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Opinion

Paul McNamee: For the voice of the people, forget Boris. Ask our vendors

“Every day, at the sharp end of existence, they hear the concerns of real people, they learn of the worries. They know the reality of life in Britain much more than career politicians who claim to know”

Just for a day, I’d give The Big Issue vendors a go. Maybe extend it to a week in order to get a little more done.

The great argument coalescing around Boris Johnson as the putative PM is that he has the people behind him, that he has the real voice of the real people ringing in his ears. He’ll listen and deliver on this truth.

I’m not sure where all these truth-telling people are coming from. He hasn’t said.

Of course the obvious argument runs that this is about Brexit, and that Boris Johnson, as one of the key architects of withdrawal, is plugged closest into the only real show in town. That he of the false figure bus and the misinformation about Turkish accession is part of the Brexit mainframe and therefore will deliver.

But Brexit isn’t the only show. Brexit is the show that is stopping everything else.

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When Theresa May took office she made very positive noises about speaking for those on the margins of society, for the just-about-managing. She was going to sculpt a great new inclusive future. When we challenged her to back our prevention message ahead of the 2017 general election – to put effort, thinking and money into tackling social problems at the beginning, before they grew – she didn’t hesitate.

But then, Brexit. And that was that. And so any genuine policy-change decision was sacrificed. The inability to sort things out left the door open for Farage to hammer home his single-issue message. Which leads us to the possibility of Boris Johnson.

In order to get out of the Brexit mess, there needs to be some clever thinking, some genuine intellectual rigour. It needs to show a way through, a way to understand the frustrations that led to the referendum vote and also a way of bringing along those who DIDN’T vote to leave. And once that is shown, once these pieces are stitched together, then the other elements of normal life and normal governance can be dealt with. Imagine that!

Ask yourself – could vendors possibly make a worse fist of things than we’re presently seeing?

Want to know the voice of the people? Ask The Big Issue vendors. Every day, at the sharp end of existence, they hear the concerns of real people, they learn of the worries. They know the reality of life in Britain much more than career politicians who claim to know. They understand the architecture that keeps those in poverty from climbing out. They will have interesting things to say about retail and high streets getting hollowed out, about housing provision and help for the poorest. And, ask yourself – could they possibly make a worse fist of things than we’re presently seeing?

The US have a reality TV star in charge. Ukraine elected a comedian who had played the president in a TV show. Would The Big Issue vendors taking the reins in Downing Street for a week do much worse that some of the alternatives?

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue
@pauldmcnameePaul.McNamee@bigissue.com

Image: Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo

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