Britain in Disarray: Still Fumbling and Stumbling Out of Europe - Only More so
In the last twelve months two British Prime Ministers have lost their shirts in two gambles concerning the European Union. In June 2016 David Cameron held a referendum on whether Britain should remain within the EU. He didn’t need to do so but he thought he would win. He lost. In June 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May, called an election to increase her parliamentary majority. She believed this would give her a firmer mandate to negotiate Brexit. She didn’t need to do so but she thought she would win. She lost. Cameron resigned after his miscalculation but May hangs on by her fingertips. Her sacked former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, remarked with ill-concealed glee that she is on “Death Row” and is “a dead woman walking”. Such was Britain’s chaotic build up to the Brexit negotiations that began on June 19th.
This latest fiasco had its roots in the Conservative Party leadership contest after Cameron’s departure in July 2016. May, had served as Cameron’s Home Secretary and had acquired the reputation of a hard-working, competent but unshowy pragmatist with a canny political touch. This image served her well during her leadership bid to succeed Cameron. While other candidates displayed oversized egos, Machiavellian deviousness and a salivating appetite for backstabbing, May remained dignified and aloof. As her opponents lay exhausted on the political battlefield, she calmly stepped over the bodies and walked into the top job unopposed. Shortly after she assumed the leadership, a YouGov poll showed that Theresa May was the UK’s most popular politician and the only one to be viewed favourably overall. With 48% of people having a favourable view of the Prime Minister, against 36% who viewed her unfavourably, she held an overall net favourability rating of +12%. This contrasted with the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who had a net favourability score of -25%, being seen favourably by just 29% of people, compared to the 54% who saw him unfavourably. Furthermore Theresa May was fourteen points more popular than her party which is essential for any politician seeking to appeal beyond their party’s usual support base.
In her first speech as Prime Minister May seemed anxious to push the Tory party in an egalitarian direction and to shed its image as a party of rich posh boys out of touch with ordinary folk. She aimed to distance herself from the Cameron regime and to appeal not only to voters who had drifted towards UKIP, the far right nationalist party, but to disenchanted Labour supporters as well. “When it comes to opportunity” she said, “we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you”. She made Brexit part of this inclusive message: “As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold, new, positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us”. In April 2016 she had declared that Britain should not leave the EU. "Remaining inside the European Union does make us more secure, it does make us more prosperous and it does make us more influential beyond our shores”. But that was before the referendum and before she became Prime Minister.
As the new Prime Minister, May had to show party and public that, despite her previous pro-EU pronouncements, she was eager to implement ‘the will of the people’ for Brexit. But ‘the people’ were not of one will. The overall vote in the UK was 52% for leaving the EU and 48% for remaining. There were large regional differences. Voters in England, who are five sixths of the total electorate, voted to leave but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted by large majorities to remain within the EU. There was a generational divide between young voters, most of whom were remainers and older voters, most of whom wanted to leave. Those who had prospered economically from the EU differed from those ‘left behind’, many of whom had been persuaded that the EU was the source of all their ills. There were also differences on Brexit within and between the parties. May’s own Tories were divided between majority remainers and minority but vocal Brexiteers. The whole party feared losing votes to UKIP, the far-right nationalist party whose raison d’etre was to pull Britain out of the EU.
The referendum did not ask what kind of Brexit voters wanted. Was it to be the ‘soft’ version where the UK remained in the single market and customs union? This would require budget contributions and continuing free movement of people, capital, goods and services. Or could Britain leave the single market and customs union with no free trade deal in place and trade with Europe under World Trade Organisation rules? Such a ‘hard’ or ‘clean’ Brexit would mean that the EU would impose its Common External Tariff with huge damage to UK exporters.
This uncertainty provided May with the opportunity to fashion the kind of Brexit she wanted. However, no one quite knew what that was. Her meaningless assertion that “Brexit means Brexit” gave nothing away. She did not take a new leader’s opportunity to try and reunite a divided nation by presenting the public with the complex issues involved. Nor did she offer a guide to Britain’s future direction outside Europe. Instead, the nation was left guessing.
