Opinion

Personal views from University of Bath researchers on the news of the day

Free speech means standing up for forms of expression we disagree with

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📥  Public Policy

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, was right to assert – in the aftermath of the pointless terror attack in London yesterday – that we should now carry on ‘as normal’. There are always two elements to such incidents – the events themselves, which are tragic enough for all concerned, but then also how we, as a society, respond to these. It is the latter that defines whether we are terrorised or not. It is the latter that the perpetrators look to for their impact. And it is this satisfaction – that they are having an effect – which we must never afford them.

But May also referred three times to our valuing ‘freedom’ (as well as ‘liberty’), in her short talk outside Downing Street after the Government’s emergency committee meeting last night. And that is where her rhetoric of resilience is at its weakest. For in pointing to the importance of ‘freedom of speech’, which she is right to do – she, her government and others like them all around the world, have conceded far too much already in legislating against particular speakers and certain forms of expression – deemed hurtful, offensive or able to encourage terrorism.

Free speech is not comfortable or easy for anyone. It does not mean the freedom to say the obvious or the popular. Rather, it necessarily means standing up for forms of expression we disagree with – that are challenging or unpalatable and sometimes spiteful or simply inane. What this allows though is priceless. It trains us all in how to address and overcome such words – without which we would be disarmed and seeking those who claim to afford us protection. Free speech is not comfortable or easy – but it makes us all stronger and better.

And what we witnessed in the attack yesterday, as well as the recent incident at Orly Airport in Paris and the many other such occurrences in recent years, were the actions of the all-too-readily offended – the response of individuals who have not been trained in the spirit and discipline of freedom, who cannot contain their emotional anger and who, in a moment of self-righteous rage, lash out at a society they sense no attachment to or engagement with.

In that regards, they are a product of what we have made them – febrile individuals, whose ideas have rarely been challenged or put to the test for fear of offending their assumed beliefs. People brought up to believe that their feelings are paramount and indulged in their distorted sense of grievance and hurt. It is high time the government sought to live by its fine words because, in the long run, it is only by living freedom that we can rid ourselves of this social problem.

 

US Elections 2016

  

📥  Uncategorized

As the US takes a new direction with the election of Donald Trump as its next president, University of Bath researchers from the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies and Institute for Policy Research are on hand to provide expert analysis and commentary.

For media interested in finding out more about researchers available see our US election experts list and contact our press office on 01225 386319. Get a flavour below of what our experts have to say about Donald Trump's surprise win over the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

The race for the White House enters its final day. (Image courtesy of skeeze / 10207 images)

The race for the White House enters its final day. (Image courtesy of skeeze / 10207 images)

Professor Nick Pearce, Director of the Institute for Policy Research, says:

Once again, mainstream progressive politics has been found wanting. Trump gave voice to deep wellsprings of racism in American society, and now stands as a global figurehead for nativist, far fight movements.

The European Union will now face massive challenges: defending its Eastern borders against an emboldened Putin; defending an embattled global economic order against rampant protectionism; and defending itself against resurgent fascism and the break-up of its historical project.

Read Nick Pearce's blog, 'A World Collapsing'


Professor David Galbreath, Professor of International Security, says Donald Trump's win will change American defence policy and relations with other members of NATO.

Watch his commentary on US defence policy, NATO and Russia

Professor Galbreath is an American, from Tennessee, who has lived and worked in the UK for the last 17 years. What are his thoughts on the future of the so-called special relationship between the US and Britain?

Watch his commentary on the special relationship and Brexit


Professor Charlie Lees, Professor of Politics. says:

(1)  The American electorate has deliberately given the Washington elite a collective slap in the face.

(2)  Like Brexit, Trump’s election is a cry of rage from voters who have seen their way of life under attack in recent decades. The difference is that, whereas Brexit will transform the UK, a Trump Presidency could transform the whole world.

(3)  The election of Donald Trump brings to an end the world that emerged with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. All of our assumptions about the benefits of free trade, the resilience of the Western alliance, and in particular the future of NATO, have been shattered. America has turned its back on the world and we will all be poorer for it.

(4)  The current tide of angry nationalism in Western democracies has been turbocharged by Donald Trump’s victory. You only have to look at who has welcomed the result around the globe to know that we are at the start of a dangerous period in world politics.

(5)  In the sort term, a Trump victory will make Theresa May’s job of delivering Brexit easier. In the long term it leaves the UK even more isolated than it was before.


