Thursday, 14 March 2019

Carry On Brexit

Year: 2015. Scene: Conservative Party conference.
Cameron: Let me be quite clear, it would be insane and disastrous for our country if we were to leave the European Union. But that UKIP lot, with their ‘leave-the-EU’ claptrap, are quite happy to embrace insanity and disasters. So, to stop them winning seats from Tory MPs, I will stymie them by holding an EU referendum. Let me assure you, there’s no need to prepare for the most unlikely and catastrophic event of us leaving, because I will personally campaign for us to stay in the EU, and I will win it for us.

[He lost, stepped down, and passed the mess to whoever was desperate enough to be Prime Minister to sort out – that would be Theresa May]

Year: 2016. Scene: Campaign planners for Brexit in secret meetings.
Planner A: Allocate all this extra money as set out via all social media channels to get more people to back Brexit.
Planner B: But the messages going out are all total lies.
Planner A: So what?
Planner B: The contact details have been obtained through breaches of privacy laws.
Planner A: So what?
Planner B: And this extra spending would break the law on campaigning.
Planner A: Shut up and get on with it.

Year: 2017. Scene: House of Commons.
May: Does the Leader of the Opposition have any objection to me triggering Article 50 which will give us two long years to prepare for the UK to leave the EU.
Corbyn: I totally support you, Prime Minister.
May: Even though you don’t have any more of a clue what kind of Brexit would be feasible and not ruin our country?
Corbyn: We must respect the result of the referendum, regardless of what might have led to it. Trigger Article 50 even if that gives just two years to find a way forward for Brexit.

Year: 2018. Scene: 10 Downing Street.
May: Davis, you’re my Secretary of State for Brexit, how are the negotiations going with the EU?
Davis: How can I agree anything with them when I can’t even agree the most basic things with you! I resign.
May: Will someone give me some positive news?
A senior advisor: we have been informed by the police and the security service that the Brexit campaign definitely broke the law, and Russian interference is also suspected in misleading British people to back Leave.
May: I don’t know what you’re saying. We must respect Brexit.
Advisor: But they broke the law.
May: Brexit means Brexit, repeat after me, Brexit means Brexit.
[Later in 2018, again in 10 Downing Street]
May: Raab, you’re my new Secretary of State for Brexit, how are the negotiations going with the EU?
Raab: How can I agree anything with them when I can’t even agree the most basic things with you! I resign.
May: Barclay, for the third time I have to appoint a Secretary of State for Brexit. Things always work out the third time round.

Year: 2019. Scene: House of Commons.
May: Time is running out. Here’s the brilliant deal I’ve negotiated with the EU. Place your trust in me, vote for my deal.
Speaker of the House: The Prime Minister’s proposed deal is defeated 432 to 202.
May: I’ll be back … with an improved deal.
[She did not. She just basically put the same deal to the House of Commons again]
Speaker of the House: The Prime Minister’s deal is defeated 391 to 242.
May: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The House has spoken again, and make no mistake, I have heard what I wanted to hear – and that is this, the margins of defeat are reducing. I will concoct a few more delaying tactics, but you have not seen the end of my precious deal.
The Cabinet in unison: You can’t be serious, Prime Minister.
May: Things always work out the third time round. Carry on.

Friday, 1 March 2019

The Politics of Forgivableness

Suppose someone joined a group, and that group was found to be responsible for a lot of harm to innocent people. The person who had joined now sought to leave the group, and asked us for help. Should we automatically say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ regardless of what else might be true in such a case? Or should we ask questions such as:

Why did the person join the group? Was the motive a nasty one, was it naivety that played a big part, or was the individual thoroughly deceived?
Did the person actually take part in any harmful act? Or had the participation merely been a passive one?
Even if the person had taken part in regrettable activities, do we now find genuine remorse, and is there room for forgiveness and rehabilitation?

These questions are pertinent if we are to form the right judgement.

For example, there are young men and women who went to Syria believing they would become part of something better. Some went on to commit atrocities, but others were not involved in combat. Some became more obsessed with fighting, but there were those who became disillusioned and wished they had not been duped. We cannot know what to make of any given individual unless we have more information about that person’s specific case.

But that is nothing unique to those going off to Syria. People have joined gangs or cults, aligned themselves with groups that are connected with terrorist activities, or befriended those who perpetrated violence. Yet when we look back on history, in Northern Ireland, in South Africa, and countless other conflicts around the world, who are we to say which individual on which side deserves to be unreservedly condemned and punished, and who should be given an opportunity for rehabilitation, if we are not willing to consider the actual facts of the case.

In the coming months and years, we will be hearing a lot more about whether people who have blindly backed a cause should be forgiven. We must resist the temptation to condemn them all automatically. Some of them may not be racist; some of them may have been genuinely incapable of seeing the huge damages that would be brought about; and many may have been duped by criminals who broke the law to sway them to do what they did. Rather than declaring that none of them is to be forgiven, we should allow that those who were cruelly deceived and those who now truly repent, ought to be given a second chance. The same, of course, cannot be said about those who revel in pushing our country into interminable political chaos and economic decline for the sake of their own fanaticism. For them, a ‘special place in hell’ would indeed be what they deserve.