Her original message of inclusiveness suggested she might go for a soft Brexit so as to preserve jobs and trading relationships. But she also had to placate the Brexit zealots in her own party - who wanted a complete break from Europe - and to fend off the rising popularity of UKIP. The world awaited her speech to the Tory party conference in October 2016 in the hope that clarity would replace ambiguity. It did not. Instead, she made the pie-in-the-sky declaration the she wanted all the benefits of EU membership without any of the liabilities. She said: "… let me be clear about the agreement we seek: I want it to involve free trade, in goods and services. I want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here. But let’s state one thing loud and clear: We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration all over again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That’s not going to happen."
In January 2017 the Economist assessed her first six months as Prime Minister. It recalled her time as Home Secretary where “she acquired a reputation for inscrutability, formality and obsession with detail….She worked well with people with whom she had things in common… But she excluded and ignored those ..with whom she did not”. During the first months of her premiership, her political style became frustratingly clear. Her response to detailed questions about Brexit was to fend them off with robotically repeated platitudes and soundbites. She often prefaced her statements with the phrase: “I’m very clear” while providing no clarity at all. There was a strong suspicion that her uncommunicativeness concealed her own uncertainties about Brexit and shielded from public and parliamentary gaze the chaos, conflict and unpreparedness within the government machine itself.
The chosen route towards a furtive and unscrutinised Brexit soon ran into obstacles. In November some concerned citizens requested a court ruling to prevent the Brexit process being initiated without parliamentary consent. The High Court ruled in the claimants favour and the government lost its appeal to the Supreme Court in January 2017. The judgment compelled the government to introduce emergency legislation into parliament to authorise the UK’s departure from the EU. Thus the constitutional doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty was upheld. MPs and peers had to give their consent before the government could formally start the Brexit process under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
May justified her government’s autocratic and secretive approach to Brexit by saying she did not want to reveal in advance her negotiating position with the EU. This implausible excuse for not sharing a nation’s fate with its citizens did not quell public and media demand for information. Under pressure, she at last made a keynote speech at Lancaster House in London in January. It was a strange mixture of the belligerent and the conciliatory. To huge consternation she declared that if no deal was reached with the EU, it would be better than a bad deal. She also said that Britain would go for the hard Brexit. However she wanted a “bold and ambitious” trade agreement with the EU and added: “I want to be clear - what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market." Being a member would mean complying with the EU’s freedom of movement principles and complying with the judgments of the European Court of Justice. “It would, to all intents and purposes, mean not leaving the EU at all." There was some rejoicing among the Brexit evangelical wing but many in Britain and Europe were unimpressed. The German newspaper
Die Welt showed a photo of Theresa May with the words ’Little Britain’ referencing the BBC television comedy show of that name. The French Le Monde remarked: “On the most important point concerning customs barriers to UK exports to the EU, Mrs. May seems to want to have her cake and eat it”.
The legislation empowering the UK government to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was passed without amendment on the 13th March and the Article was invoked on 31st March. This initiated the process for Britain to leave the EU. Up to that point Theresa May had continued to perform well in the polls. For example, one YouGov poll found her to be three times more popular than opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. Despite her reticence, her image as a serious, unflashy politician played well with the public. In mid-April the polls such as YouGov and ComRes showed her Conservative party was about 20 points ahead of Labour.
The apparent ascendancy of May and her party gave rise to media speculation that she might call a ‘snap’ general election. Although there had been an election in 2015 when David Cameron was leader and another election was not legally due until 2020, the media commentariat thought there were good reasons for her not to wait until then. May owed her leadership position entirely to her party but had not received a personal mandate from the electorate. An increased parliamentary majority would also give her greater freedom to negotiate her personal kind of Brexit and, with the opposition weak and divided, she could impose her own agenda in other important policy areas. Above all, there were signs that the economy was beginning to weaken as uncertainties over Brexit grew. However, May was having none of it. She told the BBC in September 2016 the electorate wanted stability. "I think the next election will be in 2020... I'm not going to be calling a snap election". However, in April 2017 she did just that. In case anyone thought this cast doubt on her strong and honest leadership, she reassured them that it was all the opposition parties’ fault. "If we do not hold a general election now, their political game-playing will continue," Mrs May told a bewildered nation, "and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election." She claimed the Labour party, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats – all of them pro-EU- would try to destabilise and frustrate the Brexit process in Parliament. Therefore the election was of great importance. “… the country needs this election, but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond”.