Professor Bill Durodie, Chair of International Relations, says:

Donald Trump’s win in the US presidential election is a victory for the anti-politics of our times. It ought not to have been completely unexpected as the Republican and Democratic parties he sidelined on his way to the White House have been devoid of political principles for over a generation. The moment should wake up all those who prioritise pragmatism and process management over the need for vision and values.

Hillary Clinton certainly eased his way by fighting a campaign bereft of ideas and appealing initially to the mere biological fact that she was born a woman. When push came to shove she descended to Trump’s level, focusing on his personality flaws rather than policies, and labelling his supporters deplorable. Her emails exposed her to be not so much a security risk as someone lacking direction and convictions of her own.

The period ahead will be uncertain and turbulent for all. But it will also offer an opportunity, for those savvy enough to seize it, to re-inject some principles into an otherwise dead body politic, paralysed by the technocracy so many resented and sensed themselves alienated from. Trump is the beneficiary of this mood rather than the driver of it and further afield real progress will require engaging those who voted.

For now it behoves us to respect the democratically endorsed wishes of 120 million Americans rather than to question democracy itself - an outlook that is far worse than anything Donald Trump is held capable of doing and that is part of the reason so many voted for him in the first place.'


Dr Matthew Alford, Teaching Fellow in Politics, says:

The seemingly inevitable prospect of a Clinton victory weighed heavily on me overnight:  a candidate already so bathed in blood she would surely have rushed to open up the taps, with severe consequences for Syria, Russia, and to ourselves. In a political system where the Head of State is particularly unrestrained in foreign affairs, what he or she wants to destroy should be the central concern.

Come morning, the imperative is quite different.  We must encourage the incoming Trump administration to solidify, appreciate and formalise the inconsistent but positive commitments the President-elect has made during his campaign:  no first use of nuclear weapons; minimal military intervention overseas, and a better relationship with the rest of the world - especially Moscow. In such points, there are seeds of hope, even optimism.  For now.


Dr Bruce Morley, Lecturer in Economics

Although after the announcement of the Trump victory there was a fall in the financial markets, with the FTSE 100 index down about 2%, since then UK markets have gradually recovered. In addition the dollar has moved very little against the main currencies such as the pound. Although the main impact will be on the US markets, the performance of the UK market suggests it shouldn’t be too volatile.

The main economic uncertainty relating to the financial markets is future US trade policy, with Donald Trump suggesting some forms of trade restrictions with countries that run large trade surpluses with the US. However the detail of this policy is not yet known and whether it would pass through Congress or the Senate is also questionable despite the Republicans winning both houses.


Media interviews

Dr David Moon explained to BBC Somerset how Donald Trump won a clear victory despite a knife-edge result in the popular vote.

Listen to the interview

Dr Benjamin Bowman, whose family comes from Ohio, joined BBC Radio Bristol's John Darvall on his mid-morning programme to weigh up the outcome.

Listen to the interview 

Professor Bill Durodie gave his views of the election outcome and its implications to Ben McGrail on BBC Somerset.

Listen to the interview


Before the votes were cast, Bill Durodie and Charlie Lees offered their insight into America's choice.

Explaining the appeal of Donald Trump - Bill Durodie

 

For more videos from Bill on other aspects of the campaign, see https://vimeo.com/190537834 and https://vimeo.com/190537833.

The EU response to the US elections - Charlie Lees

For more videos from Charlie on other aspects of the campaign see https://vimeo.com/190688019 and https://vimeo.com/190687676 .

 

Are politicians "kicking the Brexit ball into the long grass"?

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📥  EU Referendum

Today, across the UK, it is as if the vote to leave the European Union had never happened. Despite the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, asserting that 'Brexit means Brexit', all of her actions, as well as those of the people around her and even, increasingly, European players too, such as Angela Merkel and others, points to a desire to kick the Brexit ball into the long grass where it cannot be seen and they hope, may never be recovered.

May has indicated that the earliest she would invoke Article 50 and trigger negotiations for the withdrawal would be next year at the earliest. So what happened to the assertion of former Prime Minister, David Cameron, that he would enact the people's will with immediate effect? We should recall that this vote was the single biggest mandate in British electoral history and yet it remains unfulfilled.

Instead, various groups, including middle-class hippies dancing in dresses made of the European Union flag, members of the unelected second chamber in the British Parliament, as well as a law firm and even one of the candidates standing to become the new Leader of the Opposition either assert that the public were duped when they voted, or that they were too ignorant to vote, or that such a momentous decision ought not have been left to them in the first place. So much for democracy!

