Saturday, December 14, 2019
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A Leaver on the BBC? How did that happen?

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FRIDAY’S edition of BBC’s Politics Live included a panellist with whom I was unfamiliar. Mo Lovatt turned out to be a refreshing advocate for leaving the EU, and it appears that her optimism was well received by many pro-Brexit viewers.

First sight of Lovatt, a writer and academic, was her deploring last week’s Commons chicanery by ‘parliamentarians dipping into a grab-bag of eighteenth-century statutes’ to rule out a no-deal prorogation. ‘What they should have done was to get behind that mandate of three years ago, and look for a solution as a parliamentary body. Instead, what they’re doing is individually manoeuvring trying to get what they want, not what people voted for.’

Being director general of the slavishly integrationist CBI, fellow panellist Carolyn Fairbairn naturally thought otherwise. She welcomes ‘ministers who do understand business very well – Greg Clark does and Philip Hammond does – now talking in a frank and honest way about the impact’.

What Fairbairn means, of course, is that Clark, Hammond and other Eeyores such as David (‘Britain is about to be humiliated’) Gauke are corporatist conspirators who equate ‘business’ with the crony capitalism which the CBI represents.

Carolyn Fairburn even claimed that ‘one of the things we’re at real risk of in all of this is forgetting the economy’. Mo Lovatt contradicted her: ‘I disagree with that . . . I think we’ve been focused almost exclusively on the economic argument instead of some of the political arguments about democratic accountability, which I thought is what the vote was about . . . I don’t think we’ve talked enough about democratic accountability and the social factors . . . like left-behind communities, like redistribution of wealth, like the divide between north and south . . . I do think we have focused a lot on the economic argument and not on some of the renewal arguments about democracy and social change.’

Exactly. Whereas the CBI and other Brexit-blockers fret over the Treasury’s fanciful forecast of future GDP, Mo Lovatt’s lesson was a succinct reminder why, to the incomprehension of the establishment, so many people voted to leave the EU.

Not that 17.4million represents a mandate for doing so, at least not according to fellow panellist, philosopher A C Grayling. Having been relatively restrained for half the programme, Grayling’s Brexit Derangement Syndrome was finally triggered by Mo Lovatt warning: ‘The social contract is really important between the government and the governed . . . if we don’t go ahead with Brexit, having given the mandate to the people and they have provided that mandate to leave the European Union, then that social contract is broken.’

The mad professor reverted to appropriating for Remain those who did not vote: ‘In the 2016 referendum 37 per cent of the total electorate voted to leave, which by any stretch of the imagination in any polity is no mandate for a major constitutional change.’

It was Charlotte Pickles of the think tank Reform who reminded Grayling that the referendum had ‘one of the highest turnouts that we’ve seen at an election in recent times . . . it also brought in a chunk of the electorate who have felt so alienated that they have not even been voting previously, so I think it’s very difficult to say that this isn’t a democratic mandate to deliver something . . . Trying to fudge around the numbers afterwards to say the country didn’t really vote to leave is actually quite offensive’.

To which Carolyn Fairbairn again cautioned that ‘the impact on real people of no-deal is so significant and on the most vulnerable’. In other words, Leave voters must be saved from themselves. But as Mo Lovatt reminded its director general, ‘the government of the time sent a leaflet out to every household in the country warning them of the prospects of leaving the European Union, and still people voted for it’.

The full programme can be viewed below.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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