Brexit, Trump, Wales. What next?

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First Brexit, then Trump and with that, there are 1000’s of people just like me sitting at their screens tap-tap-tapping and trying to make sense of what has happened. I remember all too well the wash of negativity I experienced in the early hours of June 24th – my mix of anger, sadness, panic, fear – and having spoken to many friends in the US, it’s easy to see that they now feel that exact same devastation.Their rage is new and fresh and although mine has subsided now to be replaced with a cautious hope that it won’t be as bad as I feared, the result of the US election is confirmation that we are all in a hell of a bloody mess.

The national papers described Wales as ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’ when we chose to leave the EU, especially given that we have been in receipt of millions of pounds of EU benevolence which Westminster refuses us, and sitting back and watching Trump in action, I recoil at the exploitation that took us down this route. Both campaigns, Leave and Trump’s, won by tapping into and exposing the unsettled dissatisfaction felt by so many members of society. Nowhere is this dissatisfaction greater than in the forgotten once industrial areas of Wales and in the US, nowhere is it greater than in the once industrial, now forgotten, so called Rust Belts. (I’m not a political analyst and although I bow to the wisdom of those who say that white, middle class voters also chose to vote along those lines, this doesn’t negate the fact that many voted because they do feel ignored).

‘TAKE BACK CONTROL’, ‘MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN’, two phrases designed to resonate with those who feel they have little control over their destinies and who feel that their lives really aren’t that great. Two carefully scripted soundbites designed to appeal to the most disenfranchised in our respective countries. In Wales, we have seen industry die, towns and villages lose their hearts, their young people lose their future and with this, life becoming increasingly difficult for them and their working class communities. No wonder TAKE BACK CONTROL sounded so appealing. But note, Farage describes himself as a ‘demolitions expert’. He makes no mention whatsoever of rebuilding that which he so gleefully destroys.

Fight or flight?

For those who can’t leave or choose not to leave those areas, the natural response is to fight back against the circumstances. Blaming somebody for the mess is an understandable response, but the anger is being focussed in the wrong direction. Immigration hasn’t caused these problems here in Wales, and neither has our membership of the EU, but the media, the political elite, the big institutions who shape our lives enjoy promoting this as the cause because if they were honest, it would require us all to look at them and apportion the blame in their direction.

When people ask ‘why should foreigners get houses when we can’t?’ or when they complain that they can’t get a decent job in their home town, or that they can’t get an appointment with the doctor, the ‘blame the black, Muslim, Polish person’ has become the standard response for many. Yet here in Wales, there are very few black, Muslim, Polish people taking any jobs, houses or anything else.

Post industrial neglect and austerity coupled with a bombardment of right wing media brainwashing leading to a culture of ‘blame the other’ brought us the Leave result in the UK. Similarly it’s brought about a rise in popularity for the exploitative UKIP, and it’s also brought about an unpalatable victory for Donald Trump in the US. But we are blaming the wrong people.

What happens next? 

BREXIT changes the UK for the better and Trump performs miracles. That would be nice and if it were to happen, we could all live happily ever after. However,  every impartial political analyst, expert and every economist worth his or her salt has stated most emphatically that this is unlikely. More likely is the fact that people will be punished, conditions will become more cruel and a new temperament of greater intolerance will infiltrate both our everyday world and our political one.

So when America’s forgotten towns don’t see change, or when the towns and communities in Wales don’t see their lives flourish under Brexit, what happens then? Who gets blamed then? Will we react by moving even further to the right and finding new people to scapegoat? And when our lives still don’t improve, then what? Do we move right again, and again, and again? How far do we shift before we come to recognise that our core problems still lie unaddressed?

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What political force will we be guided by as we scramble in the dirt looking for remedies? How much further will the media go in shaping our thoughts? If you think I’m being hysterical, look at the way that Neil Hamilton (a vile man who, when he first lumped himself upon us was treated like a deserved leper) is now a BBC and HTV go-to for comment. The media have normalised him and given his views a face of acceptability. Who will they accept and foist upon us next? And will we even be aware of the journey as fascism becomes mainstream? What are we to make of the fact that the outgoing Obama has to welcome the KKK supported Donald Trump to the White House? If we accept this without observation, we are already becoming assimilated.

When we are being failed by the UK government, when people are being failed by the US government, instead of accepting their rhetoric and lies, we need to challenge them and their status quo, but we need to start doing it in a positive way rather than a punishing one. Foreign people didn’t steal your house or your job, foreign people aren’t taking away your benefits or pushing the NHS into crisis. The government are. In five years when there are less foreigners here and you still don’t have a house or a job, the government will still be responsible.

 The backlash has begun. Scotland are seeking independence, Ireland are seeking unification and Wales…..what are we going to do? 

There is a way to change this but it requires a wholesale revision of our thinking. If Wales voted to leave the EU because we are disenfranchised and we wanted to give the abusive, neglectful establishment a kick up its arse, let’s do it properly by giving it a kick not just up the arse but also, out of the door. If Wales wants to TAKE BACK CONTROL, it starts with us. We are a historically welcoming, compassionate country and I fear that if we don’t take stock now, we will lose this precious respect that we have shared for ourselves, each other and Wales. Staying on the same self destructive path isn’t going to provide us with some special panacea, living under a punitive right wing government won’t make things easier, and when we continue to seek this elusive elixir by staying desperate and becoming even angrier, we all lose out.

Picture this, if you will. Ten years down the line and Brexit has failed us, we are more poor, more desperate, more fractured, more angry, looking for new people to point the finger at, increasingly disrespectful towards each other as right wing thinking takes hold, as UKIP take control – a UKIP so extreme that the party of today will look like pussycats – and as the Wales we know and love is forgotten.

THE CHANGE STARTS WITH US

Now picture this. In ten years time Wales is governed by an accountable party working out of Cardiff. The ‘political elite’ are members of our neighbourhoods and are approachable to us.This Wales is all inclusive, communites work together, people thrive. Financially we may not ever be rich beyond our wildest dreams, but we’ll never be emotionally poor. Imagine living in a country where a social and economic overhaul wipes out inequality, where 1 in 4 families is not living beneath the poverty line, in a Wales that cares to give us all opportunity and where, instead of blaming the non existent ‘other’ for our fate, we work together, find constructive solutions and share the load. Imagine living like that. When the alternative is a world comprising of Trump, Farage, Le Pen and others, don’t you find this desirable?

Option one terrifies me. If it does you too, please consider option two.

I’m not an expert (I can barely calculate how much a single trip to Lidl is going to cost me) and I don’t need to be. Others, however, are expert, have studied, have learnt, can plan, can forecast, can calculate and can envisage a successful independent Wales. We need to stop dismissing their views and start to embrace them. For sure, our lives as part of Wangland have been nothing short of economic suicide – why not listen to and put faith in those people who tell you that when Wales can succeed, it’s because they have the expertise at their fingertips and know how best to steer us there. Michael Gove told us that we shouldn’t listen to experts shortly before we voted leave – are we going to make a similar mistake again? God help me, I hope not.

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