The memories of mass marches, grassroots protests, and MPs’ determination are clouded by the danger of a no-deal Brexit. The cause to Remain has been shaped by external forces, potentially for the last time. And in this climate of worry, a second referendum has become a fantasy.
First published in August 2019.
Everyone is using the wartime analogies to explain our current walk into Hades, so I’ll do the same just to fit the fashions. It’s early August with (as I write), 83 days left till we plummet out of the EU without a deal. To me, the atmosphere is like the Phoney War: readily preparing ourselves both physically and mentally for a storm to engulf us. We should be worried. A year ago it felt that we had time to counteract the crisis, to protest harder than ever before. But now? It’s as though the rug has been swept from under our feet – and with it, the People’s Vote campaign.
Only this morning did the Office for National Statistics report that the UK economy is shrinking, for the first time since 2012 with all its heady Olympic glory. The sour taste of recession is tart to the lips of everyone worried about their country’s future. In our recent history, recession means cuts, poverty, austerity. I don’t think the UK can take much more of that. Even with the Government of Boris’ handsome suggestions at spending, seeing a shrinking economy with a puritanical free-market Tory team at the wheel is frightening.
And for Carney’s sake, don’t look at the value of the pound. For holidaymakers it’s a grim return on their euros and dollars. You’ve gone off on a week’s holiday to a sunlit upland, only to return to your bureau de change with decidedly less cash to exchange. According to everyone’s favourite bag of wonky veg Rod Liddle, this is absolutely fine.
For us common folk, the Spectator article in question is guarded behind a paywall. Probably for the best. In the first sentence Liddle makes a reference to Eva Braun, so you know just where the tone is going. His argument is that holidaying in the UK is now better than going overseas. I mean, it’s hardly revolutionary stuff from him. It’s also supremely ignorant to think people will opt for a staycation on financial grounds. Some might think Mr Liddle is out of touch with reality.
But looking at the wider picture, Liddle’s insouciance to the perils we face typify our government’s blasé attitude. And it’s because of this that the People’s Vote campaign has died a quiet death. A portfolio of marches and direct action have been squandered by the hard brick wall of reality. Namely, the Tory fanatical perseverance for no-deal, and the Labour Party leadership’s can-kicking. Marches have certainly made the news, regardless of what some anti-Brexit activists have said. Brian from Hemel Hempstead, whose character I am considering developing for next year’s Edinburgh Fringe, continues to mask himself on Twitter and shower his persona in hashtags, claiming it’s all one big conspiracy. Between you and me, the People’s Vote campaign haven’t exactly helped themselves…
You know what this open and tolerant movement needs? Banning certain newspapers! If I could throw my ‘yikes’ out of the window, I certainly would. I would want it back though – there’s bound to be more insidious takes in the next few weeks.
But as if by glorious sparkly magic, we have been blessed. I have argued for what seems like a century why People’s Vote needs to control its grassroots activism and popular voices. Politicians are a little different, hence why Andrew Adonis still walks the Remainer lawn like a prowling cat. The more amateur activists, who have gained followings and notoriety for their campaigning, have been given free rein to inspire or offend as they see fit. Yesterday morning, self-titled ‘EU Supergirl’ tweeted a troubling racist term which gained a whole lot of criticism. And for good reason.
It would be fine if this tweet was quickly deleted, apologised for, and moved on with some welcome lessons. However over the past 24 hours, there has been a veritable shitstorm of defence for Madeleina Kay’s tweet, and her subsequent apology which wasn’t really an apology – more a backhanded remark observing a pathetic justification.
Language matters in politics. It inspires, it torments. Doubling down, which as can be seen from this timeline of horrors, has occurred.
Well yes, I am outraged. Outraged that a prominent and seemingly respected campaigner has a platform which hasn’t been given any formal regulation. Frankly, it’s the amateur activism and juvenile approaches to campaigning which have laced People’s Vote with a tag of unprofessionalism. I am not saying everything has fallen apart because of silly gaffes. But in retrospect, the People’s Vote campaign have always been seen as tertiary to the major political developments. I wonder if it had either tightened or slackened its approach, if anything would be different.
I was proud to march in London last October. Made me feel like I was doing something, a positive action to respond to the most negative of politics. But in this current whirlpool, it is hard not to think the past year or so has been for naught. No-deal is a monumental threat to the UK, Ireland, and the EU. We have seen economic forecasts and jobs already vanish. A failing settled scheme is painfully working through EU citizens in this country, and the crash will certainly condemn UK migrants in the EU to a residency nightmare.
We may yet Remain. Politicians may find some way to stop no-deal. But it will be up to historians to work out how the Remain movement could have done better. But for People’s Vote and its mixture of fantastic local groups and virulent bad takes – the wheels on that yellow bus have certainly punctured.🔷
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