I remember a phase my young sons went through when they challenged each other with scenarios starting with, ‘Would you rather…?’
‘Would you rather be eaten by a tiger or a shark?’ ‘Would you rather die of heat in a desert or freeze to death in the Arctic?’ That type of thing. Some challenges were bizarre, some revolting and some downright ridiculous. In all cases, the outcome was the same – bad.
But this EU Referendum malarkey has generated its own unappealing would-you-rather prophets of doom. We’re being asked to make impossible choices on issues which will have far-reaching implications for us and our children’s futures. We have to make a single decision – Remain or Leave – for a myriad of implications in an uncertain, unstable world.
It’s like reaching a fork in the path in The Jungle of Peril – one path leads over the edge of a volcano, the other into a crocodile-infested lake. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Whatever the result of the referendum it will be the wrong one, and it won’t be good.
It’s like a surreal, bad dream in which increasingly hysterical political heavyweights with wildly differing political views have morphed into uncomfortable bedfellows. David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon taking on Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and George Galloway in a bid to try to outscare each other’s supporters. We look on trying to make sense of it all, but we don’t know because they don’t know either. And the voices in this nightmare won’t stop until 24th June. There are no promises of prosperity, harmony and happiness, just dire warnings of a bleak future.
But what we haven’t considered are the repercussions in the months and years after the result. If the campaign is ugly, muddled and hysterical now, just imagine the aftermath. The results are expected ‘to go the wire’, meaning that half the electorate will be disappointed. So, things will move on from would-you-rather domesday mongering to apportioning blame and falling back on excuses. For years we’ll be hearing ‘We wouldn’t be in this mess if we’d voted Remain’ or ‘We wouldn’t be in this mess if we’d voted Leave.’ Henceforth, all cockups and disasters in the UK will be blamed on the referendum result, and the stupid bastards who ticked the wrong box on 23 June 2016.
People in their 90s and beyond have a right to vote, but millions of people under 18 don’t. The outcome of Leave or Remain will have life-long implications for babies, toddlers, children and teenagers too young to vote. It’s their future we’re deciding on 23 June – irreversible and final. So we have to do what’s right for them.
And therein lies another problem. Britain is a country that prides itself on its good sense, practicality and sound judgement. But when it comes to disclosing its intentions to pollsters and then voting, its people can also exhibit tenacious, bad political habits. This is partly through bloody-mindedness, frivolity, panic, bad temper but also because, like our kids, we don’t like to be nagged, threatened, lectured and told what to do.
To a pair of 10 year-old boys left alone in a garden, “Whatever you do, don’t climb the tree! It’s dangerous. You could fall and hurt yourselves.” Yeah right.
Of course, many people have already made up their minds to Remain or Leave. They’ve been able to make a decision based on their circumstances, line of work, status, political leanings or because they’ve been able to cut through the crap and doom-mongering to make their choice of the lesser of two evils.
Many are still wavering, trying to unravel the facts, filter the scaremongering and heed the advice of crystal ball-gazing experts who profess to hold all the answers.
So what are the issues in this referendum which concern the UK’s parents? Millions are worried about the pressures placed on schools, hospitals and public services by unbridled immigration. Which would be better, Remain or Leave?
There are fears of terrorism and national security? Remain or Leave?
What about the stability of the economy and long-term social and employment prospects for their children? Remain or Leave?
Would Britain have more money for hospitals, maternity units, schools and public services if it remained or left?
Will children today be able to afford to buy their own homes in the future? Remain or Leave?
Important, far-reaching questions for which there aren’t definitive answers. For others, the choice might be simpler. Would you rather have cheaper car insurance for women or lower roaming charges for mobiles in Europe? Would you rather buy straight cucumbers or have a more powerful vacuum cleaner? Would you rather bankers made more money than the rest of us, or lost their jobs in the City?
It’s not long until we decide. But whatever the decision on 23 June – it’ll be the wrong one.
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