Tag Archives: EU Referendum

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?