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People’s Vote March, London, The Observer, October 19, 2019


The End Of Civilization As We Knew It, Part Sixteen.

Today, in a rare Saturday sitting of the UK House of Commons, after debate, MPs voted to effectively stop Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

While an estimated million people in the streets of London right up to the Parliament who supported remaining in the EU called for a new referendum.

Whatever happens next, which could be anything at any moment, Brexit is the curse that keeps on giving.

The last time the House of Commons sat on Saturday, out of only four times since the start of World War Two in 1939, was in 1982 at the start of the Falklands War.

These were moments in the main of unity, compared to descriptions today on the BBC World Service of the UK being possibly the most polarized since the 17th century during the English Civil Wars.

It was riveting to watch the debate live for hours on CNN international or BBC News.

No matter one’s positions, the debate in a parliamentary system is an inspiring sight. The leader of the government is a few feet across from the opposition, and off they go. Intelligent quick thinking on your feet and accomplished linguistic articualtion are required basics. There is no reliable evidence most Americans would even be able to follow it in today’s culture (though many could to be sure, and everyone could–and would be infinitely the better off for it–if anything akin to the same system was in place in the US). There is overwhelming, toxic and decisive evidence that the current occupant of the White House could never do it, would be destroyed in seconds by it, and would resign before ever showing up for even the most routine of such events, which are just that, routine in the UK system. This is absolutley not a partisan statement, but the most rudimentary observation of reality–a reality which we’ve said all along is a symptom of deeper issues.

As we’ve covered in depth for years, and did in our opening piece on The End Of Civilization As We Knew It, Part One nearly a year and a half ago, expanded on from there and revisited in The End Of Civilization As We Knew It, Part Fourteen a year to the day later, underneath the nationalist versus globalist reaction that Brexit represented in the vote it won by a small margin over three years ago was a growing inequality for decades and then refugee crises, engendered mainly by the ongoing slaughter in Syria, that fed Brexit like blood feeds a vampire.

Here, there and everywhere, how’s that all going?

Then there was the brilliant and insidious digital campaign that targeted voters on no one’s radar and made up stuff, starting a global tidal wave of such behavior.

We’ve coverd issues related to the digital age a great deal. We’ll be back to all that as always.

On October 17, two days ago, the BBC had an important report no one saw for all practical purposes, or will remember, so we will focus on its importance.

It was on current polling on the Brexit issue.

The fact that this is from the BBC is important, because for all its faults, it still provides some of the best and most objective journalism worldwide. And it was, legitimately, criticized for not calling out the lies of the Leave campaign, likely for fear of not seeming objective in a deeply polarized nation. Which is still seen in some ways in the article at hand (posted below). But a critical two paragraphs gives you the view of the forest from the trees:

True, most polls suggest – and have done so for some time – that the balance of opinion might be tilted narrowly in favour of remaining a member of the EU. On average, this is by 53% to 47%.

However, this lead for Remain rests primarily on the views expressed by those who did not vote three years ago – and perhaps might not do so again.

Or perhaps, more likely, might, with the Remain Campaign having learned from the Leave Campaign exactly how to reach and motivate those voters.

But the point that a majority clearly wants to remain is a reminder of where most people are–which is by a larger margin than won Leave in 2016, actually want to remain, of how if the underlying issues were addressed this would be no issue at all, and why all this never needed to happen in the first place.

If this seems at odds in some ways with the polls showing that at this point Boris Johnson would win an election if called, it is in some ways–and it isn’t. Who represents the opposition, how they and their message cohere and are perceived at any given moment, what all the issues are that impact an election in a parliamentary system, and so on, all determine.

One of the most informative moments of Johnson’s remarks today in attempting to get the votes for his Brexit deal before failing, was the centrality of the National Health Service and its sacrosanct place in the UK, across the political spectrum. A conservative worshipping at the altar of the purist form of democratic socialism (remember, the “isms’ are names with various shades of meaning at various times and places–the programs and what they provide are what matter) is a useful reminder of what happens when such a program is established–over half a century running now in he UK. And a reminder of how much the promise of more funding for the NHS and making it better and more secure were also major selling points, er slogans, er–well you go read-up–of the pro-Brexit campaign.

The most distressing part of Brexit all along has been the corrosive impact on international cooperation, rules and governance, amplified exponentially by the current US White House. The international system established during and at the end of World War Two as the aim of defeating fascism, for all its many faults, requiring US leadership, for all its faults (and UK support, for all its faults), is in chaos. And the underlying cause of inequality can be seen exploding on the streets of cities around the world as we write.

For many reasons, at this point, it seems Brexit will more likely than not go forward in some form. Just as it is as certain, that as we live in one world with no going back, the UK and EU will be rejoined (and never taken apart entirely by Brexit no matter how it plays out) as part of the movement toward global governance with basic needs and rights for all, if we all make it until then.

