REPOST from June 2016 but more relevant than ever following the dragging of poor Jo Cox into the Brexit debate.
Some thoughts about the referendum as we move into the last few days.
It's a strange atmosphere - after months of getting pummelled, Leave had started to pull away from Remain. I watched as poll after poll starting giving the 'right' result, hardly believing what I was seeing, crossing my fingers so as not to jinx the result. And then a madman murderers a remain MP and - though the facts are hazy - seems to be right-wing nut.
Let's just say straight off - and this isn't pro-forma bullshit - as a democrat and patriot - this act, like the murders in the recent past - Airy Neave, Ian Gow and Sir Anthony Berry - takes a little bit of our soul, our democracy. It steals something from all us. Like tribunes in Ancient Rome - elected to serve and counter-balance the patrician Senate - MP's work for and represent us and should be inviolate. Jo Cox seems to have been liked by all who met her. Additionally she leaves behind a husband, three children and many friends and constituents who will all now miss her.
But, she was obscure and I think I probably disagree with most things she espoused. Terrible and tragic though her murder was, we have an important decision to make on Thursday. The affairs of a great nation shouldn't turn on emotionality, even in 2016. No amount of shroud waving and mawkish sentimentality can put this decision off, nor, if Jo was half the great democrat I'm sure she was - should we.
Politics is passionate and better when, verbally, the gloves are off and arguments get aired and debated. I have no tolerance for 'safe spaces', for passive-aggressive diatribes against tone, subject matter or 'the science is settled' closing-down mechanisms. Fuck that. If Farage wants to talks about immigration let him. If Osborne and Cameron want to bull-shit about WW3 and financial armageddon, then be my guest. If Will Straw and the Remain campaign want to get in the dirt and use a dead woman to shut down their opponents arguments then, tasteless and base as they are, go for it but be prepared to be called out on it.
As ever, Rome provides many illustrative examples from the Gracchus Brothers, to the clashes between the generals of the later republic, the bread and circuses of the Julio-Claudians onwards, the lassitude of the third century, the grit of the Danubian Emperors, the re-invention under Diocletian and Constantine. It was often violent and not pretty. We've - hopefully - lost the murderous end-game, but, nutters aside, kept the passion
So calls for restraint and civilised debate should always be viewed with a sceptical eye. If not physical or murderous - and please don't debase this threshold - then argue away. Why curtail free-speech, should always be the question. Who benefits from shutting down debate? Who gets shut out? Arguments need to be tested on merit, not locked away.
As I've quoted before, I think the most realistic song on politics is The Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again'. Unlike most political songs it's written from the standpoint of the powerless, the little person observing that the heat of political battle is often just froth (for them). Things just have a habit of working out.
I pick up my guitar and play // just like yesterday// and get on my knees and pray// We don't get fooled again // Meet the new boss // Same as the old boss
Anyway, the debate is screwed up currently. Hopefully, the good sense of the British people will see past the tragic murder of an MP - who was a mother and politics professional, who had dodgy views - and make a decision.
I almost wrote informed there. But informed is not where we're at. It's in the instinct, the gut; this is no technocratic X in a box. This is about YOU as a person.
I will return to this.
RIP Jo Cox