Wednesday, 7 August 2019

The danger of not leaving

It’s not accidental that truly democratic government is rare. Most of us don’t like to lose and democracy always involves the risk of losing. The acceptance of loss and the ability to change who rules us is what distinguishes democracy from autocracy.

If we are very lucky indeed Britain will finally leave the EU in October and the result of the 2016 referendum will be implemented. There are some hopeful signs, but it still may be that the Remainer Establishment will find a way to block us.

There is an almost complete lack of understanding between the two sides of this debate.  It’s as if we have become foreigners to each other speaking a language neither can understand.

This is the difficulty really because democracy requires the common identity that accepts that while we may disagree about politics, we are all still fellow countrymen with the best of intentions.

This is what is changing not just in Britain, but in other places too. The divide between Republicans and Democrats has not been so great since the election of Lincoln in 1860. It is a debate now about identity. It is not merely about what it is to be an American, but more importantly about whether Americans have a shared morality any more. If they don’t it’s unclear how they can have a shared country.

The divide in the UK is likewise about whether we still have the shared identity that makes our democracy possible or did we lose it somewhere along the way.
I find the hostility I frequently meet from Remainers to be remarkably similar to that which I used to meet from Scottish nationalists. It is grounded in the same failure to accept loss. It ruptures the shared identity on which our democracy depends.

Democracy in the UK like everywhere else depends on a single identity. If you think that the majority are foreigners, then you will never accept the will of that majority. But in the UK, we not only have four countries, which frequently play against each other in “international” sport, we now also have citizens of Remainerland and Brexiteerland.

Failure to accept the result of an election is to say our fellow citizens are in fact foreigners. This in essence is what happened in 1860. Those states that didn’t vote for Lincoln decided that Republican states were in fact foreign.

Scotland has been playing this game for a long time. Whenever Scotland voted Labour and England voted Conservative, the result was somehow illegitimate. It was foreigners who voted Tory not us.

We now have Scotland being dragged out of the EU against our will. Even supposedly Pro UK commentators accept this story. It is of course deadly for UK democracy. It simply does not matter which way the various parts of the UK vote in UK wide elections. If we care about UK democracy, we shouldn’t even count. We either accept the will of the UK majority, which means we are all fellow countrymen, or we treat that majority as foreign. Anyone who goes down the route of Scotland or Northern Ireland didn’t vote to Leave has already conceded the argument to the nationalists.

The problem with not accepting loss is that it infects not only your own side, but also your opponent and then everyone else. We all learn from each other and the precedents we set.

The SNP have given us the example of campaigning for a second independence referendum immediately after the first. They have followed this up with campaigning for a second EU referendum immediately after the first. They have used their seats in Westminster to vote against implementing the 2016 Leave result and would be delighted to revoke Article 50 if only they can find a majority of MPs to go along with them.

The problem for the SNP is that they have destroyed their only route to independence. The Scottish Parliament cannot rule on constitutional matters, because it is outwith its remit. An illegal independence referendum would be boycotted. But even a second legal referendum on independence would immediately be followed by calls for third one no matter who won. Any decision to repeal the Act of Union, which is the only way Scotland can become independent, could be overturned by a majority of Westminster MPs just like the SNP think such a majority could revoke Article 50. How would the SNP stop this? It’s not as if they will ever have a Westminster majority.

This is the danger of not accepting that you lost. Scotland has become much more divided than it used to be. Imagine if Pro UK Scots prevented Scottish independence by using a Westminster majority to block it. Imagine if the decision to leave the UK was held up by endless court cases and arcane pieces of parliamentary procedure. Would this improve or harm the atmosphere in Scotland? Would we even have a shared country or would we be still more foreign to each other?

Still worse there are calls by Sinn Féin for a referendum in Northern Ireland. Let’s imagine that 51.89% of voters chose to Leave the UK. Let’s imagine too that the Unionist Parties immediately campaigned for a second referendum and used their seats in Westminster to block the departure of Northern Ireland from the UK. How do you suppose Sinn Féin would react? What happens when the ballot box fails?

Our democracy depends on our unity and our acceptance of the result even when we don’t like it and even when we think our opponents were stupid, tricked and lied to. This is why it is absolutely crucial that the UK does in fact leave the EU in October. If you so love the EU, then campaign to re-join and put it to the electorate. Otherwise, why should any of us accept the results of any elections. If a Labour campaign contains any lies or promises that won’t be fulfilled why should Conservatives accept that Labour won? If Corbyn would be more disastrous than a “no deal” Brexit, why should he be allowed to rule? This all gets very dangerous very quickly.  

