There’s acres of ground between the political parties, so why do I still feel homeless?
- Credit: Archant
Football commentator CLIVE TYLDESLEY on the challenges facing Remainers at the ballot box as we head to the polls once again.
We are dashing headlong towards a general election in which millions of Britons will have nobody to vote for. I feel like I'm about to be handed a selection box in which only the orange marzipan and the Turkish Delight are left. The ballot paper options may as well read 'Devil' and 'Deep Blue Sea' for me and many disaffected voters.
In years to come, politics students will be left scratching their heads in search of reasons why no person or party emerged to fill the huge void of middle ground between the main protagonists. Where was Britain's Macron when it needed him?
Instead, the latest in a succession of baffling binary choices put before the electorate is set to be one between a pensionable socialist with militant tendencies and a blustering Bullingdon Club bully. The UK is caught between a crock and a hard case.
Messrs Corbyn and Johnson have both done their best to facilitate wider choice by making a range of earnest dissenters walk the party plank but Change UK has been unable to haul enough of the floaters on board to cause more than a ripple in the ocean of clear water between the two main ports in this storm.
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The logical solution to the impasse caused by the result of the 2016 referendum would be to hold a second vote to check if the answer to the same question has changed or not with the passing of years and Brexit ministers. Instead, we are to get an election masquerading as a referendum. Having failed to pass our Geography exam to the school's satisfaction, the headmaster has ordered a re-sit in History. Maybe that's what they do at Eton.
Jo Swinson has at least tried to give this alternative referendum the same clear in/out choice as the original version but her attempts to give everyone in the country a say on the specific issue of Brexit have been branded undemocratic.
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And so whatever is left of our democracy may now be reduced to tactical voting. Many of us will be left working out who best to vote against in the absence of somebody to vote for. Some of us may not even get the full wondrous spectrum of choice if parties enter pacts to give like-minded rivals the proverbial 'free run' at key marginal seats. Presumably this strategy is not in any way undemocratic.
We have become immune to the white noise of the boasts and lies. Those online collages of the public promises that MPs made to us and soon broke no longer leave any further stains on their reputations. So deep is the weary cynicism that today's definition of leadership is he who shouts loudest.
Am I the only one that felt temporarily comforted by the idea of national governance being placed in a holding pattern piloted by Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman for a while? Maybe the only danger of that was that we would all grow to like it too much.
The most reasoned and resonating political speeches I have heard in the last year have been made by Lord Heseltine. He is 86 years old. He deserves a rest from trying to provide a nation with its reality checks.
The trouble with an election is that the electorate don't seem to know what they want, do they? That is not meant as a damning, disdainful put-down, more as a statement of inescapable fact. The gathering popularity of a prime minister that regularly changes his mind is testimony to the ongoing level of confusion.
The Conservatives hold a healthy lead in most polls and yet Remain still has an edge over Leave in the very same polls. Go figure.
'Just make it go away, Boris' is about the extent of the 'let's get Brexit done' mandate Mr Johnson keeps reciting on a loop. Any deal will do. Turkeys voting for Christmas because it feels like the delay is now hurting them more than the carving knife will do.
All attempts to point out that a Withdrawal Agreement would merely be the first of many settlements still to be made with the EU are met by millions of hands covering millions of ears and the start of a nationwide chorus of loud la-la-laing. We just don't want to know.
A more accurate translation of the PM's mantra would be 'let's get Brexit begun… and then we'll see what happens next'. The unlikely alliance of Hilary Benn and Oliver Letwin has proved that there is still a table where 'no deal' is always on the 'specials' board. I would like to vote for both of them in order to register my gratitude for the fence they have built around the cliff edge, but… they're on opposite sides of the whipping divide.
Brexit has drawn new lane markings across existing carriageways. The choices appear to be polar but only because so much of the wartime rhetoric is couched in extremes. The formula for a balanced TV debate is an argument between the devout and the agnostic. It's a form of theatre for which there is just no audience anymore.
The country is Brexit bored, Brexit brow-beaten, Brexit ball and chained. Even the crash out offers an escape route of sorts. A leap into the dark seems preferable to the constant spotlight the Brexit pantomime commands.
How have we got so weary of something so significant, why have we allowed ourselves to become so disengaged from a decision so important?
Of all the recent Brexit opinion polls offering conflicting hopes and fears, few have tallied a 57% score for anything. That was the number reported to believe that it would have been better not to have had the referendum in the first place (according to an Opinium poll for The Observer last weekend).
The United Kingdom has been a dangerously divided place since that fateful June day. This was an argument that many of us now wish we had never had in public. Brits are usually pretty good at sweeping disagreements under the carpet but this one is just too lumpy to ignore.
Brexit brings out the worst in us. As a remoaning member of the 16.1 million, do I sometimes descend into the dark place of wishing a curse on the House of Brexited Britain so that I can at least be proved right? You bet I do… until I remember that I am the father of children that will inherit the legacy of the divisions it has created. I cannot honestly see where the healing process begins.
I know this is fanciful but imagine if 2016 had never been fought like a replica election. Imagine if the campaigning had been confined to researched facts and forecasts rather than bloated personalities and spinning promises. It was the battle buses and the funded publicity drives that ramped up the odds and drowned out the issues.
It became one of those taIent shows where the viewers get the casting vote. Some of the political correspondents played to the audience a little too much for my taste. It is only my taste and, as a football commentator, I know and accept that we are all a matter of opinion. Mine is no more relevant than the next viewer's or the next voter's.
I just feel that I've watched too much blowing of the Westminster bubbles, not enough overview or gravitas. Too many brain-washing sound-bites, too little challenge of facts or favours. But any criticism has to be tempered by the difficulties that the Beths and the Lauras must have trying to work with the material on offer.
That John Bercow's bellowing voice is the most recognisable in British politics is proof that the playground posturing of PMQs and points of order are commanding only the most meagre respect they deserve from a detached public. What a chance has been missed to grab that public's attention with politics they can relate to. Jess Phillips politics.
Brexit's wounds can only be treated by finding consensus. If you win a rugby match 52-48, you don't ignore the part your opponents played in the contest, you look to offer their initial source of consolation. Conciliatory politics has disappeared along with Jennifer Arcuri of late.
For long spells of my voting life, there has actually been too little defining difference between the main parties, now there are acres and acres of fertile ground between Momentum and ERG, between McCluskey and Farage. Where on earth are the politicians that can seize it and resettle the homeless voters of 2019?
I am of a generation that voted for Tony Blair. That fact alone may define and devalue me in your eyes. And that's fine. Opinions are still free to the holder in the UK but they only really gain value when they are backed by cause and conviction. I didn't vote against John Major or William Hague. I didn't need to, I had someone and something to vote for.
This time I am yet to find that someone. And I don't think I'm alone.
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