As I started to write this Podcast, Westminster once again obliged, in their daily show of crazy politics.
The country is exhausted by the debacle and illegality of the EU Referendum and the populist promises on the side of buses.
I simply do not believe politicians posturing, about what they think the country is thinking. Many people I speak to ask why; why is it so difficult, why are we not asking the people again; why can’t all this just go away?
In answer to these questions dear listener, you should understand that Members of Parliament didn’t tell you at the time, that you were being asked to disentangle 40+ years of legal agreements; just think how difficult it is to get out of a telephone contract!
Many did not understand how deeply these agreements, which have led to Laws and Regulation, underpin many of the rights that are seamlessly enjoyed today.
Prior to the Referendum and for some months after, I spent a great deal of time within Radio and Television studios, doing my best to balance the Consumer position against the differing options we faced.
I can remember on the day of the result, I was sailing into St. Malo in France, when I saw the result, and my first reaction was “well this isn’t convincing one way or the other”.
Yet within hours, politicians of differing shades of opinion, addicted to their love of the first past the post system, wallowed in the reverence of the result and so the battle for hearts and minds had begun.
In the early days I saw campaigners in Westminster, refusing to budge from the position that the country had made a mistake. Others expressed their joy at the result but perhaps instinctively knew that their dream would not be delivered and I found engagement with this cohort to be next to impossible.
My position has always been clear; I can certainly look at and analyse different perspectives of Brexit, but I would be no use as a Consumer Campaigner if I couldn’t or wouldn’t conclude on what is the best course of action to protect Consumer Rights.
To any independent observer, faced with the facts and perhaps having a share of my Brussels experience, they would I believe conclude that it would be in Consumers general interest to remain within the European Union.
This does not prevent me from continuing to provide a balanced commentary and this still allows me to practice my rights as a Citizen to express my views on the errors being committed by government.
And protest I have, joining the very first march in London, whose numbers took many by surprise.
Within these marches you experience a shared belief or commonality and the hope that you can join with your fellow protestors in that common aim.
I have engaged with campaigners at Westminster who explained to me that they didn’t understand how Consumer Rights played against the European question.
I think this is because the mantra’s of Westminster and Protest Marches centre around EU Citizenship, Free Movement, Fundamental Freedoms and “Stop Brexit”.
At one stage I was asked and filmed for my views on Brexit & Consumer Rights, but to my knowledge, the film was never used.
I have also spoken to many people who’ve come down in London for the day and regrettably it was clear that they didn’t understand why it was important to remain in Europe other than the message of the mantras, important as they are.
Interestingly they knew of the personalities of the Remain side and spoke of them in glowing terms.
I have witnessed the arguments generated by passing taxis or pedestrians who simply wanted Brexit to be over, only to be met by a fierce and perhaps inappropriate response to their views; how was this supposed to win hearts and minds I wondered?
I have also argued that myself and other single-issue campaigners should be brought into the fold and used for our experience; to date none of us have ever been invited to talk let alone be part of a consultative process.
I thought social media would produce true connection; a real community, only to find that the cult of personality and a general lack of engagement would have led many in my opinion to simply stop trying.
I saw one woman complain that she had tried to engage only to be told that she was not of the right age group; she wasn’t young enough! I have watched the EU Twitterati complain of the abuse they suffer, and despite being advised to report and block such people, some continue on their journey of sharing their complaints and embrace the flow of sympathy - the message of European membership has been distracted by insult & personality.
I’ve also tried to engage locally.
I have sent many e mails to campaigning groups, never to be answered.
I managed to attend a gathering in one town and believed I could connect with people from within my own town, only to find that they were not interested.
Indeed the weekly meetings promised in Facebook never materialised and there were occasions when myself and one or two others would be aimlessly wandering around that town looking for the protest and shrugging our shoulders about the commitment of others.
At meetings I have attended, I have spoken at such meetings and realised that as an Independent, I was very much in the minority; most of the speakers belonged to political organisations and each ensured that they offered their own party political line.
There was one instance where one speaker at the end talked about independence for Wales being the only option for the country to secure its European Future and they were greeted warmly. As the meeting started to pack away, another party spokesperson jumped up, suddenly realising perhaps that their message had been diluted and tried through a thinning crowd to disassociate themselves from the independence message; not really a unified message was it?
At these same meetings I have also met people who told me that they were motivated to leave their television behind and come on their first demonstration, but even they felt confused by some of the different messaging. They approached me because they considered what I had to say was unfettered by the games of political bias.
You would have thought that on such an important constitutional issue that those leading the way would offer a coherent message and strategy, but then again, it didn’t happen during the Referendum so why should it be happening now?
As if to underline this incoherence and again right on cue, the Peoples Vote Campaign is currently engaged in a struggle as to who will control the agenda and messaging of a potential second Referendum. As you read the newspapers you can see that factions exist, each believing that a different emphasis should be given to a particular aspect and on any future Referendum and ne’er the twain should meet.
This all feeds into the narrative that at the heart of any Remain strategy there exists confusion and a lack of organisation.
It is surely one thing to organise and convince over 1 million of my fellow citizens to march the streets of London or to protest outside Westminster, but it is quite another thing to create a true, consistent, inclusive, non-partisan local and national campaign to keep that passion alive.
It is true to say that I have been disappointed by this lack of organisation or inclusivity and my greatest fear is that what should have been a momentous peoples campaign, has failed to live up to its expectations and will simply be remembered as a footnote, a sometimes humorous footnote or indeed an impressive footnote in history without having achieved its aims.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.
We can see that parliament has been under the microscope and just how ineffective they really are; brexit has revealed what me and my fellow campaigners already knew.
But in fairness to parliament, they are after all the very same people who live in our communities; they are drawn from you and me, the people.
The essential difference is that they generally have a good ability to speak, they have a passion for politics, they may feel more comfortable being part of the crowd and content for others to make the decisions for them; it all sounds a little like us; doesn’t it?
Whilst I am disappointed as to the ‘politics’ and organisation of EU Campaigning, I am nonetheless encouraged by the many ordinary people I have met who belong to no structure or organisation. As this election is now the latest new reality, we may yet have cause to regret the peoples failure or perhaps it is sufficient that within each and everyone of us, there exists a passion and belief of how we would like to see our society.
We are now wiser and older than we were in 2016, surely we can recognise manipulation and illegality, false promises and that infamous unicorn? Whatever the disappointment from Campaigning, the imperative must surely be ‘What kind of country do we want to be’?
It’s now over to you!
(The link to this Podcast can be found here)