We are now two weeks into Britain following the vote for 'Brexit'. We have also just received the damning verdicts of Chilcot.
It is interesting (and dismaying) to me the scale of the outpouring of grief, rage, condemnations, scaremongering over 'the state of the nation' following a democratic decision to leave the current European project compared to the truth emerging about the Iraq War (or for that matter, the truth which emerged from the second Hillsborough Inquest).
I have been reading around all sorts of newspapers and blogs, as I usually do. In fact, so much so that I have had to, at times, actively switch off. In particular I have shared these articles with friends:
- 'Yes, this is a crisis - a brilliant crisis packed with possibility' - Brendan O'Neill, Spiked Online
- 'Reconsidering Brexit' - Thursday 7th July Editorial, Morning Star
- 'Why we can't leave the negotiations with Europe to the Tories' - Jeremy Corbyn, Guardian
- 'Britain could become a big Switzerland' - James Moore, Independent
- 'The crucifixion of Tony Blair' - Tim Black, Spiked Online
Ultimately, I stand by my decision, after much deliberation, to go with the 'Brexiteers'. I have had debates with those family and friends in opposition to this, and have been accused amongst other things of lining up with Nigel Farage and Michael Gove along the way. My response, even before the Chilcot Inquiry Report, is, "Well, if I'm lining up with Nigel Farage and Michael Gove, and all they stand for and how they behave, then I suppose you line with Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson." Although I am guilty as the next person here of point-scoring, I suppose the point I really want to make is we need to listen to one another, not reduce one another into camps.
As I see it, the two threads running through vote for Brexit and the Chilcot Report is the divide in the UK between the socio-economically comfortable and the socio-economically uncomfortable, and that this also has a class-cultural dimension to it (and I would argue it is not defined primarily by race and religion as the far-right would have us believe). I believe this 'unhappy Britain' is made all the worse by a democratic system that stifles plurality and promotes technocracy.
I don't believe the poor are simply poor simply because of their choices. I don't believe British democracy in its current form is 'fit for purpose' in terms of bringing people from all backgrounds into politics, whether that be as politicians, as activists, as confident voters.
I don't hold up Jeremy Corbyn as the new messiah, as some seem to do. I agree on a number of issues but I also think certain aspects of his political instincts are deeply flawed. I remember how a friend, involved with the Labour Party in Northern Ireland, told me how in the run-up to the General Election in 2015, two Labour MPs visited the province. According to what he told me, one landed in Belfast and went straight to speak with activists at the Labour office, the other landed in Belfast and went straight to speak with activists at the Sinn Fein office - the first was Andy Burnham, the second was Jeremy Corbyn. But, having said this, I like what is happening with Corbyn because I think he represents something greater - just as much as the kickback with Brexit, he potentially represents a growing resurgence in the democratic spirit, perhaps a little of the Chartist spirit of old.
I believe now is a time of opportunity - and although that may come with anxiety, upheaval, trials and tribulations - it is a time we might radically re-shape our country for the better.