Democracy, Brexit and a Peoples Vote

Ever since June 2016 I have worried about the language used by various folks in relation to Brexit almost as much as I have worried about the actual issues. Traitors, treachery, treason, the enemy within, will of the people, enemies of the people. This is the language of autocrats, demagogues and strongmen. Not the language of a mature Liberal Democracy.

Language that has concerned me recently, in relation both to how our parliamentarians vote, and the prospect of a possible “Peoples Vote” on the terms on which we leave the European Union is the term “Undemocratic” to describe various actions.

If we are in a Liberal and Democratic society; and I sincerely hope that we remain so, then it can never be inherently undemocratic to have further expressions of opinions on topics. The ability in a Democracy, for the electorate to be able to change it’s mind on an issue is the fundamental quality that makes a Democracy a Democracy. This applies to voters, to legislators and to the executive.

As one famous Brexiteer (Rt. Hon. David Davies MP) noted Democracies that cease to be able to change their minds cease to be Democracies.

In a world where the afore mentioned autocrats, demagogues, strongmen and indeed balls out fascists are on the rise it is dangerous for any of us, regardless of our political differences on particular topics, to use language that is so diametrically opposed to the underlying principles of Democracy.

You may well think that a new referendum on the deal May has reached is unwise, that it is unnecessary, that it would not materially change any direction or solve any problem. That the consequences of holding one would be severe, negative, and would outweigh any benefits of holding one. All are legitimate viewpoints.

But it would not be undemocratic. The decision would rest with us; and providing nobody broke the rules (more on that later!) the decision the British people took on whatever question was before us would be undeniably democratic.

So where am I and what do I think?

I am still uncomfortable about the use of referendums to decide on very complicated questions. I think that they inevitably reduce difficult and nuanced things to basic sloganeering, and I think they are easily hijacked by those who seek to subvert our normal democratic process and procedure.

Nonetheless I think there is a compelling argument that once you decided on something by a referendum it is difficult to envisage a situation whereby the decision can be reversed, or altered without either holding another referendum or by holding a General Election specifically to settle that question.

After the General Election in 2017 I wrote about how Brexit was a problem for Labour, and more pertinently that it was even worse for the Tories. Now I might have got my numbers slightly wrong. But I reckon this analysis holds up pretty well. The truth is the numbers don’t exist in our Parliament to pass any version of Brexit.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of another referendum at this time, there is no consensus for any form of Brexit in Parliament. There is no majority for May’s deal (nor any realistic prospect of changing it meaningfully). No majority for Norway or Norway +. No majority for remaining in the EU. And no majority for leaving the EU without a deal.

Apart from the most swivel eyed of swivel eyed loons on the Brexiteer right, and the Lexiteer left, our whole political class understand the degree to which a no deal Brexit would be a national catastrophe and it seems unlikely in the end that any government would allow this to actually happen if there were any means to prevent it (though I note that no deal Brexit will happen by automatic operation of law if no other decision is taken).

Given no deal seems able to pass Parliament, that time is running out, I see that for all it’s flaws another referendum might be the only practical way out for the government and the country.

For anyone, anywhere on the political spectrum reading this, who disagrees with this analysis I’d love to hear what form of Brexit you believe has the numbers to pass in Parliament, because I can’t see another path.

At this stage for the Government, if they lose, and lose big on Tuesday, a Peoples Vote might end up being the least bad of a big range of bad options.

Whilst I don’t think that any of this is a “slam dunk” I’m increasingly of the opinion that this is moving toward an inevitability. Recent events have made absolute chumps of those in the business of political predictions so I put little stock by this opinion of mine!

I might think that a new referendum is going to happen due to circumstances and parliamentary arithmetic. Which comes to what I initially intended to be the focus of this blogpost:-

“Should a new referendum happen on the terms of departure?”

And the simple answer from me is “Yes” there is a case on a number of grounds. I have argued since before the referendum that a second vote would be necessary. Since then things have moved on an I think that there is a strong case on a number of grounds to hold one.

  1. Despite what many on the leave side pretend the vote in 2016 was close. 52-48 delivered a clear, but narrow, victory for leave. But what it really told us was the country was reasonably split down the middle on the issue.

    If my union delivered a 52 – 48 result in a ballot for industrial action we would not be triumphant and vindicated. We’d be gutted and it would give us serious cause for concern about future actions and tactics.

    Almost every democracy other than the UK has thresholds for major constitutional change and in most places a result like 2016 would not have cleared the bar. It was a result within margins of error.

    Lastly the Brexiteers, and the leave campaign would never have accepted this result, the other direction, closed the matter. Nigel Farage even specifically mentioned a 52 /48 result for Remain as being one that would still be open to question.

