Go to come back.
Again and again,
through the Gates.
the weight of Conscience
Go to come back.
Go to come back.
Again and again,
through the Gates.
the weight of Conscience
Thing about navel-gazing:
by the time you look up,
the World has turned
and you are lost
Thing about rabbit holes:
they’re for rabbits and
rabbits means rabbits
and that’s a warren.
As you are aware, it has been fifteen months since the referendum on our membership of the European Union. Fifteen months ago, a little over half of British citizens, who voted that day, expressed a desire to leave the EU. The majority of MPs in the two main parties told you that we recognised and respected the result to leave as representing the democratic “will of the people”. Your tick on the ballot paper: that was just the start of a complex and costly process and, since the day I took over as your prime minister, a little over a year ago, my team and I have been entirely focused on enacting your will. (*cough*)
This past year has been a steep learning curve, not least, for your members of Parliament. You see, we often start with no more understanding of a subject than the rest of you because we are no more or less expert, intelligent, sensible or open-minded, than the rest of you. We are no more or less patriotic or ambitious than you. We are you. Our advantage, however, is that MPs are generally better-placed for access to divers sources in our search for facts, expertise and well-informed opinion and it is our privilege and duty to serve, to our highest ability, your best interests. My duty, right now, is to be straight with you.
Today I have to tell you that this has been a very difficult year. I have charged the very best and most enthusiastic Leave minds available with delivering a good Brexit and, though vigorous in their efforts, they simply cannot reconcile the realities of the choices and consequences with your expectations.
Arguments regarding the real choices and their very serious consequences were not had at the appropriate time. The appropriate time was before the referendum. What was presented to you as a simple choice was disingenuous, at best.
I regret to say that you have been terribly misled. Misled by the enthusiastic wild promises and ill-informed narrative of the Leave campaign; misled by a Remain campaign which failed to acknowledge that your concerns and disaffection were the result of the domestic failings of successive governments.
The lack of affordable housing, work that provides a decent living, rising household bills, the intergenerational unfairness, our underfunded and undermined public services and servants, our disjointed infrastructure… I came into politics to do good. My speech, in Downing Street, a little over a year ago, is why I became an MP and why I was keen to lead my party when David Cameron abandoned his responsibilities. I greatly fear that none of my vision – nor any of Jeremy Corbyn’s vision – is sustainable, perhaps even possible, while we remain on our present course.
You will be aware, I am sure, of the rumours and incidences regarding splits within my Cabinet and my party in general. This is because of the conflict between those who understand and are panicked by the risks and impracticalities and those who feel ideologically certain that leaving is worth any price. The pressure to reconcile such stark difference has been – is – an enormous challenge.
But, quite simply: not a single thing about which advocates of Brexit complain can be adequately solved, if solved at all, by leaving the European Union – the very club that already affords us as great a global and domestic advantage as we could possibly have. Hard Brexit is an abyss and all variations of a Soft Brexit are pale imitations, irrespective of the way you voted.
The world is a confused, frustrated and unstable place, right now. If we continue on our current path, we risk feeling and being quite alone in a precarious and rapidly shifting world. Already we can see that we will be the smallest partner and weakest voice in almost every meaningful circumstance, whether it be trade, technology, environment or foreign conflicts; whether we are acting for ourselves or as part of a collective. The rest of the World understands the dynamics of what we are inviting upon ourselves. They see how we will turn Britain into the country with the most urgent needs and the least leverage. This makes us prey. To allies and foes, alike – from country to corporation. What then of our integrity? What then of our rights, our standards and our ethics? What then for our economy and society? For our prosperity and well-being?
I cannot see how such a reckless course will give this country more sovereignty or strengthen our democracy. My inclination would be to seek to withdraw Article 50 and return to as near the status quo – as a starting point, only – as is now politically, and legally possible. I propose an appeal to the EU for a pause in the current process and to inform them of our intention to hold a fresh public vote.
I do not say this lightly. I do not seek to undermine democracy or ignore your will. On the contrary. I seek to enhance your power through democracy by confirming your will. It will still be your choice. I need you to affirm or withdraw your better-informed consent. To this end, I shall ask the Open University and the BBC to present an objective programme of public information broadcasts.
I am sorry that it has taken so long to be honest with you but Brexit is, perhaps, the greatest act of unnecessary self-harm that this country has ever committed. Yes, of course the European Union is flawed. British democracy is rather flawed, too. Both are best reformed from inside.
There is no deal outside of the EU that can be a real, sustainable and ethical improvement on what we already have. The best place to safeguard and improve our lot is from that established base. I believe that it would be wise to remain and shape our interests as the Union reforms. My most sincere hope is that you will agree.
Just got real
In parallel feels
The faithful sides
Take park and ride
To the far out right
And the left behind
In the unthink tank
All the windows stream
Can’t see where they’re going
Only where they’ve been
Where jump the shark
Is a tie that binds
The hungry heart
With a flaccid mind
Is a civic blind
And a cold hard truth
Is a hot rewind
The Brexit bus
Is a dream mis-sold
To fools who believe
There’s a road of gold
And, as foretold,
Has nothing to do with
Taking back control
As the bus careers
Through its own manholes
I am not talking our country down. You voted to leave. That decision is actively bringing our country down. I am merely observing, reporting and commenting on the myriad dismal consequences of your “will”.
No Brexit is better than a bad Brexit and there is no Brexit that is good.
If this was not sufficiently evident, to you, before the referendum, whether because you were tricked or just did not bother to inform yourself, it bloody well should be plenty evident, by now. It is not my fault that you either cannot see or will not admit this.
I love our country and you have endangered her. It is a poor patriotism that would seek to demand my silence.
Sharp tongue; blunt instrument:
I never said I was nice.