Many people in Scotland think that the will of the majority in a UK election is illegitimate if it is different from how we voted. But what if people in England took the same view. This would mean that any Labour Government dependent on votes from Scotland could be rejected by the people of England, especially as unlike the other parts of the UK they don’t have their own parliament. Worse still for Scottish nationalists, what if they so divide Scotland that we cease to view ourselves as having a common identity. If you think that is impossible you haven’t been paying attention lately.

Better by far if we all accept that we lost when we lose and that the majority covers every citizen of the UK not just some of them. The alternative is chaos, partition or worse.


  1. 1. This article would have more credibility if I believed for one second that the author would have accepted a 51-49% win for Scottish independence in 2014.

    2. The author opines that the SNP would never accept a negative result in an independence referendum. Well of course they wouldn't. They're the party of Scottish independence. They believe it to be in Scotland's best interests. Just as Brexiteers would not have gone silent if the EU referendum result was reversed. That IS your actual democracy in action. To deny the ability to contest your beliefs more than once (or even at all), as Effie would like, is anti-democratic.

    3. Effie apparently believes only a majority in Westminster can grant Scotland its sovereignty back. The wishes of the Scottish people are irrelevant it seems. In a previous article, Effie used a graphic of the EU flag as a prison cell. That is obviously a poor analogy as Brexit has proved member states can leave whenever they want. However, a similar graphic showing the UK flag as a prison seems very apt as it appears, according to Effie's logic, our "freedom" is dependent on the goodwill of the representatives of another country.

    1. In point of fact, the SNP already *have* accepted a negative result in an independence referendum - unlike the Tories, who in 1979 refused to accept the result of a devolution referendum.

      Given that the British political system brooks no final settlement of anything, and normally delivers results bearing little relation to the balance of opinion amongs electors, there is nothing unusual or wrong in a wish to prevent the implementation of the most recent interpretation of what' 'Brexit' might actually mean. There is, and can be, nothing sacrosanct about the result of the 2016 referendum.

    2. Well we know Westminstercan always bend the rules when it does not like the result, as you apltly said in 1979.

      If Brexit never happened and Scotland had not rejected it so resoundly then independence would just be at background noise levels, like Corbyn's socialist utopia or right wing Tories fascist slave state....

      People crying about democracy and screaming no more vote is surely the dullest look in politics, then we expect only the baseist bahavior from the Brexit collective.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Doesn't really help Effie's case that staying in the EU was a central pillar of staying in the UK. Thats was forced on us by BitterTogether. It was a lie at the time as EU admitted afterthe referendum. However there are now unintended consequences to those lies, they have become the truth and they are causing an issue....

      They planted the story and idea that only staying in the UK could mean staying in the EU. Clearly EU membership is important in Scotland given the Brexit vote and the Indy vote and so when England decides for Scotland its now leaving hardly going to be unifying for the UK.

      Effies pipe dream is everyone to be British like she is, if its not happened by now its not going to happen.

  2. The British constitutional system is predicated on most voters' losing. No party contesting a General Election at Westminster has won a majority of votes since 1931, when many candidates were unopposed. Three time in living memory, the major Unionist party with fewer votes has one a majority of seats in the House of Commons. Those in favour of devolution for Scotland won a majority of votes in 1979, but devolution was not implemented.

    In any event, people change their minds. Some people leave the scene, others arrive. That is why *no* psepholgical resultis, or can be, for ever. That is why the acta referendi of 1975 on Union membership, or of 1979 on devolution, were not the last word on the subject. That is why we have elections, and nobody holds office for life.

    People who voted to leave the Union in 2016 had a variety of aims and motives. Most wanted no practical changes to existing trading a regulatory arrangements. There was certainly no majority for crashing out with no agreement. In the Withdrawal Agreement, there was ample provision for a substantial degree of free trade, and protection of the rights of persons. The other 27 Member States have declared their willingness to abide by it. The UK has not. The other 27 see no reason to renegotiate, which would take months and months, unless the UK has a sensible offer to make. Since this last condition has not been satisfied, the tail is, quite simply, not going to be allowed to wag the dog. On a continental scale, the UK's trade surplus with the other 27 Members is a minor consideration. There are far more important issues for a continent facing its greatest challenges since the height of the Cold War.

