Lessons in governance from Britain’s Brexit, and RW’s exit | Daily News

Lessons in governance from Britain’s Brexit, and RW’s exit

If you cast your vote at a general election, are you also casting it away for the next few years?

That question is at the crux of the current national discourse on whether a general election should be held in the near future, or not. It is safe to say, that a majority of the people of this country want a general election at this point in time, and though that fact cannot be proven without an actual Referendum to prove it, it is safe to say it is an accurate reflection of reality, as all empirical data clearly points in that direction. The landslide general election victory for the PA and now the PA and UPFA combined, should perish all the talk about a 62 lakh mandate granted to UNP ‘and allies’ at the last presidential election.

However, constitutional purists want no election, though under the above mentioned circumstances, me nor anyone cannot be faulted for stating that they are afraid of an election, and are using the constitutional fig leaf to avoid one.

But yet, the issue continues to remain in the public eye, not the least of the reasons being that the constitutional purists as they might be called, have gone to Court to stave off a national poll.

So, to begin at where this piece began, if you did cast your vote at a general election — or for that matter any major election — did you cast it away for the next few years?

Well, the answer to that seems to be a definitive no, and it comes, these days in particular, from the so called mother of all Parliaments.

Even as this is written, it is palpably clear that Britain is moving towards another general election, or one more Referendum, on a subject on which Britons already voted in a national plebiscite two years back.

MAJOR TALKING POINT

Brexit, is not going to be a mere digression in this article, and that is fair warning! Brexit and what is happening now in UK is as relevant to the debate about ‘whether you cast your vote away’, as any other major talking point, in these days of heated political contestation in this country.

British Prime Minister Theresa May tried this week to sell her deal that would have got her country out of the European Union. But yet, unfortunately for her, almost before the ink was dry on her formula, she got wind of the fact that her plan would be voted down by a massive margin in the British House of Commons.

So, early this week, she chose to postpone the vote in the House on her Brexit plan. The move, which was very clearly designed foremost to save her own premiership from imminent doom, has caused chaos in the country, and it is now almost certain that all of this would end up with perhaps another so called “People’s vote” on the matter of exiting the European Union, or another General Election.

UNLIKELY POSSIBILITY

Other scenarios are possible but are not likely, and one of them is that a leadership challenge aimed at Theresa May from her own Conservative party would bring an end to her premiership with the result that somebody else would lead the current Conservative government in the UK.

The shape of events as they are happening now however, seems to suggest that this is now an increasingly unlikely possibility.

It seems that the people very rapidly lost any semblance of confidence they might have once entertained, that Mrs. May would be able to solve the hideously vexed problem that is Brexit.

This is due to the totally farcical manner in which the vote on her deal was postponed, with some MPs who were willing to support her, learning about the postponement of the vote, on live television.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremey Corbyn called Mrs. May’s coalition a ‘shambolic government’ on Tuesday, and it does seem that a vast majority of the commentariat in Britain are agreeing with him.

What’s clear from everything taking place in the mother of all Parliaments and what’s playing out at this moment in the British media etc, is that there is nobody on any side of the divide who believes that another general election is anathema, or that another Referendum on Brexit for that matter, is out of the question.

Of course this is not to say that there aren’t some vehement objectors who do not like either possibility, but there is no unified formidable opposition to either of these moves.

What that means is that the people in the UK are in general open to the possibility of general elections, in what they see as a time of extraordinary political stalemate and uncertainty in the country.

STUBBORN SENTIMENT

To go back again then to where we began, nobody in Britain is in any manner seriously contending that when they cast their vote at the last general election, they cast away their right to vote again, before the term of the parliament is up.

There is no leader in Britain that is scared of a general election, even though there may be persons who are partial to avoiding one, because it may lead to a change of government.

Such persons are bound to oppose the idea of a general election at this time, but they would not do so with anything like the vehemence with which the UNP is opposing elections here in this country.

Why is there no such stubborn anti election sentiment in Britain?

To be brutally honest about it, it’s owed to the fact that it would be hilarious for anyone in that country to deviate so much from the collective wish of the common denominator i.e: the desire of the British voters.

It is quite apparent that the people of the UK are so sick of the Brexit fiasco that they feel their politicians are inept and have mishandled the entire contretemps.

No matter where they may stand on the issues, meaning they could be strong supporters of either Remain or Leave, the overwhelming desire in the country, judging by the coverage of the issue, is that they do not want to see the chaotic situation deteriorate any further.

Mrs. May may not be a Ranil Wickremesinghe who entertains no contrary opinion over his view that he is entitled to the premiership, for at least another one and a half years, due to the fixed term Clause of four and a half years that came with the 19th Amendment. But of course it is likely that she would do her best to stave off a general election as well.