The real reason for calling the election had more to do with the favourable opinion polls which pointed to a landslide victory over an enfeebled opposition. Labour, the main opposition party did poorly in 2015, winning only 232 seats out of 650. The Conservatives with 331 seats had a small overall majority. Labour had been virtually wiped out in Scotland with the SNP winning 56 out of 59 seats. After the election the leader, Ed Miliband, resigned and to everyone’s surprise, Jeremy Corbyn, an outsider, was overwhelmingly elected as leader in preference to the other candidates - all of whom were on the Blairite right of the party. The conventional wisdom was that the party could never regain power with a leftist like Corbyn who would never appeal to a wider electorate. Thus neutralised by self-harm, Labour had left the door open to a resounding Tory victory. If this were achieved, May’s control over the awkward squad in her own party could be strengthened. She must also have realised that the next scheduled election in 2020 was only a year after the Brexit negotiations were timetabled to conclude, leaving little time for her to justify a deal to the electorate or to negotiate alternative trading arrangements. All the various factors considered, what could possibly go wrong? At the time she might have realised that her reputation for strong and honest leadership could be dented by her change of mind. She might also have feared that the public could stay at home, weary at being asked to vote yet again. She must have judged that both risks were worth taking.
As she embarked on the road towards political domination, Theresa May’s first big mistake was to employ Australian, Lynton Crosby, as her strategic mastermind. Crosby favoured personality based campaigns with the candidate endlessly repeating media-digestible soundbites about stable government. Substantive issues of policy were to be avoided at all costs. That, combined with warnings about opposition parties forming ‘coalitions of chaos’, had been tried and tested before. In the Australian general election in July 2016 Crosby’s strategy,
having been retained by him, had helped reduce Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s parliamentary majority from 14 to one. This might have served as a warning that Crosby was not the wonderful wizard of Oz, as he had been called, but the mendacious maestro of meaninglessness. May nevertheless ploughed on. Her recurrent and robotically-delivered mantras on the need for “strong and stable leadership” began to evoke annoyance and derision. The political journalist, the late Simon Hoggart, had declared it a rule of politics that a slogan has no meaning if no one would vote for its opposite. As no one would vote for ‘weak and wobbly leadership’, May’s incantation was a nonsense.
And so substantive issues –such as the economy or the formidable complexities involved in exiting the EU, and Britain’s future outside it, were largely ignored. All May wanted was a blank cheque. Her campaign bus displayed her name in large letters with the less than rousing refrain: ‘Strong and Stable Government in the National Interest’. There was no mention of the Conservative Party because the campaign was only about her. Her campaign speeches, liberally sprinkled with Crosbyisms, appeared to be staged media events in empty factories or aircraft hangars. To give the impression of a large turnout, party workers and supporters bearing placards crowded around her. On the rare occasions she went on public walkabout she looked wooden and uncomfortable as if wishing she were somewhere else. Her personality did not allow her spontaneity or warmth. While pressing the flesh, kissing babies and working the crowd were pure bliss for Bill Clinton, they were sheer hell for Theresa May.
It was decided at the beginning of the campaign that May’s shortcomings should not be exposed in a television debate with Jeremy Corbyn. Why bother when her poll ratings were so much higher than his? That decision backfired when Corbyn decided to take part in a TV debate with six other party leaders. The Green Party's joint leader, Caroline Lucas, commented: "You don't say it's the most important election of our lifetime and not be bothered to show up." This miscalculation was bad news for Theresa May. Her reputation suffered more by her non-appearance – however bad her performance might have been - because she could now be accused of running scared or of arrogantly assuming victory.
