Any objectivity anymore?

There are UK politicians running around the broadcast studios.  Those advocating a “No Deal” outcome to the current Brexit negotiations are using all their skills to polish gravel in the hope of turning it into diamonds.  Debate has been debased to a frightening degree.

In my career, I spent quite some time in the analysis business.  That’s the world of gathering data and crunching it with the aim of trying to figure out what going on in the “real” world.  This process is essential if the aim is to continually improve something.  Just to over simplify, as is the fashion of the moment, analysis can be broken down into two approaches.

One approach is to collect wide-ranging data and explore it, as best you can and try to distil the story that it’s trying to tell.  It’s to illuminate and discover what is contained within data.  This unbiased objective approach can be more difficult than one might imagine.  It’s the scientific method.  It’s open to peer review and open debate.

The other approach is to start with a set of beliefs or theories.  Bit like an imaginary pulp fiction police detective with a hunch.  Then to dig into the data to see if your preconceived idea can be proven or not.  If not keep quiet or in the extreme case, choose the methods and data that ensures your case is proven.

It’s this second case that seems to be most often applied to Brexit.  Anyone who scrutinises Brexit in an open and objective way is often labelled a saboteur, traitor or mutineer.  The quality of the critical debate we are having is screwed by inflammatory name-calling and blind religious devotion to beliefs and theories.

It’s not unusual for people who take the first approach to find it hard going.  It takes considerable skills of persuasion to demonstrate that an unpopular result is true.  Business books are full of references to a performance-based approach.  Because of the phenomena I’ve described above I’d recommend that a politician or CEO’s reward is never solely based on a measure of “performance”.

Parliament has shown repeatedly that UK politicians are brilliant at deciding to run down rabbit holes.  Wouldn’t it be so much better if a degree of thoughtful objectivity could shine through once or twice.   If a “No Deal” Brexit outcome happens then objectivity has gone out of the window.

Stuck in a deep dark sinkhole

Here’s a cut and paste of an e-mail that just turned up in my mail box.  It’s worth copying just to show how deep the current problems are in the UK.  In reading it must be remembered that a referendum is not binding in the UK.  What’s here is the policy of one Government or even one part of one Government.

Dear ,

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Revoke Art.50 if there is no Brexit plan by the 25 of February”.

Government responded:  The Government’s policy is not to revoke Article 50. Instead, we continue to work with Parliament to deliver a deal that ensures we leave the European Union, as planned, on March 29th.  Revoking Article 50 would not respect the vote of the British people in the 2016 referendum.

Almost three quarters of the electorate took part in the referendum and 17.4 million people voted to leave the European Union. This is the highest number of votes cast for anything in UK electoral history and the biggest democratic mandate for a course of action ever directed at any UK Government. This result was then overwhelmingly confirmed by Parliament, who voted with clear and convincing majorities in both of its Houses for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act. Then, in the 2017 General Election, over 80% of people then also voted for parties committing to respect the result of the referendum and it was the stated policy of both major parties that the decision of the people would be respected.

This Government has therefore been given a clear mandate to implement the will expressed by the electorate in the referendum, and to revoke Article 50 would undermine that mandate.  As it is the responsibility of this Government to deliver the exit that people voted for, and as Parliament is clear that it does not wish to deliver a ‘no deal’, we must secure a deal. However, the Government recognises the views expressed by the House that it cannot support the deal as it currently is, and we are now confident that a deal with changes to the backstop, combined with measures to address concerns over Parliament’s role in the negotiation of the future relationship and commitments on workers’ rights will secure the majority needed in the House to leave the EU with a deal.

The Prime Minister has therefore continued to work with Members across the House to deliver on the decision that the British people took in June 2016 and she will go back to Brussels to secure a deal this House can support.

Department for Exiting the European Union

To comment:

In reference to the words; “biggest democratic mandate” and “given a clear mandate” this is not the case.  A mandate comes from the majority and, as we all know the majority by which the Leave vote won the referendum was a relatively small one.

The term; “respect the result of the referendum” has become meaningless since it has been used to mean more than 101 different things to millions of people across Britain. It’s not known what the result of the referendum indicated in any detail since there was no plan for the outcome.

The reason that Art. 50 may not be revoked is said to be that this week the UK’s PM will go back to the EU in Brussels and secure a deal the UK Parliament can support.  The chance of this outcome being secured in the last 5 weeks that have to run on the clock is tiny.  The political balances within the UK Parliament favour those who wish to see the UK crash out of the EU without a deal.

Finally, the Goverement department making this public statement of policy was created for one purpose.  It would be strange if it answered differently from that above given such a bias.