Brexit – Lessons From Making a Cup Of Tea

In one of the books of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the earthling hero Arthur Dent, fed up with being served insipid hot drinks, explains to the spaceship’s sentient drinks machine how to make a proper cup of tea; Darjeeling, china cups et al. This is such a difficult task that the drink’s machine drafts in the ship’s computer to solve the problem. Soon after, the spaceship comes under attack. However, it is unable to defend itself because all of its computing resources are devoted to making the cup of tea.

So it is with Brexit. There are a lot of things that the British government could devote itself to that might improve the lot of the British voter, like solving the housing crisis, averting the massive automation-caused job losses or defending the country against an aggressive Russia or the threat of terrorism. But, no, over the next few years the British government will be far too busy to worry about any of that, as they have been instructed by the voting public to expend all resources on Brexit.

And this is ironic, because much of the reason for the Brexit vote was that the government and the Brussels bureaucrats were perceived as being too concerned with the arcane issues that they are concerned with instead of worrying about what ordinary folk worry about.

Distant bureaucrats would tell the British public that they were only allowed bananas of a certain shape and what they had previously thought of as chocolate was in fact vegelate. Meanwhile the British government concerned itself with spending vast amounts of money bailing out of the banks giving the rest of the country austerity. So, the public wanted an end to all of that and voted for Brexit.

But what they have got instead is an indefinitely long time wherein politics is entirely concerned with our bureaucrats arguing with the bureaucrats in Brussels on whether or not we can passport our vegelate into the EU and what the tariff barrier is on unstraightened bananas. The concerns of ordinary folk like housing, jobs and community will be even more distant than before. Ordinary folk will have even less say in the running of their lives.

Every time I turn on the radio, it seems, I hear a politician, normally, but not always, of the conservative variety saying this is democracy, this is the will of the people. So, why do we not hold referenda on questions that people actually care about, like housing, jobs and austerity? That is because we live in a representative democracy, so we vote for a party with a suite of policies. But then why a vote on Brexit? Ah, that was in the Conservative party’s manifesto which people voted for.
But only 24% of people eligible to vote voted for the Conservative party. And this was a popularity contest against, let us be honest here, against a bunch of people who are popularity-challenged. And even of the 24% of people who voted for the Conservatives, most of them possibly or probably don’t agree with many or most of their policies.

My surprising conclusion is that we should have more direct democracy. The main arguments for a first-past-the post representative democracy is that you get strong, competent governments of experts which can make difficult decisions. The governments we get are not strong or competent and Michael Grove famously derided experts.

With Brexit and the Scottish independence vote, we saw an almost unprecedented level of political engagement on the part of the general public. I might, personally, disagree with the outcome of the Brexit vote, but the vote was a crie de coeur of the British people that they are not being listened to by the political elite. So, give them more power – they could hardly do worse than the incompetent incumbents that we have running our country.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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