  2. The official leave campaigns cheated and broke the law. In some respects, I’m so shocked that this is not a bigger thing. Both campaigns have been officially sanctioned by the electoral commission and referrals have been made to the police for criminal prosecution. We’ve seen the unfolding Cambridge Analytica scandal.

    No one can know definitively one way or another it this had a material effect on the outcome (I have my doubts, but a news story today reporting an academic testified in court he felt it likely)

    One thing is for sure though in normal practice if someone is found to have cheated in an election the result is declared null and void and needs to be re-run. If you cheat in an exam you get a fail. If an athlete fails a drugs test they are stripped of their medal.

    Amusingly (in light of all the “will of the people” arguments) the only reason this hasn’t kicked in over the referendum is that it’s legal status was advisory only!

    But given the closeness of the result there has to be some question of it’s validity given it’s proponents cheated.

  3. If the cheating isn’t enough what about the lying? Now many people might be in favour of May’s deal. But I have yet to see anyone, on any side of the debate pretend that the Brexit we are being proposed bares any relation to the claims made by the leave side in the referendum.

    In fact the loudest voices against, it’s biggest detractors, the most vocal shouts of betrayal are coming from those who campaigned in 2016 for us to leave.

    The, for my 2 cents, inarguable truth is that the deal on the table is hugely, significantly, different from the picture painted to the British electorate. Given that it is different, I find it hard to see how it is wrong, in principle, to ask the British people if now they know the terms of departure if they are really happy with this or if they have changed their mind. This leads us on to:-

  4. It will really settle the debate. For all the people like me who claimed and claim that the last referendum doesn’t settle things because we’d had no say on the type of Brexit. This would end that.

    The British people would have had a vote on a specific known quantity. Had they voted for May’s deal, or an alternative specific form of Brexit then that actually does end the debate, at least for me even if I’d personally despair at that.

    If we don’t then Brexit doesn’t end any time soon. I hear a lot of people saying they just want it over with. But our current trajectory means that nothing other than Brexit will be happening for a decade or more.

    The withdrawal agreement isn’t the end of Brexit. It isn’t even the beginning of the end. It is merely the end of the beginning. And what ought to concern any citizen here is if you have despaired at how hard the Withdrawal agreement has been to reach then that is the easy part. The actual trade deal (and other ancillary agreements necessary) has all the really difficult trade offs and compromises that will consume the body politic. It will be at least 10 years in the making of sucking all oxygen out of our political discourse.

    And as things stand on top of that you will have all those like me who question the legitimacy of where we are at, and the course we are taking, campaigning to reverse course.

    If you are fed up with Brexit, Brexit, Brexit then we really need to actually settle things. Because with the status quo it isn’t going away.


    It has only been two and a half years since the Brexit result but the world has changed.

    The international order under which many Brexiteers sold Britain’s post Brexit future is now under a sustained attack by our erstwhile supposed ally America because Donald Trump hates the international rule bases system and is trying to undermine the WTO particularly. A smaller country like us is more vulnerable to “The law of the jungle” than the EU is. Fact.

    A hostile foreign power, Russia, is antithetical to our way of life and is increasingly trying to subvert our democracy (indeed may have tried, possibly even succeeded, in hacking the Brexit vote) and is threatening our allies just as NATO is under stress.

    The world in which we voted for Brexit has changed for the worse, Britain’s place in that world is already more precarious than it was in 2016, and is likely to be even more so if we leave the EU.

    Keynes once famously said “When the facts change so does my mind”. The British people deserve the right to change their minds. And all the evidence suggests a pattern that they have and they will.

I don’t know if there will be another referendum, and if there is I wouldn’t be confident in predicting the result.

But I think the case to have one is strong. And I think the circumstances might dictate that we have to have one as the only possible solution to the problem.

Buckle up because the next few months, and years, are going to be bumpy.






06. December 2018 by Ralph Ferrett
Categories: Activism | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fury vs Wilder quick review!

Well what an astonishing fight, that one really delivered. Whether or not you like Tyson Fury; and he does divide opinion, I don’t see how any sports fan can fail to be impressed by what he has done in the last year, and last night.

As to the result look I had it 115 – 111 even with the Knock downs, I only gave Wilder the 2nd. I could see an argument for him having won the 6th. And several of the rounds had little action so could conceivably have been draws if you weren’t paying attention (though actually I think they were all wide rounds for Fury).

I didn’t like the drawn card, but I wasn’t outraged by it. But…. what Rochin was thinking on his wide card for Wilder I do not know. I share Pauli Malinaggi’s outrage and feeling like Rochin should not be officiating in top level boxing ever again. That card was a joke.

