I always believed that with great responsibility came humility. I am so naive. I thought that to serve in public office was both noble and an honour; that to be in the Government, bestowed with making laws and policies that determine the quality of life of the millions of one’s country’s people, was such an enormous privilege that one would be devoted to justifying it. I thought it required integrity and reasonable measures of wisdom and competence. Even more naively, I actually assumed that, simply by mere virtue of achieving and holding such a privileged position, on a personal level – the generous income, the security of an ample pension, the opportunity of network – it meant that they would have a persistent, collective sense of “there but for the grace of…” and act on it.
Funny how the will of just over half of the electorate, on one specific day, translates as an overwhelming majority, signifying the fixed and absolute will of the people. Funny how Parliament cares so much about respecting the will of the people.
Funny how the will of the people for a well-resourced, easy-access NHS, free at the point of use, is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for affordable (free at the point of use), compassionate, dignified and accessible social care is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a decent, guaranteed state pension and a dignified old age for all is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people to have justifiable rights to end their lives and receive assistance to do so is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for state ownership and control of an affordable, reliable, interconnected railway system is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for local authority-run libraries, pools, parks and recreation is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a national network of local, comprehensive post offices is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for state investment in council/social housing is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a visible police presence and 24/7 local stations is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a national programme of ‘green’ investment and jobs is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for personal privacy and data security is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a fair and responsible tax system is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a reliable, liveable income is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for a compulsory national school curriculum is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for local state schools to be so good as to be the first choice is not respected.
Funny how the will of the people for even a simple, weekly rubbish collection is not respected.
What do you mean: not everyone wants those things?
The hardest Brexit. Freedom to be buffeted by whim and wind. Sacrificing goods, capital and services because of some people’s scapegoating resentment and fear of… people. There’s no strength or honour in that.
Theresa May and her Brexit dullards are leading us into a wholly reckless period of unforced instability, expense and acrimony. At home and abroad. Not only is a fresh plebiscite vehemently denied but the parliamentary vote that, mind-bogglingly, actually had to be fought for, is now rendered almost pointless. This is because it will come after the invocation of Article 50 and so reduces the choice of MPs to either a crappy deal or no deal at all – an abyss; Hobson’s choice, at best. There is a lot of careless assuming going on that Article 50 can just be reversed but this is optimism without good cause: no voice with the authority to do so has, as yet, permitted this. If Article 50 is to be invoked, at all, Parliament and the Public need to be on the same page.
Government’s approach to Brexit is a wet dream for the knows-jack-shit that is Ukip with all the potential for socio-economic suicide for Britain. Labour’s strategy is to rightly try to avoid a race to the bottom but by pointing at some of the very real race-to-the-bottom flaws in May’s plan and then voting for it anyway. The Lib Dems’ approach, albeit the best, is being squandered because they are still a widely unforgiven, oppositional shell of their own making and may not have sufficient time to recoup effectively.
We now risk feeling quite alone in a precarious and rapidly shifting world; the smallest partner in most meaningful circumstances; the one with the most urgent need and the least clout. Prey. Prey to allies and foes, alike – from country to corporation. What then of our rights and ethics? What then for our economy and society? For our environment? What then of our integrity? How does such a reckless course not lead to even less sovereignty and our democracy being further undermined?
Leave behaves as though Brexit were a rebirth into that golden age when ‘Global Britain’ captured half the world under single governance and imagined having claim to the benevolence of the Sun. Remainers tended to think that Britain was pretty global, already and that it was also already in the sunniest position, both practical and possible.
From politicians, Media and Public, understanding is trailing at an unhealthy distance behind the decision-making. From referendum build-up, to campaign proper, to the vote, to the ‘plan’, to the A50 trigger, to the now meaningless final vote in Parliament: everything has been done in the wrong order. If Brexit is not a catastrophe, it will be more by sheer luck than by good judgement.
Britain lurches from not being reliably good at football, any more, to being the actual football and yet Brexiteers act as though we were the referee. By the time reality bites and Leave voters realise the folly of their hubris and hopium, it may well be too late.
