Monday, 7 November 2016

Building on sand...

I spent this weekend assessing the ability of a bunch of trainee electricians to carry out fault finding. I spent all of last week assessing the ability of a variety of candidates in carrying out inspection, testing, certification-of and reporting-on electrical installations. And one thing is clear; you can’t build a decent house on weak foundations. I see the same basic errors, time and again and it has been a preoccupation for me to find out why so many trade specialists are so poorly equipped with a foundation skill.

In the forces, trainers are always taught: “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.” And repeat. At the heart of all that is going wrong is a failure to get to grips with basics, to understand what is being asked and to care about getting it right. There are fundamental issues with the skills, knowledge and attitudes of some of the products of our education system. Literacy is grudgingly and somewhat sketchily demonstrated but numeracy is a mystery, as, it seems, is the desire to actually understand; quick fixes are so attractive compared with going the hard miles to get it right.

It’s not the stupid – people are rarely quite as stupid as I’m often tempted to believe – it’s the lack of preparation and ability to learn. Original information, the first version you hear, tends to be quite sticky, so if education starts out with the wrong premise, it can be hard to alter those incorrect foundations and dangerous to try and build on them before they have been consolidated. The euphemism ‘low information voters’ is a deliberate slur and ‘ill-informed’ means uneducated. If people hear this often enough, the foundations on which their democracy is built will include the notions that they are incapable of understanding complex issues and that their vote doesn’t really matter.

It’s just like my candidates; they show up with a lack of confidence and an unclear understanding of the importance of getting it right and then flounder around, not entirely sure what they are trying to achieve and hoping to, literally, tick the right boxes. So, if voters are told that they have the power and then, when they exercise that power are told they don’t really have the power, is it any wonder that frustration ensues? The ill-informed, of course, occupy both sides of the EU question. Maybe this is why the EU is so keen to avoid referenda; those shaky foundations don’t support the house they want to build.

But it seems that it’s only those who regard themselves as highly intelligent and informed who are in doubt over what ‘leave’ means. As more cracks appear, the current quick fix is to tell themselves that although people voted to leave the EU, nobody voted to leave the Common Market. What will the next patch be? That free movement of people was never on the ballot, that nobody voted to specifically reject legislation from Brussels? That sticky information, the thing that people believe because it was the first thing they were told? Wasn’t that the bit where David Cameron said the people would decide?

Built on Jack...

But let’s say the action to give Parliament a vote one Article 50 was an innocent attempt to enforce the rule of law. And let’s say all the Remain MPs whose constituencies voted to leave do vote to uphold the referendum outcome when they exercise that vote. And let’s say MPs like Hillary Benn don’t try and delay the invocation of Article 50 on the spurious grounds that we have to wait until European elections are over. Do you honestly think Brexit will still mean the Brexit that those who voted for it expected? Our whole society is like the house that Jack built, with one modification built on top of another. We need to get a grip on this before the whole bloody lot comes tumbling down.


  1. People only invoke the law when they have a "position" -- no one involves the law just to see what would happen next. The people who brought the Brexit challenge want one outcome only, whatever is said afterwards.

    I have already said to people that despite the promise of the referendum or even the illusion of democracy, we no longer have one person, one vote. MPs now have got two votes to our one on membership of the EU: they voted (one presumes) on June 23rd but unlike us get to vote again.

  2. The referendum ballot paper only offered two choices. Remain in or leave the EU. It did not say Remain in fully or Leave either all or in part and choose which parts below. So as there was no challenge that the ballot paper should not be as it was then the decision of the leave vote was just leave with no caveats.

    That charges the government to honour it's pledge and just inform the EU by triggering article 50. That action requires under the law of the treaty to spend a period of time to negotiate leaving then a dialogue has to be entered into. The negotiation is by the nature of the leave vote only to be about the liabilities of both sides that have accrued during the UK's time as a member and how they are to be settled nothing else. It's future relationship has to be dealt with entirely separately.

    It will be a situation of opting in not out as we have left. So triggering article 50 is solely the responsibility of government and so is our future relationship except that the government will have to sound out public opinion either through parliament or another referendum(s) on acceptance or not of the governments planned opt ins.

    That situation will cause a vacuum whereby after two years the UK could have no defined status visa vie the EU. Being avoided by a new status being formulated agreed upon by the UK people/parliament the government and the EU. Highly unlikely as we know governments, politicians and bureaucrats all perform at snails pace. Another avoidance is to adopt John Redwood MP's solution to incorporate EU law into UK law and gradually remove those bits we no longer want and/or the EU tells us they will no longer be party to. A transitional arrangement eminently sensible as a transitional arrangement will certain be cobbled together as the default position. Nobody can abide a vacuum.