If there’s one thing that people didn’t need following the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, it is turbulence and instability. Those of us who voted to remain probably feel dejected and isolated at the present time. I know my anxiety levels are all over the place.
The financial markets are going to be uncertain for some time. We have seen a run one the pound in all but name. Thomas Cook has suspended selling Euros to Brits online. In the past we would have seen queues outside banks, and the effects would have felt much more immediate. It’s online, so it seems hidden.
There is now going to be a battle over the type of Britain that emerges from this calamitous decision, and every chancer and charlatan is going to be jockeying for a slice of the action, and to set the framework of how we get along. The Brexit camp have been clear, they want to rip-up the rule books on Human Rights, Workers Rights, Social Protection, Freedom of Movement and Trade.
This is going to be one almighty bear-pit not seen in the United Kingdom since the 1970s. No wonder Scotland wants its independence.
However, in the political and social turmoil that is going to follow in the United Kingdom, there are some practical steps that we can all take to help us feel less alone and less subject to the storm that has hit us.
First, join a Pro-EU political party – this will be either the Greens, the Liberal Democrats or Labour (on a good day). To declare an interest, I’m a member of the Leicester Green Party, though progressive parties are going to have to form an alliance and work together to challenge the neo-liberal and right-wing agenda that is being set in the post-Brexit shakeout.
It’s impossible to set and secure the agenda on environmental protection or climate change without cooperation and collaboration with our neighbours and partners. A collective approach is the only solution to the practical problems we face in a global and interconnected world. Being part of a party that recognises that is the only way to advance these ideas.
This is why proportional representation is now so important. If the UKIP wing of opinion had been fairly represented in parliament, then perhaps these issues wouldn’t have spilt over. They would have been discussed and debated. The two-party politics of the past is dead, but our system of representation is inadequate to deal with the differences of opinion. It can’t be right that fifty-two out of fifty-four council seats in Leicester are held by Labour councillors, when nearly a two-thirds of the city voted for other parties.
Second, join a trade union. Worker’s rights are at the front of the queue to be thrown on the bonfire by Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. Johnson’s record as Mayor of London shows that he was more interested in billionaire property speculators than working people. Your working rights will not defend themselves. Unscrupulous employers will want maximum flexibility and will try to drive down costs by slashing wages and work-place protection.
Third, educate yourself. One of the complaints of the referendum debate was that there was not enough facts and information given to people. I’m sorry, but this is a democracy, you have a responsibility to find out for yourself the information you need. If you end up trusting biased newspapers, then you get what you deserve.
Educating yourself works on another level as well. Without skills, knowledge and aptitude to get ahead in the global world, with the knowledge-based jobs that will create the future wealth, then you will be left behind.
I’m in favour of a building and securing a robust and accessible social ladder so people can get on, with help for people who need help. But each of us as individuals have to take responsibility for starting our journey up that ladder.
It’s no longer any use to blame someone else for our problems. We are now frozen out of the European Union. In practical terms we are on our own. It’s also no use holding on to the past and feeling aggrieved about the damage done by former governments, which was a large part of what this referendum was about. It’s also no use thinking that this isn’t real, or that some great saviour is going to come and charismatically hand us the solution.
The solution will be made by people coming together and taking small steps. A good friend of mine has a great turn of phrase which I think is useful at this moment: ‘I don’t know what I should do, I only know what I can do.’ Focus on the simple steps first, and the bigger change will happen in time.
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