On June 23rd, our country voted to leave the EU. The referendum campaign was bitter and the time since has seen chaos, confusion and recriminations. And now irresponsible sections of the media are leading attacks on the judiciary for having dared to rule that parliament is sovereign in deciding not if but how we leave the European Union. The Green Party is strongly in favour of the right of parliament to play a role in deciding the terms of our future relationship with the EU and so should all British citizens be, regardless of whether they voted to leave or remain since these terms will have an enormous effect on our rights at work and our rights to a healthy environment.
But, whatever our opinion of the ruling made in the High Court, the vitriolic attacks on the independence of the judiciary in the press and the failure of ministers to firmly condemn these attacks are disturbing and ominous for the future of our democracy. In this article, Paul Tattam, a member of High Peak Green Party, writes of his feelings about the toxic times we are living through.
Once upon a time I believed in the tooth fairy…
Once upon a time I thought that the whole business about to Brexit or not to Brexit would - give or take a few vile spats - be settled by more or less rational argument.
For some of course ‘Brussels’ – with its legendary bureaucracy, its apparent petty meddling and with the legendary arrogance of some of its unaccountable cadres - has always just been an object of scorn. All the same, surely even those anti EU die-hards would kneel at the altar of self-preservation when their SatNavs flashed a warning “Here be Dragons’ at the edge of the known universe….
There are those Brexiteers however who love to live dangerously and who relish the prospect of being cast into the wilderness of the World Trade Organisation, of hacking through dense thickets of redundant EU laws, of leaping over great barriers marked ‘STOP! Customs Union Ahead - Show financial passport here!’
Maybe, though, those daredevil Brexiteers are right after all, and the nightmare of dropping the pilot in uncharted waters will just subside. After all hasn’t our captain said that everything is going to be just fine? Why on earth would our elected representatives want to get hot under the collar when the best course is being plotted and no advice is needed?
Seafaring imagery aside, personally, I now have a different nightmare when I think of what Brexit means, and it’s not a nightmare that gets better in the light of day.
Brexit seems to be pulling our country apart and is revealing an emerging nastiness that is as shocking as it is destructive.
In June when I came across the infamous ‘76 million Turks are heading your way’ poster prominently displayed in a poor part of Manchester, I complained to Great Manchester Police that it constituted an incitement to racial hatred. Apparently though, political campaign material is exempt. Fast forward four months and the forces of hatred are now targeting those judges who must interpret the Constitutional Law as ‘Enemies of the State’.
The arguments about whether leaving the EU will make us better or worse off, whether workers’ rights will go down the tubes, whether our environmental protection regulations will be watered down even more than the ones our Government egregiously ignores at present anyway, seem to almost pale into insignificance when compared with a so-called democracy that seems completely and utterly broken. What’s more, I haven’t seen many signs of any democratic repair engineer showing up anytime soon either.
Our second chamber of the Lords is stuffed full of unelected legislators and is bigger numerically than our elected Commons. Our system of local democracy can come up with one result on Fracking at County Council level only to be overturned by central government. Our House of Commons is full of MPs elected without any regard to the proportion of votes cast for the parties they represent….
Brexit has its dangers. Non Brexit would also have had its dangers, but the biggest danger of all is that not enough people cry ‘foul’ when faced with the lies and deceit of self-serving politicians and the manipulative cunning of certain sections of the media.
So Brexit for me means that I must try to do something to combat the rise of jingoistic, xenophobic, bully-boy tactics which will not only make our country a nastier place to live in, but may well set us sliding into political and economic chaos as well.
Brexit means ‘Watch it !’ It’s a bad day when they come for the judges…