What do they say? Never talk about politics or religion. What about when both merge into one? Red, Blue, Yellow, Green and recently openly white, most people are not distinctive in their political beliefs, even if they stick to one party all their life. Although I had always voted Conservative, when Blair won the 1997 election, I did not feel an impending doom, more a wonder at the first Labour government that I would know. I don’t know what colour I would be at the moment, but as I have aged (badly at times) I am more rainbow than I can remember. The policy tends to skew the political line I agree with. This makes me out of synch with modern political thinking.
You are now with us or against us. The enemy, traitors or unpatriotic, the reaper of our doom. It used to be the bloke on the corner with a sign saying ‘the end is nigh’, now it is anyone who disagrees with you. I fell into this trap after the Brexit vote. As I abused all leave voters of being racist in a slightly drunken annoyance, a good friend of mine told me he voted to leave and explained why. I was a little taken aback by his reasoning (project fear), but I realised I should not treat all leave voters with disdain, but to engage with them to see why they voted this way.
I am obviously not talking about the small number of racists, xenophobes who did vote because they hate anyone who is different, I am talking about people like my friends, sister, work colleagues who voted to leave because of two crucial anxieties.
Those were trust and control. This is what most discussions come down to. There is deep unease in the majority of the country that politics is being run for the few and not the many. That corruption is diluting what was a great country and politics and the people in it are running it for themselves and friends. The gap between London centric Westminster and the rest of the country has never felt wider. Brexit has capitalised on this.
If you look back at the last 25 years, since the UK left the ERM, we have had a constant stream of abuse towards the EU. Chapter and verse has been laid out by Pastor Farage and his Mail & Telegraph cronies, how all our ills have been created by the EU. How they take all our money and get the rewards.
How it is run by beaurocrats, undemocratic and that ‘they’ waste our money for their pleasure. All this went, wrongly, unchallenged by an arrogant ruling class, and so, many assumed it must be true. Even when the accusations became more extreme and bizarre. The straight banana’s and the endless stream of refugees.
As this continued over time, our politicians were able to pass the buck to the Europeans, especially the Tories, who predominantly are seen as the ruling class. Anything that could not be done was their fault. Anything that went wrong or cost money was an EU directive. Then amazingly, when we went abroad those foreigners did not seem to follow the same rules. So ‘They’ must just ignore them and we are the fools for following them!
The belief increased to the extent it can no longer be questioned. Facts are used to argue a point, something I have done many times and yet I am told that I’m deluded. That I don’t understand. When I ask for the facts or evidence, I receive non. It is a belief like religion, that can never be wrong. Some have invested too much into this belief to accept that they may be wrong.
It did not help when Cameron and Osborne made wild statements of impending doom if we left the EU. All credibility was lost when they took the extreme view rather than simply pointing out that all analysis shows the UK worse off by leaving the EU.
This week, reality seemed to bite. Theresa May made a good speech where it was seen that to be able to trade with Europe we would still have to follow its rules. She made some good suggestions about how we can have ‘frictionless’ customs and how this should allow the continued progress in NI to be maintained.
But if you read the speech, the question begs, why are we leaving? There is no magic market in the world, which will bring us wealth. The only benefit is that we will not participate in the EU politic progress. This means we will follow their rules, but not shape them. Who has control now?
The ruling class, the conservatives, will feel like they run the country, but who will benefit from this? Will we have more equality when this happens? We could vote for the other extreme of failed socialism through the Corbyn party? Will this bring us closer together as a nation or be just another form of a divisive politics. Us v them!
Ideological belief, a religion that allows you never to accept your way is the wrong way, has never worked out well for a country. It is now more than ever than we look at the history of successful nations who have come together, worked together and created integrated laws to be successful (UK, USA, EU) rather than the authoritarian regimes that are inward looking, nationalistic (Russia, Soviet Union, Cambodia, China, N Korea) and are happy for their citizens to suffer for their ideological dream. Our future is working together, economically and politically. This is the control, it is the trust we need to gain back.