The biggest gamble of David Cameron’s political career was his decision to call the EU membership referendum. The flawed assumption that “remain” would succeed ended his and George Osborne’s careers. The result similarly led to the Tory party severely reprimanding Boris Johnson and punishing Michael Gove for their failure to back the predominant Tory “remain” line.
But the shock “leave” (Brexit) result has not ended with the 52% win on the 23rd June. On the 3rd November a successful high court challenge has put the timetable – and possibly the likelihood of Brexit happening – in doubt. In an unprecedented move the judiciary has intervened directing the government to take on the wishes of parliament prior to setting the negotiation terms and timetable. This opens the door to “remain” supporters in the House of Commons and Lords (the overwhelming majority) to scrutinise the minutiae of the government’s approach and frustrate all plans despite their empty words stating the people’s’ choice will be respected. A perfect cover to tie the government in knots and effectively frustrate the whole process.
In passing to the people the right to decide over Britain’s membership in the EU via the referendum, Cameron arrogantly assumed that the masses could be herded to the “Remain” option. This was carried out via a “project fear” campaign stressing the economic dangers of being outside the union which Britain has historically sought to influence. Cameron felt he could win the referendum and unify his split party. He was wrong on both counts. The referendum result owed more to the divided nature of British society than to the relevant merits of pro or anti EU membership arguments, which are complex in nature. The divisions run deep across society – economic, social, race, gender and class – have never been fully addressed in neo-liberal, capitalist Britain. The referendum provided a perfect opportunity for many of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised to give the establishment a bloody nose. However, it would be a mistake for the masses to assume that their word is valid for anything when it comes to such matters of national ruling or sovereignty. By promptly sacking Cameron and Osborne but also sidelining lead Brexiteers like Johnson, Gove and Leadsom, the Tory party handed its leadership to Theresa May, so placing the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU in the hands of ruling elites and not the public.
Yet, in modern democracies it was always such. The public are led to believe they rule (power of the people for the people, by the people – as Lincoln opined) but the reality is very different. The media works hand in glove with the ruling elites forming public opinion and is very much a part of the system. The mainstream (dominant) media will always present narratives favourable for the rulers and against radical change. All the institutions of state including the judiciary will protect the dominant ideology. The system will protect itself at all costs, this is of little surprise. Where the difficulties arise are where the inherent contradictions within the system surface and present major issues. Under representative democracy the elected officials, from the core political parties who represent major business interests, will decide the direction of events. Passing decisions to the electorate as with Brexit can upset the established order. Trying to reverse such decisions is messy – keeping the electorate believing in their role, whilst actually countering it!
If Brexit was an anti-politics coup, the High Court ruling this week can be seen as stage one of a counter-coup.
The politics of Brexit perfectly highlight the problems with man made systems like ‘democratic’ capitalism. Britain, like other ‘democracies’ is actually an oligarchy. The unaccountable strong will dominate the masses to their advantage.
Brexit will mean Brexit only if it comes in a form that delivers for capitalists.
The EU referendum and its aftermath is showing us, that people have to obey capitalists and elites, and those they place in authority – and if people differ amongst themselves, the matter will be settled in the interests of those capitalists and elites.
By contrast, Islam does not allow such manipulation of people and their views. Those matters which are right to be put to public consultation – which would exclude jurisprudence and matters requiring technical expertise, would be binding on the government – and differences of opinion are settled impartially by reference to Allah and His Messenger ﷺ, and not in the interests of the few. Allah – subhanahu wa Ta’ala – orders us in the Quran:
“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those in authority from amongst you. And if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination” [TMQ – An-Nisa: 59, 60]
Jamal Harwood is on the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He comments on Islamic issues and political affairs – and is a prominent Muslim commentator on economic matters in the English-speaking world. He has lectured across the world as well as appearing on a variety of broadcast media. He was once featured in Time Magazine.