As a general rule, I try to avoid politics. But, this summer has not been your typical British summer. Yes, the weather has been typically wet and miserable, but the political and economic climate has changed at a speed, not even found in a Jeffrey Archer novel.
I started the referendum campaign a somewhat reluctant ‘Remainer‘ – aware of the failings of the EU, but dutifully reporting the economic benefits. As the campaign wore on I became more passionate about staying in. I was perhaps motivated by the ‘post-fact’ nature of the leave campaign – but also the idealism of European co-operation and European peace.
Like many, I was shocked at the result because you always expect the establishment to win. But, on the other hand, the media establishment has been firmly campaigning against the EU and migration for at least the past 10 years. It’s easy to be wise after the event, but I think Remain did we’ll to get 48% of the vote. Before the assassination of Labour MP Joe Cox, leave were gaining 55/56% of the vote and had an unstoppable momentum.
In the immediate aftermath of the referendum, emotions were raw. If you want to divide a country, a referendum is a very good way to do it. I hope we don’t have another for a long time; though a second Scottish referendum is inevitable. Which could raise the prospect of a small peripheral European nation deciding whether it is a good idea to join the Euro Single currency…
Many on the Remain side feared a Brexit vote meant the UK would lurch to the far right. Yet, in a world of bizarre pyrrhic victories – it is truly amazing to see all the leading right wing Brexiteers leave with their heads bowed beneath their knees. Remember the days when Boris Johnson, floppy hair in tow, bestowed the national stage as a PM in waiting? Now he is reduced to a footnote in history, a backbench MP, surfacing to ask a government led by Remainers not to send EU immigrants home…
Part of me is glad to see the back of Brexiteers like Gove, Johnson and Leadsom, but another part of me is disappointed they will not be there to be accountable for their referendum promises. The greatest irony of the past few weeks has been Brexiteers complaining about ‘unfair’ media coverage in the political dismantling of Andrea Leadsom’s leadership bid. If you want unfair media coverage – try consider migration and coverage of the EU. It does all leave you with the impression is that for all the talk of ‘taking back control’ – the influential tabloid newspaper editors are the ones really calling the shots.
Trust in politicians
Before the referendum, there were many with a conspiracy frame of mind who felt MI6 would influence result or something absurd to prevent a vote Leave. Now the same conspiracy theories believe UK won’t actually leave. It is also a view widely held abroad – assuming the establishment won’t allow something so ‘damaging’ as leaving the EU. But, the conspiracy theories are doubly wrong. Brexit will happen. You can argue democracy leads to the wrong result, but the referendum does show Britain is a democracy. Chilcott also shows that even Prime Ministers can be held to account (even if many years too late). Hillsborough report shows even the police will be held to account (even if many years too late)
Conservatives lurch to the left
Aside from the veiled threat the status of EU nationals is not secure, Theresa May is giving the impression of being very much a centre politician. If Labour politicians talked about limiting chief-executive pay and promoting workers councils in business, they would be lambasted by the press for their unworkable socialist idealism. It is strange to see, in the aftermath of Brexit, the Conservative party rush to inherit the mantle of Ed Miliband. Though talk is cheap and it will be interesting to see if it proves more than empty rhetoric.
Also, equally interesting, is the Conservative parties impending, inevitable u-turn on George Osborne’s absurd fiscal rules of aiming for a zero budget deficit. The last election was run essentially on the economic incompetence of budget deficits. Yet, the Conservatives will inevitably enter the next election with quite a significant budget deficit. The volte-face and u-turn managed with the same ease as a party which voted against the National Minimum Wage are now one of the biggest proponents.
For all the internal strife of the Conservative party, they have an unerring capacity to be pragmatic in the pursuit of power. As a Labour supporter, you have to marvel at the ease at which the Conservatives will knife failed candidates and do u-turns on policy – anything to make the party electable.
Labour will have a hard time getting elected again
Talking of electable parties, the Labour party, unfortunately, gives the impression of a pair of squabbling siblings, as the grown up parents make the decisions which matter. I say this as someone who is sympathetic to Labour and a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.
I wrote a post last week about why I would vote against Corbyn in a Labour leadership election. Then six hours later the Chilcott report came out, and I changed my mind. I was proud of Corbyn’s response to the Iraq war inquiry and I realised I could never vote against him. I took this change of mind after 6 hours as a sign not to get involved in writing about politics.
After toying with the idea of paying £3 for the enhanced democratic voice of choosing a Labour leader, I’m torn between abstention and voting for Corbyn. I’d love to see Jeremy Corbyn as PM, but when the media are against you, it’s very hard – and that’s before you take into account the desertion of the Parliamentary Labour party. One thing I can say in Corbyn’s favour is that other Labour MPs seem just as unelectable at the moment.
Whatever happens I wish all in the Labour party well. I don’t have any time for recriminations or bitterness. More than anything I’m tired of the division. It would be in the countries interest to have a good united opposition.
Final word on Brexit
I see many problems with Brexit; I think a recession is a real possibility, and am very concerned about the post-Brexit rise in racism and antipathy to migrants. I hope this is a passing fad.
However, despite all that is happened, I’m quite hopeful for the future. I can’t really rationalise why I am optimistic, but why not?
I was opposed to the idea of having a referendum, I didn’t like the result, but perhaps despite all this, some good will come from kicking the political and business establishment in the teeth.
There is no reason why the UK can’t do OK outside of the EU. At the very least, the decision has been made and we have to make the best of the new reality. Change can be good, and if three weeks can throw up the changes we have seen, who knows where we will be in three years time.