What does this all mean for the future? Well, if we are not very careful what it points to is how democracy is now upheld in principle but not in practice in one of the birth places of democracy. It reveals in sharp contrast the elite's disdain for the people that they govern and it can only lead, much further afield, to more significant social challenges as people will eventually have to assert themselves more forcefully for their voices to be heard. How much better it would be to hear them now, now that they have spoken, and to start taking them seriously as agents of their own destiny.

Brexit would come with many problems, but it would reveal unimagined new possibilities too. Concerns over migration certainly featured in the debate. These need to be confronted head-on rather than by-passed by regulatory procedures. Foremost among the rationales to leave though was a desire for greater control and more of a say in decision-making. And while many young people wished to remain in the European Union, far more chose not to vote at all.

What we confront in all countries the world over today is a fear of the future, combined with a hatred of the masses that is paralysing development and opportunity for all.

 

Comment on the Nice Attacks

📥  Public Policy, Society, Uncategorized

The massacre in Nice of almost 100 people, including many children and inflicting serious injuries on many others, as they enjoyed the Bastille Day celebrations by the beach on the south of France, seems almost too predictable. There is now a long and tragic roll call of similar incidents in the last few years alone. We all know that it is not possible for security agencies to assure the safety of all the people, in all places, at all times. It ought to act as a reminder to us all, as well as our leaders that there are no security solutions to what, at their heart, are social problems.

Too many of the readily disaffected in society today are effectively indulged in their dangerous fantasies by authorities reluctant to challenge their views - for fear of being accused of racism or imperialism - and unsure as to where they wish to lead their societies or what values they should hold. From nursery onwards children are now taught that their feelings are sacrosanct, in schools teachers report not wishing to broach difficult subjects in history for fear of causing offence, and by the time they reach university students demand, and are provided with safe spaces and trigger warnings to protect them from having their, by then unquestionable opinions challenged.

The rise of sheer barbarism that we now witness on a regular basis ought also remind us however that the small groups and individuals who perpetrate such acts in the name of those who they never consulted are not held to account by any moral code or community. That, in the long run, is their ultimate weakness - that they stand for nothing and have no-one behind them - so long as we can clearly articulate our own purposes and engage our people in these.

This may be the week that finally breaks the Labour Party

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📥  EU Referendum, Public Policy

Brexit and its aftermath continues to wreak havoc on British politics. David Cameron’s wreckless and unsuccessful gamble may eventually lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom but that is in the long term. In the short term, the failure of the Remain campaign, and Jeremy Corbyn’s perceived culpability in it, is tearing the Labour party apart. This may be the week that finally breaks Labour.

The co-ordinated string of resignations from the shadow cabinet that followed the Brexit vote was designed to pressure Corbyn to resign as leader of the party. MPs have never accepted Corbyn’s leadership and the Brexit debacle presents the opportunity to replace him before changes to the party’s rulebook that make his position more secure are pushed through by his supporters at the Labour Party Conference in September. MPs recognise that this is a crucial moment in the battle for the future of the Labour Party. Many are now prepared to gamble their own political careers on that future.

Deputy leader Tom Watson warned Corbyn that he has lost the confidence of MPs in a gesture many are seeing as a firm elbow towards the exit.

But Corbyn, backed by key allies such as the shadow chancellor, John Mcdonnell, shows no sign of backing down. He fully expects to defeat a leadership challenge.

Corbyn’s confidence comes from two sources. He remains very popular with the party membership, which is now decisive in any leadership contest and seems content with the current direction of travel. Any possible challenger, therefore, would have to be able to trump that popularity with the rank and file and there aren’t that many of them in the Parliamentary Labout Party at present.

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By riding the tiger of populism, the Conservatives may have destroyed the UK

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📥  EU Referendum, Public Policy

It’s a familiar cliché that the Conservative Party is the most successful political party in the democratic world. Once called the natural party of government, it has been in power for most of the last 150 years and, for good or ill, has shaped modern Britain. The UK is a conservative country in all senses of the word.

But the past four decades have demonstrated that the modern Conservative Party can no longer be trusted in its role as the guardian of British institutions.

The revolutionary free-market zealotry of the Thatcherites and their successors not only put the social fabric of Britain under severe strain, but also undermined the credibility of the UK’s constitutional arrangements. Of the three pillars of High Toryism; church, state and monarchy, Britons only seem to still like the latter.

