“I want my country back…”
This is the lazy rhetoric of the Leave campaign. I want my country back…from what, or to when, seem to be questions they are unable or unwilling to answer.
But I think I can though, so here goes.
More than anything I want my country back from the recent poisonous rhetoric of the Leave campaign. When did it become OK in this country to produce political videos depicting refugees as “vicious snakes”? At what point did it become OK to produce political videos that depict a women being raped by a political entity? At what point did it become OK to produce posters so dehumanising, degrading and despicable that they are compared to Nazi propaganda – by the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer?
I want this to stop. This isn’t the politics of a country that I am proud of. This is the politics of the gutter.
It hasn’t always been like this though. And that’s what I want my country to return to. Metaphorically speaking, I want my country back to that balmy summer of 2012 when the country came together around the Olympic Games to celebrate our role in the international community.
Do you remember it? Kids playing in the street, spontaneous acts of kindness, citizen ambassadors? I remember the image of Mo Farah flying the Union Jack and how it became a symbol of our nation: confident, energetic, multi-cultural, welcoming, high achieving.
After that incredible summer of the 2012 Olympic Games a study was done to explore what impact it had on our international standing. The results were clear, people from around the world saw us Brits as more “distinctive, daring, charming, energetic, trendy and authentic”.
The world came to us and we embraced them confident open arms.
Skip forward 4 years and we seem have retreated further into ourselves. Without the same confidence we have half-turned our back on our neighbours, arms crossed, protective.
So how do we get our country back to that outward looking, confident country we were all so proud to be part of?
I can tell you it is not going to come from either the mainstream Leave or Remain fear based campaigns. While the Leave camp are hell bent on dog whistling on immigration, the Remain record is stuck on the question of “what if” we leave.
I want to be asking a different question. I want to be asking what it is about the EU that has secured peace for decades, secured a higher quality of environment and worker protections. And, significantly, what was the role of the UK in that process?
When we start to dig deeper we can find a proud history. One that stretches from Churchill’s post-war vision to our leadership through the EU in tackling climate change, promoting human rights, and exporting democracy. A role in the UK plays in the EU that we can be really proud of.
This is what we must be focused on and, crucially, asking how can we look to build on these successes?
I will be voting Remain on Thursday not out of fear but because I want my country’s confidence back. I want us to reclaim that outward facing, confident and positive feeling that gripped us back in 2012. I want us to be leading not leaving the EU. I want us to remain a positive, confident, tolerant country.