One of the most important political decisions of my life is coming the country’s way on 23 June 2016. I have a passing interest in politics; I am not an expert or anything. I have voted consistently since qualifying for the right but I must admit to having moved between parties and, particularly recently, spoiling my voting slip as a protest.
The fact is that I find British politics incredibly demoralising.
It often seems that all we have is a choice between two evils. The Conservatives, in their post-Thatcher guise, seem to love money and hate everyone. They are cheap as well. The Tories want everything on the cheap, especially public services. At least that is how they represent it but in reality they are just interested in selling off assets to private contractors who charge at the very least twice as much to do the same job.
Sadly Labour, in their post-Blair guise, are little different. It was them who began the attack on the disabled that David Cameron has so wilfully continued to this day. They were also inclined to sell off bits of the country, or raid pension pots, in order to balance their own books. No more boom or bust, remember?
I have an ideological opposition to political parties these days. Voting for a candidate of a political party is not the same as voting for someone to represent you. The candidate’s first allegiance is not to the electorate; it is to the party and the unelected inner cadre of policy makers. I see political parties as anathema to true democracy. They promote apathy and disinterest to lull the electorate to sleep. When a response is required, every 5 years or so, they stir the slumbering beast with the basest of political arguments couched in terms of fear, threat, sleaze, counter-sleaze, and manifesto promises that die as soon as the ink dries, in fact they will say anything, promise anything, just to get elected, and only rarely will they deliver anything meaningful.
So where is this leading? I want to be informed about the up and coming referendum. I have a leaning towards Europe, being a member state seems to have done us a certain amount of good in my opinion. Human rights have certainly improved, I can remember when gay men were sent to prison for expressing their sexuality. Equality of pay is much closer now than it was before we joined the European Common Market in 1973, there’s some way to go still but it seems more like an achievable objective thanks to the European influence than it did before 1973.
That said, I am not 100% confident in the European government. I do not want to see a ‘United States of Europe’. I like being English and European. I am also wary of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, well parts of it anyway. I would like more information but that is the crux of the problem.
Looking around the internet there really is not that much quality information to be had. Those who want us to stay in Europe seem to be using the same tactics as those who want us to leave – I won’t use the ‘B’ word on account of the fact that I love the English language! – that is, all the politicians are using the basest of political arguments couched in terms of fear, threat, sleaze, counter-sleaze, and promises that die as soon as the ink dries. To be honest I am not surprised.
I do not believe that politicians want an informed electorate. In Hull, where I live, it is commonly said that people vote for a particular party just because that is what their grandfathers and fathers did; sadly it seems to be true! There is a significant portion of the electorate who do just that irrespective of the colour of the rosette. This situation suits the political parties; it is, after all, a promise of a certainty of votes. No work required, no difficult questions to answer, easy campaigning.
Never mind the quality, feel the width as they used to say before we joined Europe.
Political campaigning in Britain has been reduced to a few scrappy leaflets pushed through the letterbox, party-line propaganda spouted on the local radio, party-line propaganda spouted on the national radio and television, and very little else. Oh, occasionally we follow the example of America, because politics is so right in America, and have ‘candidate debates’ live on television, which, cynic that I have become, I expect to be each candidate spouting their respective party-line propaganda.
What has really prompted this blog post, however, is the realisation that I am not alone in feeling uninformed by the referendum campaign. People I know who do not usually express too much interest in political matters are asking me my opinion simply because they are confused by two sides using the same arguments, padded out with ‘might’s’, ‘maybes’, and other terms of probability, to make a point that is actually is clear as mud.
The fact is that no one really knows what is going to happen whichever way the vote goes!
I suppose we have a better understanding of staying in Europe because it is known territory to us. The future of Europe may look a little alien to British sensibilities but it also seems quite familiar as well. Europe is a friend of long-standing, not our best friend, occasionally annoying, sometimes irritating, but often surprising and a great place to visit as a friend. Leaving Europe is a far greater step into the unknown. The way I see it if we voted to leave then Britain would become an isolated little island nation with a great history that inspires delusion of grandeur. To use a football metaphor Britain would drop out of the Premier League very quickly, cease rubbing shoulders with the Manchester United’s of the world, and descend to the realm of Grimsby Town. If we are lucky we might get bought up by the Chinese
So, as much as it galls me to agree with such a reprehensible character as David Cameron on anything it looks like this is one issue where I will be on the same team with a politician who represents so much that I dislike about British politics. The enemy of my enemy is my friend…or some such bon mot. I will probably vote to stay in Europe but not to please David Cameron, he and all the other politicians have done precious little to influence my decision!