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My 350 on BREXIT: Looking back, looking now, looking forward

"Whether nor not Brexit happens, a new social contract for the UK is needed."

D.Owen
29 June 2016

In the aftermath of the historic British vote to leave the EU, openDemocracy is asking for our readers' thoughts on Brexit and what needs to happen next in 350 words. We've had an extraordinary response and you can read them all here.

Looking back:

 1.  Poorly designed referendum, should have had minimum win threshold set at a level to require small supermajority (55% say so minimum 10% margin for major constitutional change) and turnout threshold (70% which would have been met is not unreasonable)
 2.  Cameron’s tactical change for last election of student voter registration came back to bite him (idiot).
 3.  TV Media focus on balance led to lack of critical scrutiny especially of Leave claims and particularly about what ‘Leave’ meant (EEA+, EEA, EEA-?)
 4.  Ineffective coordination between pro-Remain sections of political parties.

Looking now:

 1.  Astonishing absence of political leadership (except SNP) in immediate aftermath.
 2.  Will it happen? Who will trigger Art.50? Some reasons for doubt but, if not, likely there will be toxic political spillovers even if General Election or 2nd Referendum on terms of Brexit.
 3.  If it does happen, implications for UK constitution are huge. Much will hang on whether Scotland and NI can remain part of EU while also being part of EU.
 4.  Autumn/Spring General Election likely – this is what has driven PLP rebellion against Corbyn (not nonsense about Chilcott etc) but existential crisis for Labour Party – regrettably a split seems likely.
 5.  Into political vacuum, right wing populism grows, subterranean racism bubbles up into public light and lack of effective response by political parties (racists feel vindicated by outcome). Wear you safety pin with pride!

Looking forward:

 1.  Whether nor not Brexit happens, a new social contract for UK is needed involving both changes to political processes and party responsiveness (PR, ‘None of the Above’ on ballots papers, maybe even compulsory voting at least for one’s first 2 elections) and substantive investment in areas of post-industrial decline and other areas badly hit by globalisation (coastal towns).
 2.  If Brexit does not happen, then dealing with right-wing populism will be a priority concern.
 3.  If Brexit does happen (but in what form?), then best of Lexit arguments for radical economic reform (pre-distribution, Universal Basic Income, etc.) need serious consideration.
 4.  Reform of media ownership is needed to diversify and block concentrated drip-drip-drip poisoning of UK political debate and relieve constraints on political parties to which concentrated media ownership has led.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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