Listening to Chris Grayling last Sunday morning stubbornly – or patiently, depending on your point of view – refusing to elucidate on what a ‘plan B’ might consist of if the vote is defeated on Tuesday, I was inescapably reminded of my mother’s answer to us children when, back in the fifties and early sixties, we asked what was for pudding before we’d even had our dinner. The inevitable response was – wait and see. This summed up for me an essential aspect of the dilemma modern politics finds itself in. People in power – all people exercising any kind of power – have the tendency to treat those within the purview of their power as if they’re children, but they also make the mistake of assuming that means not just not yet understanding what’s what but being in some way incapable of that understanding. Now whilst this is understandable in the case of a harassed parent who is simply moving through her day making the best decisions she can for her children, in a politician it’s lazy and inexcusable and we must always hold them to account.
We live in a time of mass communication, and one of the upshots of this is that the electorate is potentially vastly better informed than at any other time in history. As in the ‘time’s up’ aspect of the women’s movement there is a ‘time’s up’ aspect to politicians being able to hide behind paternalism and not keep the public fully informed as to their thinking and decision making. We are within reach of true democracy, if you like, but politicians have been taken by surprise and many of them have been caught on the back foot and are still there, and these look increasingly foolish to a questioning observer.
To simultaneously say that Brexit is the ‘Will of the People’ and that we would be letting them down if we don’t drive it through, and that those same people are not entitled to know what ‘plan B’ is until our Lords and Masters deign to unveil it, is to keep going along the manipulative path that characterised the whole leaving the EU movement from top to bottom. But more than that, it will misfire, because it’s the politics of patronising people who are just as bright and often more competent than they are themselves. It will backfire on them, on you, Mr Grayling. A massive historical tide is turning in this age.
Whatever anyone says it seems obvious that Brexit is as much about immigration as it is about anything. The shining light of the world this week for me has been the young Saudi woman Rahaf al-Qunun being welcomed into Canada as a citizen. That’s the kind of country we could be.
I know what my plan B would be. Stand up for openness, stand up to xenophobia, stand with our European allies who have not only brought peace to the continent after what’s still one of the most dreadful wars humanity ever fought, but actually won the Nobel Peace Prize for doing so.
Revoke article 50 would be my plan B. Stay in the EU and continue to have the necessary arguments until the end of time if necessary. Jaw jaw not war war.
What would yours be? In the vacuum of this incompetent government it’s up to all of us to think about what would move us forward in the best direction.