April 1, 2019 9.50 am This story is over 30 months old

Barry Turner: Snap election would only rearrange deckchairs on the Titanic

Both the UK and the EU share the blame for this impasse

As we approach the end game of one of the most tortuous periods in modern political history, our law-makers are running out of options. When the result of the referendum was announced on the morning of June 24, 2016 the press focussed on two possibilities, rather simplistically described as hard or soft Brexit. As the reality dawned on our political classes that leaving the EU would be far from simple, those two positions blossomed into multiple possibilities.

There is no need for us to rehearse those now. Over two years of futile posturing on both sides of the argument have spelled those out for us on a daily basis. Many are now dead in the water, killed off by economic and political reality triumphing over ideological fantasizing about “taking back control” on one side and creating a United States of Europe on the other. Now we face the prospect of what the press like to call a snap election.

A snap election will do no good at all. It will result in another hung Parliament with the two main parties still hopelessly split on multiple issues. Many Conservatives do not subscribe to the hard right policies of many of May’s current front bench. Similarly large number of Labour MPs do not desire the hard socialism of Jeremy Corbyn. There is life after Brexit, but a reconciliation between the two wings of both parties after such acrimony is not going to be part of it.

The constituency parties of both are out of sync with the parliamentary parties and would continue to be so. Mass de-selection, although many would like to see it, would certainly result in new parties being formed and they might hold a balance of power.

A snap election would not result in an automatic withdrawal of Article 50 unless Corbyn was removed as Labour leader in the process. Just as many Labour supporters want Brexit as Tories and Jezza has always been just as much a Brexiteer as Jacob Rees-Mogg, albeit for polar opposite reasons. He could never re-nationalise British industry and infrastructure while the ECJ presided over the UK.

The world’s press seems convinced that this mess is entirely the fault of Mrs May’s government flitting between describing its incompetence and what she herself once described as the “Nasty Party” elements within it. If only it were that simple. The EU has contributed in large part to the impasse. Throughout the Brexit process they have appeared to be conciliatory and even offering compromise, albeit with large caveats attached. It needs to be remembered that it was also the intransigence of many in the EU that brought this shambles about.

The press and media should perhaps look back beyond the heady days of the referendum campaign and its result to what led up to that in the first place. What a shame the EU did not see the sense in David Cameron’s reforms. If they had been a little more imaginative and a little less obsessed with maintaining an arcane political ideal from a bygone age he would never have called the referendum in the first place.

Both the UK and the EU share the blame for this impasse. Both are obsessed with ideology and adherence to out of date political ideals. It was a mathematical certainty that this would eventually lead to a crisis.

The British political system is broken beyond repair, snap elections or re-runs of the referendum will not save it anymore than rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic would have stopped it sinking. The EU political system too is failing and without reform will continue to do so. To continue the Titanic analogy, the UK political system will now rapidly sink after its collision with the EU iceberg.

What should perhaps be born in mind however was that the iceberg was already melting when the ill-fated ship struck it.

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Barry Turner is Senior Lecturer in Media Law and Public Administration at the University of Lincoln.