Tuesday should have been the day that two years of electrifying political energy reached its end. It ought to have been a vote to heal wounds, unite us and bring together a nation bitterly divided over an issue which was always too big for a simple referendum. An irreversible change of course for our nation’s history should have taken place, as Parliament gives Theresa May the nod on her Brexit deal.
But that is not how things have played out.
On Tuesday, Theresa May’s hard-fought Brexit compromise was crushed by Parliament by a majority of 230, the biggest government defeat in history. just 202 MPs supported her, and a stunning 432 voted against her.
Whilst the defeat itself is an embarrassment for the Prime Minister, it goes far deeper than that. The entirety of the last two years must be noted as a historic and mesmeric failure of government to blow aghast all previous notions of dystopian leadership.
Fault and responsibility for this monster lies purely on our calamitous government. A government which has limped and crawled through the most difficult of processes without a clue in heaven what they wanted.
The Brexit process leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth like none other, sapping all the energy and life out of anyone and everything. The mere word Brexit is now either encountered by rolling eyes or a sense of futile disagreement that no amount of exhausted arguments can heal. This is our political reality in 2019. Fault and responsibility for this monster lies purely on our calamitous government. A government which has limped and crawled through the most difficult of processes without a clue in heaven what they wanted and perhaps even more dangerously, without single element of give or cross-party working. Indeed, if our Brexit is anything, it’s a Conservative Party Brexit. This great and almighty mess reflects the bitter, twisted and convoluted war which has been fought in the world’s oldest political party for the best part of forty years. Yet how did we allow this political infighting to infect everything else, to spread, fester and molest our very sense of sanctity which politics ought to provide. The answer? ‘Strong and stable’ government.
Words cannot describe my anger and frustration at the shit show that politics has become. We ought to be talking about Britain’s appalling productivity, about how to improve our schools, the NHS or our shocking transport infrastructure. We ought to be talking about the politics which actually matters to people: their lives, their families, their money and their security. Politics is government for the people, by the people: a sanctimonious proposition but one which ought to tuck you into bed at night rather than shake you to the verge of tears. But this is where we are.
I’ve written previously about the shocking handling of the Brexit process, whereby the decision to so hastily trigger Article 50 caused irreversible damage to our negotiating stance and the vanity election which wasted six weeks of a time limited process. I argued that the Conservatives have prioritised intra-party management over all else, on an issue which will affect each and every one of us. But what has happened over the last month overcomes all this on the barometer of incompetence. We’re out of options. This leads me to write a sentence which I never thought I’d write.
Britain needs a second referendum.
It’s a dirty sentence, a difficult sentence. It’s a confession for me. I am a Eurosceptic at heart who felt that Brexit was a terrible idea in practicality, but one which must nevertheless be completed because 17.4 million people voted in favour of it. Yes, Brexit was always going to be a terrible idea, but our democracy and faith in our institutions must be prioritised. In 2016, millions of people voted Leave because they felt they’d never been listened to, felt left behind and trampled on by lofty elites with deaf ears. What message would it send for those Westminster elites to overturn the one beacon of hope which they’d been given after decades of decline? It was for this reason that I left the liberal democrats after their decision to oppose Brexit from the outset.
These were my feelings: a sense of duty as a political individual to back those who voted for Brexit and ensure their voices were heard. I come from a family who all, to this day, swear that Brexit is an excellent plan and react with scornful anger and genuine disheartenment at the prospect of their votes being discounted and ignored. Their faith in our political process and the concept of every vote being equal will surely be shot if Brexit isn’t completed.
And this is why my confession of wanting a second referendum isn’t done with hope or optimism. But rather, it’s done with tribulation. My confession comes with guilt and confliction along with genuine fear for our democracy. Because for once, I agree with the Daily Mail. I am a saboteur. I am risking the prevention of democracy and I am risking yet more damage to a nation which, with the exception of Harry Kane, has had too few miracles lately.
Now Theresa May has been defeated, utter paralysis will set in at Westminster. There is no deal that will ever satisfy all parties. There is no majority in parliament for anything other than avoiding a no deal, and yet we are sliding towards no deal by default. This is the fault of our broken politics, which shouts more than it listens, and hunkers in its partisan bunker rather than working together.
The truth is that the political reality is that parliament will be stuck, unable to decide anything. It is increasingly looking more likely that a fresh referendum, to move the system on, to turn a new page, is the only way to break the deadlock. It will be a bitter and twisted campaign with hostility on both sides like never before.
It’s the only hope of remainers to remain. It’s the only hope of leavers to leave. And it’s the only hope for our country to move on.
But because of the last two years of abject failure of leadership by the government, it is our only hope out of this mess. It’s the only hope of remainers to remain. It’s the only hope of leavers to leave. And it’s the only hope for our country to move on. It’s a dirty, vicious hope which has the capacity to be a Pandora’s box of toxicity and vitriol which indeed might not even reach a conclusion in itself. But there is no alternative.
I say this to anyone wavering, anyone uneasy with our political situation: politics and politicians have failed you. They have failed to honour your vote and failed to appreciate your needs. This doesn’t just apply to Brexit but everything else in between. In the age of mass connectivity, those who represent us have never been less efficient and more incompetent and out of touch. Brexit will not solve this, but has been a way of expressing the symptoms of a terminally ill political system. Those who have failed you most, whether you’re a leaver or remainer, are the Conservative party. And you must hold them accountable.
This vote carried so much but was to decide so little. We have reach paralysis, and we will soon be faced with a choice, each and every one of us, whether we continue to trust our incompetent politicians, or whether we, the public, will direct them again on our wishes. David Davis once said a democracy which cannot change its mind ceases to be a democracy and indeed he was right.
We have the right to change our minds on the course of Brexit, but we also have the right to tell them to carry on and finish the job. But this can only come around from a dirty, fearful and irresponsible second referendum as a result of this government’s failure to you. I fear for what will happen now May’s deal has been rejected like it rightfully deserved, but all we have to fear is fear itself and that fear can only end when we finally reach a point of clarity and certainty, which can only come about through a regrettable second vote. This is a regrettable vote, a regrettable day and a regrettable process, but it’s here and we have to deal with it.
There’s only one way out after today, and we all have to face up to the consequences of why we came here and how we can get out of it. We need to get out of this limbo.
With a heavy heart, we need a second referendum.
Featured image: WikiMedia Commons, Avaaz.