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It’s enough to make Remainers scream

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It really is enough to make Remainers scream.

Not only could the ‘Remain parties’ not manage any kind of joint front for the European elections, they have now managed to make a hash of the Peterborough by-election, thanks also to the non-co-operation of the People’s Vote campaign who, reportedly, finally killed off the chances of a unity candidate.

Why is the Remain camp so highly ineffective? Why does it give the impression of utter incompetence at every possible opportunity?

The first reason is there is no leadership. They may jump on the ineffective leadership of Theresa May. At least she is a leader in name if not in effect. The Remain camp do not have any kind of leadership around which it can rally.

Nigel Farage has re-emerged as the highly visible, highly effective leader of the Leave cause. Can anyone put a name to any distant equivalent on the Remain side? Someone that everyone who believes in the Remain cause can rally round, get excited about and be energised by?

Yes, the People’s Vote march galvanized nearly a million people to march through the streets. And the platform boasted a range of different speakers all supporting the cause. But no clear leadership. No joined up tactics as to how they might get where they want to be. Even Donald Tusk points to a ‘crisis in leadership’ for the Remain side.

The reality is that the Remain camp has never managed to get itself organised – not for the referendum campaign in 2016, and not since. It consists of a fragmented set of groups all jealously guarding their independence and their own way of doing things. All believing that they, and they alone, hold the keys to the best strategy, the best approach and the best way of doing everything.

The result is a mush of hopeless disorganization. Seemingly, only the Lib Dems have tried hard to strike alliances and work with others – only to be rebuffed at every turn.

This is cause for concern for all those who wish to reverse Brexit.

Even if a second referendum somehow comes to pass, one has to wonder whether these groups will come together to develop a coherent and effective message and run a cohesive campaign. I doubt it.

More likely, every one of the disparate groups will believe that it was their own particular efforts that swung it, and that they, therefore, know best how to run a referendum campaign.

On that, the omens are not good.

In a recent article in the Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash narrates: “Earlier this year, in a shabby office in Westminster, I was talking to someone who, like me, passionately wants a second referendum on Brexit, in which the majority votes to remain in the EU. What should be our campaign slogan? Among others, he suggested “Europe is great!” I winced.”
It is somewhat odd, if not downright perverse, that a group that is campaigning on the basis that Britain is better off sharing its sovereignty as part of a collaborative European Union should have these arrogant, isolationist, unco-operative attitudes when it comes to their own activities.

Which brings us to the second referendum.

Whether it will come to pass or not is highly unpredictable. But the glib assumptions that Remain will inevitably prevail if it were to happen are well off base. Whatever the polls might be saying now (pre-referendum polls had put the Remain camp narrowly ahead), it will be the effectiveness of the two campaigns that will swing it one way or the other. On past and current form, that does not bode well for Remain. Their ability to mess up has, so far, been their most striking characteristic.

All this overlain on the fact that Remainers seem so convinced of the righteousness of their cause that they risk underestimating the difficulty they will face in winning a second referendum.

As Ralph Leonard put it in the Telegraph (£), “Until Remainers of whatever stripe grapple with the broader political disaffection and the legitimate desire for democratic sovereignty that underlay Brexit, and can offer a genuinely inspiring vision of a better future that can capture the imagination of the British people, then they don’t have a hope.”

As I said, it’s enough to make Remainers scream.

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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.

Comments

  1. Peter Underwood says

    “……..and the legitimate desire for democratic sovereignty that underlay Brexit, and can offer a genuinely inspiring vision of a better future that can capture the imagination of the British people….”

    You said it in one. It is all about sovereignty and the freedom to manage our own affairs. I for one do not wish to be part of a super-state where all monetary, fiscal, budgetary and political decisions are governed by people remote from us in geography, culture and lifestyle.

    We have stood alone and saved Europe twice in 100 years and likely will have to do it again in economic terms if not militarily. The euro is doomed according to many who should know if poitical and fiscal union fails.

    We are a proud island nation and any amount of globalisation will not change this. Britons never, never will be slaves – to Europe of anyone else.

    • Joe Zammit-Lucia says

      Peter, you are right – that is the crucial perception.

      I suggest that there is no need to place Europe and the Nation State in opposition. The two are quite compatible – and reflect the public mood. No law or directive gets passed in Europe without the approval of the European Council ie representatives of the nation states.

      The question is not an either/or but how we can find a way of having sovereign nation states collaborate effectively in a European framework. The days of a federal super-state Europe are over. So this forced opposition between Europe and its component nation states is now a false narrative designed to get people’s blood to boil. It’s effective but dishonest.

      The question is do we want European nations to be collaborative or at each others’ throats? And if the former, what are the best institutional arrangements for that to happen and to allow each nation state to project its views and exert geopolitical power more effectively by acting in a group rather than alone.

      It’s not clear to me how the language of division and opposition helps create a world we all want to live in.

  2. Vern Hughes says

    Sometimes when you’re righting a lost cause you have to stop and consider the possibility that you’re on the wrong side.

