Nobody votes in European elections. Turnout is usually about 35%, which is piss poor. This time around we’re being asked to vote in elections half the country didn’t want, for politicians who might never sit in the European Parliament, or if they do only for a few months. It all seems a horribly pointless waste of everyone’s time and sort of sums up where we are at the moment. Britain floundering in a cesspool of its own making. What a mess.
But it is an election and there are fundamental reasons to go to the polling station today. The far right are on the rise across Europe playing the race card, scapegoating immigrants and others for the failures of governments. If democracy is so important to you, then vote. And let’s vote for the sort of country (and Europe for the time being) we want to be. I for one don’t want us to be this divisive, petulant, ineffective shitshow. Wasn’t Brexit supposed to be easy?
There is a huge amount of anger in the country about how Brexit has been handled, as there was in the run up to the referendum. That anger needs to be tackled. As the fifth richest country in the world, Brexiteers told us that we were strong enough to stand on our own, but somehow this doesn’t translate into being rich enough to provide the most basic of services. A United Nations report released this week stated that levels of poverty in Britain were “not just a disgrace but a social calamity and an economic disaster”. That this has been a deliberate choice by the Conservative government of “ideological cuts” which have led to “tragic consequences.” Until recently, instead of challenging this or providing an alternative to austerity we were fed a diet of misinformation on Europe and immigration.
I have heard people say, ‘I remember what Britain was like before the EU’, but they seem to mean before Thatcherism. Europe is not to blame for the huge loss of our industry. There aren’t a load of Eastern Europeans down the mines or in the shipyards. Europe is not to blame for our low wages, insecure contracts, poor productivity and lack of training and investment. Europe is not to blame for us not building houses, for letting entire communities fail and rot. After the 2008 crash, nobody was held responsible for that calamity. The Tories made the poor pay for it instead – slashing services, closing libraries and cutting benefits. We voted for austerity and now we want someone to take the blame.
The consequences of not challenging that narrative are now clear to see. Racism and fascism thrive in certain, specific conditions. We have to acknowledge that racism and fascism fester and thrive in times of economic crisis. Fascism in the 1930s rose in both Germany and the UK during an economic depression with the far right exploiting anger and insecurity.
For all their talk about the Second World War, blitz spirit and restoring Britain to former greatness, some Brexiteers seem to have a poor grasp of our actual history. We fought fascists in the UK and we fought them in Germany. We fought to keep them off our streets. And yet here we are with racist thugs intimidating people in our town centres. What I remember at school was our astonishment at how Nazi Germany had been allowed to happen. How had a democracy turned to far right horrors of a police state, deportations and death camps? A history so horrendous that it could never happen again. We told ourselves that people are now too clever to fall for such obvious propaganda again.
People ask themselves, what would I have done in the 1930s? We like to think that we would have spotted the signs, resisted, that we would never have succumbed to such blatant falsehoods and hate. And yet, another report came out this week saying that racism has increased since the Brexit referendum. Voting for Brexit didn’t make you a racist, but racists have become emboldened since the vote.
The far right choose to scapegoat immigrants and whip up hatred. They have no solutions just blame. The lack of any sort of plan from leading Brexiteers has been outrageous. It was supposed to be the easiest deal in history, and now we’re told that people voted for no deal. Tory MEP Daniel Hannan promised that we would not be leaving the single market, Nigel Farage said we could have a deal similar to Norway’s. Both of these statements seem to have been forgotten and are now considered unacceptable to Brexiteers. Then we have the likes of ‘man of the people’ Jacob Rees-Mogg’s investment firm making millions from Brexit and moving its operations to Dublin rather than London. These people are such charlatans it’s laughable.
If you want to vote for change, for some real solutions to the problems that are blighting this country of homelessness, wage stagnation, under-investment in public services and work-life balance then the Brexit Party/UKIP are not going to provide it. They’re not interested in real change, just a continuation of more Thatcherism. They have no policies on a green economy, there’ll be more opening up of our country to foreign speculators, more privatisation of our health service, selling us off to the highest bidder.
We have to speak out, we have to defend people, we have to vote. We have to keep out the fascists. If you haven’t already voted, get out and vote for a Labour Party that as part of a centre left grouping in Europe will work together (whilst we still can) to find real solutions to the biggest issues of inequality, climate change, globalisation. The fascists can only offer you more division.