Press before leader
Leader before party
Party before country
Country before planet
And myriad fuck-ups
It’s more complex
Than you’d assumed;
Than you’ve reduced it to?
Well: who knew..?
And whatcha gonna do, now?
Back down, gracefully,
Or fetch a bigger spade?
Nothing very “centrist” about that. I remember when the common complaint of the Left was that Labour had moved to the right; that it was ‘Blue Labour’ and I remember how the Conservatives had the nerve to claim that they held the Centre when it had clearly shifted the country to the Right. Those were the days when the idea of a middle/the centre, though politically subjective, was understood to be relative; a moveable feast, eagerly sought and fought for – when to be moderate was not condemned as wishy-washy and most certainly was not used as a euphemism for ‘neoliberal’.
I wrote loads, here and on twitter, about the centre and the middle. Some of it was creative mischief or naive reactionary hyperbole, of course (just scroll up and type “middle” or “centre” into the search box) but the connective thread through my arguments was not and the topic was ripe in the Press and on social media. Back then, I was tweeting such sentiments as: “Labour stop fuss-assing with this insipid centre ground tosh. Take us Left & call it “The Centre” like Thatcher & Blair taught us 😉 #bbcsp” [April, 2013]
Those were the days when the middle/the centre was a desirable direction for those who are now calling anti-Brexit and not-keen-on-Corbyn people “centrists”, as though to hold such a position were right-wing and, therefore, anathema to Reason and decency. They forget that, like austerity, moderation is more than just a socio-economic philosophy. It is also an attitude; a reflection of an inner worldview response, mindful of extremism and hysteria, constantly taking responsibility for checking itself. There is nothing Thatcherite, neoliberal, Blairite or any other lazy labelling about that. There is little about our current political climate that is.
We are, each, the embodiment of the human condition. Peoples to a person, unique and the same, our imperatives and characteristics overlapping and bumping into each other, relative and subject to a million and one contexts. We hardly know ourselves, even as we presume to categorise others and seek to negate or reshape them to fit our fleeting comfort.
We cherry-pick ‘n mix micro and macro for argument’s sake and we treat them as isolated systems when it comes to, well, systems. We confuse and conflate effects and correlations, assigning their causes according to tribal instincts, narrow, prescriptive framing and emotional whim. And yet how easily we forget that one thing leads to another. And not just the things we chose to pay attention to.
How we fuss. We scrutinise the heart out of each other, fixing on binary reductions of acceptability or threat. We sacrifice nuance and complexity to distortion and banality. We muddle and manipulate moral equivalence and use whataboutery as the first line of defence and conflate the superficial or irrelevant with the most profound. We take simple things and turn them into complex nightmares and get indignant or complacent when extra care and attention is an obvious requirement. We tie ourselves in neurotic knots and project, as though anything and everything might bring the human world to its knees at any moment and then we saunter, blithely on, as though we were either helpless or invincible.
We’re still fighting for universal respect for and application of human rights; still protesting for socio-economic justice and basic civil equalities. We’re still ascribing sub-human status, according to paranoia and political fancy; still elevating dross to celebrity; still coveting what we think exists over our neighbour’s fence. We’re still monopolising and squandering the resources of our one, beautiful planet; still arguing about whose God is greatest… And over and over we produce ego-riven conflicts and make wars in the name of Peace. We are already on our knees.
We think we see things as they really are but, really, we’re only seeing things as we are, whether we are aware of little more than events and selected details or transfixed by the enormity of the bigger picture. We don’t know when to speak up and when to mind our own business. We don’t recognise what we should and need to control or what we are allowing to have control over us. We don’t discriminate appropriately or effectively; we can’t discern wish from truth nor potential from reality. Some of us think it simpler to just try to control everything and everyone while others simply don’t care and others still haven’t even noticed.
And how we faff. We constantly tinker around the edges of problems, addressing the latest symptoms and ignoring their quite evident causes. This doesn’t just allow old symptoms to fester and their causes to become downgraded, over time, to ‘unfortunate’ but it also adds a whole other level of new causes. We seem hell-bent on rose-tinted nostalgia but we refuse to actively retrace our steps. We would rather pretend that we are merely adapting to forces beyond our control than reaping the consequences of so much that should have been avoided.
We don’t really look at the roots and common threads of our problems; not deeply; not wholly. We glimpse with darting, panicked eyes, wring our hands and do what we can with the skim. Just getting through the day. Lurching with our fingers crossed. But the skim has to go somewhere: it becomes another blanket burden to Society, to add to the already suffocating layers and it creates further opportunities for ideological and financial exploitation. Every burden provides another’s comfort blanket. It isn’t ethical or sustainable.
We live under a constant process of inadequate triage. Tinkering and skimming are default management settings. Like bailing out a distressed boat that was never really seaworthy. There is viable land and most of us have spotted it but the crew prefer that we keep bailing, even as the holes increase and the weather worsens. The crew is drunk on the short-term, shortsighted power of profitable crises. The officers and their minions tell us that that land over there is hostile and to bail faster, lest we run aground the only boat available for that long-promised rising tide to lift.
Between us, we have managed to undermine the subtle and make a virtue out of the dross. We’ve managed to fragment history and turn it into a blueprint for all manner of psychopathic algorithms and effectively reduced Imagination, Reason and Empathy to a small, closed circuit.
We are gullible sponges and cynical repellents, by context, by turn, susceptible to wish and self-fulfilling prophecy. We are sands, easily shifted; blades of grass, bending upon a fixed point. And as entrenched as granite.
[November 8, 2015 (with slight editing)]
Fear creates a feast
to suit the taste
of each invited guest
that takes a seat
and makes request,
to fill the belly of a beast.
We are what we eat.