If the Tories’ Brexit Makes Us Poorer, Don’t Blame the Voters
After the deadline for an extension of the transition period passed with little sign of an agreement being reached, we are now potentially less than 4 months away from a No Deal Brexit. The “easiest (deal) in human history” has turned out to be anything but and the £350m a week for the NHS seems like a distant memory. However, if Britain’s fortunes do not change for the better at the end of this year, it is Brexit politicians, and not Brexit voters, who will be to blame.
On a small corner of Twitter, ridicule was directed at Cornwall Council after they requested that the government replaces the EU funding the area county currently enjoys in 2021, despite 5 of its’ 6 parliamentary constituencies voting to leave in 2016. Whilst it is true that Cornwall has benefitted from numerous regional development projects and many are sceptical that Westminster will match the money, making this demand of central government is simply asking for them to deliver on the promises that Boris Johnson and many of cabinet made during the campaign.
A few ironic taunts of “they knew what they were voting for” were thrown around as some seemed to be delighting in the prospect of potential economic damage for my home county, which is one of the nation’s poorest. Whilst it is true that Cornwall has benefitted from numerous regional development projects and many are sceptical that Westminster will match the money, making this demand of central government is simply asking for them to deliver on the promises that Boris Johnson and many of cabinet made during the campaign.
It goes without saying that no matter which way we voted, we should all be hoping that the country has made the right choice. Patriots don’t always agree with everything their country does, but they do hope that the decisions it does take turn out to be correct, even if you disagreed with them in the first place. It is especially wrong for former remainers of a left wing persuasion, for whom the desire to fight poverty forms a large party of our political philosophy, to be wishing for an economic downturn which will hit those at the bottom of the ladder the hardest.
However, if the government’s own analysis is correct and our exit from the European Union does bring economic damage, the message of the opposition parties will be crucial in determining the next election. As it was the Conservatives who instigated the referendum, delivered the result and won the 2019 election on a Brexit ticket, a recession caused by a no-deal exit would likely leave the party vulnerable to defeat in 2024. This would be particularly concerning to their new ‘red wall’ MPs in less affluent Brexit-voting constituencies, who could struggle to defend their slim majorities in historically Labour areas.
But this is far from a given. Part of the reason that many historically left wing voters opted for Johnson’s Tories in 2019 was their perception that the alternatives had adopted a “we know best” attitude towards their Brexit policy; whether or not the opposition parties think this is a fair assessment, it is a reality they must contend with. Therefore, adopting a “we told you so” approach to the voters they need to win back would be a massive own goal. Keir Starmer and Ed Davey seem to have grasped this, with both ruling out the possibility of rejoining the EU should either party come into power in future.
Of course, in this scenario, the Tories and only the Tories would be responsible, however much they would inevitably try to pass the buck. We are sure to see them blame it on anything from Labour, to the EU to the boogie. If this happens, Labour should be aiming to make a direct appeal to those who supported the Leave campaign by slamming those who led it and fanciful promises made by the likes of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. Keir Starmer is an astute politician who recognises this, and will no doubt hammer the cabinet for their incompetence, but myself and fellow ex-remainers will have a role to play too.
Whilst most of us conduct debates with good grace, a small minority of supporters on both sides of the leave/remain and Tory/Labour divides have contributed to a nasty culture of name calling, which has showed no sign of slowing down, particularly online. Hundreds of slanging matches occur every day, with stereotypes of Tory leavers being thick xenophobes and Labour remainers being elitist traitors never being far away. Whilst it is true that there are also a few unpleasant individuals among the first group, we must be better, more welcoming and more positive to win an argument that we’ve been losing for years, in such polarising times.
Polling indicates that public opinion is gradually shifting away from the Tories and more people are open to voting Labour next time, so to return to the nastiness of the Jeremy Corbyn era, where many expressing even mild dissatisfaction were told to “F*ck off and join the Tories” would be wrong on both a strategic and human level. In the cut and thrust of political debate, it is easy to forget that the idea of political activism isn’t to showcase one’s self-righteousness and superiority, its’ purpose is to bring moderates from the other side over to the case. As tempting as it may be to sarcastically quote Brexit politicans’ slogans back to their supporters, or laugh at the irony of any future developments – don’t do it. This is the only way that we can ensure the Tory Brexit charlatans are gone by 2024.