It’s been a long time since I’ve posted an update here. I’ll try to do a proper one soon – although in truth there isn’t much to say. I’ve mostly been working on Book Ten (still due for publication in February 2017) and plotting out ideas for Book Eleven (more on which anon). In the meantime, I wanted to write something about the EU referendum, which is taking place in a few short days.
Not so long ago, I’d no doubt have been chomping at the bit to have my say, but I feel a genuine sense of weariness right now – and also, is there any real point in adding to the noise? But I wanted to write something. With that in mind, here are some links to posts and arguments that I’ve found articulate, insightful and persuasive. These are short extracts. In each case, the whole is very much worth reading.
Nicholas Barr of the LSE calmly addresses the various practical arguments and presents the reasons he’ll be voting for Remain:
“This article, written for many friends who have asked for a reasoned view of why I will vote Remain, summarises a longer article which sets out the supporting arguments more fully. I include links to evidence from credible sources, none (with the essential exception of the Financial Times) behind a paywall.”
Nick Harkaway writes a quiet and sensible letter to a friend thinking of voting Leave:
“From where I stand, it seems that we put a tiny fraction of our annual national spend (and get back more) towards membership of a vital trading bloc which is also a landmark project in the effort to prevent neighbouring countries with a history of violence from warring on one another?—?and that bloc, that project, is not an exogenous given. That is to say that it’s not guaranteed to continue to exist if we Leave. Our departure could bring it down. I think that would be a tragedy?—?the end of something that was begun in fear and hope, that is supposed to be about making a better world, its demise coming in response to a sustained campaign of aggressive hectoring whose positive side I cannot find.”
Laurie Penny argues – back in 2015 – that the real threat we face isn’t immigrants but creeping fascism:
“The behaviour of the British and wider European elite towards migrants is not simple inhumanity. It is strategic inhumanity. It is weaponised inhumanity designed to convince populations fracturing under hammer-blows of austerity and economic chaos that the enemy is out there, that there is an “us” that must be protected from “them” … All of this has happened before. All of this, in fact, is precisely what the European Union was established to prevent.”
John Rickards discusses the various arguments and explains why he’ll be voting to Remain:
“If we vote Leave, I think it’s widely known Johnson will challenge for the Tory leadership and will likely win. This will give us a prime minister than no one, other than about 20,000 people in Uxbridge, voted for, representing a party that a vast majority voted against in the last election, passing policy in a system which requires no vote in Parliament so long as no laws or national budget allotments are changed, in which the cabinet producing those policies is not subject to parliamentary approval or vote in the first place, and in which one entire house?—?the Lords?—?is completely unelected and over which we have no influence at all.
Tell me, what control do we get exactly? And how is that less than we have by working in Europe? What extra representation do we have in an isolated system with so much that’s unrepresentative by default?
No, it’s not us that will get control if we leave the EU. It’s those fronting Leave.”
Nick Cohen talks about the poisonous and anti-intellectual tone of some of the Leave campaign:
“As so often in the past, those who claim to be fighting the elite on behalf of the masses are the most manipulative of all. Baffled broadcasters, who do not understand the new world, have politely wondered why Johnson and Gove are claiming pensioners will be left to suffer as the NHS is overrun by 77 million Turks, when there is absolutely no prospect of Turkey joining the EU. The answer is simple: they do it because they know that playing on racial fear works. They do it because they are confident that any “expert” the BBC can put on air to contradict them can be dismissed with Govean scorn as a liar and a fraud.”
And J.K. Rowling discusses stories and monsters here:
“In a few days’ time, we’ll have to decide which monsters we believe are real and which illusory. Everything is going to come down to whose story we like best, but at the moment we vote, we stop being readers and become authors. The ending of this story, whether happy or not, will be written by us.”
Look, I wasn’t going to write anything myself, but I will say something. As a Labour voter, I don’t see any real point in blaming Cameron, Gove, Johnson, Duncan-Smith and Farage – or any of the rest of that shower of shit – for where we are now. But I do find myself, rightly or wrongly, blaming Labour a little bit. In the run up to the 2015 election, as Ukip shifted the debate to the right, Labour failed to argue that austerity was an ideological choice rather than an economic necessity, and they failed to present the positive case for immigration. On those two absolutely key issues, they failed to offer themselves up as a coherent opposition and ended up presenting themselves as Tory-lite. Cameron then found himself with an unexpected majority and was thus forced to follow through on a promise he’d only made – massively ironically as it turns out – to dampen down a division within his own party in the run up to the general election. There’s more to it than that, of course, but it’s infuriating.
But anyway: here the rest of us are now – forced to deal with a referendum that has not only proved divisive, stupid and ugly on both sides but which is wholly unnecessary. On Friday, we’ll have a result one way or the other, but that won’t be the end of it. It really does feel like we’ve pulled the cork out of a particularly hate-filled bottle right now, and I doubt it will go back in easily any time soon. And whatever the ultimate decision, it won’t be any of the high-profile politicians currently arguing so passionately for either side that feel the full force of its consequences.
And on that note, I’ll end with a link to this piece by Chris Brosnahan, which basically sums up how I feel right now.
“I wish I had a more hopeful point to end this on. Maybe tomorrow, I will. But right now… right now, I’m out of hope. I’m just scared.”