Why I am still abstaining from the EU referendum

7 Jun

THIS IS A RE-POSTING OF A BLOG FROM 4 MARCH 2016. IT SEEMS MORE RELEVANT NOW. I HAVE NOT CHANGED MY MIND, EVEN THOUGH THE OPINION POLLS ARE CLOSER THAN WHEN I WROTE THIS. THE REFERENDUM IS STILL A HUGE AND UNNECESSARY DISTRACTION FROM POVERTY, INEQUALITY, AND THE DISMANTLING OF STATE RESPONSIBILITY FOR EDUCATION, HEALTH AND WELFARE. I AM SIMPLY NOT GOING TO PLAY THE GAME THAT POLITICAL ELITES WANT ME TO PLAY. THE SENSIBLE CHOICE IS TO IGNORE THIS RICH, WHITE, MALE ELITE.

On most days, the main news story in the UK involves a rich middle-aged white man saying that the sky will fall on our heads if we leave OR remain in the European Union. The outcome is always catastrophic. It is never a case of ‘If you leave/remain in the EU there will be mild consequences’.

What is driving me to abstain from this whole referendum campaign is that the staging of this argument suits those in power. It suits them to divert our attention onto the EU issue while they continue with an anti-people agenda of privatising the National Health Service, taking benefits from the poorest in society, de-regulating the City of London, and dismantling universities. Every second of airtime given to this issue is a second that does not scrutinise a government of millionaires presiding over increasing homelessness, less care for the mentally ill, fewer police officers on the streets, and shoddy treatment of doctors.

So I am not playing the game. And this is a game. The issue of whether the UK remains in the EU is essentially an internal Conservative Party issue that the Prime Minister has decided to turn into a campaigning issue. It is an issue of choice. It is an unnecessary indulgence for a man who will leave office in three years and resume being what he is: a multi-millionaire elitist. It was entirely his choice to turn this into a major political issue. And to give him and his coterie attention on this issue is to play into his hands. Obviously, the media are playing into his hands. They love this issue. It is a simple binary choice. It pits supposed allies against each other. It touches on weather-vane issues beloved by the right-wing gutter press such as immigration, welfare, and ‘foreigners’.

If I were to vote (and I will not) I would vote to remain in the EU. My confidence in the European project was severely shaken by the patently undemocratic treatment meted out to Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Portugal by the European Commission and the European Central Bank (but really by the German government). This foisting of bankers’ debt on populations was a crime against decency and democracy. This issue aside, the European project has generally been a good thing. The central message – that cooperation between states is better than unilateralism and nationalism – is an important one. After all, nationalism cost tens of millions of European (and other) lives in the twentieth century. The EU has been an important tool in blunting that on continental Europe.

What we are seeing with this UK referendum campaign is essentially theatre. The UK will vote to remain in the EU. If there is any doubt about this, take a look at what happened during the referendum on Scottish independence. The extent to which the people of Scotland were bludgeoned on a daily basis by London-based corporations, media and political parties was something that had to be seen to be believed. The corporations, media and political parties united to form a massive steamroller that bullied and threatened people about the ‘benefits’ of remaining in the UK. Cynically, the remaining in the UK campaign called itself ‘Project Fear’ – it was predicated on the notion that it would win if it scared people about tax, cost of living, pensions, and security. And it worked. Prime Minister Cameron and his rich white boy allies know this. Project Fear II will prevail and the UK will remain in the EU. And safe in that knowledge, I am going to concentrate on issues that matter – not on a sham referendum campaign.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Why I am still abstaining from the EU referendum”

  1. Steve Gerrish 19/06/2016 at 2:35 pm #

    Today I thought about abstainers for the first time. I have heard (I have wall to wall Radio 4) that there is a body of people who genuinely do not know who to trust, and who therefore may not vote at all. I think abstaining in these circumstances an abdication of responsibility. If you don’t know if this change should happen, surely you should vote for the status quo?
    I realise that your principled stance is different, but surely you won’t achieve anything by abstaining (and persuading others to abstain). It is clear that you don’t want change on this black & white level: “If I were to vote (and I will not) I would vote to remain in the EU.” It feels like you are throwing your toys out of the pram.
    I am, of course, going to vote remain, knowing there is a lot wrong with the EU. A lot of the things that are wrong with the EU are the same things that are wrong with the world at large, but I also know that some pretty unpleasant right wing and nationalist elements are rubbing their hands at the prospect of a Brexit.
    Please vote. Please!
    (I suppose I should substitue the word ‘know’ above with ‘believe’, for almost all a person’s ‘knowledge’ is taken on trust from others who have – or profess to have – direct knowledge.)

    • rogermacginty 19/06/2016 at 7:12 pm #

      Thanks for that Steve – I appreciate the engagement very much. Given the threat of Brexit I am considering actually voting. I should add, however, that abstention is a perfectly legitimate form of dissent if one does not approve of the system. Cameron brought this unnecessary referendum on all of us. He wants us to play his game (a game he is losing control of). It is a conceit and an indulgence. A good part of me thinks that his game is immoral (a way of dodging tough questions on austerity, poverty, homelessness).
      I will consider my options on Thursday morning – but thank you for the comment and the reasoned debate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: