Why it's essential we reconfigure our politics
PUBLISHED: 21:14 13 August 2018 | UPDATED: 21:19 13 August 2018
From Brexit to climate change, there are still too many refusing to acknowledge that our current trajectory is headed for disaster. Young activist LIBBY CHERRY explains why urgent action needs to be taken.
Climate change is not a new concern. Yet only now has it become plastered across the front pages of newspapers, due less to the wildfires that ravaged Greece than to the British heatwave. The national obsession about the weather has permutated into anxiety about our planet.
The main story repeated on our radios is that we are on the verge of triggering a ‘hothouse’ effect. Even if we do stick to our – already weakening - aims to limit the planet’s warming to two degrees, we face being locked into a unstoppable, exponential increase in temperature. Earth could be on a non-stop train to a place that undermines the viability of human life.
It seems that we simply aren’t motivated enough to fix an issue when the shit hits the fan. Rather, we sit there innocently and wait until we contract dysentery. We have to wait until we’re faced with global disaster – or until we have to get a bit sweaty on the tube – before we register that something is at stake.
Whilst Brexit does not have the same global repercussions as climate change, it is nevertheless symptomatic of a type of mindset that refuses to acknowledge that our current trajectory is headed for disaster. The warnings about the outcomes of an increasingly likely no-deal have come thick and fast. From police chiefs to farmers to Mark Carney, the prospect of a messy break from the EU seems unanimously apocalyptic. Yet forecasts remain distant and the little impact on day-to-day living, exacerbated in fantasy by the meaningless squabblings about the significance of the pound’s fluctuations, means that future calamity is reassuringly out of mind.
Both climate change and Brexit require huge reappraisals about our current modes and definitions of society. Climate change will force us to reconfigure our concept of success as economic growth founded on the exploitation of natural resources. Brexit will force us to reconfigure the meaning of ‘democracy’, the role of MPs, our entire spectrum of left and right, the framework of our social politics.
To begin with democracy. For many, a People’s Vote on the final deal is a violation of some sacred principle of electoral justice. This idea has percolated down even to the most self-aware of my university friends. The typical counter to my advocations for a People’s Vote is that, of course, I don’t know the psychology of Leave-voting auntie Pam living on the breadline on the suburban south coast. Why should I, in my inexperience, consider myself worthy of overruling her original vote?
But this ‘democracy’ is written on no wax table and was not delivered from Mount Sinai. The Brexit referendum, and the spawn of faux-democratic principles that it has fostered, was nothing more than a bodge written up on the back of David Cameron’s fag packet. To give a referendum on the final Brexit deal is the only chance we have of recognising the enormous political ideological shifts and geopolitical transformations that have occurred since 2016. We need to value people as autonomous beings, rather than as simply pawns a game of political chess, limited to the arbitrary rules hastily drawn out in those heady months after the Conservative general election win. It is only moral and correct that we should give people a chance to consider the impacts, which are still far from concrete, on their material conditions of us all rather than favouring the ideological concerns of an extremist minority.
In this way, staying as part of the EU is no vote for the status quo. Pre-referendum Britain is gone. Politicians, I hope, realise that the attraction of populist simplistic solutions and their consequences. Ignoring the traditionally marginalised is no longer an option. Furthermore, the controversies surrounding Brexit – the potential shorting of the pound on the day of the referendum instigated by Nigel Farage, the uncomfortable closeness between IEA thinkers and cabinet politicians, Leave’s electoral fraud – has brought problems, actually systemic in politics for decades, to the surface. The blissfully unaware middle-class ‘liberal elite’ have become suddenly aware, and violently opposed, to issues that formerly were dismissed as conspiracy theory. The stereotypical ‘centrist dad’ is now styled as a guerrilla warrior.
Remaining in, therefore, could open the floodgate to an outlook guided by forward-thinking policy rather than ideological principle. It would mark a change to the practical – a focus on adapting to the shifting conditions of our surrounding rather than remaining truculently conservative with a small ‘c’, which has become characteristic of our national politics. Now is the time for a transformative look at the way our nation is governed in the face of globalisation, inequality, and infrastructure. At the moment, such political thinkers are sifting through impact assessments, noting the failures of the future, rather than acting upon them.
Is it therefore surprising that young people are the group advocating for this change? Untouched, mostly, with the historical ideological battles staged between Right and Left, disillusioned and unrepresented by the two main parties, our attitude to the traditional method of politics is far from warm. Our Future, Our Choice is a group unaligned with any single party. We are simply looking for a pragmatic, democratic, practical solution to an issue that has become simultaneously lifted to a world of hypothetical political principle, whilst posing a real threat to the realities of our everyday lives.
Issues like climate change require open-minded and collaborative thinking. Offering a People’s Vote is both a symbolic and actual way of endorsing this. Firstly, countering this false construct of ‘democracy’ create the space for re-considering other formerly untouchable political structures. Secondly, it provides the possibility for harmonious and united action with our nearest neighbours and the opportunity to set a global example. A People’s Vote leaves us open to evolving with our world and rejecting the inward-looking, short-termist, and selfish philosophy posited by Brexit.
• Libby Cherry is a 19-year-old student and co-leads the Our Future, Our Choice group at Oxford University.
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