Unfinished business

If Project Fear prevails, and we lose this referendum, the issue of Britain’s relationship with the European Union will not go away. The Crown in Parliament will remain sovereign, and will sooner or later reassert that sovereignty — either because the British people will finally demand it, or because the European Union will collapse, as all supranational empires do.

But there will be other unfinished business. Principally, this will turn on how to reconstruct our democracy so that our political class serve us rather than aspire to act as our masters; so that they respect rather than despise the heritage they should serve; so that they can never again surrender. And further, on how we can replace the now-unsustainable post-war European social-democratic consensus before it destroys our economic and social existence.

On Sunday 28 February, The Observer published a thoughtful article, which concluded:

Project Fear may well be the right strategy for the Remain campaign to secure victory, but it does not answer the question of how mainstream politicians can speak to those disaffected voters who helped trigger this referendum. How do you help people cope with the unequal impacts of globalisation, demographic change and technological progress? How can people begin to trust again in a market economy that seems, in places, to be rigged by ever larger global firms that have an uncanny ability to reduce their tax liabilities; how can they feel confident again in a form of late capitalism where benefits seem to accrue unevenly to a smaller and smaller number of people?

These issues will remain to be addressed whether we win or lose the referendum. Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France, famously argued, “La guerre! C’est une chose trop grave pour la confier à des militaires.” This is usually rendered as, “War is too important to be left to the generals.” We can say too that politics is too important to be left to the politicians.

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