Brexit reaction (or lack of same) not what’s needed

In the closing moments of the Blackadder Goes Forth episode “Goodbyeee”, Captain Kevin Darling – posted to the front line just in time for the ‘big push’ – reveals he captured his sense of impending doom by writing one last entry in his diary on the way out, which consisted of just one word: “B****r.”

I suspect a journalistic colleague of mine was experiencing slightly similar emotions on Friday morning when he responded to the Brexit vote by posting a slightly shorter expletive as his Facebook status.

There has been a lot of hot air expended already as we enter the first full week of the brave – or foolish, depending on your point of view – new world of Brexit, and not all of it confined to the Leave side.

“If you voted Leave because of unelected politicians, you’re about to get an unelected prime minister,” one guy posted on Facebook, doing little to combat stereotypes about social media commentary in the process.  Er, unless our electoral system underwent a radical metamorphosis when I wasn’t looking, we’ve got an unelected prime minister already – we don’t vote for the prime minister in this country.

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Then there’s the matter of this online petition to “implement a rule that if the Remain or Leave vote is less than 60%, based [on] a turnout [of] less than 75%, there should be another referendum.”  Apparently it’s under investigation because a number of signatures on it are suspected to be fraudulent, but nothing is going to be done about it anyway.

Unless this rule already existed beforehand – and it’s the first I’ve heard of it – it doesn’t mean anything.  You can’t just impose arbitrary thresholds after the fact because you don’t agree with the result.  It’s just not in the spirit of the thing.  The threshold put in place for the Scottish devolution referendum in 1979, which required 40% of the electorate to vote in favour for the result to be valid, is still controversial nearly forty years later – and that came in advance of the vote.

No, we’re on the path, like it or not, and it’s about what we do about it now.  And so far, the signs from Westminster are not encouraging.

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham had the cheek on Saturday morning to accuse first minister Nicola Sturgeon of opportunism for instigating moves toward a second Scottish independence referendum, presumably unaware of – or, like a lot of others in the unionist lobby, unwilling to acknowledge – the fact that a Brexit vote against Scotland’s will was specifically listed in the SNP’s manifesto for May’s Holyrood elections as a trigger for such moves.

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Whether you agree with Ms Sturgeon’s announcement or not – and the referendum plan is only one of a wider package of measures her government are looking into – at least she’s getting on and doing something.  David Cameron, as a final “up yours” to the Leavers in his cabinet, has decided not to bother activating the Article 50 process to leave the EU, leaving this for his successor – whoever that may be – to do upon taking office in September.

Curiously, none of the heirs presumptive to the Tory leadership appear to have a problem with this, despite the new prime minister being widely expected to come from the Leave camp.

They are very fortunate indeed that despite European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s protestations to the contrary, a number of EU member state leaders appear quite happy to allow the Tories to drag their heels over this – because looking at it from his perspective, Mr Juncker is right: having voted to leave, we really should be getting on with it.

Labour meanwhile, at a time when they should be gearing up to challenge the incoming Brexit government, have leapt at the chance to turn on leader Jeremy Corbyn, whom the majority of Labour MPs have never accepted despite his popularity among the grassroots of the party.  If there is to be another change of Labour leader, here’s hoping they get it right this time as a strong opposition at Westminster has never been needed as badly as now.

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Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, on the other hand, has signalled that his party are to fight the next general election on a platform of taking us back into the EU.

Time will tell if that happens in time to avoid a protracted readmission process, although at the moment a snap election only looks likely if someone like Boris Johnson, who was not in government at the 2015 election, wins the Tory leadership.

That is not entirely out of the question.  Mr Johnson may come across as too eccentric to be taken seriously but he has won three Westminster elections – albeit in safe Tory seats – and, more crucially, two London mayoral elections, so clearly he’s got something going for him that appeals to voters.  Whether he would be able to garner the same level of support nationally however, is a matter of some debate.

In the meantime, we remain on “pause” while everyone gets their act together.

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