If we remain in the EU, as the bookies tell us we will, we will be where we were before this sad sorry saga began, with diminished credibility. If we leave, we will be back at square one – as David Cameron put it last night. Either way, we will have lost and not just lost face, we have lost Jo Cox.
I will vote and vote with conviction and I urge you to do so, whatever your conviction. We owe Jo Cox that as her tribute.
Who wins out of this? Certainly not the political parties. If we remain, we have secured little by the referendum and if we leave we will have, according to our Chancellor, at best more austerity and at worst another recession. There is no sunny upland for us to aspire to either way.
Certainly not the economy, whatever structural faults which were present before we put decision making on leave prior to the budget, are still present. We have lost time by biding time.
Certainly not the British people who have seen fractious debate tip over into violence at home and abroad. We have put on our worst face to the world and our credibility after this appalling debate is surely diminished as a nation. Both sides invoke the spirit of Churchill to their sides, but they might as well call on King John.
This civil war that benefits no-one
This horrendous three months of unnecessary civil war has been humourless (the court jesters – Farage and Johnson aren’t funny any more, “remain” is a bore.
It has also been confusing. We are being asked to vote with precision on statistics that nobody trusts. The institutions of business, the Bank of England , the CBI , the FSB and IOD are ignored as we decide this “momentous” decision on little more than the flip of a coin.
Nobody can feel happy taking a decision on something as momentous as our constitutional and economic future, with so little hard fact and so much overt prejudice to guide them.
I read this tweet and ask myself today- what I asked when the referendum was announced
I do not think we will get a satisfactory outcome on Friday of this week;-why? I don’t think most of us will have voted with sufficient confidence to know whether our view has won or lost. In this world the best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity.
I am told that by voting remain, I am failing to engage imaginatively with what leave might look like. But I see in leave the economic equivalence of an over-hasty divorce without even the pleasure of an adulterous alternative.
I am told by voting remain, that I am making a rational decision based on the economic and political success that being in the EU has brought us. But I see no-one within Government suggesting I enjoy that success. Instead I see airports in lock-down against terrorism and a country closing in on a decade of economic austerity.
We are terrorising ourselves out of the happiness we should be enjoying. I would put up with more economic pain if I felt “leave” brought us together with the world. I would put up with loss of control if I felt remain led to harmony with ourselves and our neighbours.
Britain has changed but the conduct of this debate hasn’t
The British people deserve a leader who can deliver a State of the Union address that is inspirational and unificatory. We should be proud of our country, not ashamed of it.
Nowhere do I feel more ashamed than when I share the streets with people of so many countries of origin and cannot celebrate. Yesterday I was at that most British of institutions, a friendly cricket match, I was in the minority in speaking English as my first language but that did not lessen the experience! Indeed it made it better!
My friend Jenny went to Brixton market for her lunch yesterday for much the same pleasure. I work and play alongside people whose origin is diverse but I regard them all as as British as I am. Many of them came to this country at the time when Enoch Powell was anticipating rivers of blood- it hasn’t happened.
We need to feel comfortable in our new skin
To me, the way forward does not lie in our settlement with Europe, but in our settlement with ourselves. We have learn to feel comfortable in our skin, our new skin. Britain has moved on from the days following the war, and from our entry into the common market. We are a different place (in my view a much better place) than the country I grew up in in the 1970s.
To a large extent that is because we have been part of the world, not detached from it. This morning I heard this point made by Richard Scudamore, who is in charge of our Premier League. When we entered the Common Market in 1973, an immigrant footballer was almost unknown, today, our Premiership thrives and our national teams are full of players from every background.
Whether we stay in or leave the EU, nothing will change this week, we will still have failed to engage with the change that has happened in our society. I am voting not to pull up the drawbridge, but to open our country to the positive influence of global culture and a global economy.
I look to leadership, a moral spokesperson – and she is dead.