The decline in Tory respect for British institutions has also been on full display, not least in David Cameron’s willingness to risk the union’s survival twice – first in the Scottish Independence referendum, and then, probably fatally, in the EU membership referendum.

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UK votes for Brexit

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📥  EU Referendum, Public Policy

As the UK dissects the results of the historic referendum on membership of the European Union and the decision of the British people to vote to leave, academic experts* from the University are providing comment and analysis on what this now means for politics, democracy, the economy, business and for the rest of the EU.

* Additional comments will be added to this blog throughout the day.

An uncertain future for the EU.

An uncertain future for the EU.

A far from united United Kingdom – Professor Charlie Lees

“In every single way you cut the cake the United Kingdom is far from united on this issue. We’re divided by age, by our countries and regions and by people with degrees and those without.  

“Many might have voted ‘leave’ in the EU referendum with a view to protecting the UK from further encroachment of laws from Brussels. But now one of the unforeseen consequences will be that Scotland is likely to have another referendum on Independence, which the SNP is highly likely to win, and in Northern Ireland there will be renewed questions over Irish unification. In the long term it’s possible today’s result might actually be the first step in the break-up of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“Without doubt this is one of the most significant, momentous decisions in our lifetime. And reality is about to bite for the Brexit camp, especially with the Prime Minister’s decision to step down in the autumn.”

‘Europe’ at a crossroads: What lessons from a Brexit? - Dr Nick Startin 

"The UK’s vote to leave the EU is a symbolic turning point in the history of European integration and is already sending shockwaves through the institutions of the European Union. After an intensely fought campaign based largely around the issues of immigration and the economy ‘Europe’ finds itself at a crossroads. With Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty likely to be set in motion by the UK government formalising the process of leaving the EU, the result will serve to galvanise Eurosceptic voices across the continent. Far Right Front National leader Marine Le Pen is already calling for a referendum in France on EU membership and similar opinions are being espoused by other populist leaders such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.

"Is this the end of the European project founded in the rubble of the Second-World War? This will depend on how the EU’s elites respond to a UK Brexit. EU elites have been slow to respond to dissenting voices in the past and have not engaged sufficiently with them. Eurobarometer data tells us that public support and trust for the EU has declined across the member states in recent years on the back of the 2004 EU enlargement and the more recent economic crisis. The appetite for ‘ever closer union’ has waned in many nation. If the EU is to survive, the reform agenda (of which we hear so much) must be embraced as a matter of urgency. Transparency, accountability and democracy are the key. There needs to be further recognition on the part of the EU’s elites that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will only serve to divide rather than unite.  Failure to learn this lesion from the UK Brexit vote could lead to an unravelling of the EU as we know it."

The economic ramifications of Brexit - Professor Chris Martin

"The shocking decision to leave the European Union has plunged the UK into a severe political crisis. There is a risk that this spills over into a major economic crisis. The exchange rate has had the largest fall for many years. This has good effects (exports are cheaper) and bad effects (imported goods are more expensive, leading to less demand and more inflation). Large falls in the share price of major housebuilders, suppliers of luxury goods and consumer electronics firms suggests that the markets expect the bad effects to outweigh the good. In addition, Brexit has plunged the UK into a long period of deep uncertainty; uncertainty leads to less demand from consumers and less investment by firms, multiplying the already adverse effects of the fall in share prices.

"But the greatest worry is the very sharp drop in the share price of major banks. The financial crisis of 2008-9 showed the almost existential dangers of a financially vulnerable banking system. Policymakers need to take immediate action to offset these risks and to stop the economy being dragged down further. We need action from the Bank of England. It needs to provide massive support for the banking system. We may feel uncomfortable about providing further support for a deeply unpopular banking system, but there is no choice. The fall in the exchange rate will increase inflation. The Bank of England must ignore this and state that it will not increase interest rates while instability lasts. And we need action from the Chancellor. An emergency budget that raises taxes would make a difficult situation much worse. We need a commitment to increase government expenditure, to support demand and employment for as long as this crisis lasts."

Remain campaign defined by diffuse anxieties and beliefs - Dr Susan Milner

"The EU referendum campaign left voters feeling confused and frustrated about Britain’s place within the European Union. By relying on ‘Project Fear’ over a clear-headed assessment of the benefits and limitations of membership, the Remain campaign allowed the campaign to be redefined by more diffuse anxieties and beliefs. In this context, two key patterns of voting behaviour appear to have emerged.

