I voted by post in the EU referendum three weeks ago. It’s too late to change my mind. Nothing that’s happened in the intervening period has caused me to regret the decision I made then. In fact a lot has vindicated it!
We have a baby daughter who is now approaching six months old. My greatest hope for Chloe is that she grows up with the same values of respect, care, compassion, humility, generosity and understanding that Heather and I share. I hope we will equip her with the necessary skills and competencies to make a success of her own life and make a difference to those around her. But I also want her to grow up in a world where those values are reflected in the way we live our lives and do business. A world free of discrimination where we celebrate diversity, a fair world where we look after those less fortunate than ourselves through well funded and managed public services but also a world where Chloe and her generation can have as many opportunities as possible and enjoy a good quality of life.
Much as I love a bit of nostalgia and heritage, the world I want for my daughter certainly isn’t some Bisto flavoured vision of Little England, of Vera Lynn, of cricket on the green, of vicars on bicycles riding two by two, of warm flat beer in fag smoke filled pubs, men in red jackets on horseback chasing furry animals to death with dogs, of picture postcard villages with swan necked street lights, of cucumber sandwiches every Saturday teatime, of district nurses driving Morris Minors, where every face we see is white and every bus has a rear platform. If it ever really existed outside of Ealing comedies and episodes of Dads Army, such a vision belongs quite rightly in Beamish or any other social history museum. I’m 60 years old next year and I don’t remember it! The world has moved on from that and would have done whether or not we were part of the EU. Far from ‘wanting our country back’ we should be building our country in the reality of the 21st century.
The country I want for my daughter is one where we have honest and trustworthy politicians who don’t lie and aren’t in it for themselves. People who in accepting public office also fully accept the responsibilities that go with that office. I would expect such politicians to be drawn from across society and reflect the diversity of the communities that they represent and bring to the process the skills and experience from living in those communities.
There’s a hell of a lot that is wrong with the EU. It is an institution that is noble in intent but something of a bloated monstrosity in practice. To the uninformed (or deliberately misinformed) it seems to have turned unnecessary bureaucracy into an international pastime! However, much of what it does is to harmonise and liberalise standards across industries in order to promote free trade across all member states. It isn’t just about people from the EU taking jobs here. We also have the opportunity to work there, as I did on high speed railways in Italy a few years ago.
Much of the employment and disability rights we enjoy today have been hard fought. In many cases the standards originally set by the UK (usually under a Labour government) were adopted rather than the other way round. Remember one person’s ‘red tape’ is another person’s protection against unscrupulous elements. The ‘bonfire’ of red tape will just allow your boss to cut your pay and holiday then sack you more easily when you complain. Similarly with environmental standards. I don’t want my daughter going to the beach to swim in diluted human sewage as I did as a child.
Contrary to the imagery promoted by a rabid xenophobic right wing press, we aren’t being flooded by work shy migrants living on benefits. Anyone who thinks living on benefits is easy just try signing on at your local job centre. The one occasion I had to sign on I found it the most demoralising and humiliating experience of my life. I’ve been privileged to work with people from all over the world. They’ve usually been well educated and very talented people whose skills, experience and personalities have enriched our work. And whilst I’m on about immigration, if our borders are so wide open, why is it that the only time I ever get stopped and interrogated by a officious jobsworth is when I re-enter the UK?
If anything was to seal the deal on my voting decision it was the dislikable nature of the politicians leading the leave campaign. Sadly the referendum has given a platform to some very unpleasant people expressing some equally abhorent views based on greed, hate and negativity. From the unprincipled unbridled ambition and buffoonery of the aristocratic Alexander Boris de-Pfeffel Johnson, to the downright lying from that spiv Gove (who has no intention of building any shiny new hospitals unless they’re private ones) to the barely concealed racism and golf club bigotry of of that slippery loathsome reptile Farage. Outrageously and paradoxically these paragons of over-privilege have tried to portray themselves as representing the interests of working class people. Don’t believe it for one moment! Given a choice between Brussels and Boris as PM with Farage elevated to the undemocratic House of Lords, I’d plump for Europe every time!
I have several friends on here who are supporting the leave campaign. I respect them for their strongly held views and sincerely hope it never comes between us. I have deliberately not engaged in debates with them on social media for that reason. Nothing anyone says will convince me its in my family’s interests to leave so please respect my views and don’t even try to argue! (Abusers will be immediately defriended and blocked – you have been warned)
It will therefore come as no surprise then that I have already voted to stay in the EU. It isn’t an endorsement of Cameron. It certainly isn’t an endorsement of the EU which badly needs reform. In my considered opinion it’s by far the better of the two options open to me to ensure my daughter has a bright future ahead of her.