Despite these shortcomings, May must have calculated that Jeremy Corbyn’s political programme and personality would assure her victory. Early in the campaign the polls indicated as much. May’s view was shared not only by her party but by the whole political and media establishment. Corbyn was perceived as an old-fashioned socialist and the kind of politician who hadn’t led the Labour party since the 1980s. He was a maverick anti-war and anti-nuclear activist who had often defied party discipline and - perhaps worst of all - he was not a monarchist. Before and during the campaign he faced vicious personal attacks in the pro-Tory tabloid press way beyond legitimate criticism. He was also criticised for his left wing views and leadership shortcomings by those within his own party. Some of his shadow ministerial team had resigned and declared they had no confidence in his leadership.
Labour’s policy manifesto was a rather modest social democratic programme for reform but the neo-liberal consensus having moved so far rightwards, many opponents dubbed it extremist and Marxist. As the campaign progressed, Corbyn’s egalitarian and redistributive policy manifesto began to resonate. It was
popular with the majority of voters when polled. His declared opposition to austerity struck a chord with people who were fed up with their wages stagnating, benefits reducing, the cost of living rising, and public services failing. May seemed to offer no hope but just more of the same. The Labour policy prospectus included renationalising Britain’s dysfunctional rail system, abolishing tuition fees for British universities, raising higher taxes from the better off, capping CEO salaries, and imposing rent controls to deal with Britain's affordable housing problem. Corbyn was less surefooted on defence and foreign policy where his conciliatory inclinations towards conflict exposed him to charges of naivety and lack of patriotism.
Corbyn made a successful pitch for the youth vote in Labour’s manifesto and in his speeches. As a lifelong campaigner he enjoyed engaging with people and speaking at public rallies. His rhetoric appeared honest and unspun and delivered with passion and conviction. Many younger voters were politically disengaged and alienated from the political process which they believed did not speak to them or address their concerns. As they did not vote, their concerns were ignored. The Brexit referendum result added to their disaffection. However, Corbyn’s manifesto which promised to scrap tuition fees for university students and reintroduce maintenance grants aroused their interest. Other policies with the young in mind included the ending of zero-hour contracts and unpaid internships, a rise in the minimum wage, and a pledge to build more than one million homes.
Corbyn’s growing support from younger voters preceded the election and dates back to his candidature for the Labour party leadership. Momentum, the group that was set up to support Corbyn's leadership bid, now campaigns for Labour. During the election campaign it mobilised support in numerous ways through the astute use of social media. Messaging services were used to reach potential young voters. Armies of canvassers were recruited in this way and, where necessary, targeted their energies on marginal seats. While the party advertised on social media, Momentum created videos – often humorous and satirical – which went viral among users. Thus Corbyn’s message spread. As polling day approached, it was conceded even by his detractors that Corbyn had fought a good campaign, concentrating on the issues and avoiding personal attacks. In contrast the Spectator magazine described Theresa May as “having the warmth, wit and oratorical skill of a fridge freezer”.
Added to Theresa May’s inexperience and poor performances, The Tory campaign was peppered with blunders. As Politico website put it: “In those short seven weeks, the Conservative Party and its candidate made multiple mistakes — from a botched rollout of their party platform to its decision to focus on unwinnable seats and overlook marginal constituencies that they assumed, wrongly, were well in hand. Toward the end, they denied the scale of the Labour surge. This failure of political intelligence and polling was compounded by an insistence on putting a candidate who was ill at ease on the trail and with the media front and centre throughout the campaign”.
Perhaps the biggest bungle of all was Theresa May's U-turn on social care. The sensitive issue of financing social care for the sick and elderly has been dodged and evaded by politicians for many years. Suddenly the public was told that the Conservative programme for government included a so-called "dementia tax" that could lead to more people having to sell their homes to pay for their own care. Theresa May hastily tried to retrieve this bombshell by promising there would be an upper limit on what people would pay, although she couldn’t say what the limit would be. She made things worse by not owning up to the error. Instead, she continued to insist that nothing had changed.
By the time of the general election on June 8th, there were predictions that May would not obtain the larger majority she sought. Despite starting the campaign with record leads in the polls, with a divided and supposedly weak opposition, with majority public support for her leaving the EU and a very experienced campaign team, May ended up without an overall majority. The Tories need to win at least 326 seats out of 650 to obtain an outright majority in the House of Commons. The Tories instead lost 13 seats from the 331 seats they had already. Although the largest party, 318 seats were not enough to enable them to govern alone. Labour had won 262 seats, 30 more than in the 2015 election. It achieved a 41% share of the national vote, its largest since Tony Blair won the 2001 election. The centre left pro-EU Liberal Democrats, won 12 seats – an increase of four – despite campaigning for a second referendum on the terms of any future Brexit deal. There was a huge drop in the UKIP vote thanks to the Tory embrace of their Brexit agenda.
Over the last twelve months, the British people have witnessed David Cameron and Theresa May inflict two risky and avoidable events on the country - both for the perceived advantage of the Tory party rather than the nation - with outcomes that neither had wanted. Despite these upheavals, the central problem for Britain remains that there is no attractive alternative to membership of the EU. May’s platitudes like ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and ‘getting a good deal for Britain’ serve only to conceal the fact.
Despite her election disaster, May did not resign. Under pressure from Tory MPs, she quickly defenestrated two close advisers - reminiscent of the twist on the biblical saying: "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life." With no overall majority and no party willing to form a coalition, she has looked for support to the ten elected Democratic Unionists in Northern Ireland. Although the people of Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, its biggest party, the DUP somehow manages to believe in Brexit and an open border with the Irish Republic. The irony of this political relationship was not lost on Irish journalist, Fintan O’Toole, writing in the New York Times. He said: “It seems oddly fitting therefore that Brexit, which was supposed to be about “taking back control” from Brussels, has actually given a great deal of control to a Northern Irish party that no one in Britain votes for”. May’s own ‘coalition of chaos’, one might say.
Politics and politicians can suddenly be derailed by events. The eight week election campaign was suspended twice by the two jihadist atrocities in Manchester and London. Then at about 1 a.m. on 13th of June, five days after the general election, another horror unfolded. Grenfell Tower, a high-rise 24-storey block of public housing apartments in west London caught fire. The fire spread rapidly throughout the building and, although 65 occupants were rescued, many lost their lives. So far, 79 people are dead or presumed dead according to police figures. This terrible tragedy had – and will have – enormous political implications. There are issues about fire safety, the quality of recent renovation work, the management of the apartment block and the degree of local and national political responsibility for the disaster. The residents of the block claimed that their concerns about inadequate fire safety had been ignored by the politicians responsible. The emergency services were quickly on the scene and coped heroically with the catastrophe. People in the area and across London quickly responded with food, water, clothes, toys and offers of housing. But the response of local and national government was perceived as slow and disorganised. Theresa May was inevitably criticised for her inability to show emotion in public and for failing to meet survivors of the fire immediately after the disaster. One of her Ministers rightly asserted that she was as distraught as everyone else and that, in this respect, the criticism was unfair. Once again the difference in public personality between her and Jeremy Corbyn was highlighted. He was quick to meet the tower’s residents to offer comfort and compassion, and to show righteous anger that such an event could occur. He called for the nearby empty homes of overseas investors to be requisitioned to house the victims of the disaster.
As inquiries into the catastrophe begin, the blackened shell of the tower block will for long stand as an accusing emblem of what is wrong with modern Britain. As Politico website put it: “Side by side, oligarchs and
'Uber' drivers. One set living in the most expensive streets in Europe, the other in rented flats owned by the local council, who opted not to retrofit a sprinkler system in the homes of its poorest residents. For many this contrast is now too stark. A symbol of a Britain with vast wealth and never-ending austerity and of a London where the rich who caused the economic crash carry on as if nothing happened, while everybody else picks up the bill”.
On 19th June the Brexit talks opened in Brussels. The initial focus will be on the rights of EU residents in the UK and British expatriates living in EU countries, along with talks on a financial settlement and "other separation issues". There will also be discussions concerning the common travel area between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. The UK had wanted talks on its future relationship with the EU to be considered at the start of the negotiations, but the EU wants progress on the initial issues first. It is easy to foresee difficulties arising from all of them. The financial settlement could be a toxic issue. The Brexit ideologues in the Tory Party will be quick to denounce
any agreed payment by Britain as excessive. The Irish issue is also complex, particularly on reconciling an open border between North and South with Brexit and with the maintenance of the peace agreement. There is a risk that the talks could be bogged down at a very early stage on any or all of these issues.
