Brexit: a game for a rich young boy to play

And there it is. Done.  I have already used up all of my words of disbelief, despair and outrage, but nothing is to be done.

This is very much Brexit part 2.  I ended my last blog  with a line from Les Miserables.  I didn’t realise how ironic it would become as, I now see my friends lying similarly bloodied around me.

I also now realise that I should have quoted the whole verse.

It is time for us all
To decide who we are
Do we fight for the right
To a night at the opera now?
Have you asked of yourselves
What’s the price you might pay?
Is this simply a game
For a rich young boy to play?
The colours of the world
Are changing day by day

For that is what happened.  Whatever your views, we are where we are because of a rich young boy.  And not just one, lots of them. All young boys with points to prove, not about the world, but about themselves.

I’m forever telling my children it’s not about blame, but I’m going indulge myself with an Arya Stark list of which particular little boys I’m lining up against the blackboard.

  1. Nick Clegg.

Yes you. I was a staunch and proud Liberal Democrat in 2010.  They stood for something, had a voice which resonated.  I agreed with Nick. You could argue that was because they didn’t have power but that’s not the point. However Nick sold those principles down the river in a pact for personal power that would see the annihilation of a party.  Yes you have Deputy Prime Minister on your CV but at what price? By 2015 everyone either hated you or realised they may as well vote Tory anyway. Had the Liberal Democrats remained a strong progressive voice, and the only party in England united with Europe at its heart, the Remain campaign would have stood a chance.  The passion and emotion that were missing might have been there. Or maybe not, we’ll never know.

  1. Ed Milliband

And you.  You’re not a patch on your brother.  We all knew this.  You knew this – be honest.  But rather than let him get on with it you set out to prove something, not to the Labour Party but to yourself.  He would have given you a great job as you are clearly a clever clever man, but you were never lead singer material.

  1. David Cameron

You’re third on the list but that means nothing.  A desperate bid for a majority, a few UKIP defectors and some trash talk from Nigel Farage and you promise a referendum that nobody asked for.  One that you smugly assumed you’d win.  The complex & fragile social, political & economic future of our country was staked on a pub bet.  And now you’ve thrown down your pint and gone home.

  1. Jeremy Clarkson

Don’t think I’m letting you off Scot free. You may have turned up late with a feeble remain but your years of xenophobic sneering and hectoring to a baying crowd has led to this.  You could have been the better man, you could have chosen something else and they still would have loved you.

  1. Boris Johnson

Ah Boris, poor Boris.  You have got what you deserved.  Gaby Hinsliff explains far better than I what your game plan was all along and it has massively backfired.  Everyone around you will hate you for it for evermore.  All those liberal elite parties and soirees you bumbled around will dry up and, like the Red Queen and her Knave of Hearts, you’ll be forever chained to Michael Gove.  Good luck with that.

  1. Jeremy Corbyn

I can’t think of a single thing to say, as he has been so absent from recent proceedings. However strong his principles are, it does seem increasingly that he took on a job he didn’t really want, just to be awkward.

7. Nigel Farage

Feel free to fill in your own expletives

Rich little boys playing little games with people’s lives and futures.

There are many things you can say about Thatcher, but this would not have happened under her.  In fact, that massive storm on Thursday was probably not unconnected.

Remain lost fair and square – democracy at work.  If the Leavers are all happy, and get everything they were dreamed of, then well done them.

However there was nothing fair or square about it.  The ballot boxes had barely closed before Farage was complaining the Government had allowed too many people to register.  People hadn’t finished breakfast before he admitted that the NHS was never going to get that money, immigration wasn’t going to go down and those ‘bumps in the road’ were turning in to the Grand Canyon. Cameron’s done a runner and Bojo, Gove and the other one look set to take the helm.  These anti-establishment heroes who promised so much.

That is what people are angry about.  Not the lost vote, but they managed to pray on the fears, insecurities and hopes of people they have never cared about before in a quest for power.

Now we have to pick up the pieces, somehow. Many people, friends included, have called for an end to the whinging on social media.  And, after 48 hours of wailing, I agree.  Somehow, we have to find a way out of this mess, with or without the EU.

37% of the electorate voted Brexit, 63% did not.  Of that 37% many now feel sold down the river, or at least will do when the Calais camps move to Dover, the NHS breaks due to lack of staff and we finally realise all of those jobs that the immigrants stole were the ones they didn’t want.  That fridge magnet about “be nice to your children as they choose your care home” is just about to get real as the younger generations feel ever more like they’ve been sold down the river.

On the upside, my list is coming along nicely.  Clegg, Milliband, Cameron – all gone. Clarkson’s flapping about somewhere and Corbyn is facing a potential vote of no confidence.

It is time for the little boys to take their balls home and let someone else take over.

It is time to draw a line under the depressing referendum campaigns, hideous on both sides, and decide that we want our country back from these people, that anger and hate are not going to win.

The current political system is broken, the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats are in tatters. The Scottish are demanding another referendum but we need them more than ever. Things are no longer divided against party lines but by geography, generation and downright niceness.

Enter stage left the women  from all sides who will make a better fist of things.  Nicola Sturgeon, Ruth Davison, Stella Creasy, Leanne Wood, Caroline Flint, Caroline Lucas, Lucy Powell. My friend Michelle Donelan, a Conservative MP who entered Parliament at the last election who, although I disagree with, respect as someone who works for her constituents and stands up for what she believes in.

The death of Jo Cox must remind us about the kind of politicians we want to represent us, and who we deserve.

And the men. There are also a lot of fine male politicians too, and some truly dreadful female ones so don’t think this is a gender thing, it’s about leadership and integrity.

