I don’t consider myself political. I don’t like clubs as I have blogged before, and no clubs are more abhorrent to me than political parties. I admire those that proudly wear their politics on their sleeve, but I personally struggle to understand how anyone could ever constrain all their thoughts and beliefs to the inside of a blue or red box of thinking and ideology.
I have beliefs. I believe passionately in the NHS and the welfare state, I want those unable to help themselves to be supported by a caring society, and I support controlled immigration. I also believe in incentivising companies to establish themselves in the UK to bolster our workforce, and I believe in meritocracy. However I know by saying all those things that doesn’t place me in either a blue, yellow or red box, for all parties will claim all these beliefs too. Even UKIP will claim controlled immigration, whilst Labour will claim to be the party of business and finance and the Tories the protectors (and creators) of the NHS. In summary, everyone is in favour of everything nice and against everything nasty.
And so in an attempt to try and pin ones colours to any mast at election or referendum time, one has to dig deeper into the subtle, twisty-turny definitions and sub-texts, and more often than not you come out of that process more confused than ever before.
And all this is perfectly exemplified by the current EU Referendum here in the UK.
Let me lay out my beliefs. I am a passionate Europhile. My family and I have been immigrants in Germany (’95-’97) and although not the EU, we were also immigrants in USA (’98-’00), so I strongly support immigration too. Those two family adventures where we lived overseas in other cultures are possibly the richest, fondest and most positive experiences of my life. My wife and I travel to continental Europe whenever time and money permits because we love to eat, drink and walk through the streets of our continental neighbours, absorbing their culture and history and always leaving feeling richer as a result.
Yet I am also deeply, deeply frustrated by the EU. It feels like a victim of its own success. In trying to serve 28 masters it serves none. It feels horrendously complex, probably because it has to be with 28 masters where compromise means no-one gets what they want. And it appears to be so overly bureaucratic as to be almost stagnant. I don’t understand who elects these people, I don’t know who these people are and I couldn’t name any of them either (shame on me). What I do see are largely facile rulings and decisions – who can call their cheese ‘Cheddar’, Cadbury’s chocolate can’t be called chocolate, bananas that are too curved, bread toasters to be banned, children under 8 not allowed to blow up balloons, etc. And then we have the Common Agricultural Policy subsidising farmers to produce goods nobody wants or needs.
And so here I am, I want to be in Europe, I want to be part of Europe, but I am deeply frustrated by the EU. Do we stay and fight for change from within? Haven’t we been trying to do that since the inception of the common market, and if anything things seem to be getting worse? Or do we Brexit and start afresh doing everything ourselves? At least we would then have accountability, we would have decisions made by people we can vote in or out. But what about rulings that don’t respect borders – what about terrorism? air pollution? environmental issues? These issues clearly don’t respect our nationalistic borders, and yet impact us significantly and surely benefit best from common purpose and cross European debate? And if we leave what model should we adopt? The Norwegian model? the Swiss model? Canadian model? No-one seems to know and the Brexit strategy does feel rather uncertain.
And the more one reads, the more confused one gets. The hyperbole, misdirection and spurious lies from both sides is horrendous and completely unhelpful. Claims that holidays will cost £250 more if we Brexit are nonsense, as are claims from the Brexit side that we will sign trade deals with 28 countries in a matter of months. And everyday the claims and counter claims become ever more insidious and ridiculous. Surely they see this don’t they? So is that their intent? To aim to confuse, to obfuscate the truth through a smokescreen of lies and deception?
Once again I find myself struggling to join any club, staring balefully through the EU debating playground railings, seeing others joyously pinning their rosettes to their EU referendum jackets.
I feel slightly envious, yet the harder I try, the more I listen, the more I read, the more I search and research, the more confused I become.