  3. Excellent post, Effie, and your others are of high quality too—glad to see you’re back after your hiatus (of course, you were posting on another site about Dostoevsky). Sadly, your comment section is as cancerous as ever (maybe you should switch off comments for a while as they detract from your articles—the old saw (incorrectly attributed to Winston) about ‘the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter’ should be changed to ‘the best argument against democracy is a five-second glance at social media’).

    As long as I’m commenting, a fascinating treatise by Notre Dame professor Patrick J. Deneen was recently published to wide acclaim: Why Liberalism Failed (2018), a critique of both modern (l/w) liberalism and of ‘classical’ (r/w) liberalism and thus drawing qualified praise from both Left and Right, l/w reviewers relishing his criticisms of ‘classical’ liberalism but taking issue with his criticisms of modern liberalism, and r/w reviewers vice-versa.

    That Deneen is a whitebread conservative makes his questioning the Whig principles underpinning Western society all the more remarkable:
    Liberalism has failed—not because it fell short, but because it was true to itself. It has failed because it has succeeded. As liberalism has “become more fully itself,” as its inner logic has become more evident and its self-contradictions manifest, it has generated pathologies that are at once deformations of its claims yet realizations of liberal ideology. A political philosophy that was launched to foster greater equity, defend a pluralist tapestry of different cultures and beliefs, protect human dignity, and, of course, expand liberty, in practice generates titanic inequality, enforces uniformity and homogeneity, fosters material and spiritual degradation, and undermines freedom. Its success can be measured by its achievement of the opposite of what we have believed it would achieve. Rather than seeing the accumulating catastrophe as evidence of our failure to live up to liberalism’s ideals, we need rather to see clearly that the ruins it has produced are the signs of its very success.
    (Why Liberalism Failed. Yale University Press, 2018. 3–4.)

    And has it not failed? It delivers not small government but large and ever-expanding government; it has delivered burgeoning crime, while disarming us in the face of those criminal threats; it has delivered not freedom but increasing tyranny—Nineteen Eighty-Four itself. It even failed in freeing us from an inherited political class born into privilege, as it creates an inherited liberal class of its own (a ‘liberalocracy’ in Deneen’s words)—seen in such examples as America’s quasi-royal families like the Kennedys (one POTUS and a plethora of political offices since the first entered Congress in 1884), Bushes (two POTUSes and nearly a third, and assorted other political offices), and Bill Clinton (42) succeeded by his wife Hillary as Democratic POTUS candidate; while in Britain there are currently 49 MPs with current or past family connections—which only reveals a glimpse of the true picture, as one should consider how many MPs are getting their relatives into council seats, quango positions or hired as other MPs’ staffers. And it now currently threatens the very end of European Civilisation itself, something that even the worst excesses of communism and national socialism failed to do.

    (The first 3 pages or so of Deneen’s introduction can be found on the Yale University Press blog, and a number of his articles and interviews with him are online.)

    1. You seem to believe Liberalism has failed because it has led to Conservatism. A strange complaint from a right- winger.

  4. I think your arguments start to fall down when you claim, ‘Democracy in the UK like everywhere else depends on a single identity.’, because we all have multiple identities which is what makes us, us. Apart from the obvious; gender, family membership, workplace role, roles outside the workplace and so on, there will may be others; European, British, Scottish, North-East-Scotland, Aberdonian and, perhaps, fae Fittie or Torry. The balance of these identities distinguishes one individual from another. To live successfully, we have to live with the balance. To deny the balance, to claim there should only one identity is to deny humanity, something that has been tried but, fortunately, failed.

    The reason why the Scottish Government seeks consent of the UK government to a so-called section 30 Order is because this thereby ensures the UK government will have to accept a referendum result negating your assertion that it could be ‘overturned by a majority of Westminster MPs.’

  5. We need a codified constitution Effie. Our parliament and courts just make it up as they go along. It is wrong that the British people are so unprotected against the opportunism of people in the establishment.

    There are many things I would include but firm rules on referenda are a must. No reruns within 15 years unless a supermajority in parliament votes in favour. Parliament and courts excluded from interference in direct democracy. If the executive has consulted the people directly and received a clear answer, then let no one stand in the way of their will being implemented.

