Opinion

John Bird on Brexit: Voting is not enough – it’s time to get involved

"The Brexit debate is like a family arguing over who gets granny’s jewellery - but we get the politics we deserve"

The rather vile, moralising, rude, abrasive, childish and sick struggle between the inners and the outers, and the outers and the inners has very little to do with politics. It is a bunch of highly privileged politicians fighting for their political lives.

There may among them be some honest Joes or Josephines trying to have a serious political debate about the carbuncle thrown up ad hoc and called the European Union, but the flatulence of most of the fights is paramount. That Eton rules both houses, and boys will be boys, is not for me the most troubling factor. It is more the naked need to win the high ground of office, and the sense that this has sweet Fanny Adams to do with the peoples of the British Isles.

It is not gladiatorial, because gladiators show skill. There are no skills, not even the skills of a bare-knuckle fight. It’s a snide and bitching affair, as if two parts of a family are arguing over who gets granny’s jewellery.

Are the big boys of politics fighting for those who need health to work for all, for the weak and defeated?

I spent bank holiday weekend in a camping and caravan park, among people who seemed decent, honest, organised and respectful of each other, in the county of Norfolk. I visited a church and marvelled at the flint stone. And noted sadly a new grave for a six-year-old and was mortified by the thought and sight. Was there nothing our great and, at times, lumbering NHS could do for the poor mite and his distressed family?

Are the big boys of politics fighting for those who need health to work for all, for the weak and defeated? Or are they like hungry carnivores who want to be the dog with the biggest dick? Or at least the high office from which to make such a claim.

I doubt in fact that this has anything at all to do with Europe – that offshore continent that perplexes, astounds, confounds and inspires most of us all at the same time. Out of which comes most of our French, German and Latin culture. Originally sons and daughters of the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years, we have since become an eternal mixture.

Can we blame our supposed political titans from bashing disgraceful chunks out of each other, as if this was Chamberlain and Churchill all over again? Surely that is what politics is all about. About the people we, through our indifference towards politics between elections, allow to pose as political leaders.

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Until we move forward from the ham-fisted world of representational democracy to participatory democracy we are left in the lurch. And have to put up with the third-rate knocking 10 colours of ordure out of each other in the pursuit of becoming second-rate. And reducing such important an issue as the European Union to a slagging match.

You get the politics you deserve. If only the young were not led off into the cul-de-sac of protest and anger, rather than understanding our broken political system, then we might have a new generation of political workers. Who would sweat at grasping contradiction and complexity, philosophy and history. And not simply see politics as an off-screen version of The X Factor.

The answer, as on most occasions, is the people. The average person who votes or doesn’t, who leaves politics at all other times to the party system.

Multitudes stopped going to Woolworths so it closed. Multitudes have left newspaper-buying alone, so newspapers close

It is so, so interesting for us all to reflect on the power of the multitude. How multitudes change the world. Multitudes stopped going to Woolworths so it closed. Multitudes have left newspaper-buying alone, so newspapers close.

Shops in high streets close because the multitude has spoken. Tesco and Sainsbury’s and Walmart grow into behemoths because the multitude have spoken.

If you don’t like the uglification of politics, then the multitude have to speak. Change the party system if it stinks.

And by the look of the smells coming from the warring boys, it does smell smelly.

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