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25th Mar 2019

Brexit is of vital importance – but quit sneering at anyone focused on anything else

The attitude that nothing else matters stinks of the kind of smugness and indifference to immediate human suffering that caused Brexit in the first place.

Nooruddean Choudry

It’s amazing that huge swathes of the public are so politically energised.

It’s great that an estimated one million people took to the streets of London to march for a second referendum over the weekend. It’s fantastic that 5.4 million and counting have signed a Parliamentary petition to revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU. It is hugely encouraging that the very real and present danger of Brexit – particularly a No Deal Brexit – has galvanised so many who wouldn’t usually consider themselves especially politically engaged.

What’s not great is the sneering and contemptuous finger-pointing at anyone who dares focus on other vitally pressing issues or non-Brexit cancers in our society. What’s not fantastic is branding people who have devoted their whole fucking lives to campaigning and fighting for the most worthy political causes as ‘deluded’ and ‘out of touch’. It’s bullshit and stinks of the kind of smugness and indifference to immediate human suffering that caused Brexit in the first place.

Of course Brexit looms like an all-pervading dark cloud over everything. Of course the reason why Brexit is such a white-hot topic is because it would exacerbate so many social ills and multiply numerous societal inequalities. It matters so urgently precisely because it would make all the bad things worse. But it is also the spectre we await whilst ghouls invade our everyday lives. There are shameful numbers of starving kids and dying homeless in this country right now.

Brexit dominates the political narrative, as it should. It is hard to think of another example of a nation so wilfully sabotaging itself. It is right and proper that Brexit should be headline news and largely monopolise political output. But not for every minute of every hour of every fucking day. In fact, if we’re honest with ourselves, the vast majority of the media share the blame for obsessing so acutely on Brexit, rather than the factors that made it happen.

People continue to be disenfranchised. They continue to rage at the barrenness and indignity of their lives whilst others prosper and get ever richer. And tragically that makes them easy prey for malevolent forces seeking to preach hate and division to deflect from their own dual purposes. Anyone shining a light on the lot of the downtrodden should be praised. They are doing more to address pro-Brexit sentiment than placards correcting their grammar.

It’s not only that. In some ways, Brexit has been the perfect distraction for a government who are quietly destroying lives and public infrastructure whilst no one’s paying attention. The NHS is being starved of funding and vital resource; Universal Credit and Bedroom Tax work in tandem to starve people of a liveable income; homelessness has reached truly shameless levels; food banks can’t cope with demand; and schools use scarce resource to feed breakfast to malnourished kids.

Whilst it is a noble and necessary to stop Brexit from ruining lives in the immediate future, it is just as vital to stop austerity from ruining lives in the immediate now. Taking potshots at political leaders for doing their fucking jobs rather than attending a march is a fuzzy kind of logic. Love or hate Jeremy Corbyn, he would have been branded an opportunistic hypocrite for cancelling a prior engagement in Morecambe – where 1 in 4 children are living in poverty – for the photo opp of being in London.

Brexit is vitally important – of course it is – but so are other things. You can do two things at once. You can care about two things at once. Unless of course it has nothing to do with real people or genuine causes and it’s all just for show.