For now, we cover today’s events with three articles, one from CNN International, one from The Observer in London, and one from the BBC News references above.

One last note first, for now.

The debate today in parliament on Brexit was referred to as “Super Saturday”.

If you want to understand what’s wrong with the cognitive human capacity to understand anything, or of the feral behavioral sink we have arrived at, you need go no further than those two words.

A sports reference.

We’ve been writing about this relentlessly for decades, literally.

When the dominant global culture is so dumbed-down (and Americans have been doing this for a long time, just with increased velocity downward) that it is exported for use in a culture that at least linguistically and cognitively in public policy discourse operates miles higher, then welcome to the decline and fall as you sit in the Coliseum in ancient Rome.


Here are the articles:

“What happened with Brexit on Super Saturday, and what happens next?”

By Rob Picheta and Matt Wells, October 19, 2019, CNN International

Boris Johnson: I will not negotiate a delay with the EU

London (CNN)After three and a half years of torturous negotiations and political machinations, this was meant to be it.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson planned to put his new Brexit deal to a vote in Parliament, on a historic, emergency session that promised to finally bring clarity to the process.

But in the world of Brexit, nothing can be taken for granted. And sure enough, what was billed as Brexit’s “Super Saturday” turned into yet another round of can-kicking as lawmakers voted to delay a decision on Johnson’s deal.

Drama turned to farce when Johnson was forced by law to request an extension to the Brexit process from EU leaders — and simultaneously told them why they shouldn’t grant it.

What on earth happened?

The government’s intention at the beginning of Saturday was to hold a straightforward vote on Johnson’s deal, which was signed in Brussels on Thursday.

But its plans were scuppered when lawmakers passed an amendment crafted by former Conservative government minister Oliver Letwin, who has worked to prevent the UK from crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Boris Johnson suffers setback after lawmakers defer decision on deal

The amendment said Parliament would “withhold support” from Johnson’s Brexit plan until after the other bits of legislation required to implement it are passed.

Had Johnson won a vote on his plan on Saturday, he would have avoided the legal requirement to send a letter to the EU requesting an extension to the Brexit process until January 31.

But Letwin and his allies were concerned that, if the deal was approved and the provisions of the Benn Act fell away, a chaotic departure could still happen by accident on October 31 if, by then, lawmakers had failed to pass the complex set of legislation that’s required to enact the Brexit deal.

Downing Street is was livid at the vote. The failure to pass his deal on Saturday meant the Benn Act kicked in, requiring that extension to be requested.

Johnson had staked his political reputation on delivering Brexit by October 31, and now that’s in the balance.

So did Boris Johnson ask the EU for a delay?

Immediately after the vote, the Prime Minister seemed to imply that he would not. “I will not negotiate a delay with the EU, and neither does the law compel me to do so,” he said. “Further delay will be bad for this country.”

But the law was clear: The government was required to send that letter. There was no ambiguity — the Benn Act even sets out the wording.

In a bad-tempered briefing with journalists after the vote, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman refused repeatedly to say whether Johnson would send the letter, or whether someone else in the government would send the letter, or whether the the government would flout the law and not send the letter at all.

“Governments comply with the law,” was all the spokesman would say.

But in an extraordinary development later, it turned out that Johnson had sent not one but three letters. The first was written according to the wording set out by the Benn Act, requesting a Brexit delay until January 31. In a signal of how little importance Johnson attached to it, Downing Street sent a photocopy by email to the EU, and the Prime Minister didn’t even sign it.

A covering letter accompanied it, signed by a senior civil servant, who explained that the letter was being sent in order for the UK government to comply with the law.

Johnson sent a third letter to EU leaders, telling them that a delay would be “deeply corrosive” and that both sides should simply continue with their ratification processes, with a view to completing them by October 31, the original deadline.

Lawmakers who oppose a no-deal exit doubt very much that this complies with the spirit of the law, and are likely to challenge it at Scotland’s highest court, the Court of Session in Edinburgh, on Monday. That court has been the scene of many Brexit battles so far, led by a senior lawmaker with the Scottish National Party, Joanna Cherry.

What happens next in Parliament?

Boris Johnson leaving Downing Street before Saturday’s vote.

Next week is shaping up to very busy indeed. In the turmoil after the Saturday’s vote, the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, indicated that the government would bring forward another vote on the deal on Monday.

“In the light of today’s decision I should like to inform the house that Monday’s business will now be a debate on the motion relation to Section 13 -1B of the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018 and I shall make a further business statement on Monday,” he said.

Rees-Mogg was referring to a section of the Withdrawal Act that provides for a vote in the House of Commons on the result of a negotiated agreement with the European Union — a so-called “meaningful vote.” Theresa May had three of those, and lost all of them.

