Inside out

One would think that such a momentous issue as the European Union referendum in the UK, would infect a nation into a lively and confident debate. In contrast to the Scotish Independence debate, we witnessed south of the border what we are currently witnessing is nothing short of a kindergarten dispute founded on scare mongering and ludicrous claim after ludicrous claim. Bogeymen are paraded by the Out Campaigners, unnamed bureaucrats wanting to control the shape of bananas, the international conspiracy of benefit seekers attacking the white cliffs of Dover. Our very own tuppence ha’penny Churchill wannabe Boris Johnson leading the Out Campaign even managed to dig up the premier league of bogeymen Adolf Hitler, which made him sound like an archaic outtake from a 1970s BBC sitcom, which failed to be recommissioned after its pilot series. Meanwhile, the Remain Campaign produce dense technical reports setting out their assumption of an economic shock if we were to leave the EU, house prices to crumble, the cost of food to escalate, jobs to be lost.  These reports contain detailed graphs showing how the economy will fall off a cliff edge like an army of lemmings.  Not to mention the threat of World War 3 and the suggestion that the leader of IsIs is a supporter of the Leave Campaign.

The nature of the in-out debate is a reflection of the health of our democracy, and ultimately nobody is more responsible for the infantile status of this discussion than people like us. We have over the past few decades distanced ourselves from the democratic and political process and increasingly became casual observers like transfixed children watching a Punch and Judy Show from behind a soundproof window called a Television. Our political process is no longer about the use of power and accountability, but soundbite and spin. A process that may require an occasional change of actors, but the script remains the same.

Complex issues and political choices are simply not the domain of 140 words scrambled together in a tweet. They require information,  careful deliberation, and the mutual exchange of ideas before forming a decision. But this is incredibility difficult in an environment where politicians, through their irresponsibility, have allowed their important role in our democratic fabric to be vilified. Powerful concepts like equality, rights, and equity have been spun out of our political language and replaced with passive surrogates like fairness, choice and opportunity that are constantly regurgitated and repackaged. Those elected to provide vision and enthuse engagement are acting like middle managers more preoccupied with process rather than building bridges, sharing honest information and working alongside communities to shape solutions. Their primary game is the maintenance of tribal power and the avoidance of accountability, ensuring the average looks better than what it actually is and ensuring blame sits elsewhere.

There is little doubt that the EU institutions are inaccessible and the warbling defence of them by the Remain Campaign is rather pitiful in the same way the Out Campaigners claim the UK parliament is a holy grail of democracy, which it is not. Remember it was the UK government that has taken us into one disastrous war after another in recent history. The Lords remains entirely unelected.  Some local councils have a mandate of less than 25%. Only 66% of people eligible to vote bother to do so at general elections. The current UK government was only elected on 36% of those who actually voted. There is the banal talk of ‘voter apathy’ in an attempt to divert responsibility from the established political elite, but they fail to realise that through this lazy analysis that they are part of the problem.

The ugly side of the Little Britain caricature is no more prevalent than when the issue of migration is brought into a debate. There are many good politicians out there, but they do not seem to have the confidence to navigate such a sensitive issue with fear of being labelled racist. The movement of people across the globe is a result of political, economic and environmental instability. If we are truly interested in tackling the issue then we do so by understanding the problem and not demonising those who seek stability from conflicts we often instigate, support or finance. Human beings deserve much better than being left to the cut-throat pirates who trade on their misery through illegal smuggling. These concerns can only be resolved through increased international cooperation rather than less.

To support continued membership of international and cross-border bodies is not defacto support for the culture and purpose of the existing institutions. Those making the case for the UK to leave on the basis the EU is a relic of the past do not seem to be making the same case for the UK to leave NATO. The UK, of course, has the potential to be an economic island throwing out trade agreements across a global free market economy. As an internationalist it’s not the vision I’m interested in, I will be voting remain. I want to see increased integration across Europe, socially, culturally and politically. I do not fear the free flow of labour no more than the free movement of capital.

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