Sub-Editor of Naked Politics
The political discourse has officially descended beyond the gutter, and into the sewers. Whatever happens on Thursday, a Pyrrhic victory is now the best that either side can hope for. If you value the democratic rights of your children, seek to liberate your country from foreign rule, and worry that being chained to the stagnant Eurozone is a flawed “long-term economic plan”, you must vote the same way as murderous far-right racists. If your concerns are more about the transitional costs of divorce and offending our neighbours, you must vote with corporatist vested interest groups, supported by a duplicitous political elite.
The fault for this predicament lies squarely with the former Prime Ministers that put us here, rather than with those that now seek to remedy the situation by either applying lotion to a “reformed Europe” or severing out the “un-reformable” malignant tumour. The signing of successive treaties that have surrendered the value of our votes without once asking permission, has inevitably lead to escalating public dissatisfaction, with the global crash, and consequential austerity measures, providing the catalyst for deep societal divisions.
On one side, a frustration that spending cuts could have been less severe if we weren’t having to simultaneously cover the spiralling costs of EU membership, Eurozone bailouts, and over-crowded public services. On the other, a desire to force culpable bankers to pay for their transgressions, rather than passing the burden onto the poor. Neither are mutually exclusive nor wrong; but the government and their media puppets have managed to turn us against each other. An aggravated populist dog fight, in which we are expected to blame the dogs themselves for participating.
A similar divergence is evident across the whole EU. For federalisation to succeed, the concept of national identity must be gradually extinguished, and resistance to that process is mounting as the realisation dawns. This is being achieved through the demonisation of patriotism, which causes the Newtonian response of chest-beating hubris from nationalists, and in turn, further opportunity for vilification. This deliberate polarisation is evident as displaying the St George’s Cross now provokes disapproval, and football fans are quickly judged as guilty-until-proven-innocent when attacked by Russian hooligans. Our education system now tells us to be ashamed of our imperial British heritage but proud of our European congeniality. Hence the vague notions of national sovereignty and democracy being much less important to millennials than pensioners.
These are the perfect conditions for Team Remain to capitalise by peppering the media with assertions that we’re just not good enough to survive on our own. But as the polls shifted significantly in favour of Brexit last week, it was increasingly apparent that telling us what to think, was failing. That was until the actions of a far-right extremist with mental health issues caused a huge swing back towards ‘Remain’. Thomas Mair reached out for help from medical professionals, but their time was already stretched, so turned him away. His response; to murder his MP. Who knows what possessed him to take such action?
What we do know is that his views are in no way representative of half of the UK population that have since been tarred with the same brush by the press choosing to describe him as a “Brexit Gunman” and “anti-EU campaigner”. A point that shouldn’t have to be made, just as Muslim community leaders shouldn’t have to continually point out that the actions of Islamic terrorists are not representative of all Muslims. What does stand out amidst the heat of referendum warfare, is the distinct lack of left-wing commentators leaping to the defence of leave campaigners. Instead they are happy to make political capital out of a murder, with a stream of twitter comments and press articles doing just that, during the respectful suspension of campaigning that only Vote Leave appear to have observed.
It is particularly disappointing to find that Owen Jones, the self-appointed last bastion of political correctness, and once Brexit proponent, has failed to take such an even-handed approach. As recently as last week, he stormed off the Sky News set because the presenter and co-guest didn’t stick to his list of approved words in the wake of the Orlando massacre. Apparently, referring to the gunman’s religion is wrong, while omitting his victims’ sexuality from any sentence is too. He protested that not enough LGBT voices were being invited to speak on the subject, then followed this up with a refusal to share a platform with Douglas Murray, an openly gay writer who just happens to have voiced concerns about the homophobic culture that has been found to influence some Islamic communities.
The point here is that the hypocrisy stinks. Those that profess to have adopted a “kinder politics”, appear to be gleefully leaping at the opportunity to beat ordinary people with the xenophobe stick. Ordinary people that believe it to be perfectly reasonable for Britain to be an independent country; perfectly reasonable to ask for immigration controls after witnessing the negative effects of supressed wages and pressure on public services first hand; and perfectly reasonable to expect a country with the fifth largest economy in the world to be free to agree our own trade deals, rather than being hamstrung by an isolationist and failing political project that bears no resemblance to the trade club that we originally signed up to. The switch from Project Fear to Project Shame smacks of desperation after losing the main argument. Sadly, it will probably work!