Dear Readers (who I’m pretty sure DO exist),
I’m going there. After three years of watching our country pull itself apart, I’m voicing an opinion.
I have absolutely no illusions, that, if people start commenting, they will tell me that I am wrong (whichever way this post goes). I want to make it crystal clear that this post is purely my opinion, based on my own observations.
I’m not going to tell you which way I voted, but I will say that my vote was on a knife’s edge, to the point where I was sorely tempted to simply spoil my ballot. This is something I have never done, and I have voted in every election I am eligible to vote in.
It is my sincere belief that this referendum should never have been put to the British people.
However, it was, and we cannot change that.
There was a result, and we cannot change that either.
What I believe has been missing in the whole debacle is the lack of critical analysis following the result. Yes, we have had statistic followed by statistic ‘proving’ that the result was not what it is. We have had claims of illegality on one side or the other. We have seen insults thrown in echo chambers and life long friendships severed as a result of who voted how. We have seen the rise of new, inventive insults, most of which, I must be honest, confuse me as, I’m not entirely sure who they are aimed at anymore.
I have a thought which keeps returning to me.
Brexit is not the cause of our ‘broken’ society, it is merely a symptom.
Much like that last fight in a relationship, where one partner walks away, suitcase in hand, into the sunset, and both finally realise that it was never going nowhere.
However, I am not talking about the UK in Europe, I believe our problems are much closer to home, in our own governmental systems. Had we had a vote to disband Parliament and rebuild our national system from the ground up, I believe the vote would have been in favour. Had we had the same vote in a Local Government setting, the result would be the same.
However, the Government went for one of the big guns, thinking that ‘common sense’ would prevail and ‘the people’ would rubber stamp our entire governing system. But that is not what happened.
In every governmental system, there are (necessarily) rivals. Whether it be Sunderland Council vs Newcastle Council, the North vs the South, East vs West, it is there, and it will always be there. It is human nature to look after those that are closest to you, and you can see the benefit of helping. This is not a judgement statement, this is a mere observation of human nature.
It is difficult to see beyond your own front door when you are struggling to feed your family.
It is hard to assign blame ‘correctly’ when you don’t have the opportunity to consider things philosophically.
I have thought long and hard about the results of the vote. I have looked in detail at the grants and funding that is provided by the EU to my local area.
I live in an area that voted predominately to Leave. The turnout was 64.9% in my area, compare that to 32% in the Local Government election in 2018. On Referendum Day, I personally (and literally) walked a man through the entire voting process, and polling staff commented on the number of people who had never voted before.
This indicates to me that people felt that they could actually make a difference in the Referendum vote. This is in direct contrast to ‘normal’ elections.
So, why was that? Why don’t people feel that they are heard in normal elections? Why do the majority feel that it’s ‘not worth voting’?
Now, let me be clear that I don’t have all the answers, but I do want to hear your ideas too.
I believe that the problem is the First Past the Post, two-party system that we currently use to decide who is in charge. This means that a very few people actually vote for their elected representative.
The elected representative has a duty to represent the people of the constituency that they are elected to. However, they also have an obligation to the Party which has supported and paid for their campaign. Sometimes these views are at odds and given the power of the Party system (and the fact that people often vote for a Party rather than a person), the representative is forced to toe the Party line, regardless of the views of their constituents.
This set-up which appears to be quite simple, becomes quite complicated when you look at it like that.
Who do our elected representatives work for?
Over the past few years, I have engaged more frequently with my local MP, I have called her to account and expressed views online in such forums as her own Facebook page and her Twitter account. I know of many others who have become more engaged too.
We speak in groups and forums and compare and contrast responses. We have found that, for the most part, responses are not that different between individual MPs. In fact, on many occasions, they are exactly the same. I understand that MPs are very busy people, but I also understand that this person is being paid to represent me in the corridors of power.
I don’t want to hear rhetoric or party lines, I want to hear the opinions and thoughts of the person that was elected to represent me. And I believe that many others feel the same way.
The rise of Social Media has afforded the ‘common people’ with more access to information than ever before. While the rise of abuse on Social Media is very concerning, we need to look at the other side of the coin. Our elected representatives are more accessible than ever before. This brings with it more accountability than ever before.
I’ve observed my local representatives on a few different platforms, and in some, there is a complete failure to engage. Social media is not merely free advertising, it is a chance to engage with people on many different levels. But what I see is not an engagement, rather a promotional spiel, and defensive arguments rather than reasoned discussion.
I know social media is not the be all and end all, but used properly, it could be a very useful tool in engaging people in democracy. And I believe that there is a desire in many quarters to have better control over their lives.
I have also discovered that there is no formal feedback between MPs and local Councillors, which entirely baffles me.
For me, at least, the major victory that was won by the Brexit Referendum was the engagement of many in our countries democratic process. The turnout was unprecedented. This should not be allowed to whither but be celebrated. We CAN have a constructive conversation about the direction our country is headed in, but we MUST hear all voices, voices which have made themselves heard.
The Party Political system of First Past the Post it outdated and not fit for purpose, but we need to give as many people as possible a voice in our next great overhaul of our Parliamentary system. We’ve done it before, some even lost their heads over it, and we can do it again.
On Referendum Day, there was a real buzz, Leave or Remain, people CARED about the outcome. They felt they had to power to make a difference, lets find a way to show them they were right.
Open forum time. How would YOU change our democratic process?