There is dangerous passivity in parliament - politicians must do more to push for an outcome that will benefit our future
After tireless campaigning from British philanthropist Gina Miller and a Spanish hairdresser called Deir dos Santos – who formed a group called the People’s Challenge – the Supreme Court has ruled that MPs must vote on triggering Article 50 and exiting the EU. Whether it makes a difference remains to be seen – a Downing Street spokesman was bullish when talking about the next steps. “It’s important to remember that parliament backed the referendum by a margin of six to one and has already indicated its support for getting on with the process of exit to the timetable we have set out.”
Theresa ‘Brexit means Brexit’ May, who campaigned to Remain, will vote to leave. Most MPs will. Jeremy Corbyn – who campaigned (in the loosest possible sense) to Remain, said today that his party “respects the will of the British people and will not frustrate the process for invoking Article 50.” Who is Corbyn appealing to? Nearly two-thirds of Labour voters voted to Remain and we need to stop discussing the “will of the people” as if people had any idea what they were voting for. This was about the ill-will of the right-wing press and power-hungry politicians trying to will themselves into power, an arrogantly considered, badly-planned political gamble dressed up as an opportunity for the people to exercise their democratic rights.
But what we’re left with is a Parliament full of MPs that will likely vote – under heavy pressure – to vote for something that they do not believe in. British politics is currently defined by Brexit, a landmark moment in our country’s history, topped with an outcome that feels like the equivalent of marrying someone you aren’t in love with out of embarrassment and an inability to say no, all on the orders of strangers who know nothing about you. This isn’t even a marriage of comfort or convenience, it’s a plunge into darkness that nobody seems to genuinely want or even know anything about.
I fail to see how democracy can be properly exercised in a totally hostile environment that doesn’t just lack – it refuses to provide – the necessary tools to make a democratic decision. Backbone-less Boris Johnson drove an enormous red bus up and down the country promising that £350 million a week would be given to the NHS if we voted to Leave. Nigel Farage went on television hours after the result to say that this wasn’t true. Johnson should be held to account, or even prosecuted, for deliberately misleading a public – already battling to survive under current conditions in the NHS – that their lives would improve, knowing full well that they’d worsen. Farage, now a close ally of Donald Trump’s, stood in front of that infamous “Breaking Point” poster that depicted Syrian and Afghan refugees trying to enter Croatia, not Britain. How cold, to use the suffering of people fleeing war-torn regions, as vile, political props. Of course, the likes of Farage and Johnson were aided and abetted ably by the rightwing press, who fanned the flames with xenophobia, hyperbole and basic untruths. Fear is not the appropriate environment for democracy.
It feels as though Britain is besieged with a strange atmosphere of regret, as demonstrated by the actions of leading political players since – Theresa May painfully struggling her way through interviews unable to outline a clear plan, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove’s hydra-headed run for power and Nigel Farage emigrating to America, perhaps the only immigrant Donald Trump actually likes.
While we’re constantly told that “Brexit means Brexit” – can people stop saying that? – as has been demonstrated by the Supreme Court, it actually doesn’t. We need an opposition party that is prepared to fight for what it knows is right, rather than obey “the will of the people” that have been misled by the state and the media. Labour is not doing that. We’ve now fostered an environment where politicians are scared to vote against something that they know will harm their constituents – it’s easy to understand why after the murder of Jo Cox, and Gina Miller has received death threats, but the majority are just scared for their careers. They don’t give a shit about you, or your future. We need politicians who will stand up and campaign for the opportunity for the country to vote again, with an idea of what each outcome means for this generation and many to come. As it stands, we’re watching powerful, panicking old robots malfunction and dictate destiny for millions.