AC Grayling versus Brexit

AC Grayling versus Brexit

December 2019

AC Grayling is a British philosopher and as such you'd think he would understand one of philosophy's cornerstones: democracy.

On his website he has the following article, which I have also copied&pasted below in case he decides to delete this in the near future:

Brexit: Enough is Enough

In this article he argues:

1)

"... 37% of the electorate voting to leave the EU. By no democratic standard is that a mandate for anything, still less for a major and consequential constitutional change ..."

If the vote had a similar percentage to remain, I am convinced he would not have made a similar case.

Think back to how the UK was dragged into the EU: the Maastricht Treaty. Here we witnessed the then Prime Minister John Major effectively bypass democracy after losing the vote by then calling for a vote of no confidence. Presumably, that was OK in AC Grayling's book. The UK was then dragged into the EU on the mandate of the wishes of a single man, the Prime Minister.

The 37% he makes reference to refers to the Brexit voting breakdown. 17.4 million people voted to exit the EU whereas 16.1 million people voted to remain, a difference of 1.3 million people. The number of registered voters was 46.5 million, and so, 17.4m relative to 46.5m is 37%, which he argues is less than 50% of the electorate. Of the registered 46.5m voters, 33.6m voted giving a turnout of 72%. The number of people who voted to Leave was 52% of all those that voted - a >50% value that AC Grayling fails to remind the reader in his article.

Let's now look at the data for the 2019 General Election. On this occasion 13.9 million people voted Conservative out of a total of 47.6m registered voters, or 13.9m/47.6m = 29%. Hold on a minute! That's 8% worse than the Brexit referendum value of 37%, but do we see AC Grayling complaining about the General Election result? Relative to the total number of votes (31.8m), the Conservatives achieved 44%. Why is he not similarly calling to abolish this General Election result since <50% voted Conservative? Comparing Brexit to a General Election reveals the flaw in his logic.

It is not a legal requirement to vote in the UK, as it is in some countries. But these were the rules of the game. In theory, even if only 5% turned out to vote then the result would still stand. If you don't agree with this then campaign for having a minimum turnout or making voting a legal requirement but do not try and use the registered voters-turnout argument to undermine the Brexit referendum result.

2)

He then rambles:

"... profoundly unappealing political group ..."

"... so-called ‘hard Brexit’ is dead. Because so-called ‘soft Brexit’ is a pointless unsustainable fudge ..."

The June 2016 Brexit referendum was in fact a Hard Brexit. It always was a simple Leave/Remain. There were no conditions or caveats attached to the voting slips and following June 2016 the people were not presented with a further list of conditions. So, when people voted in June 2016 they voted to Leave - immediately - with no conditions. Brexit was always a Hard Brexit. The whole nomenclature of Hard and Soft Brexit were nothing more than bullshit terms to confuse the debate.

3)

"... The Article 50 notification should be withdrawn. ..."

Who does he think he is? Some kind of dictator? What he doesn't seem to understand is that people don't care what he thinks. Democracy demands the "will of the majority" and his minority voice is irrelevant.

4)

"... The exposure of the falsehoods and fraudulences of the Leave campaign ..."

Just listen to this nonsense. What about how the 27 million copies of the UK Government's own pre-election leaflet was biased. This leaflet was biased towards Remain. Where were the 27 million leaflets presenting the case for Remain? What about how the government, parliament and mainstream media were all biased with respect to Brexit. The whole UK political machine was against exiting the EU, and still the people voted to Leave! Indeed, if the playing field had been fair then millions more would have voted to leave.

5)

"... profoundly flawed ‘advisory only’ first referendum ... David Davis went to Brussels this week with no plan, no blueprint, no roadmap, no position, no idea. ..."

The guy is a maniac. As pointed out above in 2) the vote was to Leave or Remain. In fact the Leave case to present to the EU could have been the following 1 liner:

The UK has voted to exit today on the 23rd of June 2016, and now all ties are severed.

6)

"... The painful experiences of this last twelve months, from the desperate financial struggles of the NHS, to the stressed and overstrained police services ..."

What has the NHS and Police services got to do with exiting the EU? This is the kind of logic that blames everything on Brexit when there is no evidence to support the case. Where is the evidence that the police services are overstrained due to the people voting to the exit the EU? Where is the data? Let's see it?