Having said that what a great performance from Tyson Fury he rolled back the years and was something close to his best with some masterful control of distance and angles. He didn’t just nick rounds he dominated them. And through most of the fight he was the one doing damage; a couple of times he wobbled Wilder and with a bit more fitness and ring condition I think he could conceivably have stopped him.

Fury said in the build up that this was his comeback fight (like most of us writing off the two glorified sparring session he was in earlier in the year) and for him to box like he did, under those circumstances is astonishing. The good news for Fury is that he is only likely to get better.

The whole narrative of the build up was that Fury is the better boxer but that it only takes one punch from Wilder to equalise things. This of course, at least on the cards, proved partially true. But the real story is that it didn’t work for Wilder.

Fury got up.

Not once, but twice.

Seemingly from the dead!

I’m not sure I have seen anything quite like it except in WWE or the films like “Rocky” or “Snatch”. It was the kind of recovery that you feel almost had to be scripted. I still can’t quite believe it. Tyson Fury’s powers of recovery are exceptional.

So where does this leave us? I’m not sure any of it looks good for Deontay Wilder. I don’t think his standing is in any way enhanced. He looked like a second rate slugger just hoping to win the lottery (the criticism many make of him). Going into any rematch I think it will weigh heavy on his shoulders that against Fury at least he doesn’t necessarily have to “just get lucky for one second”.

Despite his talk and bravado, he’ll know in his heart of hearts he got lucky. And I think he will really wonder what he can do differently next time. If Fury didn’t get into his head in this build up I guarantee he will in the build up to any rematch.

For Fury it is hard not to see how he won’t improve in terms of his ring condition and his readiness for elite level sport. In some respects I think the knock downs might be good for Fury. A reminder that he needs to keep himself honest and on his toes, and it will stop him under estimating Wilder in any rematch. Whilst I sincerely doubt Wilder has it in his locker to do much different Tyson does. For one thing he barely utilised the switch hitting; I think that will give him another dimension and I think if Fury is sensible he wins the rematch at a canter.

So will it actually happen? All the right noises were made immediately post fight; though I was a bit concerned at Wilder saying maybe not his next fight.

I was very surprised that Wilder’s handlers took this fight because everything in the past suggested they don’t take risks with him. For me the calculation was that they thought Fury was either shot, or hadn’t had time to get ready. A calculated risk.

And now they know. They know that their man lost if the are honest. And that Tyson Fury will almost certainly be much better in a rematch.

I think that Wilder’s people may well run a mile from a rematch. I hope I am wrong but watch this space.

Well done Tyson Fury, once again doing something to open up the heavyweight division. And all of boxing will benefit. Great stuff!


02. December 2018 by Ralph Ferrett
Categories: Sport | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wilder vs Fury preview

One of the things I find most depressing about the state of the world today is the hyper-partisan nature of everything. The lack of nuance and shades of grey. The “With us or against us” nature of discourse on the interewebz.

And the sphere in which it seems to be worst, even more than our febrile politics, is in sport. It’s not enough to like a team or sportsperson; you have to hate the opposition and believe that any loss or bad performance is down to some sort of awful conspiracy.

On Saturday night two undefeated big beasts, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, will fight and the winner will be both the Lineal and WBC champ. Then sometime next year the winner will fight Anthony Joshua and for the first time in a generation will have an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

It seems for many people you have to decide which one of these you support, and the other two are de-facto bums, charlatans and chancers. This is the law of the internet.

Personally though I like all three, in different ways, and not unreservedly, both in and out of the ring. I think it is a fascinating era for heavyweight boxing and I’m enjoying it. For me, what is best is I really don’t know what is going to happen. They are all so very different and well matched.

For our competitors on Saturday one of the things that makes the bout so interesting and compelling is the number of question marks about both of them.

First up the defending champ Deontay Wilder. Wilder is such fun to watch; in great bit of nominative determinism he really is “wild”. I think it is fair to say the least skilled of the top guys, though by no means the utterly crude brawler he is sometimes portrayed as. Wilder was after all an Olympian who won Bronze at Heavyweight in Bejing in 2008 (though both the Heavys and the Super heavy’s probably a poor vintage; the only other notable pro from 2008 is David Price).

What he lacks in “sugar” he more than makes up for with power. I think many people who haven’t watched too many of his fights probably don’t really grasp what a one hit quitter Wilder really is. My view is that he is the hardest puncher in boxing today in any division. He has the kind of power that can stop people even when he doesn’t land cleanly. I’m always a bit sceptical about putting too much stock by reports from sparring; but having said that virtually everyone who has ever sparred with him states that he is a monster puncher even with 20oz gloves and headguards.

