• Beyond Tribes

    How suddenly old certainties are shaken. Of all the many things that stick in the throat about the recent referendum vote, perhaps the most telling is the degree to which seeing Cameron’s departure invoked a sense of sorrow and concern, given who may replace him in the Tory leadership. It’s as if the world was teaching us a lesson; ignoring the voice of so many experts, clamouring for some kind of new order, being in any way complacent about the possibility that a bunch of liars and buffoons could successfully stir up so much popular feeling willing to vote Leave despite all the warnings.

    That perhaps is the biggest lesson of the whole fiasco; that all those who felt marginalised by decades of de-industrialisation and globalisation were ignored despite the warnings given by UKIP’s growing popularity over these last several years. But it was about more than a rural or ageing or working class vote or even the will of so many who have felt forgotten or who were led to believe that leaving the EU would boost our standing as an independent nation.

    Perhaps a really telling version of events would run that so many people in this nation have felt so sorely let down by the ‘elites’ we are hearing so much about, their sense of being so out of touch, the way in which they have sometimes sought to railroad unpopular policies. In this telling you don’t need to talk to so many people before you come across a cynicism that stretches back at least to the expenses scandal and which colours so much of political opinion today. It was largely this sense of disillusionment with an establishment seen as venal and self serving that led many to vote with their instincts, which has given credence to those standing up for the ‘average working man’, for the dispossessed, to anyone only too willing to believe that current levels of immigration can in any case be easily stopped, where the apparently consequent strain on public services, houses and infrastructure was attributed to these levels, rather than anything to do with the austerity inflicted on this country these previous five years.

    It’s easy to simplify this argument, to say that all those voting out were too credulous regarding everything the Brexiteers said. But it was a debate largely sold by capitalising on fears, on the veracity of false securities, on the premise of ‘telling it how it is’ to all those feeling excluded or lost. We heard very little about the arguments that show how immigration is in many ways a benevolent aspect of a globalised economy, given that the vast majority of migrants make a substantial contribution to the economy as a whole. Perhaps it was the failure to deal with this issue head on that has got us to the place we now find ourselves in.

    As it is, we have to restore some sense of coherency to the country given such a monumental week. There may be avenues still to see off the worst of the damage and perhaps even introduce some kind of active hope into proceedings, given the prospect of another general election. But we have to acknowledge too that somehow we need to get on with the process of taking the country forward, however we voted, whatever we think. That calls not so much for a soul searching of the national psyche - however helpful that may be - but for a sense of a determination to stand up to the likes of Farage and Johnson and Gove at every turn, to build a broad coalition that represents the best of a moderate and inclusive nation, that seeks to maintain goodwill with everybody in the UK, to mitigate the effects of this decision with all avenues for future inclusitivity in Europe.

    It may not be clear what the way ahead is. But we can certainly all help to take forward a national narrative based on inclusion, to do something other than fall into cycles of recrimination, to help hold onto a vision of how we can be as a country that looks to the future, that does not lose itself in easy fantasies of Empire and a greatness built on isolation. Perhaps we have been watching what plays out when the only country in Europe that wasn’t overrun in World War Two collectively fails to challenge a popular fiction; that we have no history we must exonerate, that we can ignore that everything changed with the end of that war and a strong united Europe remains our best hope for a continued long-term peace. Churchill has been attributed as one of the founding fathers of a united Europe, something that Johnson should be familiar with. It’s anyone’s guess whether his distortions spring from expediency or from the belief he is actually serving his country.

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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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