First published on LibDem Voice.
I have about twenty years or so left on this planet. I very much hope that before I shuffle off, the UK will have rejoined the EU. I think it will be touch and go whether we manage it. Apologies to our more enthusiastic Europhiles if that disappoints you, but I think it is realistic.
The EU needs to see a steady majority in favour of joining over a period of time. We don’t have that stable majority yet, though I expect we will. It will then need to remain stable for a number of years (particularly important for us, given Britain’s current and immediate past tendencies towards exceptionalism and fascism). Then the process of accession will take several years even if, in the meantime, we have laid the groundwork by joining the EEA, rejoining the single market, rejoining Horizon, or whatever we choose to do.
It will take a lot of work, and although we are enthusiastic about this ourselves, it is very difficult to persuade other people of an objective that may be fifteen or twenty years off. So it is not necessarily helpful to make a greater noise about wanting to rejoin, as some would have us do. It may make more sense for us to stand for an intermediate objective, one which is necessary for this country, as well as necessary if we are to have any realistic prospect of rejoining.
If we are to hope to rejoin, we need to make this country different to what it is now. We actually need to do that anyway. Regardless of our chances of joining the EU, I do not want to live in a country where millions rely on foodbanks to fend off starvation while the Prime Minister changes the grid to have electricity delivered to his swimming pool; a country where a previous Prime Minister seeks to ennoble his wife-beating father; a country where the Home Secretary uses language about asylum seekers reminiscent of 1930s Germany (yes, I will say that, because it is true); a country where the heroism of NHS staff is rewarded with applause but not with a pay rise.
So I propose a slogan: “Let’s fix this country”. Let’s fix things so that they actually work for the people and not just the elite.
- fix the voting system so that everybody’s vote actually counts
- fix the tax system so that wealth pays its fair share
- fix the benefit system so that people are treated with respect, not with contempt
- fix the housing system by allowing councils to build green affordable housing where it is actually needed
- fix energy use and storage so that we will genuinely be green in the foreseeable future
- fix all the privatised public services so that they are forced to put citizens before profits
There are many more fixes, I am sure, that others will want to add to this list, and it can be as long as you like because the idea is for a radical approach to changing this country to work for everybody. Putting it this way focuses the voters on what we’re doing for them. If we achieve it, or anything like it, over the lifetime of two or three parliaments, we will have made this country democratic, warm, respectful and liberal. And, almost as a by product, we will have slid into being a really good candidate to join the EU.