"First, anger and disappointment of those who felt left behind by economic development translated into a classic rejection vote. The voting count showed this starkly as a geographical divide. Second, the Leave campaign was able in the last few weeks to channel the sense of democratic renewal which had galvanised the earlier Scottish referendum campaign and to articulate it in the theme of ‘regaining control’. In this they were undoubtedly assisted by EU leaders’ own failure to frame European integration as a people’s rather than an elite project. With both main parties revealing deep divisions, Britain’s electoral politics have become highly volatile and internal cohesion is under heavy strain. On one hand, it is not clear where the referendum result leaves the pro-membership swathes of the population – Northern Ireland and Scotland, many urban centres, and younger people who appear increasingly disengaged from mainstream politics. On the other, populist politicians are evidently making gains from growing social inequality."

Vote to leave the EU has imperilled the union - Professor Nick Pearce 

"The 20th century was a story of the contraction of England and the end of Empire. But only now is the reverse logic of Seeley’s master narrative being fully realised. England has voted to leave the European Union and in so doing has imperilled her own union. The wound of Irish partition has been reopened and Scotland now faces the prospect of another independence referendum. Only Wales has stood with England in choosing to leave the European Union.

"Empire gave Britain command of the global economy, until hegemony passed to the US. Trade and finance flows kept Britain afloat as it ceded industrial leadership to the US and Germany. Foreign direct investment and the City played the same role after we de-industrialised. Today, our economic weaknesses stand brutally exposed: Brexit has caused mayhem in the markets and a run on the pound. As we adjust to the shock, we will become poorer.

"What is England now? What is her role in the world? Alas, the referendum debate told us nothing of these things; it was sour, parochial and mendacious. It has destroyed a Prime Minister and there is rubble everywhere."

Read more from Nick via the IPR blog.

To Brexit and beyond - Professor Bill Durodié

"The decision by a net majority of the eligible electorate in favour of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union is a triumph for our freedom and self-determination. It comes despite most predictions and the use of a politics of fear over more than twenty years on all issues from health and the environment to child safety and international security. The European Union as it was came into existence when the Cold War ended. Leaders the world over feared the uncertain consequences of the demise of the old politics of Left and Right. Avoiding risk rapidly became their new organising framework in a period devoid of other guiding principles. But their foremost though rarely stated fear, was always that of their own people. Despite the economic and migration concerns of the elites thrown up in the referendum debate it is those from whom power and authority truly derive who have now spoken the clearest. The European Union now stands discredited with an uncertain future as other electorates will surely take their lead from the United Kingdom and demand their own referenda to leave too. Of course, much remains to be done in the period ahead. This is only a first step. But it will lead to many other debates. It is those who do not fear change to whom the future belongs."

Read more from Bill via The Conversation.

The people have spoken - Professor Graham Room

"The people have spoken: they want out.  It is now incumbent on Parliament and Government to implement this decision: incumbent in a political – if not in a constitutional - sense. What terms of exit are likely to be agreed? What will the EU members be prepared to offer?  The Brexit campaigners argue that it will be in the interests of the EU to agree an early and generous exit agreement with the UK.  That is not self-evident.  Many expect the EU to negotiate a hard bargain, if only to discourage others who might think of heading for the exit, and in order to counter the right-wing nationalist elements which many of them face within their own countries.

"The key question is this: will the UK Parliament and Government feel themselves obliged to persist with exit, no matter how hard the terms which the EU offers?  Or will they take the view that under those conditions they would have no alternative but to put those terms to a new referendum?  Nothing in the EU Treaty would prevent the UK government from doing this: and then allowing the result of that second referendum to abort the withdrawal process. Is it not therefore possible that an informal alliance may now develop between the pro-European elites within the UK and their counterparts across Europe – aimed at ensuring that the deal which the EU offers is indeed meagre: in the knowledge that such a deal will oblige the government to put the terms on offer to a new referendum?"  

Read more from Graham via the IPR Blog.

