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INTOLERANCE CHAPTER 5 - EXPOSURE

Updated: Dec 24, 2023





INTOLERANCE

5


'EXPOSURE' 


Alan appears upon national television.            


The day after the referendum result the Prime Minister resigned, his position untenable after he had committed the government to officially back Remain. A sixteen page glossy pamphlet had been sanctioned, at the cost of millions of pounds, to be sent to every household in the UK to promote the cause for Britains continued EU membership. By mid-July a new Conservative leader had been elected to become Prime Minister who promised to govern for everybody and not just the privileged few, to deliver the verdict of the British people and leave the EU.


Since Alan's unintended appearance on national television, his world had been transformed and anyone with a sniff of interest in the politics of Brexit knew who he was. For the Remainers, he was a figure of contempt, the little Englander. For the Brexiteers, he was the man in the street, speaking against the vested interests of the establishment as they manoeuvred to thwart the will of the people. From the political obscurity of an old bloke ranting from the sidelines, he was sometimes sought after by journalists and occasionally television pundits when the view of the common man was  needed. He kept his public profile to a minimum, building on the principle, that less is more.


On Sunday, October 2nd, he had considered publicly endorsing the Conservative Party following the Prime Minister's 'Britain after Brexit' speech, but to nail his colours to another ships mast was to become hostage to fortune. It was one thing defending his own beliefs, but entirely different if he had to defend those of another. Besides there were over one hundred and fifty Conservative Members of parliament who had supported Remain. UKIP's leader was unequivocally the most significant British politician since Margaret Thatcher, but since the European Elections of 2014, UKIP had failed to progress. They had spectacularly failed to consolidate their advantage with some very public infighting, both verbal and more recently physical.  The Liberals were one hundred percent for Remain and already calling unashamedly for a second referendum whilst the Labour Party were reliving the protest politics of the sixties and seventies.


Alan decided  his path must be one of singularity and non alignment with any party, allowing him to call the situation exactly as he saw it. The forces of the establishment were regrouping again, planning to employ any means possible to delay, dilute or destroy the declared intent of the people. The courts, television media, the Houses of the Lords and Commons were refighting the referendum already, as though it had never taken place.


Towards the end of October, he received an invitation to be interviewed by Toni Sabed on a mid-day politics programme, 'to speak for the man on the street'. This was a big step forward from the occasional twenty seconds he was normally allotted. They did not offer a fee for his appearance but did offer to cover his expenses.


On Thursday, November the 3rd, a huge significance was given to his imminent television appearance. The High Court ruled that The Prime Minister could not trigger Article 50, which would give official notification in law that the UK was leaving the EU,  without the consent of The House of Commons. Alan watched the announcement on a television news programme, he was immediately struck by the political commentator, who seemed on the verge of an impromptu cartwheel display in celebration.


His worst fears were coming to the fore, a sense of almost irrepressible rage made his chest tighten and his heart began pounding. He watched as the ‘guardians’ of our democracy - the lawyers - proclaimed they had struck a blow for the people against the executive. At that moment, Alan felt he would like to strike a few blows, and not against the executive. A hedge fund manager and a hairdresser, with the help of their lawyers, were attempting to thwart the will of the people. They stood, on the steps of the Law Courts, full of self righteousness and sanctimony, mouthing pithy sayings about democracy.


A conscious pause, for some deep breathing exercises, and slowly, Alan returned to something approaching sanity. Restored from the rather dangerous condition of apoplexy, he wondered how the British people, especially the Brexiteers, would react. The political airwaves were feverish with a slew of Labour MP's, and a few Conservative MP's, proclaiming that 'the decision does not affect the will of the people, and that, of course Article 50 would be passed by a vote of parliament.....but.....but......if they didn't agree with the government's negotiating position....well....of course it won't come to that.'


The duplicity was mind blowing, and then the House of Lords would have a vote? Alan could smell the beginnings of a constitutional crisis, the majority of both houses were Remainers! The will of the people was not reflected in the House of Commons and certainly not in The House of Lords. The only solution would seem to be a General Election to provide a parliament that did represent the people but the timing would need to be sublime.


*****************************


Alan and Jane travelled to London on the Sunday, the day before the interview. Attempting to arrive by train the same day was no longer an option; Southern Rail and the Unions being incapable of running a railway between them.

       

The weekend’s television and press had been saturated with the High Court's decision and Alan attempted to memorise as many salient facts as possible. He was intensely aware that his credibility depended upon his performance, otherwise, a return to political anonymity beckoned. Until now he had accepted the ageing process as a source of amusement, putting the polish in the fridge instead of the milk would make him laugh as would forgetting a word in mid sentence. Forgetting someone's name that you have known for thirty years was a bit more tricky and required the reverse introduction technique:


‘Hello’.

'Helloooo, how are you? You remember Jane.'

       'Hello Jane, I'm Paul, very pleased to meet you.'


Now all these frailties would be tested, Jane had suggested a large intake of Zinc, a Sulphadine tablet or a Red Bull. Alan considered all three at once.


Made up, wired up, Alan sat nervously alongside Toni Sabed and opposite one of the eight remaining Liberal MP's and 'guest of the day'. Since the referendum, the Liberal Democrats had taken on the mantle of spokesman, against the people who did not know what they were voting for: to Alan he was anathema. The catchy introduction tune began and Richard Legg winked at him, he had the look of a predator at the top of the food chain, just waiting for the moment to devour the sacrificial goat tethered to the stake.


'Richard Legg, your party voted for the referendum, indeed, had the promise of a referendum in your manifesto; why don't you accept the result?'

        

'Toni, off course we accept the result. The people have spoken and they voted to leave the European Union, we will leave the European Union and article 50 will be invoked.'

      

'But you know, and indeed welcomed immediately, the decision of the High Court that Article 50 can only be triggered with the consent and authorisation of Parliament.'

       

Richard Legg sported a smug little smile and triumphantly replied, 'That's right,' ignoring the implicit invitation to reply.

'And so if Parliament votes not to trigger Article 50 - and Parliament has a pro Remain majority - how does that comply with the will of the people?'

'Parliament will invoke the will of the people, the people have spoken. I cannot see MP's voting against it, the High Court judgement just allows parliament to have their say.'


'But Parliament can put forward amendments to a Brexit bill and delay it by forcing the a Government to publish a white paper.'

    

'And that is what the court ruling has made provision for. Not the voting down of Article 50. The opportunity for the government to put forward its negotiating plan to Parliament and for Parliament to discuss it.'


Toni Sabed turned towards Alan with a slightly pouting expression. 'So, there we have it, Article 50 may have to be put before Parliament but there is no way MPs would dare vote it down.'

       

Alan took a deep intake of breath and  summoned up his remaining faculties. Richard Legg raised his eyebrows and looked at him contemptuously, anticipating an imminent crash and burn occasion. In these elasticated seconds before speaking, there was time for a loathing of the supercilious Legg to rise within him.


'I listened with interest to Mr Legg's answers and I have no idea what he has been talking about. Does he mean - 'I voted for the European Union Referendum Bill of 2015 and had expected to be on the winning side - when, to my horror, the people disagreed with me - so I decided to do everything I could to thwart their decision.'


Legg affected a deeply wounded look and begun his reply. 'No of .....'

      

Alan interjected immediately. 'What do you disagree with?  You did not vote for the Referendum Bill. You did not expect to be on the winning side. You were not horrified or you are not trying to thwart the decision of the British people.'


Richard Legg looked startled and took a few seconds to muster a reply, prompting Toni Sabed to interject, 'Well, what do you disagree with.'

      

'It is an effrontery that Mr Newman should question my motives. I voted for the Referendum Bill and I accept the will of the people. What Mr Newman has to answer, is why he finds the decision of the judiciary such an affront to democracy. He wants to claim back sovereignty for the British courts, yet when they make a decision, he challenges it.'


Toni Sabed delivered an accusatory look. 'Do you challenge it Mr Newman. Do you challenge the decision of the High Court?'


'Mr Legg wouldn't know if I disagree with the High Court ruling or not. I have never spoken publicly about it.'


'Point taken, but is Richard Legg right, do you disagree with the High Court ruling.'


'If this had been a planning application, two of the three judges would have excused themselves and declared an interest. I am not a lawyer and am grappling with the nuances of the decision. It seems that you cannot take away, by Royal Prerogative, the rights of people granted in law, in this case the right to vote in European elections granted under the 1972 European Communities Act. However, you can it seems, give away our powers by Royal Prerogative as in The Treaty of Lisbon, which gave away voting powers in forty-five policy areas to qualified majority voting. You remember, Gordon Brown snuck away on his own to sign the treaty after the other 26 heads of state had gone home.'

     

'I don't think we need a history lesson - so do you agree with the headlines in the press? Are the three judges the "enemies of the people"'as stated in The Daily Mai?'

       

'Let us put it another way. Many voters see two of them as 'friends of the EU’ and that should have declared a bias, sorry I an mean interest.'

       

This reply stirred Richard Legg into action. 'So you don't accept the rule of law then. It is one of the main tenants of our democracy and you would sweep it away in a tide of populism.' 


‘Surely you are advocating judicial supremecy over our parliamentary system. In other words the tyranny of judicial activism, the educated few deciding what should be law and what should not. You know how hot works: if Brexit wins - populism. Remain wins - democracy. Is populism now a dirty word? You are coming up short Mr Legg,' snapped Alan, thrilled with his spontaneous pun.

       

‘Yes, but answer the main tenant of his question. He has a point - Mr Newman. You seem to want to disagree with the Judges when it doesn't suit your argument,' purred Toni Sabed.

       

'Mr Legg voted for a referendum. The house carried the vote by a ratio of six to one. Then shock, horror, the people spoke. Contrary to Mr Legg's claim, we all knew what we were voting for even if he didn't. Now the people watch him and his ilk, like twisty-turny things, renege upon the vote. The people have you in their eye - Sir! You are discovered.'


'That'll be enough now Mr Newman. A very emotional topic which I'm sure we'll come back to again and again. Now.........'

    

Out of camera shot, a young man swiftly disentangled him from his microphone and led him from the set. Within five minutes he was back in the street as though nothing had happened.


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