The political is personal: my speech to the People’s March for EU

[What follows is the text of my speech to the People’s March for EU earlier this afternoon.]

In 2008 we faced a crisis. Our financial system – grease to the structures that deliver us food and housing and employment – lay on the brink of collapse. But we rescued it and were saved a devastating depression.

And then we carried on.

And now we face another threat. And maybe we will and maybe we won’t leave the EU. But either way, in a decade’s time, there will be another crisis still.

A society in decline dies a thousand deaths.

And if you’ve travelled down from Liverpool this morning, if you live in Blackpool or in Sunderland, if you’ve come from Wales; if your infrastructure has been left to rot; as the South continues to thrive but your own wages fall; if you’ve waited longer to see your GP and longer for the bus to her surgery… society for you has died many deaths already.

2008 should have opened our eyes. But it didn’t and we fell back to complacency.

Brexit won’t arrest the decline. Brexit buys it a new suit, and a slap up dinner. Brexit introduces it to your cute cousin and gives it something for the weekend. Brexit won’t arrest the decline – Brexit accelerates it. Brexit won’t arrest the decline but Brexit isn’t the decline. Brexit is what the decline has delivered. And the decline is in the courage of our politicians.

We’ve seen what happens when we leave it them to fix the problems. Why pick up a can if you can kick it down the road? Why choose the public interest if you can pursue your own? Why face the problems of tomorrow if you can take refuge in the past?

So what do we do?

In the 60s and the 70s the personal became political. Women looked to collective action for lives of quality. But now we must apply that adage in reverse. We make the political personal again.

We must, you must, take responsibility.

And there’s no universal prescription for what that looks like. You must find one yourself. But if you’re a student, maybe volunteer in a care home. If you’re wealthy and a parent send your kids to a state school so they know the lives of others. If you’re an empty nester work with a refugee charity to help another human being live a decent life. Look out for one another. Look local.

From our politics something better may come. And I hope that it does. But you can’t rely on these politicians to fix our problems. They haven’t and they won’t.

Still, here we are. Well over a year on from the referendum. Tens of thousands of us. And we’re engaged. We’re not complacent. But whatever happens next – whether we leave or we stay or we muddle through – don’t forget how the last 18 months made you feel. Don’t repeat the mistakes of 2008.

Be Jean Monnet, an architect of the EU:

“I am not optimistic. I am not pessimistic. I am determined.”

I am determined.

12 thoughts on “The political is personal: my speech to the People’s March for EU

  1. I agree but would extend this further. Our situation is much exacerbated by the extreme centralisation of political power which separates the politicians in Westminster from daily contact with what they control and distances the voters from the political system. If both power and the ability to fund action were sufficiently devolved we would get a closer connection between power and people. I think of Switzerland as an outstanding example of the benefits of (extreme, by our standards) devolution.

  2. Be Jean Monnet. A man with a vision. A vision of a supra national Europe where people’s right of self determination, for better or for worse, is gradually eroded, a tiny piece at a time. His architecture of the EU has all the right trappings of democracy but they are emasculated. MEPs cannot propose, amend or repeal legislation. Only the commission can decide what is voted upon, not the EU parliament.

    Voting and supporting such a system is like turkeys voting for Christmas.

  3. Best speech of the March. My favourite extract: “..the decline is in the courage of our politicians”.

  4. Great speech.

  5. I liked your speech that you have kindly given us in your blog but the ironic thing is and I swear I have never seen your blog but have followed your tweets over the last year or so! I have had this thing going through my head that waiting for someone to make sense out of leaving the EU is much or perhaps only similar to Beckett play subject or theme ? With nothing apparently that we can do other than try and make some sense out of it! Or as my wife says turn just to our family and freinds and make sure they are all OK as the Government has failed us and our society seems to be in the wilderness and the politicians are like a leaderless class just waiting for what? Waiting for Godot ran through my thoughts and now you pen this under your blog that is called same as famous play! Weird.

  6. Brilliant speech, Jo! So impressed by your longstanding dedication to the causes of social justice, fairness and pragmatic economics and taxation in support of the above. As you point out, great shame about our Politicians, and great shame “on them” – unless they dismiss this repeal bill and call time on Brexit – very soon! So much damage IS being done, including inevitably irreversible elements, e.g. To our confidence, standing and reputation.

  7. Residential property, senior public sector wages and equities are all inflated in UK; and majority of younger generations have been sold many a false prospectus. Glad Westminster bubble is finally bursting, strange it’ll happen via in-fighting over an establishment issue i.e. relationship with Europe. Plenty of scope for investment and subsidiarity in UK, it’ll be fine.

  8. You are right. And I am trying to look local and make politics personal. My children go to state schools. I support my local community centres. BUT. It’s not enough. Our politicians are failing us and will continue to and we can’t ignore what that means. We are pissing into the wind until this generation of politicians is replaced and politics is reformed. We need leadership. Please continue to be it.

  9. Nice speech. We need a FIRST REFERENDUM. We need a referendum for the first time that asks “DO WE WANT TO JOIN THE EU”….. Back in 1975, it was also a LEAVE/REMAIN referendum..



  10. As usual, on the money Mr M. How do we create the egalitarian feel of NZ here. Genuine question. I have pondered it much. The politics you speak of has seemingly pushed us to demographic silos. It now seems to be inherent in most thinking here. Where is our David Lange?

  11. It’s amazing how many people claim to be pro-European, but cannot resist a sideways swipe at the typical European market-based health care systems and their lower level of nanny statism. These systems might involvement a payment to see a GP resulting in an appointment at a convenient time. Moreover these same people often put the failings of the British health care system down to it not being sufficiently anti-European and sufficiently interventionist.

  12. The “decline” is the end of socialism, the bankruptcy of the welfare state and the long term decline of honesty among judges, politicians and business people. The cause is the excessive government debt, the banking system that supports excessive debt, rent seeking elites and the weakness of character of the people who want something for nothing and lap up fake news and mindless distractions. The solution is what comes after the collapse and should be on your mind now – resilience. We rebuild as before – the cycle continues. Four sentences that say more than your speech. Brexit is the breathing space we need to decide out future out of the way of the car crash that is Germany and France and Italy.

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