He combines this with being incredibly athletic and quick around the ring. Despite his 6 ft 7 in height, he regularly weighs in at around 15 ½ stone for fights, and he has a good engine. On top of that he has a huge reach even for someone as tall as he is. This blend of power, athleticism, reach and unorthodox brawling make Wilder extremely fun to watch, unpredictable and a genuine puzzle for anyone who steps in the ring with him.

But, as I said at the top there are question marks. And the really big “?” with Wilder is whether or not he is actually any good. All but the most died in the wool Wilder partisans would have to admit that mostly his match making has been pretty weak. In three years as a champ he hasn’t had a single unification bout. Only taken (and reluctantly at that) two mandatories when faced with being stripped.

And there are real question marks about even his signature bouts. Bermane Stiverne wasn’t a particularly impressive champion; his only wins of note prior to the Wilder defence were against a fading (and in the opinion of this author, not very good in the first place) Chris Arreola. Even before the bout with Wilder there were rumours that Stiverne had lost the plot after winning the belt and hadn’t trained well (whilst… ahem… living very well!). Wilder won a comprehensive points victory in a dull fight. And by the time Stiverne mystifyingly got a rematch as a mandatory challenger he was obviously no longer a professional athlete in any meaningful sense, having turned up just for the pay cheque.

His other signature bout was against Luis Ortiz in which Wilder showed some real mettle to come from behind against a genuinely world rated opponent. Now this was a good victory and unlike Stiverne I do think Ortiz a genuine top 10 fighter. Even then I do think Ortiz is over rated, for all he looked great against Bryant Jennings in 2015; I defy any fan to sit through the Ortiz vs Dave Allen or Malik Scott fights and tell me that Ortiz is unambiguously world class.

I think you can make a very strong argument this Fury fight is the first time that Wilder has ever stepped into the ring with a genuinely top opponent; and as such we really don’t know how good he actually is.

The same cannot be said for Tyson Fury, his signature win, dethroning Wladimir Klitschko in his own backyard was unambiguously a great win, against a great opponent, at the pinnacle of the sport. That the fight was as dull as ditch water (and it really was awful to watch) shouldn’t detract from how masterful Fury was that night.

His punching, or lack thereof, might not have thrilled. But his control of distance, angles and his amazing footwork was more akin to watching a top middleweight than a 6 ft 9 in monster of a big man.

The reality is that he utterly dominated a future hall of fame champion from start to finish. I’d argue it was the most dominant performance in a world heavyweight title fight since Lennox Lewis stopped Mike Tyson.

I think you can make a convincing argument that Anthony Joshua’s recent run of mandatory defences and unification bouts (including his own Wlad fight) gives him the stronger overall resume, no one amongst the big men has as significant a win on their record as Fury.

My view is that the version of Tyson Fury that stepped into the ring in Dusseldorf in 2015 would school Wilder with consummate ease….

But this is back to the question marks. And with Fury the big question mark is will we ever see anything even remotely resembling that Fury ever again. Years out of the ring, ballooning to 27 stone, drink and recreational drug abuse for a sustained period of time. Can he ever really get himself into the shape of a truly elite athlete? Even if he could get there eventually is there any chance of him having done that without a single meaningful fight? I think Fury’s pulling back from the brink is an amazing and admirable one, but it is hard to imagine he is already back.

Both the Seferi and Pianeta fights were basically exhibition bouts that did not test Fury in any meaningful sense; neither give us any hint that he is ready to rumble at elite level again. This combined with changing trainer, allegedly a difficult and troubled camp and a late change to his corner (with Freddy Roach joining his team at the 11th hour). Can Tyson Fury be anything like his best at this stage? I personally rather doubt it.

For my 2 cents Fury is by a significant margin the better boxer; and usually all things being even ish in size I’d almost always pick the boxer over the puncher. If I didn’t have the concerns I do about Fury’s fitness and sharpness levels I’d probably go with that.

But…. Even a fit and focussed Fury gives you chances to hit him. In the bout against Wlad he had to eat a couple of huge punches in the dying rounds. Against Wilder that will probably be lights out. I don’t truly believe we will have an elite level Tyson Fury (though I very much hope I am wrong) in the ring on Saturday.

So my TL:DR is this, I think Deontay Wilder will probably knock Tyson Fury out in the early rounds. However I wouldn’t want to put much money on that.

On the other hand I would not be in the slightest bit surprised if Fury utterly schooled Wilder on the way to a lopsided points with or a late stoppage. He shocked the world in Dusseldorf and doing the same again is clearly “In his locker”. He shouldn’t be written off.

I love it when you get a pick ‘em fight where you honestly don’t know in advance what the likely outcome will be. Boxing at it’s best! Let’s hope the fight is a cracker and the winner get’s in the ring with Joshua sooner rather than later.


27. November 2018 by Ralph Ferrett
Categories: Sport | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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