So there was a bit of a march in London the other day which was attended by between 120,000 and 720,000 people depending on who you listen to. This was just the latest round of the great Brexit melodrama, and was to either ensure proper democracy giving people a say on the vote or to “stop Brexit by any means necessary” and in the process make a mockery of democracy again depending on who you listen to. Our glorious leaders have ignored pretty much every demo ever held, so there no good reason to expect them to pay attention to this one, unless it gives them an excuse to do what they already want to do. That aside though – as other more well-informed people have observed at this point even if everyone involved were to act with utmost speed it’s already too late to prevent the UK leaving Europe via article 50. Further even if the UK did by extraordinary efforts manage to decide we’d changed our minds in time the rest of the EU would have to agree to that, and presumably if there was any change to our terms of membership we’d have to have another referendum to agree to that ( as that’s apparently how things work these days ).
I’d love to blame this debacle on those that sit in Westminster, a corrupt media and sinister foreign powers and they may well all have played their parts but unfortunately “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” We elected those politicians and whilst the choice wasn’t great we’ve been electing the same brands for years, for fear of the other brand or because there’s no point in not voting for anyone else and we lambaste any politician that makes a mistake, changes their mind or acts in any way like a normal human. We have it seems the Government we deserve. As to the media well we’re all by and large far too partisan in our fact checking and keep supporting which ever lying rag tells us the prettiest lies. More than that far too many people on both sides of the fence have acted like the very rabble we’re accused of being, lapping up whatever nonsense our echo chambers serve us because having real debates and reading white papers is just far too much work.
We allowed the debate to be captured by the nutters on both sides preventing any sensible middle ground that might take some account of the closeness of the vote to be found. Neither side has been particularly keen to look for common ground or to really listen to and take seriously the concerns of the other side. We chose to shut down the debate even amongst our friends with cries of racist and gammon or traitor and snowflake. No one forced us to do that to our own social circle, no one prevented us behaving like adults. On both sides we fell to the cries of the nutters listening to the caricatures they painted of the other side forgetting that they were no different from ourselves, we let them become monsters in our imaginations and so collectively made what was always going to be a difficult process border line impossible.
When the legislation for the referendum was going through no one complained about it being a simple majority. No one complained when the government repeatedly said the result of the referendum would be implemented. Both sides broke the rules, over spent and told lies – so no real difference from any other election. Old principles were abandoned and enemies embraced as long as they supported the right side of the referendum. People previously occupying the city and calling for the city to be purged now hailed every uttering from within the halls of Mammon that said we must remain or that said we’d be fine. No case was made for the virtues of the EU, just the terror that awaited us if we were foolish enough to leave, and no great vision of what we could do if we left was displayed. We didn’t even have these conversations amongst ourselves at least not across the great divide that had been decreed must exist between both camps.
The referendum came and went, the sky didn’t fall ( though it had been predicted that it would the moment the vote was made). If we had collectively had two brain cells to rub together this would have been a really good point to have had a discussion about what we wanted our future outside of the EU ( as that was how the vote went ) to look like, to discuss how we could address the concerns of both sides and forge a way forward from whence a negotiating position might have emerged. We didn’t do that though, instead insults were thrown campaigns were started to ignore the vote causing other people to demand that article 50 be triggered immediately for fear of betrayal of a hard-won victory. When parliament voted that they would indeed implement article 50 the advisory nature of the referendum became moot as our elected parliament had debated and enacted the legislation, thus exercising it’s duty.
A sensible nation, not gripped by a collective madness would, as I said, have paused and considered what it wanted before starting a ticking clock. The EU couldn’t start negotiations at this point as until we asked to leave there was nothing to negotiate. We could have calmly laid out plans to have a national debate and a bit of a think, maybe a few informal discussions, maybe said “look we’re going to trigger article 50 in a bit, but bit of a discussion to have at home first”. Of course we could also have done this before the referendum vote, we could have discussed and planned for the vote going for leave but we didn’t do that. I know a lot of people will say this was the job of “Leave”, but “Leave” weren’t and aren’t in power, “Leave” didn’t have access to the full machinery of state and the resources of the civil service to even start sketching a plan. Though some tried and the likes of the Messrs North did some Stirling work that was ignored by everyone who could actually make a difference.
There we were, and still are, acting like a pack of chimps flinging shit at each other whilst calling the other side unreasonable. Letting the nutters push us all ever further towards the extremes making any sort of sensible discussion impossible. Throwing away option after option that could have allowed for some vaguely sane way to compromise because we were too busy fighting caricatures of the other side to actually find a solution. Meanwhile our elected representatives were doing no better, having been so softened by years of out sourcing decisions to the EU or arms reach quango’s that they had no vision nor skill of state craft to call upon, knowing only how to tinker with trivia whilst hoping no one rocked the boat they flailed around hoping that sound bites would once more get them through the day. These people we have for years elected to represent us, despite our wide-spread belief that they were dishonest, dishonourable and incompetent are revealed to be exactly as we judged them when we returned them to power time and again.
We may yet find a way out of this mess, we may yet find people who can chart a course of compromise to a new vision of our country. If we do we’ll probably lynch them for betraying “the cause”, which ever cause that happens to be. It might even be the one thing that briefly unites us. I’m not hopeful, I expect we’ll come up with some grubby deal that allows politicians to save face, changes nothing for the better and leaves us stuck in the mire for decades to come until some greater eternal shock knocks us free. At this point I’m starting to think it’s about what we deserve as it’s certainly what we’ve wrought for ourselves – each of us individually by choosing to be part of the mob and refusing to discuss the valid concerns of the other side that we might have found a compromise away from the screaming nutters at extremes.