I was gutted by the referendum result in 2016, and have continued to bemoan it for the two years following. I’m yet to be won over by team Brexit and still find myself wanting to put David Cameron in Room 101 for his sheer naivety when it came to calling the referendum, which has settled nothing except the fact that we need to make sweeping reforms to electoral law.
Then there are the civil wars going on in the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, which are both painful and boring. Former great leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Clement Atlee must be turning in their graves over these tit-for-tat fall-outs.
However, I’m yet to completely back the idea of a second referendum, or its current guise of a so-called ‘People’s Vote’. If we are to re-run the bitterness of the previous referenda cycle, and if both sides are simply going to return to their echo chambers, we risk wasting money on a pointless campaign which will undoubtedly lead to more embarrassment and devastation – in both the nation and abroad.
The Remain camp are in a particularly bad state. There are a considerable amount of ‘I told you so’s floating around at the moment, and this just plays into the idea that Remainers have no one but themselves to blame for the Brexit vote.
Since the referendum, Remain campaigners have been a combination of in denial, bourgeois, and peak snobbery. At times, the content and the messages put out have been about as effective in changing minds as milking a stone. They’ve yet to break through the surface of what is a furious electorate who’ve experienced constant London centrism, austerity and electoral disenfranchisement since the years of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.
Most of the time, one can’t help but notice smug posts from Remainers about economic slumps and factories at risk of closing down in areas which voted to leave the EU. I’ve also noticed persistent profiling of Leave voters with sneers about class and background. Alas, if Remainers ever want to claim victory and return the British Isles to some state of tranquil, European normality, then ditching the snobbery would be a good start.
Every week, the chances of there being a second referendum on the outcome of the deal ebb a little closer to reality. For this to happen, it would require a fervent push from campaigners and politicians, which is, in truth, completely feasible.
Some Tories have quite rightly begun spitting feathers as we near the cliff edge, with their majorities wavering and a threat of severe trade tariffs looming. Labour has become more vocal from the backbenches, and even the frontbenches. Tom Watson, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell have all dropped one of two hints at a second referendum, though this could be in line with Labour’s usual Brexit strategy of complete ambiguity.
Equally, the MPs calling for a People’s Vote have been diverse. Labour’s MPs from more liberal, middle-class constituencies, such as Ben Bradshaw’s Exeter and Peter Kyle’s Hove, were to be expected, but the likes of Anna Turley and Catherine McKinnel in North Eastern, Leave-voting constituencies come as a surprise which shows gathering momentum for a need to step on the brakes before it is too late.
If a ‘People’s Vote’ (the wisest campaign name yet) does happen, it must be a positive campaign and it must avoid the establishment. The discussion must extend beyond the usual destinations like London and other metropolises; politicians and campaigns must be gutsy enough to get out there in heavily anti-EU areas, such as Great Yarmouth and Bognor Regis. It is vital that those at the front of the Remain cause aren’t those who rode the austerity wave, or at least weren’t at the forefront of it. And it is also important that project fear is left behind as we all know that it just doesn’t work.
Whilst still far off from definite, it is clear the public is beginning to doubt the strengths of Brexit, giving politicians the opportunity to invest money in an honest, clean debate on our EU membership, something far away from the 2016 campaign.
If so-called ‘passionate’ Remainers choose to continue sneering at these voters, then they’ll only have themselves to blame when whatever twisted statistics lie on the side of the Leave bus win the argument again.