From a reluctant political keyboard warrior.
It has been a while since I last blogged. Is simply that so much of my non-work time (and some work time too!) has been taken up dealing with matters related to the dreaded Brexit. I could write reams on how bad it has been so far for the UK. Reams on how much worse it will get if it finally happens. I could write about the undermining of democracy and the role of Parliament, the threat to the unity of the UK, the questionably illegal deal with the DUP made by our minority government and the very real concerns about using Henry VIII’s powers.
I could write about the problems caused by the fall in the value of sterling, the discrimination that has arisen against ‘foreigners’ in the UK since June last year. Or about the fears of the Brits in the EU27 countries. In fact, there are enough negatives to fill several books (and indeed several have already been written).
But today I want to say something POSITIVE instead.
You see I have discovered that I have more in common with people with whom I have previously disagreed. Politicians, broadcasters, journalists and experts from all walks of life. I have realised that in times of adversity you see people’s true colours. I have seen the hand of friendship extended across race, religion and colour. I have seen that political allegiances matter less than moral standing. I have discovered opinions are easy, but knowledge comes from learning and experience.
Until 2016 I paid attention to politics only when it was necessary – elections predominantly. I have always viewed it as my DUTY to vote – not exercising my right to vote would be an insult to those past and present for whom fighting for that right has, or does, cost them their freedom or even their life. But between elections I would express a view on things when they were on the TV news but DO very little about anything. Even when our eldest son obtained a degree in politics I was still very much an observer.
Now I have been on rallies, on two London marches, to local meetings and even joined a political party. I have written to loads of MPs, party leaders, MEPs and Lords. I have signed petitions by the dozen and become an active as a ‘keyboard warrior’. I have learnt more about the European Union, its origins, its aims, its inner workings, than I ever thought I’d bother knowing. I can explain the difference between the ECJ and the ECHR; between the European Commission and the European Parliament; between the Customs Union and the European Economic Area. I have finally EDUCATED myself on matters that frankly I should have known about all my adult life. I have also learnt more about UK politics and the working of Westminster. Children should be taught these things in school because the saddest part of the debates I have had with leavers is discovering their ignorance about the EU and the UK.
I have politely corrected leavers statements that the UK bailed out Greece (it didn’t); that the UK has been forced to take hundreds of thousands of refugees (it hasn’t); that the ECJ doesn’t allow us to deport criminals (wrong again); that the EU makes laws about bent bananas (which it doesn’t); that EU migrants are scroungers taking our benefits (which they are not, they are net contributors to our economy); That the EU stole UK sovereignty (which even the leave campaigners now say we never lost); that immigration will dramatically fall when we leave (no it won’t, there will just be a higher number from non-EU countries instead); that the EU costs us soooo much money – £350m a week (no it doesn’t, in fact around 0.6% of the government’s tax revenues are spent on membership and we get more back in financial benefits from being members); that the EU needs us more than we need them (no they don’t); that we can have great global trade deals (maybe one day in the distant future, but in the meantime we lose dozens of very favourable existing deals plus the one with our biggest trading partners). I could go on, and on, and on. But the point is, although I was vaguely aware of the EU benefits the only one that I felt mattered to me personally was freedom of movement, so it was really all I had bothered to learn about. Now I have educated myself and realise there is so much more to the EU than I thought. So many benefits. So many positives. Instead of just accepting Brexit would be a stupid thing to do, I now have a better and clearer understanding of WHY it is the most stupid mistake this country can make at this point in time – and I am galvanised to do something about it too!
I got to be in my mid-fifties before politics became something real to me. I have been an EU citizen all my adult life but it is only now, with the threat of losing it all, that it has become REAL to me. So, thank you Brexit for educating me – now please can we cancel it! #stopbrexit