As the rhetoric continues unabated through the referendum megaphone which is hard to ignore, we need a discussion that outlines what form of society we need and want! A debate that takes us into July and beyond, one that ensures that whatever the outcome of the vote that we improve society for all people. According to Boris Johnson “If we #VoteLeave on June 23 we will take back control of our country, our economy and our democracy. we will prosper and thrive and flourish as never before.” It is hard to take him seriously as through his time as Mayor does nothing to suggest he believes in handing control of any of those things to ordinary people. He seems to prefer a society where people like him have control of all things and where people like him prosper and thrive, even if it is at the expense of people like us!
As far as our control of our country is concerned yesterday the Guardian told us the appalling story that lies behind the sacking of Natasha Devon. I wasn’t a shock to discover that Ministers ignore emails from people who they do not want to hear from, I have had that same experience myself. Nor was it hard to imagine that civil servants are directed to use their time to follow twitter accounts of certain people. I recall in 2012 when I was a candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner, that I tweeted about the failings of the Home Office to run an effective election campaign and provide the necessary information. One day my frustration spilled out and within minutes I was contacted by someone from the Home Office apologising and offering to correct the problems, which in due course they did. However to ignore someone like Natasha Devon who the Government had appointed as the childrens mental health champion shows Ministers Alistair Burt and Sam Gyimah up in a very poor light. A poor light that both men have wallowed in when they used filibusters to block a bills that would allow the NHS to use cheaper drugs and lead to the teaching of First Aid in our Schools. This country needs to be released not from the EU but from our own Government.
In terms of our economy, this week on Radio 4 there was a reflection on the work of a German economist whose views would be very helpful in determining what to do on June 23rd and beyond, but sadly he died in 1977. Nevertheless his ideas are still accessible in his books which as someone on the programme stated, are some of the few books on the subject of the economy that are easy to understand. However they present us all with a challenge as we try to apply them to societies with centralised forms of control that are as much a part of our nation as they are of the EU. The broadcast was “Is small the next big? Are the visionary ideas of E F Schumacher, cult author of the 1970s classic Small is Beautiful, about to hit the mainstream?” I am convinced that irrespective of what we do on 23rd June, that Schumacher has valuable lessons for our Government. However our Government won’t consider these ideas unless we begin to change the way in which our nation is run!
Finally in terms of our democracy, we have had a series of Governments that have made decisions based on what is good for their party, not what is good for the country and its people. The most recent example of this was the failure to authorise an election address for the PCC elections that took place last week. This meant that we had no real idea who was standing for these posts and helps to explain why turnout was so woefully small. It also influenced my own decision not to stand, knowing how hard it was in 2012 to engage with residents of 600,000 homes.
In considering what society looks like after the 23rd June, there are more influences than those of Boris Johnson to reflect upon. Liam Fox was also speaking this weekend and argued “The fact we see barbed wire and fences being erected in Europe means the project has failed.” It is certainly true that the barbed wire fences across Europe are an affront to freedom, but the root cause of them is weak Government and States like ours which egged on by Liam and his friends chose to drop bombs on foreign lands, leading to Millions of people on the move. We cannot allow people like Liam Fox to absolve themselves from the responsibility for their own actions and blame others. Whether we vote to leave or remain, we must ensure that those who lead our nation and our Continent are held accountable for their actions and ideas.