We may need a new scale

In the UK, there’s an unwritten rule that Prime Ministers are compared on a scale of Chamberlain to Churchill.

Neville Chamberlain being the Prime Minister who championed the cowardly “appeasement” approach to German (illegal) re-armament and expansionism and Winston Churchill being, well, the Prime Minister who reversed that failed policy and guided the country to victory.

How might David Cameron compare on that scale?

He entered the position as leader of a coalition government. Many commentators suggest that he might have won a majority but for the conscious leap to the left of his party from a free market position to a more social-democratic one. This was his strategy to counter the successful move to a more centrist position by the Labour Party. It was argued at the time that the fact Labour could be successful by being more like the Conservatives was a great data point to suggest sticking with traditional Conservative policies.

Nonetheless, he had to run a compromise government for his first term, which resulted in the concession to his party’s core to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

His next term was with a small majority so without much of the horse-trading of the previous four years but the “damage” was done by then; the referendum was locked and loaded.

Although the Conservatives were originally the party who took Britain into the Common Market (the precursor to the EU) in 1973, the party had since grown to regret the move. Perhaps a clue being in the name “Common Market”; the original referendum sold the idea of a trading block, not the United States of Europe project that later emerged.

During the build up to the Brexit referendum, Cameron made much of his efforts to renegotiate the terms of membership with the EU. Brave talk was uttered about “red lines” and “no deal being better than a bad deal”. As any negotiator worth his coin knows, a BATNA is only any good if you’re prepared to actually accept it. The deals he brought back from Brussels were lip service and meaningless and he, like all of us, must have known this.

Yet, rather than follow the wishes of the core of his party and campaign to leave the EU, Cameron chose to campaign for the status quo. The problem being, of course, is there is never such a thing as the status quo, the day following a “Remain” vote there would have seen a massive increase in the “ever closer union” rhetoric from the EU. The voters knew this too.

Nevertheless, “Project Fear” was implemented in attempt to scare the voters away from the Brexit option. The stock market would crash, the pound would be toast, the crops would die in the fields, a swarm of radioactive locusts would eat newborn babies, etc.

None of which happened, as Cameron candidly admits in this “hot mic” recording.

Bill’s Opinion

Either David Cameron is a coward, refusing to make the hard decisions at every opportunity or he is a traitor, willing to sell his country to foreign interests contrary to the benefit of the British.

Over time, we may see the method of comparison for British Prime Ministers is reset to use the Cameron-Churchill scale.

If voting changed anything, it would be banned immediately

Here’s your proof; Spanish police in violent clashes with voters in Catalan.

In case you’ve not been following the events, the Catalonian regional government called a vote on whether or not Catalonia should become independent from the rest of Spain.

The national government, backed by the courts, declared the vote illegal. The vote has gone ahead to some degree but the police have been instructed to prevent it from happening, consequently there have been violent clashes around the “illegal” polling stations.

There might be one or two confusing elements to this for anyone viewing the events from an “AngloSphere” background with its deep history of Common Law and assertion that rights are derived from God to men and then some are delegated to the state to administer on our behalf.

The European view of the rights of man are heavily-derived from the Napoleonic Code which states that rights are handed to man from the state. A subtle but incredibly important distinction but one that manifests itself in police forces arriving in buses from outside the area to stop people from marking a cross on a piece of paper and putting it in a box.

It must also be remembered that Spain has had a rocky relationship with the concept of democracy; following the brutal civil war, General Franco was dictator from 1939 to 1975 and, following his death, there were a couple of bumps in the road back to the “for the people, by the people” concept, notably the failed military coup in 1981.

If Spain were to suffer a schism again, it is most likely to commence in Catalonia or The Basque Country, the two areas with the fiercest movements for regional autonomy. The national government is particularly sensitive to this, as Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland can attest to after being being disappointed to learn that Spain could not be counted as a supporter of her (since failed) independence movement. “Scotland first, then Catalonia. Erm, no gracias.“, was presumably the Spanish Prime Minister’s thought process.

Regardless of whether or not the Catalonian government’s vote was legal under the Spanish Constitution, it seems unlikely that the national government can keep this genie in the bottle much longer. This month it was a traditional vote using ballot boxes, paper and hosted at sports centres and schools; an activity that can be physically halted, given enough political will and a firm control of the police.

It becomes exponentially harder however to prevent a virtual ballot. Imagine a scenario where the government set up an online survey, perhaps hosted in another jurisdiction, linked to the electoral roll, mailed a one time password to each voter and then opened the website for use? It would require a different kind of police force to shut down and, even if they were successful, there’s little to prevent the same thing from occurring next month and the month after, etc. and suddenly the “Streisland Effect” becomes a political phenomenon as each subsequent denial of democracy hardens the voters to the result the national government are afraid of.

Bill’s Opinion

Democracy only works when when local; the further removed the elected are from those who elected them, the less credible is the claim of freedom and democracy.

The 751 EU MPs, for example, pass laws for 350m eligible voters, or one MP for about half a million voters. The UK, has 650 MPs passing laws for 46m eligible voters, or about one MP for 70,000 voters.

The accountability of a legislator to the electorate is paramount. Without the threat of losing one’s job, an important check and balance has been removed.

The Catalonians might well be one-eyed separatists but physically denying them the chance to vote on this will not change them into federalists either, quite the opposite in fact.