J.S. Villiers's Blog - Posts Tagged "politics"
I went for lunch yesterday with some friends. We’d all voted Remain, and we were all upset. Someone suggested we should have a European lunch to celebrate our continental cousins, so we went for Portuguese.
Ok, we went for Nandos.
It still felt good.
I had work to do afterwards, which always normally prevents me from drinking at lunchtime. Yesterday though, I didn’t care. I drank. It was important.
They say you go through a number of emotional states when coming to terms with a major change in your life. I’ve gone through many in the last 24 hours. It started with a chaotic blend of emotions I can’t honestly reconcile with the traditional gamut of human experiences. There was certainly shock, if that’s even an emotion, and definitely some anger, topped off with a host of more abstract feelings such as shame, frustration and panic.
“We’re going to leave the EU,” said my fiancée. They were the words that woke me up, the words that filtered into my newly conscious mind, the words that first roused a sense of semblance to the new day, only to dash the whole fucking sordid awakening against the bleak and empty carcass that was to be the morning.
That was the theme of the day, and yes, it was miserable. Yes, it was also immature and not befitting of a man who should by rights have got better at coping with emotions by this point in his life.
And no, I still haven’t got used to it, and yes, it’s still going to take some time.
We went for lunch.
I achieved little else. I scoured the webpages of the BBC, reading through torment after torment as all my emotions that had risen and fallen throughout the campaign reared their heads for a last, painful moment of horror before I finally sunk to a low I hadn’t experienced for a long time.
The anger was just the beginning. And it was, at least in part, justified. The campaign had been fought on a bed of ever deepening lies. Both sides had excelled themselves in demonstrating an ability to reach lower and lower levels of depravity in their dreadful attempts to outdo each other’s gibberish. On top of the awful bullshit spouted by one politician after another came the stench-bedecked piles of crap heaped upon us all by the tabloids, the internet memes and, it turned out, even the broadsheets. No-one could be trusted.
None of that in itself was a surprise, of course. It was de rigueur for any political process. What hurt was the freedom of politicians to lie so openly and so blatantly, and to know that so many people had been misguided by such horrendous mistruths as to vote for something they were never going to get. That was the rub; or rather, that was the part of it that was most sickening. All of it was the rub.
The anger flowed.
And yes, there was shame, because I’ve taken great pleasure in meeting people from all over the world throughout my life, and travelling and holidaying in all sorts of interesting places, but mostly in the EU, where I still have many friends, and to be part of a nation that’s been duped into committing such a foolish act by self-serving arseholes is something that fills me not just with anger but with immense embarrassment. I know most continental Europeans have long had a certain disdain for the stereotypical drunken English football hooligan, but despite that it’s generally a positive moment when I’ve met people from other nations and they’ve discovered I’m English. Our nationality has enjoyed a reputation that is, on balance, very positive. But, at least for the foreseeable future, I will remain embarrassed to meet anyone from any part of the world, not least the EU. We are now a nation of fools, and they all know it.
I also had to endure the frustration that was, despite my best attempts, dedicated to my fellow Britons. Yes, we live in a democracy. I believe in democracy as the best option available. I’m used to being annoyed by its failings, but never before have I experienced a moment when I genuinely doubted its place as the premier system of government.
And I was wrong to, of course.
I shouldn’t be angry with my fellow Britons, however much I may disagree with them. Much has been said of the anti-immigrant sentiment, amongst other reasons for voting Leave. The truth is there are good reasons for voting Leave. I just happen to believe there are far better reasons for voting Remain. I also believe that many people that voted Leave will come to regret it, but that’s not for me to decide.
And I absolutely believe that many people who voted Leave did so because of the lies told by politicians. This is where I tormented myself today with many horrible thoughts that were never going to help. The biggest of these was the question of whether there is anything that can yet be done to prevent this awful moment in UK history. Many have signed a petition to have the issue debated in parliament, which is a nice idea, but really it’s just heaping democracy on top of democracy, and there’s no genuine justification for doing so.
I pondered for some time the idea that the referendum wasn’t actually legal, because so many voters were compelled to vote Leave by a campaign that had lied so blatantly to them. This was more credible than a parliamentary debate, as there is a genuine issue around the freedom of politicians to lie to the electorate during campaigns. Surely there are few in our country who believe this was acceptable? Some of the lies weren’t simply outrageous in their blatancy, but outrageous in how fabulously untrue they were. To think that a whole generation (or two or three) have been sold down the river because a career politician had the nutsack to scream falsehoods at 60 million people is utterly disgusting. This was a truly atrocious display of false democracy.
