Tag Archives: Brexit

Dear Mr Cameron,

A month is a very long time in politics, as I’m sure you know better than I do. To me the speed with which the media has dispatched your resignation and flown on to newer things is quite remarkable. You were the Prime Minister for goodness sake, and all the newspapers seem to care about now is how brilliantly Theresa May is doing, or how quickly the Labour Party is going to fall apart. To be fair, there is still a remarkable amount of attention-grabbing news going on, so perhaps it’s no wonder that they’re not looking at you any more.

My suspicion is that you’re pretty relieved about that. After all, let’s face it, you had a lot to do with the earth-shaking political events that have been going on in the last couple of months. You were our leader, after all. You enacted policies during your premiership that can quite clearly be identified as root causes of our current political difficulties. You forgot that the economy ought to be the servant of the people, not the other way round; you stripped vulnerable people of their safety net; you have gradually eroded workers’ rights; you have brought about economic instability for many of the British public; and you fed the lie that all the resulting fear and insecurity are caused by people moving to our country to live and work here. Heavy charges indeed, I am aware.

I do however have some sympathy for you. The culture of politics is always shifting according to where the power is more focused, in the UK at least, and in you we seemed to reach the pinnacle of ‘professional politician’. I’m not trotting down the old worn-out line of ‘oh, he’s never had any real life experience because he’s never worked outside of politics’. That’s utter nonsense, since you clearly have a wealth of life experience both within politics and within your own family life. No, my concern is more that there was a very confined image of what a politician ought to be by the time you stepped into power, and you were unable – perhaps through lack of inclination, or lack of self-awareness – to challenge that concept. But contorting yourself to fit a pre-determined role simply shuts down imaginative and visionary capacities, and I wonder if that’s why you seemed to lose the energy and passion you began with when you first took up leadership of the Conservative Party.

And so we come to the subject I particularly wanted to address: the EU referendum. I suppose anyone with any sense ought to have seen the outcome months before the vote took place. The problem was that we had managed to convince ourselves that in Britain, on balance, the public prefers the status quo. We had the Scottish referendum as evidence, after all. Nobody properly understood just how deeply dissatisfied the public has become. I don’t think I could convey to you my own sense of the country’s mood during your premiership, because I’m not sure you could understand it. It has felt as though you have been turning the screw tighter and tighter, like a child wanting to see how tight it will go before it snaps. It has been contraction, gloom, increasingly pressured public services (though still somehow able to deliver above and beyond what you resource them to do), increasing stress around working hours and working rights. I know, I know there are some good things you have done, but overall they don’t shine brightly enough to overshadow the tendrils of stress and fear that have been groping their way into society. If I was to summarise it simply, you failed to give us hope. And I can’t help but think that the referendum result was a direct consequence of that very fact.

I do struggle with having trust in politicians, I will admit it. Twenty years of following politics to a greater or lesser degree has left me a bit tired and cynical, I guess. But do you know, the one time I have truly felt that you were talking about something you actually believed in was when you were campaigning to remain in the European Union. It felt as though you were actually concerned for the people who live in this country if we were to vote to leave. Before that, you seemed so wrapped up in your ideological state-shrinking project that people, on the whole, weren’t that important. It’s such a shame that it took such a drastic moment for you to show that integrity. It’s such a shame that it was a crisis that you had such a hand in creating, too. It wasn’t just about your role in creating national anxiety, it was also about you lacking the courage to face the conflict over Europe within your own party, and handing the problem over to the public to decide instead. I do see the reasoning behind your decision to do so, but I happen to think that your actions were shameful. You played a very dangerous game, and I hope – I really hope – that if nothing else, you feel some remorse for the state you have left us in.

I realise I have criticised you thoroughly in this letter, and my own shame is that I don’t know whether I would feel comfortable in discussing these things with you face to face. How easy it is to hide behind a keyboard and computer screen! As I write, I am trying to practice an awareness of how my words will impact you, a fellow human being, should you ever read this. And I know I would find it difficult to read such words if they were written about me. But you were after all in a position of enormous responsibility, and such responsibility needs to be held to account. The media has generally left you alone for now, but I wonder how long it will be before attention comes back to you and you are asked to account for your actions – and how ready you will be to answer.