    That's just for starters. No retrospective changes to the law could be another. No changes to your pension arrangements beyond the age of forty. No removal of age based benefits from those who have already qualified for them (for example, free TV licenses for the over 75s).

    This stuff would deal with the constitutional mayhem and perhaps address some of the root causes for it.

    1. A codified constitution would indeed be a help. It would need to set out clearly: the rights and duties of citizens; the investment of sovereignty; the nature and extent of legislative, executive, and judicial powers; who respectively was to exercise these; the respective powers of the constituent nations; and the regulation of relations between these nations, one another, and the UK.

    2. Aldo's whole constitution is built on not allowing Scottish independence.....Projecting much....

      How about SVSL in Westminster.....if its good enough for the English.....Its good enough for us. I'm sick of MP's from Bradford blocking proposals in Scotland.

      Lets have FFA, warts and all and we'll see what we really have.

      Lets be really democratic and have country vetos backed up by referendums on International issues and defence. Not just take what England wants.

    3. Legally, the legislature currently sitting at Westminster is the continuation of the Parliament with whose foundation Simon de Montfort is associated. The balance of jurisprudence would seem to show that it cannot bind itself, or be bound by anything else. In English Law, Parliament is sovereign. However, the balance of jurisprudence would seem to show that the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty is not part of the Law of Scotland.

    4. Aldo's suggestion of no' reruns for 15 years' could, in difficult circumstances, precipitate disaster. Fortunately, it would be undraftable and unenforceable.

    5. Yes but they are so desperate to avoid a vote now they are discussing making a constitution to try and legitimise their poltical positions.....

      UK economy contracts 0.2%.....

      Is it just 1 more qtr of no growth and we officially have a recession ?

      A depression is what ? two years of sustained negative economic growth.

      Not looking good for the Unionists....currency,credit rating,economy all severely damaged.

      All they have left now is no referendums during a national crisis...

    6. [1/3] We should pass a law that anyone demanding a ‘codified constitution’ gets the ‘Articles of Confederation’ tattooed on their forehead, and anyone wittering on about ‘Bills of Rights’ gets ‘1689’ on their nutsack.

      The Fallacy of ‘Codified Constitutions’
      The Articles of Confederation was the first constitution of the newly independent American states, ratified in 1781. More of an economic and defence pact than a nation, it was what the 13 states agreed. Amongst its stipulations was Article XIII:
      … And the Articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every state, and the union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a congress of the united states, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every state.
      N.B. ‘unless such alteration … be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every state’. Not nine out of thirteen or best of three but EVERY state.

      Some parties were unhappy with the loose confederacy established by the Articles, and a constitutional convention was agreed, the famous Philadelphia Convention. The faction led by Alexander Hamilton desired a more centralised nation with a much more powerful executive, and rather than tweak the Articles, went far beyond their remit to create an entirely new constitution. Realising they would not obtain the consent of every state as the Articles required, Hamilton et al added a provision in their new constitution, Article VII:
      The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.
      That the stipulations of a previous constitution can be ignored and new clauses invented with arbitrary criteria in its replacement demonstrates how little one can rely on written constitutions to protect rights.
      (Ironically, despite ignoring the previous constitution’s requirement for unanimous approval, they demanded a higher bar for amendments to their constitution than their own contrived criterion of 9/13 states (69%), their Article V requiring agreement by ‘three-fourths of the several States’.)

      To get even their arbitrary 9/13 states’ consent, they had to promise to address the many objections to their constitution, from which emerged the much vaunted US Bill of Rights. Ponder momentarily those first ten amendments to their constitution, known as the ‘Bill of Rights’: a new constitution should be as near perfect as fallible mortals can make it; a country might accumulate 10 amendments over 200 years or so—but 10 within 4 years? That’s not a constitution, that’s a poorly-coded s/w package released to market with identified bugs and nought but a promise to fix them in Service Pack 1.

      The Failure of the Bill of Rights
      1A: To protect religion and ‘the free exercise thereof’, intended to avoid religious strife and allow people to worship how they saw fit, be they Catholic or any Protestant denomination. It was not establishing an atheist state; yet 1A is now perversely used by militant atheists to suppress the very religion it was designed to protect (although they only attack Christians, never Muslims).

