Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Preparing to lose, or to win

The miserable referendum debate grinds on, and I'm desperately weary of it all.  I've already decided how to vote, although I confess I have almost been persuaded to change my mind by the wretched tone of the campaign.  One thing I am increasingly clear on: the fact that we are having a referendum at all represents a massive failure of leadership which has led to us being more divided amongst ourselves, less able to live with one another, than we were before.  There have been three referenda in the UK in the last five years or so, all of which seem to have been politically opportunistic events designed to put a particular issue to bed for a generation - but which have instead made divisions more acute and left behind them a huge feeling of resentment.

But here's the thing: one way or another, we have to live with one another next week.  I strongly suspect we will vote to remain part of the EU - but I think it will be close.  Then what will we do?  It won't do to just breathe a sigh of relief (for those who will be relieved) and then resume business as usual.  There needs to be a process of reconciliation.  We need to understand how we got to this place, and we need to work out what happens next.

Perhaps the biggest thing we need is to understand each other.  I've read a number of articles in the more liberal media which appear to proceed on the assumption that either 40-50% of people in the country are racist, or that a similar proportion have just been duped by manipulative UKIP types.  That won't do.  The analysis is simplistic and patronising.  There needs to be some listening here.  Personally, I think a lot of it is nothing to do with the EU.  There are a whole crowd of people who are not on board with the direction of political and social travel - they are not okay with globalisation, they are not okay with the new sexual politics, they are not okay with mass immigration.  For those who see themselves as citizens of the world, as liberals, as the good guys, these attitudes are incomprehensible and vile - but they are widespread.  What are we going to do about that?

As a thought experiment, it might be useful for us all to imagine what it will feel like on Friday if the side of our choice loses.  Half of us will feel like that whatever happens.  Or imagine the relief if your side wins.  Half of us will feel like that.  Whichever it turns out to be for each of us personally, remembering how it is for the other half of us will hopefully restrain triumphalism on the one hand and anger on the other.


  1. Sounds like we'll need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    1. Not sure who we could get to chair it, though. Maybe ++Justin might be interested?

  2. Replies
    1. I am least partly trying to persuade myself with this one, I'll admit. Not really looking forward to Friday whatever happens.

  3. I am hoping the remain camp wins by a solid majority but I expect that it will scrape through. Rather than embracing a role as key shapers of the future development of the European project, that would leave the UK in the same position it has been for most of the past forty years - at the party but grumbling and hanging round the exit.

    The very worst case, IMHO, would be a narrow victory for leave. We'd get all the costs and uncertainties of working out the process of leaving while aware that it might have been unnecessary if a few more people had been bothered to vote.

    I'm also hoping there will be a high turnout. It will be an indictment of our political system if, after this extensive campaign, a high proportion of people either choose not to (or don't choose to) vote.