    Maybe the Radical Centrist position on the EU is to Leave. The Remain position seems to be immersed in business-as-usual politics on Left and Right, utterly dismissive of ordinary people’s opinions, and entangled with vested interests everywhere you look. If that is the case, why persist with it?

    A new anti-elite participative politics is emerging on the Leave side. Surely that is now where Radical Centrists need to be.

    • Joe Zammit-Lucia says

      Vern, you are right.

      One problem (of many) with the Remain position is that it is offering the status quo in a world that is fed up with that and wants radical change. Leaving would certainly shake things up and force some new thinking.

      Personally, I consider myself a reluctant remainer. I am hugely attracted by Leave but feel that the negative short and medium term impact will hit the hardest on those who can least afford to be hit.

      Also, I suggest that now might be exactly the wrong time to be leaving. The momentum behind a Europe of nation states and the disillusionment with Europe as a federal state are at an all time high. A UK with a seat at the table now has a better chance than ever before of pushing its own view of the future shape of the EU.

      • Stephen Gwynne says

        First of all, ordinary people want sufficiency and are prepared to take a hit for that long term goal if necessary. However, much of this the poor will be made poorer narrative is rooted in #ProjectFear in which the liberal metropolitan class seeks to protect its own EU privatisation, EU marketisation, EU procurement interests.

        Remaining and reform requires a head of state that is firmly committed to that. None is apparent and previous attempts by both Cameron and May have dismally failed, even for what were slight alterations. The impetus within the EU is currently being led by federalising fanatics so any significant reform will first be proceeded by a decade or more of EU infighting. Meanwhile the fundamentally unsustainable EU status quo rumbles on.

        Leaving and using national democracy to rebalance UK society with an overarching sufficiency strategy is indeed what the majority of ordinary people want.

        • Joe Zammit-Lucia says

          Stephen

          I always worry when people start believing that they know exactly ‘what the majority of ordinary people want’. That’s the favoured language of all tyrants. The reality is that almost everyone wants something quite different. And to believe that Brexit will, as if by magic, deliver what everyone wants is a bit of a leap to say the least.

          Also, representative democracy is a different thing from majoritarianism. The tyranny of the majority has been a concern for democracies for centuries.

          You are right that we don’t have the leadership at the moment. Which makes it all the more unlikely that, whether post-Brexit or post-no Brexit, the country will be able to deliver on anything at all. It’s all pie in the sky it seems to me.

          As for the poor being made poorer narrative, that is and has always been true of any major upheaval. Just look at history. It’s not a Brexit-specific issue. Sure, all sides defend their own particular interests and will find arguments to support that (whether for Leave or Remain – very few of the headline arguments are credible).

          You are right that many (though by no means all) might feel that the short term pain is worth it – or at least they take that position before they actually start feeling the pain. But there has to be something worth having at the end of the rainbow.

          As far as I can tell neither those in the Remain camp nor those in the Leave camp have developed a convincing view on what lies at the end of their own preferred rainbow.

          Take a look at the Brexit Party web site, the Lib Dem web site, Change UK web site etc, etc. Nowhere is there a credible vision for the future – or any vision at all, frankly.

  3. Stephen Gwynne says

    The reality is that the Remain campaign did have a leader that all groupings got behind, it was #ProjectFear. However, as #ProjectFear was dissected and deconstructed, as a leadership strategy it has dismally failed. The truth as Vern points out is that the different remain groupings are all motivated by self-interest, not the interests of ordinary people, and they all used #ProjectFear as a cynical front to hide their self interests.

    Therefore the reason why there is no hope of resurrecting the Remainer campaign is that they do not have an alternative facade to hide their true motivations. Even on a more theoretical level, their arguments regarding open borders, hyper connectivity, European identity, do not stand up to reasoned scrutiny and they fall back to ideologically driven propoganda and residues of #ProjectFear.

    In other other words, the Remain campaign has lost all the arguments, their self interested motivations have been exposed and now all they are doing is clinging on to any vestiges of dignity that they can. In other words, at present they are only interested in saving their own skins. Ardent remainers are self obsessed, self interested narcissists at the end of the day and there is absolutely no hope that narcissists will consolidate around any imagined shared agenda because there isn’t one.

    The only die hards remaining are the ideologically motivated liberal class who will always prefer EU liberal technocracy over and above the vagarities of UK democracy.

    Sorry if I offended anyone but dealing with hard line remainer bigotry for 3 years has made me a little more than jaded. A little weep.

    Thank you for the forthright and honest post and comments.

    • Joe Zammit-Lucia says

      Thanks you Stephen. And very good to have these different perspectives.

      You say: “the different remain groupings are all motivated by self-interest, not the interests of ordinary people, and they all used #ProjectFear as a cynical front to hide their self interests.” And ‘Ardent remainers are self obsessed, self interested narcissists’. Those are views. But I suggest they’re just about as valid as the view that says that all leavers are idiotic, xenophobic racists.

      I feel that that sort of broad brush condemnation of large groups of people who all have different views and different motivations, is not only unhelpful, it is destructive of any kind of social cohesion – without which it’s not clear that our democracies can survive.