So if you didn’t vote, or regret how you did vote, it’s too late now.  But can we just vow not to make that mistake again, and not make that mistake worse by rolling over and letting xenophobia and hatred take over because that’s what won it?

Join a political party and make a stand over who gets to represent you, as leader of that party as well as your MP.  In fact, join all of them, and have a say in the best person to oppose what you believe in.

You want £350million a week in the NHS, investment in the arts, education and social justice?  You want the rights and protections of the EU preserved?  You need to fight to make that happen.  Stop complaining and vow to do something about it, and recognise that apathy, disengagement and whining only let the nastier, shoutier whiners win.

Rock Bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

  • J.K. Rowling

As a nation, it feels like we have reached rock bottom.

It might be too late for another referendum and we, as it stands, are looking at a Britain out of the EU.  But it’s not too late to mount some barricades and make a stand for exactly the kind of country we want that to be.

And let’s not let silly little boys anywhere near it.

Girls, you only have yourselves to blame. For everything.

Must try harder. It’s no secret that there aren’t enough women in the boardroom, or politics, or on TV. The reason is, we just not putting the effort in. We lack drive, confidence and ambition. What would Margaret Thatcher say? The Government are planning to send information packs to parents of teenage girls to set them straight, and fill their pretty little heads with aspirations so that some day, many years from now, they might do something worthwhile.

And yet, just a few days later, women doctors are being blamed for the crisis of the health service. Not funding cuts, not an aging population, not the ‘worried well’ but women who will insist on having children, even when they’re a doctor.

“When they go into practice and then in the normal course of events will marry and have children, they often want to go part-time and it is obviously a tremendous burden training what effectively might be two GPs working part-time where they are ladies. I think that is something that is going to put a huge burden on the health service,”

This wasn’t said by some aging Tory grandee in the House of Lords. This was said by Anne McIntosh, a female M.P. and former lawyer.

And there it is. In a nutshell.

Boys, as you were. Girls, shame on you for not having the required ambition when leaving school but wobetide you ambitious types if you want to keep your job AND see your children.

Closest you should get.
Closest you should get.

Women now, it’s true, have infinite choices and opportunities. They can work full time with no children, with children, part time or not at all. Whatever the choice, many women will ricochet between guilt, frustration and confusion as to what that choice should be, and what the rest of the world thinks of it.

It is the eternal conundrum that society needs a constant supply of healthy, educated children to grow up and pay their taxes but that, inevitably, someone needs to look after them until they get there. If you can work and take care of children, but not at the same time. Added to that the general day to day tasks which explode exponentially with children, and the “have it all” generation of women is slowly realising that they actually meant “do it all” and we’re knackered. And it’s still all our fault.

I have always been firmly of the belief that flexible working is the saving grace of modern parents. The Government would love to rely on nurseries and extend the school day and cut holidays in a bid to be ‘family friendly’, but actually, most children and parents quite like each other. A simple solution to spiralling childcare costs would be to find ways to rely on paid childcare less.

However, feminism will always have a job to do until these are no longer considered women’s issues to solve. When men, when considering parenthood, make those same choices and have those same opportunities.

I remember a conversation with some friends last year. My friend is one these evil G.P. women who only wants to kill you for part of her week, whereas her husband works long hours, often away from home. Wouldn’t it be lovely, I said, if you could both work 4 days a week instead. Same family hours worked, more even split. My male friend said “I would love to work 4 days a week but, in my situation, I couldn’t because I’d still be expected to do 5 days work in 4, and it would be career suicide.” Welcome, dear boy, welcome.

But he’s right. There is an unnecessary stigma attached to part time working and the reason is that it’s really only the women that do it. They tend to be low paid and low status, or career limiting. However, slowly, that is changing. Recruitment agencies such as Timewise Jobs are doing a lot to convince companies that high level positions can be done in less time and more efficiently. The more it is considered the norm for men to apply for these roles the less stigmatised it will become. The more men phone in to say they can’t come in because their child is sick, the less demonised all working women will become as a result.

As a society, we risk throw years of training and experience down the drain because 25 hours a week isn’t good enough, whilst forcing others to work over 50. And however much Ms McIntosh might resent maintaining the training of 2 doctors instead of one, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than starting from scratch even though they have nearly 40 years of working life left. Never mind that I might want my doctor to have some kind of empathy with me and my children.

My own career frustrations have always boiled down to the fact that I would love to be Director General of the BBC, if only it were offered as a from home, 9 til 2, term time only contract, and I’m not naïve enough to think that the country can run on us all doing 3 days weeks. However, an expectation by employers that men and women will take an equal share in family life is not a pipedream.

One of the reasons many parents (especially mothers) set up their own businesses, is that they can fix their own hours and are not subject to the 9 to 6, Monday to Friday constraints of the office. However, it is not an option open to everyone. The rest rely on employers to recognise that quality work can still be done in less time, more efficiently or not necessarily within eyesight. This is to be encouraged.

I am lucky that my husband regularly works from home, and we both often work in the evenings, after the children have gone to bed. Hopefully our sons will grow up with the assumption that it’s not just Mummy who gets their breakfast and helps with the homework (although I doubt my husband has ever woken up in a cold sweat about World Book Day).

There will always be people who say it could never happen, that businesses would never survive, but their predecessors said that about reducing the 6 day week, introducing the minimum wage and going out of their way to make sure people didn’t lose limbs at work. Government incentives to encourage homeworking, tax breaks for flexible contracts and a real investment in fibre optic broadband would cut commuting time, reduce travel costs, childcare costs and benefit far more people than the billions spent on HS2.

The alternative is that we inspire girls to achieve their wildest dreams, until they give birth when they must make a stark choice that their partners are not expected to make.

It is not the girls that need the leaflets, it’s the boys.