Brexit may seem like a pain now, says ALASTAIR CAMPBELL, but just wait till the disastrous consequences which will dominate our lives for the forseeable future.
There was a time, was there not, when the Brextremists’ case for Brexit was that it would make Britain a much better place to live. We would be better off because of the amazing trade deals we were going to make so easily. There was no risk to the economy because, don’t you remember, they (‘Europe’) would ‘need us more than we need them’.
This stronger economy would in turn generate a higher standing in the world, greater diplomatic clout to match the greater military power our booming new post-Brexit economy would deliver, and our new, proud ‘standing on our own feet again’ posture would require.
NHS crises would be a thing of the past because of the enormous sums of extra money – £350 million per week, no less – that we could spend on ‘us’, because we would no longer have to send anything to ‘them’. Issues like the Irish border, and the threat of turning parts of Kent and west Wales into giant lorry parks amid chaotic new customs arrangements, were mere trifles, all to be sorted effortlessly and painlessly, once we had voted to take back control. Indeed, all of this was going to be achieved, this too you will remember, without any cost or sacrifice on our part… and now £40billion and counting later…
You can still find the Mail and the Express occasionally trying to pretend that the economy is doing well as a result of the referendum, and will do even better after ‘Independence Day’, but even their twisted hearts aren’t really in it, and they have been glad of the royal wedding to give themselves something else to write about.
So, as one by one the arguments used by the liars, charlatans and crooks to win the vote have fallen away, what are they left with? Well, there is ‘will of the people’ – the people voted for it so we have to get on and do it; there is fatalism – it’s s**t, but there is nothing we can do to stop it, so we might as well make the best of it. Now these two old favourites are coming together in an interesting new form, which I might summarise as ‘I just want it over with. I never want to hear the word Brexit again’.
Well, doesn’t that sound nice? But let me tell you, the quickest way to get Brexit out of our lives is to do all we can to make sure it doesn’t happen. ‘How?’ you ask, thereby succumbing psychologically to those two remaining arguments of the Brextremists. Answer: by continuing to expose the real risks, costs, inconsistencies and the haplessness of the negotiations; by trying to put enough lead in the pencils of MPs to vote against the final deal that Theresa May finally strikes (and we already know it is a bad deal, and that every variation will damage the country); by getting that deal to a People’s Vote; by winning it, and saving the country from the decline into which we are otherwise heading.
If we pursue the current path being pursued by government and opposition, then far from being shot of Brexit, it will dominate our lives for years to come, as our economy and standing in the world decline, and as we try to unravel the complexities hitherto hidden in vacuous slogans and wishful thinking.
If people think Brexit is a pain now, they should wait till it actually happens. Then, we will never ever hear the end of it, because we will be living with the disastrous consequences for the rest of our lives and beyond.
Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, so I was all over the place doing events for the Time to Change campaign, of which I am ambassador. This included, rather excitingly, opening the London Stock Exchange market, and then making my first ever trip to Guernsey, for a fundraiser for Mind.
I upset a few people by tweeting the direct link between Brexit and rising mental illness. But, as a psychiatrist in Guernsey reminded me, the rate of male suicide rocketed in Greece amid their financial crisis. Similarly, the reason why City institutions are becoming much better at addressing mental health is because they saw the dreadful human consequences of the crash. The Stock Exchange was not the only business in the City to have one of its employees take his own life by jumping from the top of the building. His chair and desk remain untouched and unoccupied as a reminder.
Suicide is the ultimate in mental illness, and there are often economic and status issues attached. If we press ahead with the Brexit the Brextremists want, we are helping foster many of the conditions which contribute to psychological distress – chronic uncertainty; the sense of instability, created by a government and indeed an entire political system seemingly unable to bring order out of chaos; the divisions and sometimes hatreds the debate has created in families, workplaces and communities; the difficulties in establishing where truth lies; the powerlessness people feel in trying to make a difference; and the economic decline even the government’s own assessments admit is coming.
A government pursuing a policy it admits will damage the country; a left-wing opposition leader allowing rather than challenging something that will damage most the people he claims to be in politics for; the peace and prosperity of Northern Ireland put at risk by dogma; I don’t like using the language of mental illness in political debate, but we must continue to call this out for what it is – complete and total madness.
At the Guernsey event, a superb Mind choir provided the pre-dinner entertainment, before I did my after-dinner speech and a turn on the bagpipes. Music, both playing and listening, is so important to my own mental health, and it also played a big role in helping Tessa Jowell cope with the reality of the brain tumour which she knew was killing her.
We spent New Year with Tessa and her husband David in the Scottish Highlands, and the highlight was the night we introduced them to our favourite traditional music band, Skipinnish. Sadly, Tessa was too ill to join us and stayed in bed, but David immediately fell in love with their music and the next day, and indeed virtually every day till she died, they listened to their songs.
Last Friday, Tessa was due to go with us to Edinburgh’s Usher Hall to hear Skipinnish live. She never made it, but David and their children Jessie and Matthew did, and it was wonderful to be there as Angus MacPhail, a supremely talented musician from my father’s birthplace, Tiree, and who was taught the pipes by my brother Donald, dedicated one of their best-known songs to Tessa. It is called Alive. Look it up. It will make you glad to be alive. Which is the effect Tessa had on so many people; and which great music can have on us all.
Doubtless there will be plenty of W1A-style meetings and focus groups to try to establish why the Today programme’s ratings are diving. May I save them the time and the license-payers’ money, for it really isn’t complicated. People are leaving in droves because they are appalled at the extent to which the programme’s news values have been distorted by the government narrative on Brexit. And they are frustrated that the Beeb top brass cannot see as clearly as the listeners can hear that John Humphrys’ UKIP tribute band act is wearing very, very thin, and totally inappropriate for the most important national debate of our lifetime.
I was the guest of Burnley manager Sean Dyche at the League Managers’ Association awards dinner, where he and Pep Guardiola were favourites for the top awards, Premier League Manager of the Year, and overall Manager of the Year. Guardiola won both.
Manchester City having won the title, and become the first club in history to secure 100 points, that might seem obvious. However, in the Manager of the Year award, ‘best use of resources’ was one of the factors to be taken into account.
Burnley finished seventh in the Premier League, and qualified for Europe for the first time in more than half a century, with players who earn in a year what many City players earn in a week, and who cost a fraction of City’s limitless transfer budget. I reckon Sean could have guided that City squad to the title. But could Pep have got Burnley into Europe?
These bloody Europeans, coming over here, winning our awards…