Monday, July 11, 2016

On anger and what to do with it

When the Referendum result gradually became clear, I was very disappointed. Not by the result so much as by what it said about us as a country. But as I thought about how it had come about, I felt anger. This is what I wrote on FriendFace shortly afterwards...

I am not angry with the voters, but with the establishment that deregulated the financial sector that caused the crash.
I am angry with the government that chose austerity and made the poorest among us pay for the greed of the bankers.
I am angry with the cynical exit campaign which blamed migrants for the austerity we are suffering.  
I am angry with the politicians who have failed for years to challenge that narrative.  
I am angry with the media which covered the campaign as if it were just a Tory party squabble, and failed to properly examine the unjustified claims - from both sides.  
I am angry with BBC NI and Nolan for trivialising the debate.  
I am angry with the DUP for putting petty dislike of Europe before the very existence of the United Kingdom.  
I am angry about a political discourse in which evidence is treated as optional, and everyone feels entitled to their own facts.  
I am angry that we are losing the best chance we had to tackle multinational tax avoidance, pollution, and climate change. 
I am angry.
This is not the end of the world, but we will all be the poorer for this foolish and muddled decision.

I am still angry. We allowed grievances to build up. We failed to challenge those who blamed immigration for the problems. And we allowed a false and unprincipled campaign to prevail. When the result was announced, second thoughts were voiced. Facts began to intrude. Minds changed. There is a case to be made that the referendum does NOT express the settled will of the British people as a whole. It may yet be that our constitutional system will allow a chance for further reflection.

But, in the meantime, we must as a country decide what sort of exit we want, if that is what we're going to have. What kind of relationship do we want with the EU, and with the rest of Europe? Where we will continue to cooperate with our European friends and allies, and where we want to step back?

The election - if that's the right word - of the politically astute (if somewhat opportunistic) Theresa May as leader of the Tories means that the party of government has lurched to the Right. It's not clear that the former industrial heartlands of England who voted (to varying degrees) for Exit wanted that.  But that's what we got.

If we are to avoid a right-wing elite setting the agenda for country's future for the next few parliaments, we need to hold the government to account. The press need to do a better job than they did during the referendum campaign. And the opposition need to do a better job than they did under the Coalition.

Over to you, Eagle, Corbyn, Farron (and possibly even Murdoch) - your country needs you!

Or in Murdoch's case, our country needs you (to do your job, not pursue your self-interest).

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