Stoking the fires: our new winter of discontent
Posted on January 14, 2019
It’s Brexit again. If you’ve already decided you can’t read on, I get it.
For the record, it’s January 14th and tomorrow is going to be (again) the big vote. That’d be the big vote we were going to have a few weeks ago and the outcome of which is now viewed by almost everyone with weary and frustrated indifference. It’s just more utter, shambolic preening, posturing and impotent paralysis.
The Prime Minister spoke today to the good people of Stoke. 70% of them voted to leave the EU. It was recently a target seat for the comically inept Paul Nuttall of UKIP and was also seen as fertile recruiting ground for the neo-Nazi English Defence League. Significantly, both Nuttall and the EDL failed to make any ground there whatsoever – and that’s because being pro Brexit doesn’t equate to being a racist or a dimwit. It would be a good thing if some Remainers got their heads round that.
During her address, Theresa May said something very significant – and, for what it’s worth, something with which I wholeheartedly agree. If, she suggested, the outcome of all of the current shenanigans was to be a second referendum, how would it look to these good people? It would look as though their will was being ignored; as if they and their opinions were being treated as if they didn’t matter; as if their betters were reprimanding them for speaking their collective mind. How shocking would that be?
You’re probably ahead of me here. Although some liberal leaning people are still, shamefully, hanging on to the notion of ignorant racism being at the heart of the threat to cuddly Europeanism and the reason for the Leave vote, most sensible analysis has moved on from there. People in Stoke and a thousand other places voted to leave precisely because they’d been ignored and because no one cared what they thought. And whenever they did speak their mind, they were told that they were wrong.
In the past twenty years, the industries that defined Stoke and its people have been decimated and little has put in place to replace them. The benefits of globalisation have largely by-passed the place, literally as well as metaphorically, as the big urban centres benefit from infrastructure that skirts the five towns that form the city. The blights of shoddy high streets, cheap, empty houses which are still unaffordable and the whole gamut of social problems that go along with such decline, characterise much of the place. Ironically, the EU provided significant funding for the expansion of the University of Staffordshire, thus providing at least some opportunity for hope and progress.
Theresa May is, of course, charged with delivering on a project to which she was once opposed. Like many people, I admire her tenacity and professionalism in such circumstances even though she is making the most unholy horlicks of the whole thing. It’s not for her that I harbour the full force of my ire; that is reserved for the political equivalent of the Chuckle Brothers, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson and their posh chum, David Cameron.
The latter remains beyond contempt. Buffeted into an ill-thought-out plebiscite by the spectre of some golf club bores, Cameron was as responsible as anyone for a referendum campaign that was a daily insult to the intelligence of the British people. When the whole affair went belly-up, he retreated into private luxury cossetted by the immense private wealth which means that whatever the result of any election, his livelihood, income and life-style will remain unaltered. That’s not the case for the people of Stoke.
I note that Gove and Johnson both feature in today’s newspapers. Both of these charlatans wavered in their positions of pro or anti EU prior to the referendum. There’s nothing wrong with that: like millions of others, I did so myself. There is, however, a difference between weighing how the potential outcomes might benefit society as a whole as opposed to how they’ll affect your personal advancement. In the aftermath of the vote – and it’s worth remembering how the two of them resembled victims in a hostage video – they then proceeded to stab each other in the front in the most public and vitriolic way as they vied for prominence.
Whatever they were thinking of in those hours immediately after the result, or in the months during which they switched from office to office to like mediocre football managers, you can bet your life that their actions were not being informed by concern for the welfare of the people of Stoke.
Gove makes the papers today because he is going to save the planet by placing restrictions on wood-burning stoves (cars, Michael? cars, maybe?) and Johnson because he has, unfeasibly, a new 30 year old glamorous girlfriend (tell us, madam what was it that first attracted you to the dishevelled, serial philanderer, nearly twice your age, who calls a sum of £250,000 a year for writing a newspaper column ‘chicken feed’?). Keep yourselves in the limelight, boys. The people of Stoke are depending on you.
I wrote a few weeks back that anyone who still proposes a glib response to Brexit is a liar. The only thing we can hope for – and it’s a pretty vain hope – is that all of those charged with the decision making that will have an impact on our lives might just – just – stop for a moment’s thought about people who are unprotected by private wealth or even a few quids’ worth of savings.
A quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that there are some four dozen Stokes in the UK; it’d be good if they thought they’d been listened to.