The difference between the Wickremesinghe brand of tenacity and hers, is that she is willing to acknowledge that her country is in crisis.

FIXED TERM ACT

Though she is very probably against a general election as such an eventuality would spell certain doom for her prime ministerial career, she is not dragging her country down with her by vehemently insisting that there should not be a national election no matter what, before the four years prescribed in the Fixed Term Parliamentary Act are up.

One reason things are so different in Britain, is that her fellow Conservatives are not delusional, whatever their faults may be.

They do not believe that they could or should push adamantly for extending the life of the current parliament, when they know fully well that such self indulgence would be treated with the scorn it deserves from among the ordinary voting public.

Those who argue that the immediate political uncertainty in this country was the creation of the president, and that it gives Wickremesinghe the right to inveigh against a General Election with all means at his disposal, should remember that Brexit was the creation of Theresa May’s Conservative party, as much as Ranil Wickremesinghe’s defeat at the last national election, the LG poll this year, was entirely the creation of his party, the UNP.

If there is further explanation that is needed on that claim, it’s obvious that Theresa May, to put it mildly, is a great deal more self effacing about her own party’s role in the current crisis her nation is bedeviled by...

The people of UK, but more importantly the MPs in her own party rightly ensure that she is held accountable for her own follies, and that’s partly because they are open to a keen contest for party succession.

That’s unfortunately not the case with the UNP back here at home. There is no healthy contest for succession within the UNP, even though there are so many contenders who are constantly entertaining the idea that they would walk in Wickremesinghe’s shoes, as next party leader.

But, when there is any mention of a serious contest for succession, there are many formidable players who would rather have Wickremesinghe than someone other than themselves as the successor. Each having daggers drawn at the other in this way, is a reality that is relished by Wickremesinghe, who preys upon such rivalries to bolster his dominant role in the party, as long as he wants to.

There is no similar conceivable situation in the British Conservative party in which, say, Boris Johnson would scuttle the hopes of any other contender, and go to the ends of the earth to ensure that another contender such as Jacob Rees-Mogg would fail, if he (Boris) himself is out of the running, due to a lack of support.

Theresa May hangs on to power these day for the rather simple reason that very few people would really want her job at this moment in which the country is mired in a crisis out of which there does not seem to be any easy way out.

PASSIVE

The other difference between the average British voter and the Sri Lankan counterpart, this writer suspects, is that back here folks are far more passive with regard to vocalization of their political preferences.

This does not mean that they do not engage in politics with a passion. But, historically their predilection, if you will, has been to bide their time and be silent until they could deliver the coup de grace at a national election by annihilating the pompous and those feeling entitled, or others who are deemed to have overstayed their welcome.

It is fair to say from the point of an objective appraisal that Britain, for all its chaotic politics, is not as polarized a political landscape as it is in Sri Lanka at the present moment.

It is no doubt a charitable view to take that sharp political divisions between the UNP and SLPP have led to the spineless UNP support for Wickremesinghe, under the circumstances that he quite obviously does not enjoy majority support in the country.

In short, it seems UNPers would rather have anyone — even the impossible Wickremesinghe— than anybody from the SLPP-UPFA combine.

This is no place to analyze reasons for this type of pronounced polarization, though the reader would probably have a very good idea why there is such a sharp divide animating the politics of the country.

But no amount of hate for the other side should preclude the leadership and the rank and file of the UNP, from getting used to a political culture that takes into account the glaring realities, as obtains in the political landscape of Britain.

BRITAIN IS DIVIDED TOO

To add to that, it is not as if Britain isn’t deeply divided. There is a yawning ideological chasm between the Conservatives and the very left leaning politics centred around the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But British politics is real, not surreal in the way it often unfolds here. Leaders are rooted in the facts of the here and now, and so are their support bases.

Neither are blinded by partisan considerations when it comes to fundamentals such as a election, when it is painfully obvious that one is due.

Some may contend that there is however, deep division in the UK about a possible second Referendum on Brexit for instance, a so called People’s Vote.

Of course there is such a gulf, but there is no rigidity of positions, a fact that is obvious from the daily editorials in the British media. If Mrs. May does not stay on, even though she has so far proved to be the great survivor, there is a great likelihood of a People’s vote, or a general election very soon.

But even if she does survive, it would not be in a situation in which her leadership goes unchallenged.

Even as this is written, some forty MPs from within her own party are said to be planning to dispatch letters against her continuing leadership. In sum, it’s such a far cry from the non-democracy that is being touted here by Wickremesinghe as a ‘fight for democracy,’ something being bought by his support base, largely for lack of alternative.


 

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