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Dear Britain,

You have very recently been through a fairly traumatic event. Granted, not an earthquake or hurricane; not drought or a famine; not a terrorist attack or a war on your doorstep; but threats do not always come from external sources, and it is sometimes the internal threats that are more insidious and root their destruction more deeply into a society, causing cracks in the foundations. The EU referendum posed a question that strikes at the very core of your identity, and the circus around it ensured that you would be left with a burden of stress and anxiety. You’re anxious because you voted to remain, and now you worry for your future after exiting the EU. You’re anxious because you voted to leave – what if the decision is kicked into the long grass, smothered in the notorious red tape of the EU machine? You were manipulated into a state of fear by the main referendum campaigns, and it doesn’t look as though those fears are going to be allayed any time soon.

I suspect that short-sighted politicians thought that they could whip up this fear and then tell you ‘it’s all right’ like a soothing mamma, and you would go back to sleep. Not this time. Westminster has driven you a step too far to reassure you with well-meaning platitudes, and you have become far too used to politicians who make promises and then conveniently forget them a few months or years down the line.

I think that the anger towards your political leaders has been growing for some time. Anger that curled for a while in its lair, present but dormant while you were still able to pretend to yourself that the next government would have the answers. Anger that woke slowly and found its voice in that huge and unexpected vote against ‘the establishment’. And then it didn’t take long after the referendum for the whole edifice to come crumbling down – how quickly those campaign promises were reneged on! So much for triggering article 50 immediately after the referendum if that was the will of the people. So much for the extra £350 million a year for the NHS. So much for stopping the free movement of labour.

No wonder your anger sprang from its lair and pounced. Yes, you have directed it towards many different culprits, and expressed it in many different ways – you are after all an entity of multiple personalities – but I believe that there is a unity in that anger; that it springs from a sense of being betrayed, and a deep insecurity. After all, who is there left to trust?

You cannot thrive while you are insecure. And I believe that insecurity runs throughout the entirety of you: whether politician or constituent, public or private sector worker, Royal family member or Benefits Street family member. It runs deep into the core of your establishment, as it navigates its way through a changing global landscape of terrorism, Middle Eastern unrest and an uncertain global economy. No easy task, but those with public influence nevertheless have a huge responsibility to recognise their power to influence your mood, and to exert that power with caution and delicacy.

Dear Britain, I believe that you can thrive again. I believe that you can learn courage in the face of fear, courage that enables you to confront your own inadequacies and learn from them. I believe it is possible for you to rebuild trust, with patience and time. It will require you to question yourself over and over and over again, holding yourself to account for every decision made, and examining claims made through your media carefully before deciding for yourself whether they are true. You will need to be alert to the powerful influence of the private sector, and you will need to raise up a new generation of politicians who will not bow to its demands. Above all, you will need to believe that a better future is possible, one in which political honesty is no longer considered a weakness; one in which you don’t simply consume soundbites, but question the ways in which you are being influenced; one in which you are truly able to listen to and help those who are afraid or vulnerable. I believe you can become all of this – do you?

 

Dear World,

I don’t think us British have much of a sense of what effect our recent domestic wranglings have had – and will have – on the global stage. Some of us do, but I suspect not enough, or we wouldn’t have got ourselves into the state we’re now in. So we’ve got ourselves into this massive political tangle, our economy has crashed and needed some quite fancy footwork to get back on its feet, and that small element of our society who thinks racial hatred is OK has felt validated in its actions. Add to that the economic and political shockwaves felt in many other countries by our decision, and to me it feels like we’ve got a lot to apologise for.

For a start, our ruling party has unleashed a beast that they had little idea of the size of, and next to no idea of how to contain. The beast is fear, conceived in an uncertain economic climate born of too many years of austerity, that have made the poor poorer, and are now rocking the economic stability of the middle classes.