      The real issue here is that Brexit, in and of itself, achieves nothing. The question is what will we do with Brexit once we have it.

      It seems to me that the hard right (Boris, Redwood, etc) see Brexit as their opportunity to introduce an ultra de-regulated, low tax, low welfare, low environmental protection economy. The hard left (Corbyn) sees it as an opportunity to nationalise, provide state subsidies etc. True that both those [extreme] visions would be somewhat easier to achieve out of the EU than in. But everything in between is still perfectly achievable within the EU.

      So it’s not really about Brexit. It’s about what kind of country we want after Brexit that we couldn’t have while remaining in the EU.

      Whichever view anyone might have of what post-Brexit Britain should look like, they should be wary. Their particular view may not prevail and we may end up getting the exact opposite extreme if the other side ends up elected.

      • Stephen Gwynne says

        Thanks for your reply. It is interesting that you point out broad brush strokes about large groupings of people and how that is counter to social cohesion and then proceed to apply broad brush strokes about large groupings of people regarding the usual #ProjectFear signifiers of hard left and hard right. Similarly these are just your views.

        Personally I find it inconceivable that a democratic majority would ever choose any of these extreme options. Unless of course the majority are idiotic gullible racists.

        Brexit of itself is clearly not nothing unless you consider national autonomy, national democracy over national policy and national self determination to be valueless. Some find intrinsic value in these things, some clearly don’t.

        Some might find this article interesting which argues that democracy is the source of independent and critical thinking that outweighs the vague objectivity of experts.

        Brexit offers democratic possibilities which EU membership will never be able to achieve. The national debates that democracy engenders coalesces a national population around shared concerns and shared issues, unlike the EU which simplifies concerns and issues around itself and the integrity of rigid EU Treaties. This loss of dynamic means a separation between actual lived life and aspirations, whereby the aspirations are set and people are expected to conform.

        This expectation to conform is the underlying reason why Brexit has become so divisive because it engenders a significant separation between those that have willingly conformed and those not yet conformed. This dynamic is essentially authoritarian in nature with one group expecting the other group to be like themselves.

        The homogenising effect of the EU is clearly at odds with liberty, equality and fraternity and why throughout the history of the EU project, it has divided European populations into two distinct groups, europhiles and euroskeptics.

        Self-evidently the EU project is socially divisive in each different national population with europhiles over time using sophistry to force or coerce euroskeptics to conform. So it was hardly surprising that the EU referendum emboldened europhiles to deploy authoritarian tactics to try and pressure euroskeptics to be subservient.

        Clearly this is an extremely dysfunctional way in which to organise societies and promote well-being. Similarly, it disempowers and disenfranchises one grouping of society from the political process. Over time, this division has been entrenched through reward and punishment so that those that conform are rewarded with better privilages, better positions and better opportunities.

        National democracy and national autonomy, which Brexit represents, is a radical turn from this dysfunctional state of affairs and as I said allows national populations to integrate through the process of national debate whereby concerns and issues become shared concerns and issues rather than a dynamic of conformity and homogenization.

        Obviously everyone will have their own vision of British society once national democracy and national autonomy have been reclaimed. However rather than two distinct groupings conflicting over a rigid aspiration, people will be able to voice and lobby from any aspiration.

        National debate will bring together this plethora of aspirations, which will organically coalesce into definable sets of ideas about how to sustain our national future. We are after all creatures that are biologically hardwired for self-preservation unlike the EU Treaties which are hardwired to produce specific economic conditions.

        As such, independent free thinking aspirations will blend and mould into definable ideas which will then be represented by different political parties and quite rightly people will have the opportunity to choose which one they prefer. Despite the diversity of these aspirational sets of self preservation, everyone will be relatively secure in the knowledge that aspirational sets are indeed underpinned with self preservation even if one disagrees with how it is to be achieved.

        Consequently, democratic societies tend to be peaceful societies.

        So in answer to your question, Brexit isn’t nothing, it is everything and provides unlimited possibilities in which people can experience liberty, equality and fraternity. This is in stark contrast to EU membership, whereby the dynamic is not liberty, equality and fraternity but conformity, coercion and intransigence.

        • Joe Zammit-Lucia says

          Stephen

          On this I believe that we are in agreement. You might like to read the article that will appear in our press pages this afternoon.

          I too believe in the nation state as the repository for democratic legitimacy and building social cohesion.

          In my opinion, the worst thing that we have done is to put Europe and the nation state in opposition. This is as much the obsessive pro-Europeans’ doing as that of the obsessive anti-Europeans.

          The reality is that the two do not need to be in opposition but rather can both be respected for what they offer – which is different but can be complementary.

          We are not there – yet. But I am hopeful that we will eventually get there, if for no other reason that, if we don’t, then the ‘Europe’ idea will collapse.

          Having said that, I believe that we are better off finding this new settlement of complementarity than working actively to make ‘Europe’ collapse.

  4. nigel hunter says

    Gina Miller who is NOT a political party member who does NOT have to join one could be approached to represent the Remain side as an independant representative. The remain ‘boss’ does not have to be political

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