I’ve tried hard, really hard, to resist the urge to write about Brexit. There are so many other issues deserving an airing in this column. There is next week’s Budget, the state of our education system and the debate over P1 testing, or the funding of the NHS in Scotland, waiting lists and social care.
I could wax lyrical about hate crimes and whether the categories should be extended to include misogyny or hatred against men, the merits of renewable energy or the latest tweets of Trump. I could, and might soon, pen my musings on the urgent need to deliver real devolution and proper local accountability to our town halls.
I could regale you with amusing anecdotes about my travels or let rip about poor customer service.
I could, and maybe should, do all of these things.
But then there is Brexit. Not merely the elephant in the room standing quietly in the corner and catching our eye however hard we try to look away, but a whole herd of elephants rampaging and trumpeting and causing havoc in every nook and cranny of every room. Blocking the sunlight and drowning out everything else. Trampling every other issue under foot.
“Few can really say how much they understood when they voted two years ago”
All of which, I accept, is bad PR for the elephants. They didn’t ask the be part of a metaphor. They are gentle giants who care for each other and just want to get on with their lives. So sorry, my dear proboscidea, for putting you there. I hope that you can soon be free to wander the plains once more and we can return to the bread and butter issues which need our attention. Elephant-free.
Which means an end to Brexit. By that I don’t mean scrapping the whole affair and pretending it wasn’t happening or reversing the result. No, I mean an end to the seemingly endless rows and arguments and self interest and confusion. Reaching an end point. Reaching a deal. Moving on. Which, I firmly believe, is the overwhelming desire of the vast majority of people.
Most of us, and please be honest, don’t know a customs union from a single market from a free trade deal. Few can really say how much they understood when they voted two years ago. But, in truth, are most any clearer now? And, hand on heart, how many can say with any confidence just how things will really be in 10 or 20 years from now?
But this is where we are. And by next weekend, who knows where things will stand?
It will get messier. And dirtier. And ever more infuriating. Everyone will claim that they are acting with the purest of motives, national interest, not self interest. I just wish I could believe them. Because, in truth, far too many are hijacking Brexit for their own political obsession or advancement. And if we can’t trust their motives, can we trust their judgement?
There are honourable exceptions to this. A few who don’t waste time arguing about how we got here, but focus on where we are going. Who, regardless of how they voted in 2016, are trying to forge a consensus on the way ahead out of this almighty confusion.
As we saw on Saturday, there is a chorus in favour of a Peoples’ Vote. Referendum Two: The Sequel. Vast numbers marched to that cause through London. I understand their case. But I don’t accept it. It is presented as a fair solution but in truth is no answer at all. And it is riddled in confusion and contradiction.
Alastair Campbell, he of Tony Blair sidekick fame, argued on TV in Sunday that referendums are an abdication of responsibility by government. Yet there he was arguing for another. The answer to abdicating it once is to do it again. He then admitted that if the prime minister could win a vote in the House of Commons for a deal, then he would accept it and there would be no need for another referendum. Except he stressed that she had to win a vote among MPs for a “good” deal. So, parliamentary sovereignty only applies if he likes the deal. Aye, right.
And then there is the whole question of what would be put to the people. Which options? How many? Chequers, No Deal, Renegotiate, Remain… It is not as simple as some pretend. And it ignores the fact that we have already voted.
Another referendum would be a denial of democracy and, far from being a simple solution, it risks being a recipe for even more confusion. It might not settle anything but instead prolong the agony and perpetuate the conflict and division even more.
In truth, there is no perfect solution. Nobody who, however much they tell us otherwise, has all the answers never mind many if any of the certainties nailed down.
So the best we can do is to decide who has the purest motives, and who will put us first. All of us, Leave and Remain.
It is time to rally round those who will rise above narrow interests and above Party interest. Who is not in this out of a sense of “self” but out of a sense of service. Who knows that democracy means accepting the result, being true to it and making the most of it. However hard it is.
And it means us all knuckling down and moving on. Because there are so many other challenges we need to address. And so many more things we need to discuss.