I didn't post about this yesterday, mostly because you would only have been reading a list of expletives. I feel that Britain, the country that I love, has just committed suicide. We have leapt into that space marked 'Terra Incognita' and 'Here be Dragons' without a second glance, and we are the poorer for it, not just fiscally but in terms of our place in the world. The open, friendly face we showed the world, has just been revealed to be a mask and already there's a rise in racist attacks and abuse across the country. We've also had the first murder of an MP for over a century when Jo Cox was gunned down in the street (and Leave really showed how classy they were the day of her memorial service, flying a plane over the service with a vote leave banner behind it). In the main, I found both sides of the campaign risible, and as I said earlier in the week, it only confirmed my opinion that we are not a politically literate nation. If the Leave result was a victory for anyone, ti was for the right wing press that has spent years peddling lies and half truths about immigration and the EU, and that has only confirmed in my mind that we need a public office to check the facts of what these organs publish, and to publicly censure them when they publish things that can't be backed up by facts?
There should be no doubt in anyone's minds that we should treat the Exit as a done deal, even if we get a second referendum, even if that swings us right back the other way and we suddenly find ourselves extremely pro the EU, I think we have to accept that we're standing in a new chapter for our nation. The attitude of the EU President, Karl Junker, has been one of 'you made your bed, now lie in it'. We're out. We should do the honourable thing and start the decoupling process now (and frankly, let the Leave leaders deal with it - you got us into this mess so you make sure we get a good deal*).
The other thing we should be sure about is that our nation is never going to be the same again. Scotland and Northern Ireland are already making noises about independence, and perhaps more worryingly, so is London. If that happens, I have no idea what happens next but I honestly can't blame them for wanting to get out of a country that feels as if it is becoming stupid, petty, racist and irrelevant. A country that wants simple answers in a world where none exist. The fact that the spokespeople for Leave are rowing back on most of what they said, is only proof of that, and I do wonder if the fact they are reneging on their statements should be something that the likes of Johnson and Farage should be sued over. In any other area of life, they would legally liable, and it continues to baffle me that politics is exempt. I also feel, quite strongly, that Gisella Stuart, as the director of the official Leave campaign, should be the person leading our negotiations over Article 50 with Farage, Johnson and the like helping out.
You broke it, you bought it in other words.
Anyway, that's probably pie in the sky stuff, unlikely to happen, even if I feel it would be justified. Where do we go from here, as a nation? I suspect a lot of the people who voted Out on Thursday will just want to go back to their normal lives, to their close worlds and insular attitudes. But if you broke it, you bought it applies, these are the people who should be stepping up to the plate. You're complaining nobody listens to you, that your area is deprived and so on, so stand up, lobby, march, protest, get elected. Your duty to your nation is to drive forward change, not just to throw your teddy out of the pram and sulk because nobody listens to you. You have to make them listen to you, you have to make your case. More than that, if you're serious about cutting immigration, you have to come up with a plan to deal with the jobs that will be left empty in the NHS and other areas by the lack of new people entering the country. You want to take back your country, to be in control, well that means giving a damn, it means putting on your big boy or girl pants and getting your hands dirty. It means changing how you live your life.
The thing that concerns me is that I fear we will see a lurch rightwards in the next few years, see the Human Rights Act torn up, see workers rights, women's rights and environmental legislation cast into the wind. I fear we'll be back to being the Dirty Man of Europe, and the Sick Man too (I've said all this before, but I feel it bears repeating). I know I have to follow my own advice and get involved. I feel we have to do as Paul Mason suggested in today's Guardian and work for a more progressive politics, binding a coalition of the Left into one large unit and dealing with the break up of the UK slowly and sensibly.
If I had to break down what I wanted to see from the Exit, it would be:
- A proper Human Rights Act
- Strong and binding environmental plans (none of this 'scrap the green crap' stuff)
- Controls for wages, no more zero hour contracts
- Since we can do it, VAT off tampons
- A strong commitment to worker's rights, women's rights and equal rights in general.
- A commitment to educating people to the highest standard, to allow people to get jobs (in my opinion that means reconsidering what outcomes we want education to have, rather than just 'get people into university').
- A move away from neoliberalism and the 'profit at any cost' mentality that pervades our economy, cheapens our society and makes people superfluous to requirements.
- Close any and all tax loopholes.
My real concern though is that this was a vote for the past, for an imagined place where everything was rosy and there were no problems. It comes at just the wrong time because we should be looking at the future, at the power of unelected bodies that wield huge power (and no the EU isn't unelected, pretty much everyone there was either elected directly the people of the EU or by the nations that make up the body). Our nation has a bad habit of looking backwards or resting on our laurels when we should be moving forward, and now that we're intent on selling off every part of the state, that is only getting worse. Consider the fact that we discovered graphene and sold it to foreign nationals straight away. We have a commitment to a low cost, low skill economy... which isn't a game we can win at when we look at China, India and South America. We need to find a different one.
In the meantime, whatever happens, this should be our anthem.
* Frankly, it'd be a wonder to see Nigel Farage actually doing some work.