And so we, as a nation, voted to raise the drawbridge and seal ourselves off from having to confront the politics of difference any more. Those who are already here can stay – they’re just about OK – but no more foreigners for us, thank you. It’s dreadful indictment on our political classes that they managed to sell us the lie that immigration has caused our economic vulnerability. Not just because of the rift such discourse opens up in our own society, but also because it has a huge impact on our interactions with the rest of you.

My burning question in the midst of all this mess is whether our political establishment will ever apologise for its role in all of this. Sadly, I’m not sure it even recognises the full extent of its culpability.

To begin with, a referendum should never have even been held on British membership of the EU. I realise that a lot of fellow Brits will now stand up and shout ‘oi! We had a right to reclaim our sovereignty!’ But the fact is that until David Cameron decided to placate the small but powerful right-wing element of his party by holding a ‘safe’ referendum, most of us didn’t know what on earth the EU was or what our relationship was with it. Most of us probably still don’t have much of a clue even now. What we were fed in the campaign was an indigestible mess of spin, propaganda and ideology that bore very little relevance to the actual costs and benefits of EU membership. Costs and benefits that we exercised our sovereignty in agreeing to.

So in effect, David Cameron placed a bet on a sure thing in order to unify his party, only to find that his horse fell at the last jump. Boris Johnson also thought he was quids in, expecting to raise up a large army of disappointed leave campaigners to support his bid to become the next prime minister. His morning-after face on June 24th was very telling indeed. Then, of course, every Tory MP who went along with this charade is also held culpable, if they placed more importance on their own position and power than on the welfare of those their actions have an impact on.

And talking of placing more importance on one’s own position and power than on anything else brings us neatly to the Labour Party. Imagine what they could have achieved, if they had made even the slightest effort at some kind of unity. Jeremy Corbyn, adept as he is at opening up dialogue in conflict situations, could not sway the intransigence of the Labour right. It seems clear now that from the beginning of his leadership, minds were set against him despite his strong mandate from Labour party members. What we’re seeing now is rank opportunism at its absolute worst, played out at a time when Britain desperately needs a strong and unified opposition party. I shouldn’t need to point out that unity does not require all members to agree on everything, it simply needs the grace to concede with one another and to compromise. I had hoped for so much better from the Labour Party.

And there you have it. Our political establishment in all its glory. Its campaigning on both sides of the argument was breathtakingly inward-focused, appealing predominantly to British self-interest. It didn’t seem to matter what the rest of the world thought or felt, even though plenty of politicians knew that a decision to leave would create economic shockwaves across the globe. Nor did it matter if we sent a message about the strength of fear and xenophobia, because whose business is it what we get up to? Well I believe we have as much global responsibility as we do local, and so you, dear world, have my apology, for what it’s worth. I’m just not sure you’ll ever get one from the people most responsible for bringing all of this about.

The Return

It’s been a while, I know. I’m afraid I had to let this blog lapse whilst I did the whole returning to work after kids thing, which involved a great deal of puzzling out as to what I could do that would fit in with all the other things that I already did.

I think I may have come up with a working solution, which is in its early stages but nevertheless is looking hopeful. However just as I begin to establish a new career, of course, we happen to experience political upheaval in Britain such as I have never known before. Whilst on the one hand vaguely hoping that the outcome of the referendum won’t affect my business plan (such as it is), on the other I am acutely aware of the shock experienced by a political establishment whose complacent expectations were proved so misguided given the referendum result.

So that is why I am here again. There are so many, many questions raised in the wake of what you might call a cataclysmic event, and I want this to be a place where I and anyone else can ask those questions. It is in many ways a selfish project, since for me it is therapeutic to launch my thoughts into a public space, but I hope whoever ends up reading this will find it helpful in opening up and exploring their own questions as well. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has experienced restless nights and stress-infused days since the result came out. Nor am I the only one who wants to see a stronger, more compassionate and courageous Britain emerge from the chaos of what has just happened. Perhaps this blog can, in some small way, help to bring that about. I look forward to giving it a try, at any rate.