Ordinarily, the same provision can’t be voted on twice in the same parliamentary session. That convention scuppered May’s plans to hold a fourth vote on her withdrawal deal. The Speaker, John Bercow said he would rule on the matter on Monday.

Is it more or less likely that Johnson will get his Brexit deal passed?

The result of the Letwin amendment is that Johnson was robbed of a straight up-or-down vote on his Brexit deal. Had the Prime Minister been able to get the deal through the House of Commons, against all the odds, it would have been a moment of particularly sweet victory.

Downing Street aides are furious, since they believed that they had enough votes in the bag, even without the 10 MPs of the Democratic Unionist Party, whom Johnson abandoned when they refused to sign up to his deal earlier this week.

All eyes turn to Monday’s vote, when the government will hope that it can demonstrate parliamentary backing for Johnson’s bill. But the fact is, to get Brexit done by October 31, as the Prime Minister has repeatedly promised, he must now get all the stages of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the House of Commons, the House of Lords and get it in front the Queen for Royal Assent. Only then will the provisions of the Benn Act fall away.

Since he threw out 21 members of his own party for voting in favour of the Benn Act, Johnson has a majority in Parliament of mninus 40. And the Democratic Unionist Party, which nominally props up his minority. government, is furious at being ditched.

As Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May found out to her cost, getting controversial legislation through the House of Commons when you don’t have a majority is notoriously difficult.

. . .

“March organisers hail ‘one of the greatest protest marches in British history’”

By Mark Townsend, 19 Oct 2019

Led by mayor Sadiq Khan, around one million protesters gathered to demand a fresh referendum

In one of the largest public demonstrations in British history, a crowd estimated at around one million marched outside parliament to demand MPs grant them a fresh referendum on Brexit.

Organisers of the march said the turnout, buoyed by the dry weather and the promise of “super Saturday”, was comparable to that of a second referendum rally six months ago when a million people gathered in central London.

A spokesperson for the People’s Vote campaign said: “Our assessment is based on professional advice, there can be no doubt that this ranks as one of the greatest protests this country has ever seen.”

As MPs debated the future of the country inside Westminster, huge crowds assembled in Parliament Square and chanted for the British people to have a final say.

Led by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, protesters from all corners of the UK had earlier gathered in Hyde Park, their numbers bolstered by many EU nationals living here, including a group of 50 pro-Catalan independence protesters.

Aerial footage showed people marching 40 abreast down Whitehall towards Westminster, a portion of central London completely swamped as the crowd filled all side streets along the route.

Many waved EU flags and placards stating “Together for the final say”, the title of the protest. Others held effigies of Boris Johnson, while one group pulled a float carrying a figure of senior Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings – with “Demonic Cummings” daubed across its forehead – using the prime minister as a puppet.

Shortly before 3pm, when news that MPs had voted to back the Oliver Letwin amendment broke, the thousands crammed in Parliament Square erupted wildly and began shouting “people’s vote”.

Later, the Labour MP David Lammy revealed that he could hear the crowd from inside the Commons. “We can hear your roar,” he tweeted.

As the celebrating crowd continued to spill into the streets outside Westminster, Khan told them that EU citizens were a vital element of what made London a great city.

“They are our friends, members of our family, they are our colleagues. Over the last three years they have been feeling anxious, worried and heartbroken,” he said. “I want you to look around. This is what democracy looks like.”

However, the upbeat atmosphere soured after the MPs’ vote when prominent the Brexiters Andrea Leadsom and Jacob Rees-Mogg, walking with his son, were aggressively heckled by protesters despite a heavy police presence.

The estimated size of the march means that only the 2003 protest against the Iraq war, which some estimates put at as high as 1.5 million people, was definitively larger.

Organisers said the exact number was impossible to calculate but they had used “flow and fill rates and crowd density monitoring” to calculate its approximate size. The Metropolitan police said they would not be offering crowd size figures, but at one point issued a statement saying the crowd was so dense that marchers might not even be able to reach Whitehall, let alone parliament.

From the outset the numbers seemed to match predictions of a vast turnout, with many marchers saying they were kept stationary at Hyde Park Corner, close to the march’s starting point, and “severe bottlenecks” reported along Piccadilly.

The march organisers are also asking people to sign a letter to Boris Johnson, EU leaders, MPs and MEPs, asking them to allow “the chance to check whether we want to proceed with Brexit”. By Saturday night more than 23,000 people had signed it.

. . .

“Have UK voters changed their minds on Brexit?”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to persuade MPs to back a deal to take the UK out of the EU.

Doing so would implement the result of the referendum of June 2016, in which 52% of voters backed Leave and 48% Remain.

