The Blog

I'm Not An Unpatriotic Bremoaner, I'm A Realist

What kind of pluralist liberal democracy do we now live in, when the right-wing press wants to silence the 16million people who voted Remain for simply expressing doubts about how things are heading.
Luke MacGregor / Reuters

From Wednesday 13th October 2016

Since the EU referendum the pound has hit a 168-year low, hate crimes have soared, and we are even running out of our beloved, British Marmite, and yet we are supposed to shut our eyes, shut our mouths, and pretend that everything is fine and dandy, while gently humming the national anthem.

The Daily Mail carried a front-page blurb for its editorial on Wednesday saying: "Damn the unpatriotic Bremoaners and their plot to subvert the will of the British people."

The Daily Express followed suit on Thursday with the headline: "Plot to betray EU exit voters - May hits back at whingers."

The tabloid press, who led so many Leave voters down a blind alley with sensationalised anti-immigration rhetoric, are now calling for other journalists and Remain voters to be silenced.

We have already witnessed the damaging effects of uncertainty on things like the pound. The two-year negotiation process after Article 50 will surely create even more uncertainty, confusion and chaos. Brexit negotiations are also going to cost millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, but to point that out makes you a Britain-hating whinger.

What kind of pluralist liberal democracy do we now live in, when the right-wing press wants to silence the 16million people who voted Remain for simply expressing doubts about how things are heading.

Leading Tories go on and on about the overwhelming verdict delivered by the British people. Of course the voices of the 17 million Leave voters should be respected, but it's misleading to argue that the British public has expressed one clear message.

Lots of lLeave voters thought we would be liberated from the continent of evil, unelected bureaucrats from non-countries the very next day. The triggering of Article 50, different visions of Brexit, and a complicated negotiation process were barely mentioned during the referendum campaign.

The search terms 'what is brexit', and 'what is the eu' peaked on the day after the referendum, reflecting how people were still unsure even after the vote. This is hardly a population delivering a clear, coherent message.

This is why we need greater scrutiny via parliament of the plan for Brexit. This is not a covert ploy from unpatriotic, Britain-hating Europhiles to sabotage the honourable mission to leave the EU, but simply an attempt to make sure the government will deliver the best result.

As shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer put it during the Commons debate: "The referendum was a mandate to leave the EU. It wasn't a mandate on the terms on which we would leave. You can't build a consensus around a position that you've refused to disclose."

It's a basic tenet of democracy to hold the government to account, and scrutinise how it goes about running the country. Surely in relation to Brexit, this concept is as relevant as ever.

Both The Mail and The Daily Express also plastered Lily Allen on their front pages, who visited Calais in support of the charity Help Refugees, and was moved to tears when she met a 13-year-old Afghan refugee.

She apologised on behalf of the UK, and has since received an outpouring of violent criticism for being unpatriotic and supporting refugees, ie. potential criminals, terrorists or rapists.

How dare she show some human compassion, and try to see what was going on with her own eyes. This is another example of the corrosive influence of the right-wing press on the quality of the public debate.

A narrow victory for Leave after a closely fought campaign doesn't mean we should hand over all the power to Theresa May and her trio of right-wing incompetents Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox. John Crace's sketch in the Guardian brilliantly highlights the levels of confusion and chaos.

The plan for Brexit must be scrutinised via parliament, and through an open public debate, the like of which will be impossible if the right-wing press continues its attempts to silence Remainers and regretful Leavers.

Empty slogans like 'Brexit means Brexit' are simply not good enough for such a momentous step in our history. We have at least two more years of this debate on how we leave the EU, so let's hope we raise our game.