I maintain that a vote based on lies is not a democratic process. It’s warped, twisted, and utterly shameful. It has no place in a culture that prides itself on a free vote, and especially in one that has the temerity to demand a free vote in other nations.
This was the point in my thoughts today where I checked myself, and stopped my mind from disintegrating any further.
It wasn’t going to help.
I’ve not yet come to terms with this change, and it may take a while yet, but I have at least turned a corner. What confronts me around that corner isn’t much prettier, but it is perhaps a little more useful.
I have a new determination. I can’t change this result. This campaign is long over, and the UK is going to leave the EU. That was a difficult sentence to write, and it still makes me feel a little sick to say the words. But it’s happening, and I have to get used to it.
What I don’t have to get used to is the process that led to this moment. It was a new low in British politics, and one that shouldn’t be repeated. From now on, every time I see such bullshit entering the democratic process, I will declare shenanigans. I will scream from the rooftops if I have to. These arseholes must not be allowed to make decisions through sheer deceit. I will vote against every last fuckwit that tries to ruin British democracy, because even if all else is lost, a truly free vote at least brings hope of a better future.
I’ll remember that notion whilst I watch helplessly as the Conservatives elect a new prime minister of their own choosing.
Changing politics may be a long, slow process, and a fight that we can’t win today. But however bad things may look, I’m not giving up. The future isn’t written.
It’s not too late.
The result, as we know, is left versus right. Attempts to gain significant ground in the centre have struggled to break the old system. In recent years we’ve seen changes - first, both parties took a step towards the centre to win more votes from moderates. Then, while Labour were throwing themselves back to the far left, the Tories were at risk of shedding votes to the far right, and in a painfully misguided attempt to head this off, Cameron took us into a referendum we’ve never managed to get out of. The Tories have trudged steadily rightwards ever since.
Where does it end? If parliament agrees to an election this side of Christmas then we’ll find out soon enough. But the recent changes show a clear trend.
Theresa May came into the 2017 term with 317 seats. Since then, Charlie Elphicke was sacked (twice) over sexual assault allegations. Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston quit to form a new party. Allen and Wollaston ended up with the Lib Dems.
Nick Boles quit in frustration over Brexit and is now independent. Phillip Lee hilariously crossed the floor to join the Lib Dems while Johnson was mid-rhetoric. Amber Rudd also resigned the whip. And, of course, 21 Tories were sacked for voting against No Deal and now sit as independent conservatives.
In summary, that’s a grand total of 28 MPs that were voted in as Conservatives at the last election but are Tory no more.
What happens to their seats? Time will tell. Unless any are accepted back into the fold (assuming they wish to be) the Tory party will put forward new candidates for those seats. Those candidates are likely to be pro-Brexit. A good number of them may be on the far right and rather keen on the idea of No Deal. Even those that aren’t so enthusiastic are probably going to be more accepting of it than the current crop of ex-Tory moderates.
In short, if those seats remain blue, and Johnson holds on to his existing set of MPs, that’s 28 more than he’s got now, and they’ll all be willing to support this dismally poor deal.
But more alarmingly still is that makes it far more likely the deal would go through without amendments. And without amendments, the Withdrawal Agreement is set up to fail. Parliament won’t be able to force an extension to free trade discussions. Johnson can take us out of the EU without a trade agreement in December 2020. And he will have significant support in parliament for this outcome.
There’s no majority for No Deal from the electorate. Almost all economists agree it would be immensely damaging. And yet, a general election retains this outcome as a sizeable possibility.
Nevertheless, those parties opposed to Johnson’s deal are left with a poor range of options in front of them. The alternative is to attempt to push for a final referendum on the current deal. If that push fails, their position is weakened, and they go into a general election with Johnson having momentum. Recently it hasn’t looked like there was enough support for a referendum. That may change if Johnson shelves the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
One hopes that MPs will be doing what MPs do best – holding sneaky conversations and striking deals behind closed doors. But if there still aren’t the numbers for a referendum then a general election really is the only way out of this mess, whatever your Brexit desires may be.
And if it comes to that, perhaps the most important action the rest of us can take is encouraging all around us to register to vote, and to turn up at the polling station on the day. Whatever the result, the only hope for future unity is if the outcome actually does represent the will of the people. I just hope the people aren’t willing on a Tory party taking an even bigger leap towards the right.