As a starting point I think it’s vital to ask and to understand one question; who are “we”? It’s not just semantics. The biggest “we” includes huge numbers of people with just one thing in common, a desire to remain in or very close to the EU. Now that the Withdrawal Act has become law and remaining is officially impossible the question of who “we” are becomes more uncertain. Pro-EU remainers include former Tory MPs, left wing Labour, LibDems, Greens and dozens more, some of whom are not on speaking terms with others in the same pro-EU camp, let alone ready to agree a common way forward. Will those same people all pivot to a common aim now or will some drift away and others join?
It’s also worth asking the question because the “we” changes and will continue to change as the government destroys more things and rips up more of our rights and freedoms. This may allow people who, up to now, have been sceptical about talk of fascism, totalitarianism and a coup to realise what is happening. For this reason it’s particularly important not to paint all those who may have voted to “get Brexit done” into an abuse spattered corner – many of them could be potential allies as time goes on. For example, lifetime labour voters who, this time, couldn’t get behind or understand Mr Corbyn are really not the same as Daniel Hannan, Nicky Morgan and Richard Tice.
I know that a lot of people will now be shouting at me that forgiveness is impossible. Understand this – I don’t intend to forget or to forgive. I do, however, recognise that there are many people in the country who, unbelievable as it may seem, didn’t really give much thought to Brexit in terms of digging in to the facts, no matter how loudly we shouted. They watched the BBC and ITV news, read a few things on Facebook and talked to friends who did the same. Nothing they saw gave them any reason to look further and, for any who did look, all they saw was a Labour Party with an ever changing Brexit policy or the LibDems who wanted to just cancel a vote that they didn’t see as undemocratic. My anger is directed at those who knew all the facts and ploughed on regardless, the organisers, politicians, cheerleaders, paid activists trolls and bigots. They get no forgiveness from me and I’m quite sure they feel the same about me.
The apparent lack, as yet, of a unified “we” doesn’t mean there’s no possibility of progress and it doesn’t mean that campaigns, resistance of all kinds, and traditional, mainstream politics have to grind to an ignominious halt in the face of Johnson’s monstrous government of bullies, bigots and bastards. It might mean that some emerging battles become proxies for a wider resistance for a while; child refugees, attacks on LGBTIQ+, overt racism and misogyny (tradwife??) are all smaller samples of what the right wing libertarians are putting in place. Bigger campaigns will emerge in time but this is an opportunity to make and renew friendships, gather and learn the facts that this new reality imposes and leave behind the lost battles. If you can find time to help with the existing campaigns that are, right now, helping people that will be time well spent.
If “we” are to provide effective opposition to this Grim New World then “we” need to get good at compromise with each other and remember that the government are our opponents. Some existing campaigns will have more work to do, the 3million is a good example, while others have run their course or are now moribund. Openness, willingness to listen and to discuss will allow us to provide the opposition that, for many remainers, was wholly absent from most mainstream political parties over the last three and a half years. Huge new divisions are opening and the union of equals is creaking like never before; the SNP, as just one example, are breathing hard down Johnson’s neck, and others are not far behind. It seems too early to say what the biggest issues will be but it seems very certain that those with least will suffer most. Let’s work together and look after ourselves and each other and remember that Ronald Reagan may have meant something different when he said it but now the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, once again, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”