A Treaty Revision too far for many Eurosceptics - Dr Alim Baluch

"The campaign has been incredibly shallow in terms of addressing the undeniable democratic deficit of the EU. The British Eurosceptic position is remarkably inconsistent. It generally opposes the Treaty Revision of Lisbon which effectively strengthened the European Parliament, thus reducing the democratic deficit. But it is exactly this Treaty Revision which went too far for many Eurosceptics. Now there is a Leave Vote, the absurdity of article 50 of the EU Treaty might trigger further anger at the EU as it calls for a unanimous vote of all 28 member states to agree to the modalities of Britain leaving. UKIP or media like the Sun might very well create the impression that Britain has to ask Germany or Estonia for permission to leave despite the referendum. A sense of indignation might be tapped into (and therefore be encouraged) ahead of future elections. Good times for Boris Johnson."

 

Game theory offers a better way forward in Britain’s EU drama

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📥  EU Referendum, Public Policy, The Conversation

The way that the EU referendum campaigns – both for and against British membership of the bloc – have been handled has been redolent of game playing. As an academic who studies game theory, a number of parallels are evident. And, from the displays of nastiness on both sides of the campaign, it is clear that Britain needs to forge a more productive path forward in its relationship with the EU – whether it remains or leaves. My work on a new type of game theory may offer some insights.

From the moment David Cameron went to Brussels in February 2016 to secure better terms for Britain’s EU membership, the games began. Having already promised a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, he was no doubt hoping to use the shadow of a Brexit vote as a bargaining chip in his negotiations.

Essentially, he argued that if the other leaders agreed to the UK’s demands for concessions, he would be able to convince the British public to vote to remain in the EU. If the UK didn’t get what it wanted, the implication was that Britain would exit and weaken the EU for the remaining nations. The looming referendum was designed to increase the UK’s bargaining power, but it fell flat and the other leaders called his bluff, making limited concessions.

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There is no fixed EU to remain in

📥  EU Referendum, Society, Uncategorized

The election of two Five Star Movement candidates in Italy to the Mayoralties of Rome and Turin should act as a wake-up call to those still campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU.

Right across Europe and beyond – including in the US with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – mainstream political parties are being challenged by movements described variously as populist or anti-establishment.

These are loathed, sneered at, tolerated or occasionally, grudgingly accepted, by the old guard according to their particular outlooks, hues and figureheads.

On the old Right of the political spectrum in Europe they encompass Nigel Farage’s UKIP that came third in terms of votes cast at the 2015 British General Election, Marine Le Pen’s recalibrated Front National in France, Geert Wilder’s Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, and Norbert Hofer’s Freedom Party that so nearly took the Presidency in Austria a month ago.

On the old Left, the most notable include Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, whose Leader, Alexis Tsipras fought a futile stand-off with the EU over debt repayments – a conflict settled, in the end, by just three individuals, none of which were Greek, behind closed doors in Brussels.

In Italy, in part due to the once seemingly endless saga surrounding Sylvio Berlusconi and his eventual replacement by an unelected EU bureaucrat in 2011, there are several parties fighting for the accolade of being anti-elite, which include the Lega Nord that adopts a regionalist perspective and comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, which campaigns against corruption in politics.

While emanating from differing directions, what unites these various groups and individuals who – as in the American case need not even have previously been aligned to any side or indeed may have swapped sides – is their identification of a problem with the mainstream elites and their appeal to those who sense themselves as having been by-passed or overlooked by parties that used to represent them.

None can claim to being fully formed and indeed there are quite evident problems with the maturity of some of the main players and their organisations, though this should not blind us to their ability to galvanise significant numbers of people such that we ought to expect them to change and develop into more mature movements in due course.

The lazy approach is to sneer at them and especially their current leaders with a view to dismissing the entire enterprise. That would be a grave error for, as we see now in Italy, they are all placed to achieve significant breakthroughs, if not now, at some point in the not too distant future.

And what this means for the Remain campaigners in the current debate in the UK over membership of the EU is that their very name and aim – to Remain – is erroneous. No matter what the outcome from the referendum on 23 June, there will be no remaining in an unchanged Union.

The lie perpetrated by the Leave side to this debate is that there is a significant Brussels machine hell-bent on usurping our national sovereignty. In fact, it is popular sovereignty that is under threat as the real decision-makers in the EU are figures that are well-known to us all, including David Cameron, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande.

But that European Union – the one primarily driven by its Council – is only as strong as the sum of its parts. And if all of its parts are under attack domestically, through the rise of the alternative movements we see elected in parts of Italy today, then it will be a very different EU irrespective of the outcome.

It is to this most pressing need that all ought to be turning their attentions to in the immediate future – the need to reconnect politics with the people. And it is that that only the Leave side represent – in whatever corrupted form they present it in.