I was unable to attend the Put It To The People march at the weekend for secret reasons, but I have signed the poorly worded petition to ‘Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU’.1
While the march was taking place, I spotted several snide comments on social media, repeating the mantra that it is essentially a campaign to ignore or overturn democracy. Giles Fraser and Sarah Vine, for example.
This prompts a return to the thoughts and conversations I have been having over the past few weeks about the nature and definition of ‘democracy’ and how a free society makes decisions.
Too often during this crisis the political debate has focused on just one aspect of democracy: The vote. And not just the concept of voting in the abstract, but specifically the referendum vote of 23rd June 2016 that delivered the mandate to leave the European Union. Despite the narrow margin, and despite the fact that the Leave.eu campaign broke electoral law, the result was and remains a powerful political fact.
But there are other aspects to the concept of ‘democracy’ that have, in my view, been underweighted. A fully functioning democracy requires way more than a vote. There are plenty of oppressive countries that allow citizens to vote for the government (Iran, for example) but nevertheless constrain freedom in other ways. The vote is a necessary but not sufficient condition for democracy. Continue reading “#Brexit: Democracy begins with a vote, but it doesn’t end there”
Well, this is interesting.
Due to a request under data protection law in Europe, Google can no longer show one or more pages from your site in Google Search results. This only affects responses to some search queries for names or other personal identifiers that might appear on your pages. Only results on European versions of Google are affected. No action is required from you.
These pages haven’t been blocked entirely from our search results. They’ve only been blocked on certain searches for names on European versions of Google Search. These pages will continue to appear for other searches. We aren’t disclosing which queries have been affected.
This is the first time this has happened to me. Continue reading “Google Search Links To This Blog Suppressed by Right To Be Forgotten Laws”
Now Britian has voted to leave the EU, there is a lot of discussion about at the moment over when or if Article 50 will be triggered.
Spinning Hugo suggests that it may never happen. He points out that the negotiating position of the UK is far stronger while Article 50 has not been invoked… and it will be instantly worse once it is invoked. Since EU leaders have declared that they will not begin negotiations until Article 50 is triggered by the British Government, a stalemate has arisen.
This is a compelling analysis, but I am reminded of the the Unexpected Hanging Paradox:
A judge tells a condemned prisoner that he will be hanged at noon on one weekday in the following week but that the execution will be a surprise to the prisoner. He will not know the day of the hanging until the executioner knocks on his cell door at noon that day.
Using logic, the prisoner deduces that he will never be hanged. When the executioner knocks on his door on a Wednesday he is therefore totally surprised. Continue reading “Article 50 Will Be Triggered When Illogic Dictates”
OK, so the United Kingdom as a whole has voted for Brexit. I am profoundly disappointed.
For those of us who voted Remain, here are some things that we should do and some things that we should not do. Continue reading “Here’s What We Need To Do Now”
Ever since the EU Referendum campaign kicked off in earnest, everyone—Brexiters, Bremainers and Bragnostics—have been complaining that they can’t get the straight facts out of anyone. “If only we had the facts” they cry, “then we’d all be able to make a sober, rational choice about whether to vote in or out”.
That’s a noble idea but it’s also delusional. Most people aren’t going to do sums. They’re going to vote on gut instinct, emotions, and, if they are trying really hard to be civic minded, then they’ll vote on whose arguments seem most credible.
We don’t need more facts. The facts are out there for those who care to look and who have been educated in macroeconomics.
What we need are better metaphors. Continue reading “The EU is Not A Household Expense—It’s A Trade Fair”
Before I mire myself in questions of when and whether to publish shocking images, I should—must—begin by writing about the fact of Aylan Kurdi’s drowning and the refugee crisis in general. If the central argument for publishing an image of a dead boy is that it ‘gets people discussing the issues’ then I think I have an obligation to do so, even if these thoughts have been stated earlier and more eloquently, elsewhere. Continue reading “On the ethics of publishing the photo of Aylan Kurdi”
Crikey. I’m dismayed by the result of the general election.
First, I should note just how wrong my own perception of the election campaign turned out to be! After the leaders debates I said I expected Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister in May. That is clearly not going to happen. And earlier this week I said I perceived a decline in the influence of the mainstream media on election campaigns. After the apparent last minute shift in voters’ intentions, that appears to be incorrect.
However, my dismay comes not from the injury to my pride which results from making poor predictions. Rather, it’s the prospect of what comes next for our unions (yes, unions plural) and our rights as citizens.
First, the fact that David Cameron will attempt to govern alone with a minority government, or a slender majority, will mean that the more Euroskeptic elements to the the right of the Conservative party will be able to hold him to ransom—just as the SNP would have apparently held a Labour government hostage. The Conservatives have already promised that we will have a referendum on our membership of the European Union. We now face the prospect of leaving the EU, sundering and cauterising our cultural and economic links with the continent. This isolation will not be good for the UK.
A ‘Brexit’ will further strengthen the already jubilant Scottish National Party. Despite the slightly skewed results that our ‘first past the post’ system delivers I just do not see how another referendum on Scottish Independence can still be ‘off the table’. For goodness sake—all but three MPs in Scotland are from the SNP! If the UK leaves the EU, and with the other parties’ reduced political presence, another plebiscite on Independence would probably yield a ‘Yes’ vote. Bye bye Scotland.
Finally, the Conservatives have also promised to scrap the Human Rights Act, a pledge that lawyers think is ‘legally illiterate’. The so-called ‘British Bill of Rights’ will water down the rights that we currently enjoy. And since the Tories gutted legal aid provision and squeezed the judicial review process, it will be harder than ever for citizens to hold the government to account when it deploys discriminatory policies against us.
So by the time of the next general election in 2020, there is a very good chance that those of us living in rUK will have lost the political protections of the EU, will have lost the guarantee that out human rights will be protected, and will have lost a progressive political counter-weight to the Tories that may be found in Scotland. And the right-wing media will cheer it all.
Grim, grim grim.
Congratulations to the rocket scientists from the European Space Agency who successfully landed a probe on the duck shaped comet 67P. It makes me proud to be European, a fine thought amid the relentless Euro-skepticism from UKIP and the Tories. As Nick Cohen said in the Spectator today, it’s worth remembering that support for the EU is at a 23 year high, with a plurality of British voters favouring membership. 56% of people favour staying in, while 36% of people would leave. Yes yes, the ESA is not an EU body, but apparently 20% of its funding originates from the EU. Let us just say that the success of this mission shows the value of international cooperation towards a shared vision, that could never be achieved by just one of the countries involved. Continue reading “I Have Literally No Idea What Title to Give to This Blog Post About the EU, Space Probes and Web Comics”
Should the EU act to save illegal immigrants from drowning in the Mediterranean? Superficially, this question sounds a bit like one of those dilemmas presented by moral philosophers: do you switch the path of the runaway train so it kills one old man instead of a family of six?
But in this case, the question is not a like-for-like, life-for-life comparison. Instead, it boils down to whether we
- save the lives of dozens, or perhaps hundreds of illegal immigrants; or
- try to save a few million Euros of costs incurred by the Italian navy
… and I suppose, a few million more Euros caused by the inconvenience of being stuck with a boat-load of Africans without identity documents.
Students in ‘Introduction to Ethics’ seminars should not find this example particularly troubling. Since we are not weighing up human lives, a few humane heuristics will see us through. One of those is that if its a choice between people and money, you save the lives. When confronted with someone in clear and present danger, and the power to save them, we should not sit on our hands and watch them drown.
Really, what is so hard about that? Continue reading “Our humanity drowns in the Mediterranean”