What's the best this election can bring?
It’s a bit strange following the new UK election from 5 hours away in Yale. I can tell you that there is something different about the tempo of the ‘World at One’ from the ‘Today Programme’, which you notice very obviously when you listen to the ‘World at One’ at what is for you 8.00 a.m. (if that is clear). It also makes you feel that you are doing everything at a slight time-lag. But with those caveats in mind, here goes.
What is the best I’m hoping for from this election? Well not a landslide Labour victory, that’s for sure (and the more Labour spokespeople appear on the radio confidently predicting a Labour victory, landslide or not, the more sick I shall feel . . . I know they can’t say anything else, but I do wonder what is going on in their heads as they say it).
So if not that, then what?
Well number one, a campaign that recognises that over 48% of those that voted in the referendum were opposed to Brexit. That is not about undoing the result, but it is about avoiding on the one hand the patronising May rhetoric about how the country is now all pulling together (thank you, Prime Minister, but if you have to tell us we are pulling together then we probably aren’t) — and on the other hand the silly sniping about ‘Remoaners’. That’s 48% of those who turned out, and it’s no good just abusing us. If we can’t use the election to think harder about what those differences are all about, we’re fucked I think.
Number two, is about getting the details of Brexit dissected and discussed. I assume that the referendum was a vote in principle, when few of us had much clue about the options re the single market, the potential controls on (or need for) mass migration, still less about where that money for the NHS was supposed to be coming from. The only time we are going to be able to thrash out the nitty gritty — and actually be listened to — is this election campaign. So it’s a question of the campaign providing a framework to face those details outside any accusations of Project Fear etc etc. Brexit does not just mean Brexit, it means any number of things, soft, hard and medium — and that’s what, on the best interpretation, the election may start to get sorted.
Number three is the hope that the other issues we are facing do not get sidelined. The idea that while we are concentrating all our energies on Brexit, we just let the foreign aid budget wither without serious discussion, or privatise half the NHS similarly . . . well that is likely to do as much damage to us, as anything relating to the customs union.
So lets trust us citizens to have some serious, informed, technical discussions beyond the slogans of ‘taking back control’, or ‘making Britain great again’ — or patting us on the head.