The June election is making me feel like Goldilocks. Only instead of having a bowl of too-hot porridge, a bowl of too-cold porridge and a bowl of just-right porridge, I am being offered a bowl of too-hot Brexit, too-cold Brexit, and a bowl of “meh”. What’s a golden-locked girl to do?
When Teresa May pulled the handbrake and executed her dizzying U-turn by calling a snap election, I initially thought: Great! We can have another say on the madness that is Brexit! Surely, I thought, politicians of all hues will now raise their voices to propose an alternative to a course of action decided by a referendum so contaminated by lies, misleading rhetoric and hate that I am frankly amazed anyone can take the result seriously? Not to be too Irish, but if at first you don’t succeed, vote and vote again until you do. (Some proper analysis on this phenomenon here)
How wrong I was.
Instead, we have the Tories stubbornly refusing to see the iceberg while shouting down the hatch to stoke the fires higher. We have the Labour Party handing out lollipops (free hospital parking! More bank holidays!) while failing to notice that someone is making off with the sweetshop (my husband’s analogy). The Lib Dems are at least offering us voters a chance to have a say on the final deal — you’d think this would be a given, but it appears not. (The Lib Dems have also cheered me up no end with Nick Clegg’s masterly performance of linguistic versatility here. I know, I know. I’m being superficial but I love the way his whole being changes ever so slightly with each language.)
Here’s a helpful BBC piece about where everybody stands on Brexit, though to be honest there is a lot of uneasy butt-shifting on this, and no wonder. Hard to do anything else when nobody really knows what Brexit will mean.
I know we’re supposed to be over the whole Brexit thing but this new election has reopened the wounds.
I find myself shaking my head all the time, wondering how we ended up in this ludicrous situation. The reasons, of course, are manifold: the financial crash of 2008, rising inequality, cynical political exploitation of the fear resulting from economic hardship, data manipulation by shady pro-Brexit forces, Tory party in-fighting, and the frankly disgraceful performance of some elements of the media. What is truly distressing though is the fact that questioning the validity of this Brexit course of action has become an absolute non-starter, worse, an almost treasonous act?
There is something frankly nauseating about the neo-colonial rhetoric of plucky Britain, standing strong, stoic and alone, forging a new, independent and better future for itself, free from all those pesky foreigners with their insistence on rights and shared values and all that. Teresa May seems to believe that Britain will get whatever it wants from the EU as long as the British leader is strong … and called Teresa May. It’s so blatantly disrespectful. (This is worth a read: Yes, I know it’s Clegg again but the man is making a lot of sense, to my mind.) It’s as though the British government believes the other European leaders do not matter, that they have no say and worse, that they can be tamed and brought to heel by a “strong” British leader. Of course, when EU leaders or officials dare to utter any thoughts about the complex negotiating process ahead of us all, they are accused of negativity, obstructionism and even trying to influence the election.
We are constantly told that there was a clear mandate for Brexit. In reality, the margin of victory was thin: 51.9 percent vs 48.1 percent on turnout of 72.2 percent. If you don’t think so, read author and philosopher A. C. Grayling in this interview. We are told that the British people have spoken and that we can no longer challenge their decision. But read this excellent article about data manipulation and maybe think again. If you do have any doubts though, whisper them. You don’t want to be dubbed a traitor and forced to learn the rules of cricket, or something.
Look, I know one is not supposed to remoan. I know the referendum is over and Brexit is almost underway. But this is such a gigantic, existential change that I am flabbergasted at the absence of substantive debate about alternatives. Especially as the reality of what leaving the EU means becomes more apparent every day.
I had hoped that this new election would be a chance for an open conversation about where the UK is heading but instead we seem to be ring-fenced by fear of censure and tired political tropes, doomed to listen to platitudes and out-of-date rhetoric while our children wonder what the hell the grown-ups are doing.
If any campaigners are wondering, there is only one issue for me as a voter: Brexit. Offer me an alternative and you’ve got my vote. Of course, other policies are important too but everything depends on whether the government decides to go ahead and pull out of the European Union. It’s about time that we start to speak the unspeakable and do the unthinkable.