In an interview with the Independent, the philosopher AC Grayling has claimed that should the government fail to consult parliament or hold another referendum on implementing Brexit, a general strike would be a legitimate way of stopping Brexit.
This raises the question: who would participate in such a strike? Perhaps some students wouldn’t go to class or their lecturers would not be there to teach them. Perhaps some column inches would go unfilled for a day or two.
Convincing workers to strike for the EU, when the EU is actively undermining union rights across the continent, would be a hard sell. Even harder would be convincing a majority of workers to strike for something a majority of workers rejected in a national referendum last June.
All that aside, Grayling also seems to hold an oddly high threshold for determining ballot-box majorities. In the interview, he makes the standard elite-Remainer argument, that as only 37 per cent of the electorate voted for Brexit, with the rest abstaining or voting Remain, the referendum’s outcome can’t be taken as good coin. ‘There is no advanced or major country in the world where an enormously consequential constitutional change could be allowed to happen on a mere 37 per cent of the electorate’, he says.
Would Grayling apply this same threshold to ballots on whether or not to join his imagined pro-EU general strike? As anyone familiar with trade-union politics knows, a large number of workers don’t turn up and vote. A majority of workers also aren’t members of unions. Going by his standard of what constitutes an electoral majority, having enough workers vote for a general strike seems pretty much impossible – and that’s putting aside the fact that few workers agree with him.