ACADEMIC: WORKERS PARTY WILL BE IRRELEVANT IF IT DOESN’T FIGHT FOR REFORMS

A well meaning statement by the Worker’s Party, but one that draws incomplete conclusions from ‪#‎Brexit‬. Immigration was the precipitating factor, but not the fundamental cause. The underlying issue with Brexit was the nature of the European Union. It is an intrinsically anti-democratic institution. The laws and policies of the European Union are worked out behind closed doors, at meetings between ministers and civil servants from the member states.

The discussions between them are kept almost entirely secret. Once a decision has been made, it is then presented to voters as fait accompli. In this way, politicians seeking to evade political accountability for unpopular decisions can blame European diktat. I believe that the more relevant interpretation of Brexit for Singapore is to ask what happens when a comfortable and complacent political class loses touch with the voters and retreats into the state and other elite institutions; when unaccountable governments continually impose unpopular policies on an electorate, while evading responsibility for its decisions; and when voters become disenchanted, frustrated, and angry but have no recourse or alternatives.

If the Worker’s Party wishes to avoid Singaporean xenophobia of the sort that drove Brexit, it must fight for an alternative to the conservative and neoliberal status quo. That means formulating a coherent and comprehensive policy platform with a wide appeal that reconnects with disaffected citizens. It means fighting for reform of the system, arguing for ideas, and mobilising people to achieve one’s ends, rather than implicitly accepting the existence of undemocratic institutions and rules which work against the people’s stated preferences.

It means fighting and campaigning to win elections, not merely to be the best loser. If the Worker’s Party cannot do these things, it will remain irrelevant to Singaporean voters.

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