Finally. Finally, the whole mess of the past couple of months has come to an end. We have seen scandals, lies, rifts, family feuds and even naval warfare between Sir Bob Geldof and Nigel Farage on the River Thames. In many ways this is what the EU Referendum will come to be remembered for; outrageous pontificating, sanctimonious belittling (from both sides) and quite possibly the most undemocratic embodiment of democracy in living memory.
In hindsight this was to be expected. Euroscepticism has been an incarcerated, oppressed beast for decades now and just like Daenerys’ dragons, once it had a glimpse of freedom it reacted with vengeful fury. The Leave side came out all-guns blazing; Boris and Gove at the Vanguard, backed up by their effectual team of spinners and advisors arming them with focus group approved slogans and sound-bites, they monopolised the news bulletins and column inches. The ‘£350 million a week sent to the E.U’ and warnings of 80 million Turks ready to invade our shores, have proved to be the most memorable facts peddled by either side. Fundamentally though, they are examples of misleading, unsubstantiated propaganda, and this is the very essence of the issue at hand.
The electorate have been starved of the unprejudiced, hard information they require to make a democratic decision. Instead, the spinning machines have aspired to create a web of of incoherent lies to refocus the debate on their strongest areas; Leave disregarding economic statistics to centre on immigration, Remain doing the same to dismiss the big-business leniencies of the union. As a result, some of the most important issues have been staggeringly over-looked on the most-part.
At the forefront of this has inevitably been the at-times convoluted area of finance. But it only appears this way because economics does not make for good news or catchy sound-bites. For example, it has been almost universally agreed that Brexit will result in some degree of recession, this much is clear, but what is not so transparent is the effect it could ultimately have. With interest rates at record lows and controversial quantitative easing already an exhausted resource, the Bank of England would be able to do little to stimulate the economy amid the lack of investment. This means a loss of financial confidence, lower consumption and higher savings, leading to lower profits, loss of jobs and the contraction of the economy. Essentially, living standards will decrease and discontent sky-rocket.
This has been made all the worse by the schism in the financial sector’s stance on the matter. In this age of disconnect between the city and every-day workers, little distinction is made, in the most part, between the bankers of Canary Wharf and the hedge-funders of Mayfair. So when the two come out with alternate views, it is understandably treated as another occasion of finance not knowing what is best for itself. This could not be further from the truth. Hedge-funds long for financial instability where the fluctuating markets can make them fortunes. Indeed, two of this country’s wealthiest people, Joe Lewis and George Soros made their riches after the UK exited the ERM in 1992, something which at the time was painted as a disaster. So when hedge-funds want something to happen, it probably isn’t best for the public at large, to heed their advice.
Whose advice should we listen to though? Surely the politicians are backing the side they truly believe in. Wrong. David Cameron, the most fervent of Remainers initially won election to his Whitney seat on an anti-EU mandate, routinely inviting Eurosceptics to speak at constituent events to appease the local community. Similarly, and more obviously, Jeremy Corbyn has had all the conviction and sincerity of a hostage with a gun barrel at his temple when peddling the Remain line. At times it has been hard to distinguish what side he was backing, routinely criticising the EU on media outings. It is no coincidence that large swathes of Labour supporters were perplexed as to what their party’s stance was.
In the Brexit camp, contradiction has been equally rife. Boris Johnson has frequently been quoted supporting the EU and the free-market, understandably so considering his vehement neoliberal leniencies, not to mention his deep-routed association with the EU. Plainly, it appears some of Britain’s biggest political heavyweights are shackled by party-politics and power struggles. More House of Cards than honest democracy.
Whatever the result of the referendum; Leave or Remain, lessons must be learnt from this debate. The whole process has been thoroughly undemocratic, subjugated by cabals and power struggles, the establishment has clearly played fast and loose with one of the most fundamental human rights of the population. The electoral commission simply has to look at itself, take stock and never, ever allow such widespread manipulation to happen again.