In the film ‘A few Good Men’ Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise taunt one another about the truth and whether those of us outside the senior ranks of the military can handle it. Nicholson as a senior Officer claims we cannot and Cruise demands that we have it. It is a very exciting and tense scene in the film. It has resonance in the debate that is taking place right now about the EU and also the need for a debate in the decisions being taken on our behalf over local devolution. I agree with the Mike Jackson in his quote above, but my conclusion is that voting to remain is the right thing to do.
I intend to vote to remain, even though I am very keen that we return sovereignty from all levels of power holding within the EU and the national and local levels of Government. I would personally like to have a political system that allows people to express greater sovereignty over their own lives than we currently experience. However my fight for sovereignty to remain with ordinary people is balanced with the reality of what that vast majority of voters actually want in terms of sovereignty. At its simplest level the sovereignty to elect people to various roles to represent us is not a power that is a exercised by all of us as often as could be the case. There can be no doubt that the fact that for many of us, the impact of our vote is indiscernible when it comes to the outcome of the election damages this exercise of Sovereignty as fundamentally as knowing that a string of party donors are welcomed into the House of Lords every year irrespective of their views or ours. However these abuses of sovereignty are no worse or more complicated to solve than ensuring that in our nation we do elect our EU Commissioner, rather than always appoint one without any recourse to the public, and then complain that the EU is antidemocratic. When we appointed Jonathan Hill as our Commissioner, although his appointment needed to be ratified by the Commission itself, he had never stood for election in public office, never had a proper job outside of politics until he was 35. At the age of 50 he was welcomed back into the Lords by those he had worked for and 4 years later he was appointed as the UK Commissioner. It seems totally hypocritical for anyone to claim that the EU is anti-democratic unless they have also argued for our own Commissioner to be elected.
Mike Jackson understands far better than most of us why giving up sovereignty is both vital and how it can be damaging. As a senior soldier he knows that there would be no army if the soldiers did not sacrifice their personal sovereignty to the greater good. Mike also knows that if his orders do not come from people able to give the command to advance or retreat, that his army is at real risk. However in the case of the Army, Nato is one of the higher powers that we submit our national sovereignty to, and that is surely a good thing, most of the time. In the case of the rest of life, our sovereignty operates at various levels. It does operate in the EU, at least until 23rd June where our voice is one among 27 and where the various political parties decide how our votes will be cast. It also operates in Parliament (where our MP is one among 650) and again the political parties shape the decisions of our Parliament. In my case at a local level sovereignty exists in one Council structure, with my 3 Councillors being 3 voices out of 54 and where the Political Parties determine the outcome of votes. If I lived less than 10 miles away I would have 3 layers of Council structures, at least 2 of these would make decisions based on how the political parties think that our voices should be heard. It seems to me that if we believe in retaining sovereignty, that there are fault lines throughout the various decision making layers that begin with our electoral system (different for many of the layers) and end with decisions taken by phone calls between Presidents and Prime Ministers that lead to men and women being blown up as they go about their innocent lives. Lets have a debate about sovereignty and make some dramatic changes. In that context, the EU is merely one amongst many structures that needs to be considered and reformed.