• A New Landscape

    In the wake of the referendum, there are so many grounds for anger and concern that none of them need going-over here. But it may still be worth stating collective regret that this country voted against the tide of evidence, stability and prudence. We can ask valid questions as to what led us here, where we go from this point, how we go forward. There’s a sense too that we need to rise above fixations with minutia of events, where soundbites and the by-the-hour twists and turns of the news become a kind of sideshow to the fact that an entire nation is attempting to come to terms with what's happened, where forces that have been present for years have, as if overnight, bought us to a new landscape where questions of how and why and of confusion or anger or pain have congregated so we have listened, read and watched the media, searching for some kind of new security, or consolation, or sense.

    The European question has lurked like a family grievance or embarrassing aunt in backbenched hinterlands, stoked with a sense of old scores. But while the racist incidents we’ve seen are alarming and must be decried and while the mood music of Farage’s campaign has been culpable in giving them a kind of tacit encouragement we shouldn’t be too quick to think that this is necessarily the way things will be from here on in. We have to listen to all those voices of disenchantment and dissent that led to the vote. Not white supremacists, or anti-evangelicals looking for an intolerant dawn. But all those who’ve felt aggrieved up and down the land by the perception of being left behind, who have felt outcast, forgotten, even oppressed by a distant Parliament whose politicians haven’t seemed to care about the underprivileged, about all those who haven’t had a voice.

    People of all calibres have been concerned by population pressure; a thing that for many, understandably, has remained something that cannot be named, for fear of what it could seem to permit. But it was that lack of engagement on admittedly a precarious issue that has played into the hands of those unafraid or unmindful enough to stir ugly sentiments up. In a land where immigration is high but still an economic advantage but where it has not been met with sufficient investment in schools and other vital services it’s no wonder that feelings have sometimes been strained. What’s tragic is that these stresses have been whipped up into antipathy by those with no claim on the truth but who were only too keen to stress that they possessed just this and that they did so in the face of denial from on high.

    A sober appraisal of this gives us the traction to challenge and dispel hatred wherever we find it, to begin to accept that we need a new national story, that out of this sorrowful, frightening mess we can look at the fact that we are presented with a new day and – if we can bring ourselves to understand what lead us here - we can somehow begin to find again the foundation this country was forged on; that we are a nation of immigrants from our earliest days, that inclusion is built into our blood, that tolerance is a watchword we should all hold close to our chests and seek to invoke wherever it is needed. That can only help instil a sense of greater inclusion for everybody living on these Isles. Nobody’s future here should be in doubt for a moment: it’s one of the more disturbing facets of the repercussions of the vote that this was called into question at all.

    Concerns over the democratic nature of the EU are valid too and, while it would have been better on balance that we stayed, we can accept that many holding those concerns often came from a much more informed place than an overview of standard, aggrieved UKip fodder might lead you to think. That our Sovereignty was in no immediate need of being rescued, that constitutional mechanisms were in place that would have allowed us to opt out of full federalisation should such a time have ever come does not negate that the EU as it stands has a huge democratic deficit and is in much need of reform. Many of those who recognised as much are not Little Englanders intent on isolation.

    The vote may have been colossal, reckless, mad. We will all have to deal with the result. But the feelings and forces that fed into it were often far from just opportunistic, maverick or uniformed. A globalised, free market world, who we are as a country, how we find a place in a new landscape; suddenly all these things, these tensions and stresses, dynamics and catalysts, new spheres and scope are open to question, to potential reform.

    We may have been startled, alarmed and grounds for anger are still justified. But we have to take stock of the place that we find ourselves in, go forward in a way where we know what we stand for but equally seek to somehow harness these monumental events to step back, to try and steer ourselves clear of continued division. We should engage with this new field in the knowledge that this seismic shift is not as black and white as it may at first seem, that we can use this opportunity sure that, where there is much to be determined, that can only serve to inform our next steps, whatever they are, on this fresh, still bewildering ground.

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branchlines

The posts here originally grew from a website that was set up to advertise a book that describes things a long time ago. That book was always intended to address more than any single issue, even if it encompassed that as well.

At its broadest, I hoped it could help express how things can be when anyone of us acts on behalf of the environment, of their community, of our collective future itself. It was informed by far more than simply the times it describes; it was an attempt to articulate a feeling that has carried on and grown and means more than just a narrow 'us and them'.

I'm mainly working on other writing at the moment but thought there was probably something to be said for keeping these posts online while the issues they deal with remain relevant. I hope you find something on these pages that proves of interest or use as we all rise to meet the new times.

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