EU and UK Flag - Brexit

Image Credit: Creative Commons: Alexas Fotos

It’s the story you’ve heard a hundred times, and rightly so: citizens across the country, in the left-behind towns and cities. They have low quality jobs, wrecked local economies, crumbling infrastructure and local authorities attempting to reenact 127 Hours except the arm they’re cutting off means people dying on the streets. In 2016, people in these communities voted for Brexit, and you know what? I get it; I didn’t after the referendum, I was bitter, I was scared and I lashed out mentally at these places for their stupidity, their crass response.

Put simply, I was wrong to do so.

Because they were sold a lie, they were told they were being given a lifeline and all they had to do was to grasp it. A vote to Leave was a vote to take back control from the Brussels Bureaucrats, those sneaky devils who had seized power from your great nation! Who can blame them for taking that option, given the abysmal Remain campaign, who lacked the imagination to do anything else but play upon fears of economic ruin, which was all the more vacuous given who it was delivering that rhetoric. Who could blame people for voting for ‘Taking Back Control’?

But still, it was a lie.

Not because these places don’t need more control, they do. Those regions ignored required more democracy, (sorry Brenda from Bristol). What matters is that it is from Westminster, from our own capital, that control must be taken from, not Brussels.

Political reform

As Greens, we know this better than most. We know firsthand how exclusionary British politics is, we see with every election we fight, how little the British political system is designed to represent the views of the British people. In Britain, Representative Democracy is a cruel joke that we’re told by Labour and the Conservatives to keep us comfortable, a facade they lazily daub over the cartel they preside over. This is what ‘Take Back Control’ should be about, and it starts with electoral reform.

In 2015 the Greens polled at 3.8% and we received 0.2% of the MPs. UKIP polled at 12.6% and achieved the same. In contrast, at the same election, the Conservatives polled at 36.8% and was awarded, like magic, 50.8% of the seats. These are simple facts, ones you may already know, but talk to someone who isn’t a political nerd and they seem shocking. I recently explained this to my Omi (Grandmother), the decades of disparity, the decades in which people voted for progressive change and failed to see it appear. This has to be where our message starts, to make votes matter.

The second is to reform our democracy, for those of us that live in England, democracy is Councils and Westminster. Democracy is putting an X in a box once every few years, and this is wrong.

First let’s look at Westminster. Westminster is on another planet for the majority of people in the UK, an Etonian Hogwarts that will either dissolve under acid rain, poison its inhabitants with asbestos or catch fire like a Notre Dame that nobody but Rees-Mogg and his nanny will cry over. The people of this country need leadership, they need a democracy that is open, accessible, efficient and with enough seats that everyone can sit on! That is why the Parliament of the UK should move out of Westminster and to the Midlands. Yes, that’s right, this ‘Southern fairy’ is advocating that the UK parliament should move to an area of the country that power and influence haven’t touched in years. In a new building, with architecture designed to encourage cooperation and debate rather than separating parties by sword length. How quickly do we think investment will pour in to the the North and the Midlands if politicians that have so easily forgotten these places are suddenly forced to live there?

Devolution

Next is devolution, at the moment, the UK is a hodgepodge of constitutional arrangements, for one nation that means power being centralised in London, hopelessly out of reach. Power is devolved to 3 out of 4 of the Union nations, but not to England?

For many of us, the arguments for an English parliament will immediately bring to mind far-right nationalists and shaven headed thugs, but it doesn’t have to. We can make the argument that having an English parliament will free up Westminster, overly strained with the workload of the 21st century, will give greater voice and power to the unrepresented regions abandoned by governments detached from reality in modern England and give people politicians which are closer to them and focussed more on the issues which affect their daily lives. I don’t know what everyday person that would argue against that.

The last, and this might surprise you, is education. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as writing that a well informed electorate is a prerequisite for democracy, and yet citizens leave our education system woefully uninformed about how our country works. How many people, voters all their lives, could tell you how a council works, how a bill becomes a law, the role of the House of Lords, what the constitution is? How are people supposed to interact with a system, the operation of which they are blissfully unaware of? The solution is simple: we educate people. we must advocate for politics to be taught in schools, so that every child leaving the school system can make informed votes as a fully educated adult.

Perhaps one of the great Brexit fallacies, one we’ll joke about with the grandchildren one day, is about how people voted for something which had no plan. So rather than go into a referendum or general election merely pointing out Brexiters’ lies and deceptions, saying that we want to ‘Remain and Reform’, let’s go into it with a positive, ambitious and imaginative plan that will genuinely allow people to Take Back Control over their daily lives.