    7. [2/3] 1A: Also protects ‘freedom of speech’. Yet while we fined ‘Count Dankula’ for a video, they imprisoned Nakoula Basseley Nakoula for his (technically for parole violations—as with Tommy Robinson, the State pored over Nakoula’s life with a microscope until finding something to hang him with). And any expressing ‘wrong’ opinions risk being publicly vilified, sacked, and made virtually unemployable (e.g. Pax Dickinson, Justine Sacco, Brendan Eich). This social exclusion has longer history than most realise, with a government employee sacked in 1999 for using the word ‘niggardly’ correctly, in context and without racial connotation (Washington City Council).
      Inb4 Muh private property: those labelling themselves ‘classical liberal’/‘libertarian’ should have read J.S. Mill’s On Liberty and be familiar with his counsel that liberty needs protection not just from ‘physical force in the form of legal penalties’ but also ‘the moral coercion of public opinion’, describing ‘a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape’ (Penguin ed., 1974; 63,68).

      2A: Ensures citizens are armed sufficiently to carry out the Anglo-Saxon tradition of helping to maintain the peace and defend the State, with a post-Revolution addition of keeping an overbearing federal government in check (James Madison, Federalist Papers No.46). Americans should be having mature, informed debates over whether improved weaponry means 2A should be revisited—instead of which, they argue over the clear meaning of its 27 words, the definition of ‘militia’ and over the placement of a damned comma.

      4A: ‘right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses’. Did 4A prevent Vicki Weaver from getting her brains shot out by an FBI sniper as she stood in her doorway cradling her 10 month old infant daughter? Or her 14 year old son Sammy and the family dog being shot dead by US Marshalls? Or Andrew Scott being shot dead in his apartment by Florida deputies in 2012? Or 73 year old Vietnam veteran Richard Black getting shot dead outside his house by Aurora police in 2018? Pace Talking Heads, And the list goes on, and the list goes on…
      After the Boston marathon bombing, LEOs with kit and vehicles more worthy of Baghdad than a Boston suburb locked down Watertown, even ordering people to close their windows and retreat inside—not even at the height of NI’s Troubles, even after an incident, did a British soldier ever instruct a resident to close his own sodding window (when the army deployed after an incident, it would usually become quite the circus as the neighbourhood came out to enjoy the show—or taunt and even stone the troops).
      US police now have such an unenviable reputation for shooting people’s dogs that it is now a news story when a policeman coming across a stray actually leaves it alive (‘Cop Uses Compassion Instead of Violence to Respond to Lost Dog and Something Amazing Happened’, The Free Thought Project, 3 May 2018).

      5A: ‘nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy’. How did that work out for the four police officers acquitted for their actions in subduing Rodney King? Retried, with two convicted and sentenced to 30 months.
      5A: ‘nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation’. And the DEA’s practice of civil-asset forfeiture, seizing assets of people who often are never charged let alone convicted, the assets then contributing to law enforcement budgets? (It’s mostly drugdealers getting property seized, and no-one likes a drugdealer. But that’s how rights disappear: take them away from the despised, so no-one minds; then take them from everyone else. To protect the rights of the best, you must defend the rights of the worst.)

    8. [3/3] Yanks managed to find a right to abortion and SSM in their 14th Amendment, and in the past have used 8A to outlaw capital punishment, despite being clearly allowed by 5A (‘No person shall … be deprived of life … without due process of law’)—which also outlaws abortion, the unborn not being afforded anything remotely resembling ‘due process’ (but they’re handily not defined as ‘persons’—like how slaves were defined as three-fifths of a person until 14A; Man, I love these ‘codified constitutions’—you can read whatever convenient s**t you want into them).

      Other countries’ ‘codified constitutions’
      While our constitution is not tidily contained in a single document for it to be more easily ignored, much of it is written down (i.e. ‘codified’): e.g. the 1689 Bill of Rights I referenced at the beginning of this missive. This remains law, along with its complaint (‘By causing severall good Subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when Papists were both Armed and Imployed contrary to Law’) and clause stipulating our right to bear arms. There was much debate about the formulation of that clause, the first version stating:
      It is necessary for the publick Safety, that the Subjects which are Protestants, should provide and keep Arms for their common Defence
      i.e. the centuries-old obligation of the people to form as militia for the maintenance of the King’s Peace and defence of his Realm (see e.g. England’s Henry II’s Assize of Arms of 1181 and Scotland’s James I’s Statute of 1424, cap. 18). However, it was watered down to:
      That the Subjects, which are Protestants, may provide and keep Arms, for their common Defence
      and then weakened further to its final version:
      That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions, and as allowed by Law

      Watered down though that clause was, its spirit was understood and adhered to for 232 years—until the Commons got worried about revolting plebs and passed the first serious—unconstitutional—restrictions on arms with the 1921 Firearms Act. Meanwhile, they are happy to observe both letter and spirit of the BoR’s Article IX freeing them to say whatever they please in Parliament without being sued for slander.
      (Further reading: Malcolm, Joyce Lee. To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right. Harvard University Press, 1994.)

