If their bold words over the last few days are to be believed, some of those arguing for us to leave the EU appear to be talking about a different sort of politics, a type of politics that many people have been calling for over many years. It would be heartening to believe that simply by voting to leave, that our democracy would be transformed in this way. Sadly when pressed these people tend to go silent or fail to follow through with the same rigour as their initial pronouncements suggest. It would be fascinating to think that irrespective of our decision over the EU, that our domestic politics could become more accessible and easier to engage with. The change would lead to a great deal of difference and could have the same impact on democracy that the Scottish referendum had, opening up democratic participation to 16 and 17 years olds and reinvigorating the nation to consider its political priorities.
On Radio 4 Any Questions, Kate Hoey in discussing immigration articulated the idea that the reason why some people objected to the idea of immigration was that that they had never had the opportunity to give their consent. The implication of course being that if we vote to remain, that we will be agreeing to all sorts of ideas that are implicit in the EU including the freedom to go and live in other countries. I tweeted to point out that as a Minister in the Blair Government she had been noticeably silent when it came to asking for our consent on matters she decided upon. I was pleasantly surprised that she took the time to respond. Sadly her response was to point out “You can vote out MP’s every 4 years. You can’t vote out the EU Commissioners.” Of course it is hard to fault her argument, apart from the fact that it is every 5 years when we elect MPs, not every 4 years. However if there was a willingness to do so, the nation could be allowed to elect our Commissioner which would not make every Commissioner electable, but it would start to change the culture in the EU. Yet none of those like Kate who decry the anti-democratic nature of the Commissioners appear to ever have suggested we have a national vote to select our own appointment. To her credit Kate did refer to the campaign she and Zac Goldsmith had fought to offer you and I the right to recall for our MPs, but she appeared to suggest that having lost the battle on that issue, that the war was also over.
Throughout yesterday many people on the Brexit side of the argument were tweeting about their campaign using the hashtag #TakeControlDay My initial response was that this was yet again a group of politicians who wanted to take control away from Europe so that they could simply make more decisions on our behalf themselves. This seems to be at the heart of a great deal of the discourse over sovereignty. As a voter it does not seem to matter that in some parts of the UK that we have three tiers of local government along with our Parliamentary decision makers and the EU. All the Eurosceptics are focused on removing is the role of MEP. If this was really a debate about the decisions being taken closest to the people, there would also be discussion about why we have such a confusing and complex domestic political system. When I used twitter to raise my concerns about the true meaning behind #Takecontrolday Nick Varley, a Councillor from Chiltern District Council responded. He is the head of the ground campaign for #voteleave Initially he was engaged in our discussion about how he consulted with his constituents but he then accused me of wanting to steal his ideas for my own political career which seemed odd as I am not standing in an election.
Amongst those using the hashtag are several MEPs. What is not clear is how they will respond if we vote to remain. If they were men and women of integrity, one would assume that they would resign if the vote does not go their way. However there is no talk of that and silence from people like Daniel Hannan, my own MEP.
So the end conclusion is that based on Kate Hoey, Nick Varley and Daniel Hannan, although Kate and Nick were corteous enough to respond to my tweets, that none of them really intend to offer a new way of doing politics, just a political arrangement that involves less people making the same decisions!