24 June 2016

The result is in and we are on our way out of the EU.

The Green Party campaigned passionately and effectively for us to remain. Not because we thought the EU was perfect but because, knowing its flaws, we could see the benefits it had brought us and the gains that a reformed EU would bring.

The way that the Leave vote was won will be debated endlessly but it seems to me that it was a disastrous combination of the disenfranchisement of working class communities, the generational divide and the descent into fact-free politics.

Leaving the EU was skilfully dressed up as a working-class revolt against the establishment but even a cursory glance at those running the Leave campaign shows the lie. Johnson, Gove, Farage, Rees-Mogg, with their personal wealth and privilege, do they strike you as foot soldiers of class war? However clear it may be that the vote was no way to escape the establishment, we must understand how that confidence trick was pulled off. Years of increasing job insecurity and income inequality were accelerated by the financial crash. All governments of recent times should face censure for this, so it is no surprise that scapegoats had to be found. Immigration and unaccountable bureaucrats were set up to take the blame and the result was a rising tide of anger aimed at ‘Europe’.

The generational divide is as stark as the class divide, those with the fewest years left to live post-Brexit the most likely to vote to Leave. During the campaign there was a general feeling of anger amongst the 16- and 17-year-olds I spoke to. They felt that older voters were going to ruin their lives while they had been denied the right to vote.

It is also clear that we have started the descent into fact-free politics. Michael Gove’s statement that “People in this country have had enough of experts” is chilling. We are at risk of giving as much credence to hunch and sincere belief as we are to trained and scrutinised professionals. The sad fact is that it is abuse and endless twisting of evidence by politicians that has led to this breakdown of trust . Until this trust is restored our political debate and decision making will be all the weaker for it.

However grief stricken we feel right now, our period of mourning must be short. We owe our members, supporters and the wider public a strong voice for Green politics in the days, months and years ahead. While we are leaving ‘the greatest force for peace in a generation’, and will need to find our way separated from fellow Green members of the European Parliament, we still have a vital role to play in shaping our future.

Right now, we have laws protecting workers rights and legislation defending our environment. We also, just about, have a public NHS, education and prison system. But for how much longer? Our Green Party policies have, at their core, the aim of a fairer and more decent society and we must take our place as defenders of these values in our public life.

The EU was big, very big. Some felt it was too big. So perhaps it is time for we Greens to review the works of E F Schumacher. Now is a good time for us to remember that Small is Beautiful and work for politics as if people mattered. Sustainability must win over exploitation, society over globalisation and wellbeing over wealth. If you really share our vision, now is the time to join the Green Party.

The Conservative party seems set to move to a harder capitalist stance. Meanwhile a substantial part of the Labour party look to have redoubled their efforts to force Jeremy Corbyn from his post. So, there is no better time for us to get active in our communities, share our view of a country run for the common good and build our Green Party in every part of the UK. For this to happen we need your help and your support. I know that when we come together we will be a Green Party that is present, active and relevant to more people than ever before.

Matthew Snedker
Joint Coordinator - Darlington Green Party