Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Will we ever recover from the referendum?


POLITICS had been static in this country for decades – the hokey cokey in Parliament putting in first Conservative then Labour then Conservative governments and so on – when the question of the EU unexpectedly came before the electorate, thanks to Dave keeping his promise. Until that moment I don’t think that the majority of people in this country were really engaged in politics, but the furore before, during and after the vote has invigorated them politically like never before. Something of an eye-opener to our career politicians.

The referendum exposed the EU to the people in a way it has never been before. It showed us what our parliamentarians thought about not only the bloc but us, the British, too. We learned that our elected representatives were mere middlemen, impotent before a foreign organisation which was making our laws and taking our money. Yet our MPs were championing this organisation over the potential of the UK to grow as an independent country.

We’ve heard very little from the Remain contingent about the benefits of staying in this bloc, only the permutations, rather scare stories, of what leaving will look like, and in this cauldron the language has become very heated indeed. Labour MPs and Remain MPs in general  complain about the language used by not only our PM but by Brexiteers, stating that it acts as incitement to the sort of people who would threaten them, even bringing the late Jo Cox into the mix. The language used on both sides has been pretty horrible, to be honest, with Remainers called  traitors while Leavers have had to put up with labels such as racist, ignorant, xenophobes and fascist for the last three and a half years. I’ve read comments online where people have called for Remainer traitors to be hanged or lynched, which is just as bad, and those where Remainers wish death on aged Brexit voters. Considering the behaviour of our representative MPs, I don’t expect this language to abate.

The country has changed beyond all recognition and we, the voters, have changed with it. Party politics is disappearing and voters are aligning under two flags – Leave and Remain. Politics has now become the elite against the people. The obstruction of our MPs to do what they were told in 2016 has created a palpable anger across the country and has changed each and every one of us. For me personally, I have always stuck to my principles and abhor tactical voting, but the behaviour of our MPs, particularly on the night of the prorogation, made me chuck away my own principles and decide that, come the next election, I will put my cross next to a candidate who, ordinarily, I would never back. I despise our incumbents for turning a once Conservative Party into a bunch of progressives and I hate the fact that the Brexit Party has hijacked the main policy of the party which forced David Cameron into holding the vote in the first place. One of these parties has one policy and the other has policies which are anathema to its name.

This is what it’s come to. That, until we leave the EU, I am forced to back a party which I have nothing in common with but this is where we are. My outlook has been changed by the referendum vote, by our MPs’ refusal to act on it and by the vitriol we Leavers have faced for having the temerity to vote the way we did. I hope, very much, that when all this bad business has been done and dusted (if it is done and dusted) that I can return to where I was pre-referendum but for many, the change will be permanent. There’s been a lot of bad blood in the country stirred up by politicians, by the media and by a tribal warfare which has the people screaming at each from opposing sides. Will that dissipate when, if, we leave? Will the country return to two-party politics when, if, we leave the EU? Would they want a return to it? I don’t, but as far as the country is concerned, I’m not so sure.

That said, from the almost inevitable collapse of the once- mainstream parties, something new may bloom. People are more politically savvy than before, more critical and less passive. From the grass roots something new is rising – something special. The referendum has energised us in a way that neither current opposition nor government has capacity for. We, the people, started this movement. Leaving the EU will not be our last stand.

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Michael Fahey
Michael Fahey
Michael Fahey is a social conservative and mental health carer.

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