      In Australia in 2017 a Canberra court decided to interpret s.44 of the 1901 Australian constitution in a way that neither its authors nor the British Parliament that enacted it ever intended, and decree that a number of born and raised Australian politicians were not Australian after all—ignoring their Constitution’s s.9, ch.8, Art.128, providing the means to alter their Constitution without recourse to legal chicanery.

      Constitutions, codified or otherwise, and Bills of Rights are guidebooks for the virtuous; when a people cease being virtuous, the rules cease being boundaries ensuring fair play and become only empty words to be dodged, misread and simply ignored. (That the Yanks were playing silly bu**ers all the way back in 1787 shows they lacked virtue from the start—but what else can one expect from a nation born of treason to God and King?)

      You need to have a real, hard look at the entire nature of the dying societies of European civilisation (née Christendom), the very principles underpinning them. Nevermind the panaceas of ‘codified constitutions’ and P.R. voting and all the other band-aid solutions. We’re dealing with a sucking chest wound here, and if we don’t do something about that perforated lung, it’s going to collapse and we’re going to lose him—dead and gone. But instead of dealing with the punctured lung, everyone’s debating what colour of sticking plaster to apply to the guy’s grazed pinky. FFS, clownworld, it is.

    9. Well .... you see .... you've just given us a huge long list of stuff that has happened (which I doubt anyone will read in full) but offered no opinion on how any faults might be rectified or solutions to the problems you perceive. Is it because your solutions may be considered more appalling by many than the problems you cherry pick to illustrate your perceived downfall of civilisation?

  6. The causes of the constitutionl issues is one partner in the union has too much power.

    Devo Max would have killed independence, English MP's and the Labour party did not allow it. That is who stoked the fires of independence post 2014. The lies, the sneering ,the bent promises and of course the end point that England MP's decided what deal Scotland got out of Smith. That was the seed of destruction of the Union......

    Brexit just poured petrol on the whole thing as it was just more of the same , shut it Scotland you do what we say with our 52-48 result...Your 62% means nothing so back in your box Jock. People are sick of it and more and more people are seeing it, the tipping point is here. I'm enjoying the ride as the Tories are ripping their own party to bits at the same time. Two great shows for the price of one.

    1. I assume you voted to leave the UK in 2014, and accepted the (high) risk of ending up out of the EU. Why the indignation now?

    2. It wasn't the "high risk of ending up out of the EU". It was certain that, if we were out at all, it would only be for a short time before we were a full, independent member state. Brexit wrenches us out, against our expressed will, with no prospect of re-entry.

    3. 'Certain' doing a lot of work, there.

  7. The 'endless court cases and arcane pieces of parliamentary procedure' of which Effie complains constitute in fact the nearest thing that the UK has to a ... well, constitution. The operative force of this quasi-constitution is the party system, which has long broken down and has always excluded the population of Northern Ireland. If Effie wants to sweep the remains of the quasi-constitution away, she will find it an insuperable task to justify describing herself as any kind of conservative.

  8. There is not the faintest echo here of Burke, Peel, or Disraeli. There is no desire to preserve existing institutions, laws, and customs. There is no covenant between the generations, but rather an overwhelming urge to sweep away anything that gets in the way of the phantoms of pure market forces. Effie, had she been born in another place and time, would have made a good Jacobin: she certainly has the temperament. Here we have the social atomism, the poor-woman's Nietzsche, of Miss Ayn Rand, and the weasely anti-democratic 'libertarianism' of Professor Friedrich Hayek.

  9. *One* source of entropy in Britain's substitute for a constitution is the uncertainty as to the source of sovereignty. Does it proceed from the Crown - as controlled, of course, by the Prime Minister these days? Or is the sovereign element in fact Parliament, especially the House of Commons? Finally, does it lie, as per the Scots doctrine of Covenant, with the people?