Let’s face it, many – very many – people in our country have urgent pressing issues that need sorting out immediately if not sooner. Few decent jobs, even less social or affordable housing, industries changed beyond recognition from privatisation of Royal Mail to the strangulation of the UK fishing sector, (although the suggestion that Michael Gove’s family business was wrecked by the EU has been shown to be “codswallop“), the uncertainty brought about by changes in population. It is wrong to dismiss these as unimportant or imagined, and blaming EU membership for failings mostly in domestic politics is worryingly attractive.
I’m voting Remain on the basis that progressive voices are louder as part of the EU than outside it, that the social dimension to economic and industrial policies remains stronger on the continent than here in the UK, that unrestrained by the EU the Tories will be even more destructive than they are at present.
There is also that the EU will still be there if we leave and we can exert more influence from inside than out. And finally, something not spoken of enough – it is a much better way to regulate international affairs than the military carnage mainland Europe suffered in the hundred years that preceded the original Treaties of Rome.
I get that decent people with sincere beliefs will sway towards voting Brexit. But just look at the company that you would be in – some Conservatives have already switched sides because of the fantasists and xenophobes who dominate the Leave campaign.
I will name just two – Boris and Michael. Mr Johnson has been publically condemned for putting his Prime Ministerial ambitions ahead of any dignity or integrity. And Mr Gove’s dog-whistle, fear –fuelled, deliberately disingenuous tactics belie the intelligence he reportedly has – and demeans the high offices of state he has occupied.
Yes, I know the Remain camp has a few characters of its own you might not want to spend time with – Michael O’Leary for one – but they do seem to be a minority.
But we don’t have to look very far to see where the isolationist, chauvinistic nationalism can lead us – Look at the rise of Donald Trump in the US and his response to the “Pulse” mass-murder which surely plumbs new depths.
But controversial and complex as the EU debate undoubtedly is, I think there is a another reason why the debate has become some bitter and fraught. It is simply that our country is not at ease with itself. The “haves” have too too much. Too many survive rather than live. Politics seems remote, cut-off, insulated from too many. Politicians are seen as part of a self-serving establishment that includes mainstream media. Political debate ping-pongs between the sterile and the toxic. The blame-game is everywhere and tribalism is rampant. Is it a surprise so many are turned off?
Even if our politics is as grey and stormy as this month’s weather, this does not have to be a given. We can change things and there is an alternative. “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” For “kindness” read humanity, tenacity, integrity, cooperation-not-conflict, for-the-many-not-the-few.
Whilst all those around us may lose their decency, we must never use that as a justification for abandoning our own. I believe the EU referendum is a defining moment for us – but what happens after the vote (whichever way it goes) will be even more important.