The post-election political shambles in the UK looks set to retard progress on all fronts. Theresa May is on borrowed time and attempting to run a minority government in flaky alliance with the DUP.
The editor of the 'I' newspaper, Oliver Duff, referring to the DUP leader, wrote: "In a reversal of fortunes, Arlene Foster can entertain herself with the idea of imposing direct rule on Westminster from Stormont." Although May is on borrowed time as leader, the Tory party fears her removal could lead to a disruptive leadership contest. Without an overall majority the Tory government is already in a precarious situation but dreads the prospect of another election which could lead to a Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister.
Additionally, as Brexit negotiations get under way, divisions within the party over Brexit are already surfacing and are likely to persist through the years of long, hard negotiations that lie ahead. In the meantime, the EU negotiating team must be wondering who is speaking for Britain and for how
The election result indicates no support for May’s hazily fanciful version of a hard Brexit. The main political parties want Britain to have a continuing, close relationship with Europe and fear very damaging economic consequences if it does not. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, who is an EU
Remainer, in a speech on 20th June said that a Brexit deal that puts jobs and prosperity first is the only way the UK will be able to deliver the strong growth that will enable it finally to escape from the long years of austerity. In a marked change of tone from Theresa May’s he said a comprehensive trade agreement, a transitional deal after the 2019 deadline for the end of talks, and a commitment to keep borders open should form a three-point Brexit plan for Britain.
There is already evidence that Brexit and its uncertainties are causing concerns for business. Their leaders are urging a softer Brexit on Theresa May and warning that immigration controls and leaving the single market will have a damaging impact. Stuart Rose, the Tory chair of the online grocer Ocado, said the election had been a “proxy re-referendum” against a hard Brexit. Karan Bilimoria, the founder of Cobra beer, said the prime minister had “zero credibility” and that Britain could now rethink leaving. Brian McBride, chairman of online retailers ASOS and Wiggle, has raised concerns about access to labour and customs checks. The financial sector is also in difficulty which could have considerable knock-on effects on other sectors such as retail, education, entertainment and transport. According to a survey by Morgan McKinley in May this year new available jobs in London’s financial sector fell by 16% relative to the same period the previous year. Frankfurt and Dublin are emerging as the favourite destinations after Brexit in attracting investment banking jobs. The announcements of actual or planned reassignments add up to a potential 17,000 jobs leaving London, out of a total of 94,000 London-based positions currently accounted for by the dozen largest investment banks.
The government is faced with a choice. It could seek minimal change to Britain’s current relationship with the EU by, for example, applying to join the EEA (European Economic Area). This provides for the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the European single market, without being a member of the EU. It would involve adopting EU laws governing the single market (other than agriculture and fisheries). If the government took this course of action, it would invite the reasonable question: why leave the EU in order join an inferior version of it? The other alternative is a clean break from the EU. This would be pleasing to the Brexiteers within Theresa May’s party but it runs the risk of incalculable economic damage.
On 21st June the Queen’s Speech, which details the government’s legislative programme, was presented to Parliament. A host of proposed new laws designed to prepare the UK for a "smooth and orderly" departure from the EU were announced. Of 27 bills, eight relate to Brexit and its implications for key industries. However, the proposals were presented by a minority government
that even with the DUP votes still has only a tiny majority, headed by a diminished Prime Minister who could be ejected at any moment. Writing in the New York Review of Books, bemused Irish commentator, Fintan O’Toole, sums it up perfectly. The British government, he says, “will be weak and unstable and it will have no real authority to negotiate a potentially momentous agreement with the European Union. Brexit is thus far from being a done deal: it can’t be done without a reliable partner for the EU to negotiate with. There isn’t one now and there may not be one for quite some time—at least until after another election, but quite probably not even then. The reliance on a spurious notion of the “popular will” has left Britain with no clear notion of who “the people” are and what they really want”.