7)

"...The first-past- the-post electoral system, nowhere near fit for purpose in a representative democracy, and the Parliamentary system controlled by party whips who remove MP independence and turn them into zombie lobby fodder, have both been hijacked by party and partisan forces. The tabloid press is a disgrace, and needs to be held to account for purveying trash news, blatant falsehoods and distortions, thereby corrupting the public debate. ..."

What the fuck!

This guy should read the 2018 report into the pro-Brexit news content of the BBC. It found that only 3% [yes, just 3%] of BBC content was pro-Brexit. And he has the nerve to state that the public debate was corrupted by the media.

Let's address his comment "... the Parliamentary system controlled by party whips ...". In February 2020 he talked to The Times in the article AC Grayling: My students are afraid to voice Leave views. In this article he almost seems to take delight in telling us how Leave-voting students at the College of the Humanities in London that he founded were "too afraid to reveal their political views at lectures". Here is a man who helped fuel an academic learning environment in which students were afraid of speaking freely. And then this man has the nerve to talk about a controlled government.

8)

"What is needed now is genuine leadership with the message: stop Brexit ..."

He ends his rant of an article with the usual "Stop Brexit" message. This anti-democratic stance that simply attempts to kill the debate with "Stop Brexit". The equivalent of calling someone a "racist" or "conspiracy theorist" in an attempt to stop the debate because no other valid reasons or argument can be presented. Fuck the 17.4 million that voted in a democratically held vote. Treat the 17.4 million people that voted to exit the EU as stupid and ignorant.

9)

Rather than suggesting that democracy prevails and that all MPs realise the will of the people and then use their seats and influence in the House of Commons to either revert or modify the UK's exit from the EU, his solution is to just "Stop Brexit". It is nothing more than blind credulity.

10)

Apart from "Stop Brexit" what is he proposing? That the UK drops democracy and chooses communism or fascism instead? Presumably his answer would be no. So, we then arrive at his point of view: he only agrees with democracy when the result agrees with his own. He cannot accept "losers consent" like many other members of the vocal minority. Such a stance is in fact a weak form of fascism. AC Grayling - you think you stand on the moral high ground, but you do not and thank goodness democracy prevailed.

11)

"Brexit: Enough is Enough" was written in June 2017 but he kept moaning on about "Stop Brexit" since then and even beyond the 12th December 2019 General Election. Below is a tweet he posted on the 13th of December:

"

Reform the constitution.

Rejoin the EU.

Achieve social justice through rational policies that command agreement & consent.

The endeavour has been given a setback: but we’ll never give up.

"

Incredible isn't it! He sounds like a dictator, believing he is right even after the Conservatives won the General Election by a massive majority.

On the 12th December 2019 the British people had then voted democratically 3 times to exit the EU Fascist State:

23rd June 2016 - Brexit referendum

8th June 2019 - T. May General Election

12th December 2019 - B. Johnson General Election

But that's still not good enough for AC Grayling.

12)

AC Grayling writes about the blind credulity of the BigG-lot but is guilty of the same credulity and lack of clarity of thought and non-bias when commenting on the Brexit referendum result and the UK's exit from the EU Fascist State.


*** AC Grayling's Brexit: Enough is Enough - 14th June 2017 ***

Mrs May called a general election ‘to get a mandate for the Brexit negotiations.’ She thereby confessed that she did not have such a mandate already; and indeed there never was a mandate for Brexit. The EU referendum of June 2016, advertised to all as ‘advisory,’ resulted in 37% of the electorate voting to leave the EU. By no democratic standard is that a mandate for anything, still less for a major and consequential constitutional change. The outcome of the General Election has reaffirmed, and emphatically, that there is no mandate for Brexit.

Yet Mrs May is clinging gracelessly to power, by seeking help from a profoundly unappealing political group – and doing it with an unconcern not merely careless but dangerous for the Northern Ireland peace arrangements. What and who will she not sacrifice to keep power, even when her request for it was refused?

