The Toronto Globe and Mail ran a leading article the other day to tell the people of Great Britain that they are now presided over by “the mad, the bad and the fools”. It sometimes takes an old friend to jolt us back to reality, but I can honestly say this to our Canadian friends: you’re not telling us anything most of us don’t now recognise only too well.
Hundreds of thousands marched through London last week to demand a halt to what The Globe and Mail called “the collective fantasy of Brexit”. And now The Independent‘s petition to demand that we, the people, have a Final Say on Brexit has exceeded one million signatures.
There is talk from hardcore Brextremists that “the people” will take to the streets if there is another vote. Nigel Farage’s desultory event in Harrogate at the same time as the march in London showed that very few of “the people” on his side of the debate can now be bothered any more. Dominic Grieve said it would be a remarkable situation if vast swathes of the population were ever to demonstrate about being given a chance to have their say. I agree – it seems to me that if anyone is minded to take to the streets when we are finally granted a Final Say on Brexit, then it will be to party not protest.
Brexit started out as a pipe dream of hard right ideologues which was packaged up and sold to the public as “taking back control,” even though all it was ever about was losing it. We were expected to give up membership of a club that had given us a great deal at modest cost – what price, honestly, can be put on peace?
We were led to believe that we could uncouple ourselves from it at minimal cost for immediate gain. Somehow we would then glide effortlessly and easily towards replacing the 60 free trade deals we have access to under EU membership, to some buccaneering future.
Sir John Major, a One Nation Tory with a real understanding of working people struggling to make ends meet because that was how he started out, called Brexit “a colossal misjudgment” which would “damage [our] personal and national wealth”. If it gets to the point that a man as manifestly reasonable as Sir John is being ignored – not to mention the reports and white papers the government has allowed us to see, and the fears that have been expressed by businessmen, public service bodies and trade unions, is it any wonder our friends overseas are seeing us as a country in the grip of madness?
The Independent’s petition and the sheer size of the march through London is not the only evidence that we, the people, are now speaking loudly and clearly. No fewer than 327,266 have now signed the People’s Vote petition, there has been a British Medical Association motion to back another vote, 73 per cent of the Labour membership want one, increasing numbers of cross-party MPs and peers now all back a clean vote on the real Brexit options.
A new YouGov poll showed that a resounding 67 per cent of Britons think Theresa May’s government is handling the Brexit talks badly. A mere 19 per cent think it is handling them well. That great song from Les Miserables comes irresistibly to mind: “Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men? It is the music of the people who will not be slaves again!”
No one – irrespective of whether they wanted to Remain or to Leave, and of the reasons they voted on – anticipated the chaos we would be facing with just weeks before the end of the negotiations. Tory MP Johnny Mercer was not overstating it when he called the whole situation a “shitshow”. That was what I heard in so many words over and over again when I travelled the length and breadth of the country for my End the Chaos campaign to demand transparency on Brexit, and provide answers to questions so many are asking, when there is currently so much fog and political point scoring.
The Brexiteers in government and the opposition benches want to see this act of self-destruction done quickly, because they know very well that the people are no longer behind them and if they don’t push their right-wing ideology through quickly they may never have the chance again.
The people have, however, had enough. They demand that this orgy of self-destruction should come to an end. None of this is being done in their name.
There are other national, domestic priorities that matter to us a lot more than this madness. The NHS, education, the care crisis, child poverty and housing among so many.
This is not what the people want. The politicians need to listen – we are all sick and tired of throwing good money after bad.
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