The Choices of Conservatives

March 29, 2017 § Leave a comment

As usual, I wish I had better words – but will probably make up in volume what I lack in wisdom.

This is the largest setback for progressive forces in Britain in my lifetime, perhaps in a half-century. There should be no confusion about that – even if there had been last June, the scale of the damage that the Conservative government will do under cover of Brexit is now increasingly apparent. Brexit itself is, I have always thought, a bad move – but it has been the choices of Conservatives that have created this catastrophe.

In ruling out both freedom of movement and the oversight of the ECJ for trade relations, May has made two choices (and we must see them as choices, being by no means inevitable parts of Brexit) that will hurt people across the country. A city of London without financial passporting could see billions wiped off our GDP and thus be used as an excuse to further dismember our NHS and social services; small businesses who export to Europe in a wide variety of areas could face tariff barriers that they have no room on their balance sheets to absorb. The economic impacts of this will be very real for people’s livelihoods, and will largely be the result of the choices of the Tory hard right.

But there the choices do not end. The hard right have won their victory, and are only now discovering that they cannot tell one end of a ministerial briefing from the other. What a Brext Britain needs would be a radical, effective economic strategy – active, effective support for our creative industries and massive investment in science & technology in order to make the most of Britain’s knowledge economy, meaningful support for SMEs, and big steps in adult education to fight poverty traps and improve the dynamism of our labour market. And yet, only deafening silence reigns. Creatives and academics are at critically low morale and are checking their options for work visas elsewhere. There is no plan. The Conservatives have hammered down what they are against, but what are they for?

It is a question they have chosen – chosen – not to answer.

The choices of Conservatives must not, cannot, be unaccountable to the electorate. It is both our right and our duty as citizens to call our government out when it takes a wrong turn, when it fails to represent our interests. The choices of Conservatives through this process so far have been, for many of us, to not only fail to represent our interests, hopes, and aspirations, but to actively and aggressively attack them across a wide range of policy areas. For me, at a time like this, parading false unity and failing to take on the government would be a betrayal of my values, of my friends, and of myself. People – many I’ve never met, many I care about, many I love – will have to face the choices of Conservatives. I will not stop fighting their corner. I cannot.

I do not believe, and will not allow myself to believe, that this fight is futile. Brexit is a hammer-blow, but standing up for people’s jobs and aspirations, for their freedom to move and love and create and hope, goes far beyond it. A radical, liberal future for Britain has never been more needed; restoring our battered standing in the wider world, giving people real effective choice in elections, caring better for people’s mental and physical health, giving people opportunity through education and security through minimum incomes, and much more. It’s a future that we need to articulate – not so much to oppose a Conservative vision of our future as to fill the void that the choices of Conservatives look set to leave our country in. We deserve better than that. We deserve hope.

Finally; I know there will be some people particularly upset today – fresh uncertainty over whether families will be able to stay together or jobs will continue to exist, whether they’ll be able to stay in their adopted country of residence, feeling a stranger in a country they thought they knew, or simply exhausted by the absurd allegations and attacks on those of us who have fought an internationalist corner in these difficult times. If you’re one of those people – stay strong, take care, and look after yourself. Thinking of you all.


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