Indy Johar: Brexit tells us we need massive & structural democratic reform

Closing remarks by Dark Matter Labs' Indy Johar at a Birmingham Impact Hub event with A.C. Grayling on May 14th, 2017. 

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Often the case is made of how "Leavers" are wrong and/or the "Remainers" are ignoring the will of the people. However, little is made of how the systemic case for #Brexit was constructed through the establishment of key conditions to drive these outcomes.

There has been a systematic and sophisticated high-jacking of the Mother of Modern democracies, built over multiple years. We can map it out over six failures: 

1. Trust Failure. The scene for this mother of all high-jacking was, I would like to argue, set in a parliament of MPs tainted by an expenses scandal - a scandal which was largely brushed under the carpet. But in the process, it structurally undermined trust in Westminster - setting the underlying conditions for an anti-establishment/populist uprising.

2. Policy Failure. Austerity economics has been increasingly shown to be a systemic failure and is likely to be overturned, regardless of which political party comes to power. But in practice, austerity was a policy choice that drove artificial constraints on public infrastructure. It put pressure on the provision of public goods - schools, hospitals, care homes, - and introduced a systemic and cultural scarcity. Austerity implicitly asked us all, "who deserves these scarce goods - us, or someone else?" A choice waiting to be naturally exploited by xenophobia. 

3. Media Governance Failure. This failure left the loss-making UK media machine and global media platforms in the hands of non-domiciled billionaires. It could be argued that they have not represented the news, but become themselves opinion making machines, pushing Britain to become what they need - a deregulated, de-welfared, off-shore low-tax haven. It is worth noting how public sentiment has been transitioned over the course of the last few years - from the furore against the 1% and structural inequality to the "migrant" bogey man. This has been a convenient tool to hide the sins of the billionaires and exploit the conditions of xenophobia

4. Accountability Failure. No-one was accountable for the architecture of the referendum campaigns; promises made or not made, kept or not kept. The democratic accountability vacuum has converted the platform of the referendum into a platform of platitudes and maybe even untruths. Winning or losing has no cost or reckoning for those participating - as proven by the famous "£350 million for the NHS" bus slogan, speedily abandoned post the Leave vote. 

5. Legislative Failure - A referendum designed as "advisory" has, it can be argued, been successfully converted into a "mandatory" rubber stamp referendum. This has been done through threats of deselection, the whipping of MPs and other such behaviours. This has fundamentally undermined the discursive legitimacy of our parliamentary democracy, as a place which can on our behalf debate and decide complex and non-binary decisions. 

6. Governance failure.  It is increasingly becoming apparent - in terms of the Leave campaign and the brilliant investigative work of Carole Cadwalladr - that we perhaps lack the govermance infrastructure to ensure the integrity & fairness of campaigns , with non-domiciled, non-equitable actors influencing these elections and referenda. We are living through a perfect storm of new technology and off-shore capital.  

Together this stack of "failures" - for those so inclined - has, I would like to argue, created the conditions for the systemic corruption of the Mother of Modern democracies. The case against Brexit is not about Brexit itself, but about this systemic corruption. The few have been able to twist and subvert democracy to preserve and enhance their futures - whilst maintaining the pretense of "the will of the people".  

The truth is that we responded accurately to the conditions already designed  and created - a campaign of xenophobic fear; a design economics of scarcity; and winners and losers exploited by a structural failure in goverance, legislation and accountability. 

The real challenge of Brexit is the urgent necessity for massive and structural democratic reform. I would like to make the case that democracy itself has been stolen from us - not just the EU.