Just what I say: Brian Nicholls

Date: Monday 26th February 2018

I HAVE just checked and just a few moments ago it was 606 days, 16 hours, 1 minute and 22 seconds since the EU referendum closed at 10pm on Thursday, 23rd June, 2016 and, for all the progress we have made in our negotiations with the Europeans, it might just as well have been yesterday.

The Prime Minister has promised that she and her senior cabinet colleagues are going to make a series of speeches clarifying the UK’s negotiating position, in other words what the Government wants and what it expects our status on all aspects of our withdrawal to be in one year from now.

What we get instead even after all this wasted time is a series of wish lists, letters to Santa which have about as much detail as a blank sheet of A4 and talk about what a nice, mutually beneficial relationship we could have with the EU if only the Europeans would give us everything we ask for. The problem is the Europeans haven’t got a clue what it is we do want.

Across the channel, if we are truly honest with ourselves, there is an understandable bafflement with the UK’s position or lack of position. They can’t understand why the arrangements in terms of tariff free trade, the customs union, security, open borders in Ireland and sticking with EU regulations in most areas which the UK is saying it wants after we leave the European Union is exactly what we already have as members. It is little wonder the EU is bemused, bothered and bewildered because millions of Brits are too.

Even though we all know from the positions they very publicly chose and the way they voted in the referendum (73 per cent to remain in the EU) the majority of MPs at Westminster did not want us to leave the EU and presumably still don’t on the quiet but too many of them are running scared and are too timid to admit it in case they are thought to be undemocratic or even antidemocratic and are punished at the next election.

There is a vast difference between acting to ensure people vote for you and your party and acting in the interests of the people and the country as a whole even if that upsets many people. That is why our democracy is known as representative democracy, our representatives make decisions on our behalf.

If you ask any MP why they entered politics and stood for Parliament they will trot out the same old platitude about wanting to serve the people and improve lives. Well, report after report about Britain’s prospects for the economy, businesses, jobs and the cost of living among a whole list of other negative forecasts must surely make even rhino-skinned MPs realise that by bobbing along with the tide and pretending that democracy ended in this country 606 days ago they are doing the opposite of what they claim.

When I was studying political science one of the theories I encountered and which has come back to me with force over the past year or so is the theory of the tyranny of the majority. That is exactly what we are seeing now. The problem is that we don’t know now whether there is still a majority for leaving the EU because Labour and the Tories are determined not to find out.

I changed my mind so how many others have? Treating the referendum as a sacred cow as irreversible and by ignoring the 48 per cent who voted remain and those, like me, who realise they were wrong and recant their idiocy proves that the tyranny of the majority is no mere political theory.

The Tories are making a virtue of and appear proud of the fact that they know they are acting against the nation’s interests but that doesn’t matter as long as they are seen to be sticking to the road that the referendum set us upon even if that road goes over a cliff. Those Tories are tuff, stupid but tough. Labour on the other hand are just weak scardy cats. Dismissing asking the people a second time is double cowardice. The politicians are afraid of alienating the Brexiteers who in turn are terrified that the majority is now against them. Is that strength or is it really weakness and is it really democracy?

LAST week I atoned for breaking the law a little bit by going on a speed awareness course which cost almost as much as the fine would have been but did save three penalty points on a previously unblemished driving licence. You only get to go on one of these courses and there are several for other offences such as jumping red lights and supporting Chelsea only if you accept your guilt without reservation.

You also have to be a very good boy, turn up on time, behave and be suitably contrite, none of which I was ever any good at.

Actually, to be fair, the course was anything but a waste of time. It does no harm to be reminded just what a complex business driving a car on modern roads is and how easy it is to become complacent, and over confident. The reasons why we all frequently drift above the speed limit were comprehensively covered, but for some reason we ignored those who consistently choose to drive at dangerous speeds no matter how low the limit might be.

Perhaps that was ignored because for those of us guilty of minor transgressions might have questioned why we get prosecuted while serial speeders just keep on doing it and even get an extra chance when they should be disqualified because they have 12 points because they can plead “exceptional hardship” and magistrates let them back into their Audis and BMWs and among us again.

While it turned out the course was worthwhile this whole way of dealing with low level and non habitual offence is far too officious and bureaucratic. It is taking a sledge hammer to crack a nut but given the nature of modern policing it is either this level of overkill or nothing. There is nothing in between, there is no middle ground.

It used to be that a police officer in the days when you used to see plenty of them about would have stopped the motorist and pointed out the error of their ways, warned them about their future driving and issued a form for the production of driving documents at a police station.

However, since there are now few visible bobbies and even fewer police stations that option is no longer available and so it is now long range sniping via laser followed by a letter informing you of your guilt and never any contact with a human being anywhere in the process.

Sometimes the old ways were the best, cheaper, personal and just as effective.

ANOTHER review of university fees is announced by the Government in the face of stark facts about just how much debt graduates face at the end of their three years.

An average of £50,000 owed by a 21-year-old even in a society where debt is endemic is a real shocker. How do you pay that back at six per cent interest is beyond me.

The Secretary of State for Education believes that as graduates don’t have to start repaying their student loans until they are earning £25,000 and any of the debt they still owe after 30 years will be written off. Thirty years of debt, good God.

Of course the one thing we are not told is what percentage of students do not take out student loans and which universities those lucky ones attend but we can have a good guess at it because for those who have attended schools where £9,500 wouldn’t even pay the fees for a term their university costs are actually a substantial net gain.

No doubt the panel set up to review student fees and loans will comprise the usual suspects. They will be drawn from that pool of people, the chosen ones who move around from inquiry to inquiry and from one government review to another taking months if not years to tell us what we already know and making recommendations that will be kicked into the long grass.

I will bet my last 10 dollars the chairman of this latest review panel will be a Lord or a Baroness because they always are and all the other members will be Sirs and Dames with a couple of professors thrown in for good measure, all of them former Oxford or Cambridge types, where only a minority of students need to worry about taking out a loan.

They report their findings about this time next year just as we exit the European Union so who is going think this is a priority given everything which will be facing the country then?