Tuesday is set to be a historical day in modern British politics. In this special edition of The Sunday Roast, Daniel Reast considers the vote in its context and its potential effects.
Our political culture is defined by the actions of our representatives and the interpretations of their role. As citizens, we are the judges and benefactors of the products of democracy. It is a symbiotic relationship between the people and their empowered leaders. For this relationship to work effectively, our political culture must be a sacrosanct climate of civility and respect.
On Monday, the new political year began with the British contingent of gilet jaunes, who I personally prefer to call ‘banana body-warmers’, harassing and abusing Conservative MP Anna Soubry, as well as other journalists and political staff. The footage from BBC News of Soubry’s interview has been shared widely for its shocking insults by protestors, calling the Broxtowe MP a ‘Nazi’ repeatedly. Guardian journalist Owen Jones also experienced a torrent of vitriol and homophobia as he live-streamed walking through Westminster.
The week has been performing as a slideshow of far-right thugs parading themselves through London like high visibility Morris Dancers. At a rally on Saturday, ‘the fash’ went to aggravate left-wing activists who had gathered to demand an election. Arrests were made, with reports of one protestor carrying a knife. The rally itself was a peaceful demonstration, carried out through civil methods. Until scheduled speaker Weyman Bennett (joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism) tells Theresa May to “shoot yourself” to the assembled crowds.
Shadow Chancellor and self-confessed Marxist John McDonnell was standing on the steps of Nelson’s Column waiting for his turn.
This is not meant as a comparison, or intended to create a competition between who can be the most horrible. All hate is bad, no matter where it resides. A popular quote by rational philosopher Karl Popper is a framework for managing the rhetoric of hate. He states, “If we extend tolerance even to those who are intolerant… then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.” It’s a remarkable statement of common sense; I am certainly a believer in its meaning. But how one chooses to handle intolerance is much harder to consider.
Yes, we must counter intolerance and prejudice. It has allowed racism and discrimination to persist in our society and culture. Brexit itself has acted as Pandora’s Box, with all the possible political arguments and crises pouring out. If hope is to be gained from surviving through the torrential Brexit hurricane, it must be through a civil society.
This has been a preachy and holier-than-thou article, I admit. But next week’s events will certainly bring more upsets and more breaking news notifications on your smartphones. The movement to reverse Brexit and Remain in the EU has been led by peaceful protest and discussion. We must continue to challenge and debate, but not heckle or insult as many do. As I stated in an earlier article, the Remain campaign is on the cusp of a breakthrough – and our rhetoric must be inclusive and diverse, not snooty.
Truly, I wish for Tuesday’s result to lead to a positive start on the journey to Remain. This country needs a Reconstruction to build bridges and champion community. But if our journey is not our preferred choice, let’s not emulate the hatred but hold onto our passion with pride. Here’s to another wonderful week in politics.🔷
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com. | The author writes in a personal capacity.)