It’s been a slightly surreal start to the year. Looking beyond my finite, personal bubble (within which everything is going pretty well), there is no sense of optimism or hope. Those ideals which you like to scrabble for in the illusory nature of the re-birth of the year, are missing. Instead there is just a succession of ticking clocks – a countdown to Trump, a countdown to Article 50, and, if you really want to be bleak about things, a countdown to a General Election. That all being said, depending on which side of the political fence you find yourself on, this is actually a glorious period where all is well, and the giant heap of shit which was 2016 is actually a stockpile of fertilizer which will be used to herald in the rose bushes of 2017. It is optimism built on negligence, self-interest, and wilful ignorance.
In the first few days of 2017 I’ve spotted some of the more degenerative voices of the political spectrum hailing 2016 as a ‘glorious year’. Douglas Carswell and, my local MP and general attention seeking xenophobe, David Davies both spouted on about how wonderful 2016 was. Davies went so far as to describe this as the greatest political period since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet, even the most hard-Brexit inclined, historically naïve and, again, xenophobic of elected representatives must surely reflect on 2016 as one of the worst political years since the 1980s, namely because an MP was gunned down and murdered.
I wondered at the time of the death of Jo Cox, how long it would take for her loss to be forgotten. Granted, the most divisive of Prime Ministers had the gall to quote Cox in her Christmas message to ‘the people’ [a phrase which I presume now only applies to Leave voters, the rest of us all being ‘lefty commies who can jump off a bridge’], but it felt like a ghastly shadow, words of meaning rendered hollow by the grim spectre now uttering them. Generally though, those on the right, even the centre-right, have seemingly allowed the brutal murder of a sitting MP to just slip out of the consciousness. Even a passing mention by the likes of Carswell and Davies would do, an acknowledgement that even in their festival of triumphalism, that something utterly terrible had been inflicted on the political community. Yet, it was not the political community that was attacked, it was the left.
More specifically, the murder of Jo Cox was an attack on a woman, a mother, and a single elected representative. The symbolism though is inescapable, both in the moment of the crime and in its treatment come the New Year. This was a clear attack on a left inclined politician. That her death has been so consistently ignored and forgotten by centre-right and beyond should be at the very least a cause for concern. In this new “post-Brexit” Britain [always remembering that Brexit is not even close to happening yet] where we are all being encouraged to reconcile our differences, it is perhaps worth dwelling on who, specifically is being asked to reconcile. From where I sit, these calls are very much focused on the left and the Remain voters, those who have been pushed, barged and barracked into the background. It is we who are being asked to ‘reconcile’; otherwise known as ‘giving up’. Let me phrase it another way, if the centre-right and beyond are comfortable in their selective ignorance of Jo Cox in their reflections on the political year, what else might they be willing to ignore?
The banner tops are circulating on social media, hailing the democratic expression of 17 million voters supporting a cause, the greatest demonstration of support for a cause in British parliamentary history, so they say. Equally, the reverse narrative, of 16 million voters opposing a cause, the greatest demonstration of opposition for a cause in British parliamentary history, is of no consequence. While 17 million votes being cast for an as yet undefined entity should not be ignored, neither should 16 million voices who oppose supporting something which isn’t really a thing, and shows no sign of being something any time soon. Brexit was not so much a case of Turkeys voting for Christmas, but Turkeys voting for something that might be Christmas, or it could be Easter, or something altogether secular, we’ll let you know once we get there. The only certainty is that there is a loud, political, right wing collective of voices, who are determined to shout down any opposition, and it should scare us.
It should scare us that the same cabal can turn a blind eye to the radicalisation of the white, working classes that is being perpetrated by the likes of the Daily Mail. It should scare us that the most educated in society are being ridiculed because they have earned a position of respect in their chosen field based on years of dedication. It should scare us that, for many, Jo Cox may as well not have existed. I’m happy in my bubble, because beyond the bubble, I see very little reason for optimism and hope. The divisions are there, and they will not go away when the mood of one side is to shout down and mock the voice of the other.
I suppose the long and short of is this. While leading political voices and the most popular papers of the day wilfully overlook the worst extremes of right wing politically expressed anger, violence and extremism, just remember and reflect on this, 2016 was the year in which an MP was murdered. 2016 was not glorious, it was not successful. It was sad, and very scary.