Where does the United Kingdom go from here? Can the United Kingdom even endure? the fact that question is even being contemplated again after appearing to have been settled in a “once in a generation” referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 is a measure of just how far down the rabbit hole UK politics has gone.
I voted remain (big surprise) because I thought that short, medium and long-term effects on the economy that a leave vote would ensue was not a risk worth taking for any of the supposed benefits that the leave campaign had outlined. There was also the obvious (to me anyway) contradiction in the campaign of voting to “leave and take back control” and the vision campaigned for by the likes of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Dan Hannan. The social conservatism on the one hand and the economic liberalism (without the ensuing political and legal union that enables it) of the Vote Leave campaign is very probably going to be played out. A lot of voters backed leave thinking it would mean reduced immigration and a lot of voters backed leave because they wanted to be “free from the diktat of Brussels (but not the military alliance based outside Brussels we still like that apparently).
To add to this coalition of contradictions we also now have a situation in Scotland where a large number of voters are prepared to leave a political and economic (including fiscal) union and want to join another political and economic (including fiscal) union.
So at the moment this a country that knows far more about the thing that divides it than it does about any of the things that unite it. It is a country who has just voted to divorce itself from a European Union that its allies wanted the UK to remain in and leading from the front. The economic and political future of the country is in turmoil and there are very scared people living, working and contributing to life in the UK who are now seeing people emboldened by the result screaming abuse at them because of where they happened to be born and their accent. The situation looks more uncertain and to a large extent bleaker than they were a week ago.
Where does the country go from here?
Well first and foremost I hope and pray that any and all racist incidents are dealt with in the sternest possible manner by the police. No matter what the result the country has to be clear that racism has no place in our society and that we must always be vigilant against this.
Secondly I endorse the view of Jeremy Clarkson (which again is another sign of how weird things have become)
Given the scale of the challenges ahead I will try and do my best to think along those lines and roll my sleeves up and get to work. I believe it represents the best way of ensuring that the union has a chance of surviving. To that end we need to ensure that the leadership issues in the Conservative and Labour parties are settled in such a way that both parties are in as strong a position as possible. The Conservatives need to somehow avoid tearing themselves apart over Europe (not sure how they best go about this just right now though) and the Labour party, a much more united party on Europe than their opponents, need to unite on Europe too.
To that end I believe that the election of a life-long Eurosceptic MP last summer was a mistake. It was even more of a mistake of the membership (of which I am a member and a minority voice for I voted for Liz Kendall) to not focus on the issue of Europe, knowing that there was to be a referendum with larger implications from the country that had to take place by the end of 2017, some three years before the next scheduled general election. Yes the pain of the election defeat was still raw but, given the responsibility of electing a leader of the opposition, the membership ended up electing the one candidate who would oppose the government on the one issue that the membership overwhelmingly wanted it to stand shoulder to shoulder with: membership of the European Union.
The remain cause was undermined by the leader consistently attacking the EU at a time when the campaign needed a leader who did not view the EU as a neo-liberal empire. Today’s no confidence vote from Labour’s MEPs is a testament to the strength of feeling that exists in the party about the leader’s attitude and application during the most important election in the UK in over 40 years. Labour needs to be as united on Europe as possible now that the vote has happened and campaign for investment in the UK to counter the negative effects of the decision to leave. The country needs its government and opposition parties united and focused upon the challenge at hand. Neither parties can be focused upon pursuing narrow ideologies, both must be looking to the future. As a Labour member I hope that future is without a leader who helped to put our country in this mess. I believe is a time for Clement Attlees and Ernest Bevins, not Arthur Hendersons.
Now let’s roll up those sleeves and get to work.