With regards to the EU Referendum, I am not heavily invested in either camp, whether Leave or Remain. In truth I resent being forced to make a decision, simply to resolve an internal dispute within a political party; I’d rather I hadn’t been asked to take a stance on an issue so far beyond my pay grade. In the end, my decision was informed not by great arguments about the failure or success of neo-liberalism, but by the personalities of those leading the Leave campaign.
I have been familiar with one of them for well over a decade, ever since encountering him on BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, which I would tune into on Wednesday evenings for several years. On a regular basis Michael Gove would posit monstrous arguments in defence of or against the argument of the day, with such appalling certainty and self-confidence that I would frequently turn the radio off in disgust. An unrepentant Neo-Con, he appears to be a man who cares little for facts or complex arguments. In 2006 he published his book Celsius 7/7, which was a confused apocalyptic manifesto for defeating the alleged Islamist threat to Britain.
In 2010, Michael Gove was appointed Secretary of State for Education by the coalition government. In the intervening years he became an extremely divisive figure in education. When the infamous Trojan Horse scandal broke in Birmingham in 2014 — an alleged conspiracy incredibly employing the title of a chapter in his own book — Michael Gove appointed former counterterrorism chief, Peter Clarke, to investigate. Horrifyingly, Gove is now Secretary of State for Justice.
While it is Nigel Farrage who is roundly criticised for divisive politics, it is Michael Gove that exercises me, given his senior position in government. The prospect of what Gove and likely the most right-wing government in recent times do next terrifies me. It is pretty certain that his aim is to withdraw Britain from the Council of Europe’s European Convention of Human Rights, ratification of which is a precondition of EU membership. As long as we are a member of the EU, we are protected by the ECHR — once we withdraw, I fear that a suitably right wing government with determination will gladly draw up a new framework which protects only those it deems worthy of protection.
I hope that I am wrong, but I fear that Britain will soon find itself with an ever-more right wing government, which won’t give two hoots for the common people who have demanded change. Austerity will bite even harder than ever before — it is this government that has presided over welfare cuts, whilst simultaneously taking us into two wars after all. Funding for scientific research will dry up; our universities and education as a whole will suffer. All the while, government and the media will continue to scapegoat those at the very bottom of the heap — our migrant populations — for the ongoing suffering endured by all.
I hope to be proved wrong. I hope the dreams of those who voted for change come to fruition and that the brave new world brings prosperity and peace to Britain and the world. I pray that my worst fears will not come true… that fear that Europe will descend into a chaos dominated by fascist parties determined to divide us; I pray that this is not our Gavrilo Princip moment.
I pray that a better, fairer society is born as a result of this decision. But if the Leave campaign is anything to go by, I fear we may yet be disappointed. I fear there may be difficult times ahead.