But where do voters stand on Brexit now, after more than three years of debate and negotiation?

There is no majority for any course of action

First, no single course of action is preferred by a majority of voters.

For example, polling firm Kantar has asked voters on a number of occasions which of four possible outcomes they prefer.

The most popular choice has been to remain in the EU. However, this secured the support of only about one in three.

The next most popular, leaving without a deal, is preferred by slightly less than a quarter.

Kantar polling results

Much the same picture has been painted by another survey. BMG asked people which of five alternatives they would prefer if a deal is not agreed by the end of this month. None has come even close to being backed by more than half of voters.

BMG polling results

Should no agreement be reached, the single most popular option is to leave the EU without a deal. Even so, it is still only backed by about one in three.

Both of the next most popular options – holding another referendum and reversing Brexit without a referendum, are only chosen by about one in five.

BMG polling results

Three polls, by Opinium, Panelbase and ComRes have asked people what they thought of proposals for a deal put forward by Mr Johnson.

All three found that slightly more voters were in favour of them than against. However, they were still backed by well under half.

In Opinium’s poll, just 27% thought the proposals would represent a good deal, while 22% reckoned they would represent a bad one.

Most people either said it would neither be good nor bad, or that they did not know.

Both Panelbase and ComRes found that 31%-32% support the proposals, while 27%-28% oppose them. But in both cases 41% said they did not know.

Against this backdrop, what voters will make of any compromise deal that Mr Johnson might strike with the EU is far from clear.

Leave and Remain voters hold very different views

Second, those who voted Remain and those who backed Leave have very different preferences.

The single most popular option among Leave voters is to exit the EU without a deal. According to Kantar, at least half of them prefer that course of action.

Only about three in 10 pick either of the deals put before them by Kantar: the agreement Mrs May negotiated with the EU, or a “soft” Brexit under which the UK will still be part of the single market and customs union.

Meanwhile, in the event of no deal, on average nearly seven in 10 Leave voters tell BMG they back leaving without one.

In contrast, most of those who voted Remain believe that Brexit should be reversed. On average two in three of them tell Kantar they think Article 50 should be revoked.

Remainers' and Leavers' preferred scenario

BMG offered its respondents both the possibility of holding another referendum and of reversing Brexit without a ballot.

On average, nearly four in 10 Remain voters say Brexit should simply be reversed, while about three in 10 opt for another vote.

Preferred outcome in no deal reached by end of October
Chart on support for holding a referendum on any deal reached with the EU

Few voters have changed their minds

Third, very few voters on either side of the argument have changed their minds about whether the UK should leave the EU. The country appears to be just as divided as it was three years ago.

On average, during the last month, polls that ask people how they would vote in another referendum suggest that 88% of those who backed Remain would do so again. Among those who voted Leave, 86% have not changed their minds.

These figures have changed very little during the last two years.

True, most polls suggest – and have done so for some time – that the balance of opinion might be tilted narrowly in favour of remaining a member of the EU. On average, this is by 53% to 47%.

However, this lead for Remain rests primarily on the views expressed by those who did not vote three years ago – and perhaps might not do so again.

In truth, nobody can be sure what would happen if there were to be another referendum.

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More like this

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Voters are split on holding another referendum

Fourth, voters are divided about whether any agreement that might be reached with the EU should be put to a referendum.

The balance of opinion differs from poll to poll.

When people are asked about a “public vote” they are more likely to show support for another ballot than when asked about a “referendum” on the UK’s membership of the EU.

But they all agree that those who voted Remain are much keener on another vote than those who backed Leave.

All five of the polls put support for another ballot among Remain voters at over two-thirds.

In contrast, four of them find that fewer than 20% of Leave supporters are in favour of the idea. The fifth, by Kantar, puts it only somewhat higher, at 37%.

So those who voted Remain are much more likely than those who voted Leave to welcome a ballot that might overturn the result of three years ago.

Whatever the outcome this week, the division between Remainers and Leavers does not look as though it is going to be easy to heal.

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About this piece

This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC from an expert working for an outside organisation.

Further details of the research on which it is based are available here.

Sir John Curtice is professor of politics, Strathclyde University, and senior research fellow at NatCen Social Research and The UK in a Changing Europe.

*Full wording of questions for the chart “attitudes towards a second referendum”. Kantar: Should the final deal/agreement reached by the government be put to a public vote?; YouGov: Would you support or oppose a public vote on Brexit?; Deltapoll: Would you support or oppose a second referendum on British membership of the European Union?; Panelbase: Do you think there should be a new referendum on Brexit?; BMG: To what extent do you support or oppose [holding] a second in-out EU referendum?

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Edited by Duncan Walker

Charts by David Brown and Dominic Bailey

. . .

To be continued.