you think he doesn’t play well on TV? Which of the other leaders sound even remotely committed to a progressive agenda?

Simon Ricketts has Labour bang to rights. They are dead already, and they’re dead three times. So don’t bother wringing your hands over the next election. Instead, we need to remake the left in the UK, to get back to proper progressive politics and, sadly, that means Labour needs to just fuck off and die, and let the real left take over.

Note: I joined the Labour party after the defeat, and now I’m wondering why I bothered.

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Guy Fawkes is taking over the asylum

by Suw on March 21, 2006

When you think of the abolition of Parliament, you think of various moves made by various Bad People in England's dim and distant past. Kings who arbitrarily suspended democracy. People who decided blowing up the Palace of Westminster was a nice idea. That sort of thing.
Well, our lovely Labour government (and yes, I voted them in, and no, I won't be voting for them again – I had no idea they'd turn out to be such appalling control freaks) is attempting to abolish Parliament under the guise of legislative reform. From the Save Parliament site:

The boringly-named Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is in fact a very dangerous piece of legislation. It grants any minister the ability to amend, replace, or repeal existing legislation. The frightening thing is this: they would be able to make major changes to the law without Parliament being able to examine it properly, taking away the ability of Parliament to meaningfully represent the citizens of this country.

That really should alarm you. Democracy is not a perfect system, but this bill will destroy any pretence at democracy we have here in the UK and will instead institute a sort of collaborative dictatorship, with power to summarily change the law shared between ministers who, ultimately, will be steered by Blair.
What more can I say, other than take action. Your parliament needs you!

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