The general election demonstrated not only that there is no mandate for Brexit, but that the idea of a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ is dead. Because so-called ‘soft Brexit’ is a pointless unsustainable fudge – explanation below – and because sentiment in the country is turning against the whole idea anyway, Brexit is dying. All that remains is to put it out of its misery, thereby to save the country from the misery that the mere idea of Brexit is causing and threatening further.

The Article 50 notification should be withdrawn. To draw a line under the mess we are in, another referendum should be held – with a properly constituted electorate including 16-17 year olds, all expatriates, and citizens of other EU countries resident in the UK, plus a supermajority bar as is standard in a properly run referendum. This way the real sense of all those affected by its outcome can be tested. The exposure of the falsehoods and fraudulences of the Leave campaign in 2016 means that debate leading to a second referendum has a chance of being more sensible. Ideally, voting in it should be compulsory.

So, here we are one painful year after that profoundly flawed ‘advisory only’ first referendum, and the UK is in a mess. David Davis went to Brussels this week with no plan, no blueprint, no roadmap, no position, no idea. In London behind him is a fatally divided Conservative party, the rabid Brexiters among them seething with rage at the loss of their beloved ‘hard Brexit’ hopes, and their Remainer ‘colleagues’ plotting against Brexit itself. Labour MPs know that many people voted for them not because they share the confused and unworkable contradictions of Labour Brexit policy, but because they wanted to get rid of May.

The painful experiences of this last twelve months, from the desperate financial struggles of the NHS, to the stressed and overstrained police services, to tragic proof that deregulation is a murderous folly – something we do well to remember: for what the Tory Brexiters want is to cut regulations purely for the sake of saving cash – carry another lesson. This is that our constitution is in urgent need of reform.

The first-past- the-post electoral system, nowhere near fit for purpose in a representative democracy, and the Parliamentary system controlled by party whips who remove MP independence and turn them into zombie lobby fodder, have both been hijacked by party and partisan forces. The tabloid press is a disgrace, and needs to be held to account for purveying trash news, blatant falsehoods and distortions, thereby corrupting the public debate. No-one should be allowed to defraud voters by lies and false promises, and by opaque manipulative campaigning techniques paid for by ‘dark money.’ The referendum ‘Leave’ campaign did this, and is yet to be held accountable likewise. The system is sick, and the EU referendum has torn open its rotten underbelly. There can be no going back to that ‘normal’ once the right-wing Tory-UKIP attempted coup has been defeated.

Why is ‘soft Brexit’ a fudge? Because access to the benefits of association with the EU requires accepting EU conditions and regulations across a wide range of issues. The idea of accepting those conditions, together with how they will change and develop in future, but with no say on them or how they change, is a remarkably stupid one. The only form of association with the EU that is sensible and advantageous is membership – exactly as we have it now.

Ask a Tory Brexiter: ask the egregious John Redwood, who will tell you that a nearly-semi-exit ‘soft Brexit’ is a disguised form of EU membership, only with disadvantages. And because of those disadvantages it would quickly be apparent that fully rejoining the EU is a necessity. It would be a necessity anyway; that is the imperative of history in our world. But it would have given us wasted years on half-throttle, and we would look back at the deal we have today, with our full membership, opt-outs and exceptions, and marvel at how utterly inane this whole Brexit matter is.

As to the Labour position: its more sensible MPs know they owe their relative success to an anti-Tory vote, not a pro-Labour and certainly not a pro-Brexit vote. The Labour position on Brexit is incoherent. As a party whose leadership is seeking to return it to its socialist roots, where is its internationalism? Why is buying the anti-immigration rhetoric of the political right? Where is its understanding that Brexit will hurt most, and hurt badly, people on low incomes in the most deprived areas of the country – people whose interests they are supposed to represent? In their potential betrayal of the interests of their natural constituency, Corbyn’s Labour looks worse than Blair’s, and without the compensating intelligence.

The year since the EU referendum, although it has felt a long time because of the various tragic shocks that the UK has suffered, has exposed the mess of the idea of Brexit, and the inadequacy of our political and constitutional orders. The country needed to learn this latter fact, but the lesson is proving a brutal one. What is needed now is genuine leadership with the message: stop Brexit, let’s take a long hard look at ourselves, and let’s get the country back onto a better path.

Prospect Magazine, June 2017