Scary is what happens in the unknowable space before and until they do. What will it take to reach that critical mass of enlightened consciousness and rebalancing of Will? What will have to have happened? What will have filled that vacuum? Will it be bearable? Will it have been worth it? I have my doubts.
Now they’ve spoiled the share
They want us to share the spoiled
Divvy to take.
Who shares Society?
Who is the cake?
[June, 2014 – Tragic pertinence needs must rework and repeat]
What would you have us value, then?
What passes for these British traits?
Is it the wilful diminution of democracy
That separates the people from the State?
Or maybe our incessantly insistent view
That what we do is “help” the world for its own sake?
I think I’ve got it: it’s that fair play code we think we own!
How righteously polite we are!
Perhaps we should commission us a global honour mission
Thus we won’t feel so perceptibly alone.
So, is it in our famous law and order you’ve translated into Money talks?
Our globe-anointed tolerance that shadow-stalks the local masses?
Could it be the age-old choreography between the economic classes?
Is it in our Blighty-quaint ability to wait in lines? The neoliberal culture of
I’ll only pay for mine?
Stiff upper lip, is it?
The non-complaining strategy that manifestly rhymes
Neurotic and sclerotic with our passive-born aggression?
Or perhaps it’s that amazing, self-congratulating way
We tend to trip out on our history’s big lessons?
No, wait! Don’t tell me! Let me guess:
You mean like how you cherish our belovèd NHS?
Or could it even be our undeniable capacity
To finger-point with swinging lead and buried heads?
Or might it be our deep, rich, grass-root, time-was Cool Britannia,
Now, by Cowell’s ilk and cynical palaver, made an operatic lather?
Is it in the way we gush and gift a paltry nobody to unreserved celebrity
And rush to make pariahs of the stars beyond our knowing?
Is it how we gloat and glower over uncontested power?
Yes! It surely has to be the Press, with all its freedom to impress?
Or is it how we toe the line
When Lord America decides
We might be useful hand-tools, after all?
Is it our poodle disposition or our sniffy exhibition
That defines our island character?
Do Britain’s expositions make her values truly worthy
Or just pompously perfidious and small?
What the hell and where the heck
Are all these dandy ‘British values’?
Suffer me my ignorance but,
Is it in the way you favour those already able?
Is it how you keep your brother
Or the fear that looks for other
In the refugee and immigrant?
The prisoner? Disabled?
Is it how you treat the NEETs?
The homeless, sleeping on the streets?
The single parent? Needy elders?
Every worker like a serf?
Is it how you are transfixed by everybody’s patriotic worth?
Perhaps you’d like our babies stamped at birth, like eggs,
With redly roaring lions? Then, once they’re schooled and duly cloned,
Be branded with a standard – maybe tractors backed by Union Flags
To make their British value known –
For, what is value worth that can’t be shown?
What are we “living longer” for?
A few years more of being poor
To reach an age of destitution,
Helpless in dependency?
To be neglected; disrespected?
Sitting in the same old chair
In mean and squalid institutions,
Half aware, not really there?
Or, horror! With a lucid mind,
Enduring time and yet more time
To witness co-invented wars;
To weep at wasted brain and brawn?
Our social fabric worn and torn
To mourn lost generations born
Onto a scrapheap, harshly built
By systematic, alternating turns
Of greed and guilt.
“I’m glad I am the age I am,” she said.
“I’m grateful that the road behind
Is longer than my road ahead,
For all I see is war and fear
And grasping greed by grubby hands:
The dark night of the Soul of Man
Enveloping all creeds and lands.
“There’s poison in the hearts of men,” she said.
“An undiluted self-belief and blinding faith
Casts bloody shadows, hollows Hope
And spreads an everlasting hate
Which fashions cold and steals Life’s hallowed Grace.
“There is a madness in the minds of men,
Whose messianic propagations bend
The Golden Bough and fray the sacred threads,
Which then, in haste, they darn with fœtid patches
Lest the Light be glimpsed –
The Truth lies in the gaps,” she said.
‘Don’t get old‘ – Gaby Hinsliff, Guardian, December 2016