In some ways Boris Johnson was right, we are trying to polish a turd, writes Peter Roberts.
Who knows what will happen over the next days and weeks, but surely this must now be clear.
1) There’s no form of Brexit that will benefit the nation. We really are polishing poo;
2) The national interest must always trump an advisory referendum which cannot bind our sovereign parliament. The case for accepting the referendum result was political not constitutional. That case, always suspect, no longer holds;
3) Furthermore, the referendum was called for cynical party advantage, not in the national interest. It was won through manipulating legitimate anger by carefully targeted and cynical lies which have been progressively revealed over the past two years;
4) Those lies were told by the very people whose social disinterest and economic and political self-interest did so much to stoke the anger they reaped. It is their Brexit, not ‘ours’;
5) Those who voted Leave must surely now realise that these people are their enemies not their friends: it’s they who will suffer most, whatever form it takes;
6) Those both in and outside parliament who voted Remain but haven’t the courage to stand by their convictions – and their children’s futures – can’t sit on the fence or plead ‘democracy’. It’s a soft get-out.
The impossibility of having both Brexit and a prosperous, peaceful future is clear to our political class or why else would we be at this impasse? They must at last be bold enough to admit it, to call the whole damned thing off.
Imagine telling a small child they can choose anything from a pet / sweet / toy shop, with caveats on the items they may not have, for practical reasons that have been discussed in advance.
Thus, they cannot have a rhinoceros / the ones with nuts in / a life-size Lego model of Tower Bridge, because: 1, our home is too small; 2, there’s a greater than 99% risk of anaphylactic shock; 3, see 1 above.
Now imagine having waited patiently for two years while the child fails to pay any heed to any of the items which actually deserve their attention, but concentrates solely on concocting increasingly bizarre and desperate plans to justify having something which was never possible (Plan 3 – the rhinoceros can live on Lego Tower Bridge and
eat half of the chocolate-coated almonds).
Now factor in the realisation that it’s not only the storekeeper watching this little performance: everyone else is watching, too, especially the bit where the child blames you very loudly every time you say, politely, ‘No, Theresa, remember what we said at the beginning – you can’t have a rhinoceros because…?’
Professor Grayling is right about the need for changes to our electoral system in his ‘Once we’ve stopped Brexit, the real work starts’ (TNE #100).
But more is needed, and even more urgently: We need to be more aware of the people who feel ‘left behind’ while some of us are cheerfully and perhaps insensitively international in our outlook and lifestyle.
Somebody needs the guts to further revise Universal Credit and aspects of austerity and set out a credible and acceptable future for us all in a fairer and more united United Kingdom, remaining, we hope, in a reforming EU.
I am all for a changed voting system and belong keenly to the Electoral Reform Society, but that will take time. More equality is needed now.
Just remaining in Europe is not enough on its own.
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