But what is the UK to be, now?

The identity of the UK is in a crisis of much longer-standing than the disgusting populism that currently discerns it by such criteria as your socio-economic influence, what colour your skin is, whether you lean Left or Right, what religion you might practise or where your parents were born. Politically, that is as much about how certain people so badly need to mark or choose our personal identities for us as it is about how we might or might not identify ourselves – because finger-pointing and division serve their social comfort and agenda.

Also apparent, particularly since the first Scottish independence referendum, is the severity of the identity crisis of the UK, itself, which, post the Brexit result, is now a direct, overt and rather urgent matter. We should all care, whether petty tribalist or sincere patriot; scapegoated or scapegoater.

Unionists, Nationalists, Independents and Federalists; centralisation, devolution, globalism and localism; Brexit-Remain; Left-centrist-Right: somewheres and anywheres: we’re all being stitched up, in whichever part of the UK we live, howsoever we identify or have been categorised.

Conflict within and between our individual and collective identities are not recent phenomena. Anyone who reads history and/or literature, has lived long enough or just pays general attention to human nature knows there has always been friction and tension between the micro and macro. At this point in our timeline, though, when malice, mischievous tinkering and authoritarianism are determining the future at a confluence of circumstances, it behoves us to think more deeply, sensibly and bravely.

What and who and how is the UK to be, now?

One big country with one central government (beneficial democratic reforms notwithstanding)? Four separate countries joined in equal union? I said equal. Four co-dependent states under a mishmash of overlapping powers and inconsistent arbitration, secretly content in their mutual aggravation?

Or are we four ideologically disparate nations, who merely happen to share a lot of history, mostly by quirk of geographical proximity but who should just call time and separate? Or is it too easy and too terrible to think that? I hope so.

Whichever we are, we need to decide. And fast. If we can’t even negotiate and co-operate with each other – with ourselves – with mutual respect and for mutual benefit, then what of our prognosis, with the rest of the world?

Do do re-run

“Let’s not re-run the referendum campaign” – Those that say this might have a vaguely reasonable point if a rational and more honest campaign had been run. The reason that arguments still need to be had is because they were not actually had at the appropriate time; because politicians and journalists did not know or understand the substance requiring consideration nor their various consequences, any better than voters. And because some simply did not care. But the electorate needed to know all manner of what questions to ask and precious few people ever asked them.

If you think about it, every plebiscite re-runs arguments. It’s part of the messy, ongoing nature of Democracy. Politicians do it all the time – and social media, too, now. Hell, people are re-running arguments from decades, even centuries ago. Whether or not they are helpful or even relevant, still. This one is.

I don’t particularly want to want another referendum, either. Certainly not several (Scotland and Ireland.. Wales..?) You know I always thought the first EU ref was reckless and unnecessary and that the result was swung by a misdirected hissy fit. But, seriously, Brexit: what the heck did you expect? That Remain would cave and go quietly into catastrophic but preventable repercussions?

And it is foolish and weak to cry voter fatigue when, short of Parliament coming to its senses and riskily circumventing the People’s much-fêted Will, another public vote is the best available solution to settling something properly. Anyway, it serves ‘us’ right for not doing it properly, in the first place. We could have had a double majority. Cameron said no. We could have had a minimum differential. Cameron said no. We could have let 16/17ers vote on their futures. Cameron said no.

That cross in the box: it was just the start. Now comes the hard bit. A healthy democracy requires ongoing engagement and active participation. What a sorry lot we are if voters can’t take some responsibility for the “will of the people” and the downside of political choices and show keenness for a better understanding and a sharper attention to detail. After years of voters protesting that politicians don’t listen, it is surreal to imagine people preferring to make sure they don’t.

If all things now have a Brexity lens and if Brexit suddenly looks and sounds more complicated than sold, well, too bad. It always was going to be and if clarifying “the will of the people” sounds like too much effort, too threatening, too divisive or patience-testing, especially after having actively supplied the need, then, tough shit. Can’t willingly open cans of worms and then complain about the tangled fallout because “people are tired of elections”. Another tedious plebiscite is surely more sensible than simply rushing into a permanent mistake.

And it has to be a referendum rather than a general election, not just because the choice needs to be clear of party promises but because the latter option gives us no viable, electorally palatable alternative. No matter the demonstrable tunnel-vision and incompetence of the Tories, Labour offers a demonstrably incompetent ideologue. Both have bought into Brexit. Faced with yet another least-worst-option choice, the Conservatives would likely get another mandate. And then they will be Brexit on Viagra.

[PS: If any anti-Brexit moderates of the Conservative and Labour parties should conclude that their party is a democratic dud and decide to stand up for the best interests of a United Kingdom by giving their numbers to the Lib Dem benches – and voters a real choice, thereby – I reckon I could live with that.]