You could not have asked for a better bench-test of the Westminster system of governance than Brexit. A bench-test that Westminster, and the society that maintains it, has failed dramatically.
The Brexit campaign was built on racism. The campaign focused on the control of immigration, blaming ‘immigrants’ for the job losses and the poverty in the UK. This is a technique that has been used by mendacious governments, kings and tribal leaders since we were plankton. ‘Those amoebae look different from us. They are the cause of our discomfort. We are better than them. Let’s get them out of our pond.’
Poverty and unemployment in Britain are not the result of immigration. They are the result of a sick Westminster neoliberalism that soaks the rich. The City has not suffered, but the poor kids on the streets in Pollok, have.
The focus on immigration was led by the Mail, the Sun and the Telegraph, all of them newspapers owned by wealthy individuals who will lose nothing (and may win yet greater riches) as the result of Brexit. And here is the second ingredient in the Brexit bench-test. The tabloid devils were supported by the BBC, which equals or betters Russia Today as a government propaganda channel. No-one can demonstrate that Mr Putin is influencing RT, just as no-one can demonstrate that Mrs May is influencing the BBC, but both channels express an editorial line that suits the government of the day.
There may have been an imaginary halcyon day in which British journalists were an objective balance to the power of government – a functioning Fourth Estate telling truth to power – but those days – if they ever existed – have long gone.
The bent bananas argument for Brexit, led by the equally bent Boris Johnson, has been broken by the facts of Brexit. The argument was that Brussels had created a series of rules and regulations – including one governing the quality of fruit including bananas – that were an imposition on Britain’s freedom to do business. Boris and the Brexiteers argued that we should escape the shackles of EU regulation so that Britain could trade freely with the world. A hypnotic argument, amplified by the tabloids and the Telegraph.
And now we face reality; the EU is the UK’s largest trading partner, and so we will inevitably want to continue buying and selling there. So we will continue to have to abide by their rules on bent bananas, data protection, car parts and a thousand other products and services. But this time, we will no longer have a say, no longer have MEPs, or a seat on the committees that draft these regulations. We will be in a worse position, a weaker position, than we were before Brexit.
Brexit is the dark force in English politics. It has brought out the worst in the Westminster system of governance.
But it has a bright side. A bright side, for Scotland.
Because Brexit has shown that the ‘Union’ of Scotland and England is nothing of the sort. It has shown that Scotland is merely the colony of an ageing imperial power. The Scottish parliament, set up after years of demands and proposals, has no power. Brexit has shown that the ‘Sewell Convention’ is worthless, a slip of paper shredded in a Tory fart. The Westminster power grab – taking back any remaining powers that the toothless Scottish parliament had – has been supported not only by the Tories but also by a Labour party that has definitely lost its way.
And this is our hope. That the people of Scotland will realise, thanks to Brexit, that their parliament, their government, their power has once again been ripped away from them by the greed of Westminster. This is the bright side. This is independence.