Do the Storm Clouds of Brexit Hold a Silver Lining?

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Do the Storm Clouds of Brexit Hold a Silver Lining?

As a management consultant bidding for work in one of the world’s most competitive markets, winning a prestigious project felt triumphal – followed quickly by the “crikey, how on earth are we going to deliver that?” The Brexiteers looked just like that on the morning after the referendum as the consequences of winning sunk in.

Jeremy Corbyn had also not planned on winning – in this case the leadership of the Labour Party, according to Owen Jones piece, nor staying till the next election.  But he seems determined to continue on the path of leading Labour back to the promised land of real politicians doing real things for real, but only deserving, people many of whom must have voted Brexit. At least, I think that’s what he’s doing, but the longer he’s there the more apparent it seems he’s another who’s actually little idea of how to get there. Or even where there is. Whilst he tapped into much the same vein of disillusion bordering on disgust with governments and their guardian elites, his ‘solution’ – if anyone can read his tea leaves – is probably even less of a solution than the Brexiteers’. But maybe his purpose has more to do with expressing once more the moral superiority of the inner North London liberal elite reared in PC world.

For the Remainers, after the shock horror of the vote (and the totemic football defeat by Iceland – I remember the Cod Wars) comes the pleasure relief of a mass outbreak of freethinking political education. This is the place we should have started, but something cataclysmic had to happen to cut through the dead hand of conventional-thinking and business-as-usual. The financial crisis as a means to fundamental reform was wasted. Let’s hope this crisis isn’t.

People of all shapes and sizes are talking in the streets. Such highly significant but previously-thought-of-as-boring-and-open-to-ridicule matters as the forms of decision making in democracies and ‘quadratic voting’ for referenda are being seriously discussed in public on the internet. And bypassing another group of elite failures: the constitutional academics who study only existing constitutions.

Even that C word is no longer inducing mass sleeping sickness .

Besides Corbyn and the Brexiteers being cut from the same cloth or, at least, products of the same mill, another odd couple – Nicola Sturgeon and Nigel Farage share the accolade of being, by far, the UK’s most successful politicians. It’s no coincidence that both are seeking self-determination, a break from puppet governments, and some pragmatic policies free of left or right refrains and economic toxic orthodoxies.

The exceptional Angela Merkel is proving once again, that the absolute maximum for any leader is 8 years. She’s been there for 11, still preaching the immaculate conception of the free movement of labour unable to admit it needs a radical reformation.

The Farage irony is that rule from Westminster is as disconnected from people’s lives as Brussels, produces more bureaucracy, and gets less right.

The Sturgeon irony is that Scottish government is nearer, smaller and sometimes better, but the SNP is still using the same fundamentally flawed system of government as Westminster and Brussels, and in time this will ferment similar disconnection and disempowerment that led to independence.

Let’s not forget that an armed border between Scotland and England is inevitable, once one is in the EU and one outwith, to deliver the main purpose of Brexit: control of immigration.

All of which considerations, dear reader, reinforce today’s point and decades of research and analysis, that a Constitution – of a country, region, business, charity – is the prime determinant of its performance. Talking about its content is vital. And we are. There’s hope on the horizon.

I clocked the significance of constitutions during a somewhat life changing strategic leadership programme at Templeton College, Oxford in the mid 90s (run by Norman Strauss and Sir Douglas Hague, both of whom had previously attempted to inject some thought into the early days of Mrs Thatcher’s government). But I have found few politicians, policy folk, academics, and indeed journalists with a similar appreciation of where the solution to many of our enduring problems lies. Of course, inside or dependent on a system is the hardest place to observe its faults. But maybe now the penny is dropping about the hard-wired connections between lives on the ground and the rules for governments.

The reason the 2012 Olympics in London worked so well was not because Seb Coe is a wonderful human being (his value was in doing a great job in securing votes for the bid) or Boris swung from a high wire but because the IOC, prompted by various experts – including me – worked out after repeated glitches in earlier Olympics how to create a system that delivered. It had to specify the rules – the constitution – for developing and running one. A heavy legally binding contract is signed stating what organizations are to be set up, their role, their powers and accountabilities. Politicisation is banned – the Opposition has to sign up too. It may be no coincidence that the IOC is based in Switzerland with, probably, the best constitution for government in the world, albeit with significant holes – we’re starting from a very low base here. There are proven ways of ensuring smooth delivery and every successful modern organisation in the world in the 21st century runs on these lines.

The reason so pithily identified here by Simon Caulkin why big companies serve us so poorly is because their governance is weak. Governance is another word for constitution in this context.

The reason politicians self-score using rhetorically massaged and often inaccurate statistics to ‘prove’ something is working when it’s not is that there is nothing in our constitution requiring the independent and apolitical feedback on the real results of government policy, nationally or locally. Ineffective or just plain wrong policies and programmes run on for years at high cost and increasing citizen frustration. This is a system out of control. It’s a wonder anything useful happens with such an ineffective constitution as ours – and indeed that of the EU.

I could go on, but perhaps suffice to quote from my book: “Rather as Gandhi said when asked what he thought of British civilisation – ‘I look forward to it’ – so I look forward to a British constitution.”

If only all those who have issues with the system as it is – Nicola Sturgeon, Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn, and the Brexiteers, as well as Russell Brand and Steve Hilton, could see their common enemy and unite to change it, then it should happen. Yes, after the change, politics and its choices could re-emerge into a functioning system. Of course, if it was functioning we would all have so much less to disagree about.

Ed Straw
1164 words

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