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The Importance of Liberal Values in Defeating Brexit

October 22, 2018 10:00 PM
By Dominic Buxton

Dominic BuxtonOn 20th October, there was the "People's Vote" march in London. Whilst I support the march, it's important to remember that 700,000 people showing up on Parliament Square and then going back to their keyboards just isn't going to shift the political landscape or change anyone's mind. The overwhelming majority of people who took part in the march will have voted or supported Remain in the referendum in 2016, including a huge number of young people and EU citizens who were denied a vote at the time.

Don't get me wrong - if you went on the march, you have exercised one of the greatest freedoms of democracy - but don't leave it at that. Showing a presence is important, but we have to go beyond the occasional march. If you really want to change things, knock on doors and campaign with your local party.

As liberals, we have to recognise that nothing could be more reflective of our common values of tolerance, decency and kindness towards others than being able to lead respectful conversations, and even more importantly, being able to listen and understand, especially when it comes to topics we strongly disagree on. The only question is, how do we treat people whom we disagree with? Do we disregard their point of view, or do we respect it and have a sensible conversation? The current political climate is toxic, emotions are running high and people are at each other's necks, but if we really want to hold true to our values, we must try and find common ground.

Holding up placards calling Leave voters racist, ill-informed or stupid, and sneering at them, doesn't help our argument and shuts down any attempt at sensible political debate. I'm also of the strong opinion that standing outside parliament or Downing Street every single day, shouting and harassing our elected representatives isn't doing us any favours. It creates a toxic environment where it just becomes about who can shout the loudest. Draping ourselves in the EU flag and making emotionally driven generalisations of Leave voters online isn't going to recruit anyone to our cause. It drives people away and makes reasonable, respectful conversation impossible. We shouldn't demonise or disregard Leave voters' concerns about the European Union just because we don't share them. People voted for Brexit for a variety of different reasons. Their concerns are legitimate and need to be acknowledged, understood and addressed.

If we are serious about stopping Brexit, we must break out of our self-created echo chambers and start respectful and rational conversations with those whom we disagree with. We need to present people with examples of why the EU is good for us, not bombard them with speculations on why or how Brexit is going to be detrimental to our country.

Marching on Parliament and being active online is good, but the real difference is made on the doorstep in real-life conversations. When I'm out canvassing, I speak to many people who have lost faith in politics and just don't bother voting anymore. It's our duty to change that, and it starts on a local level - fixing that pothole down the road, saving the vital local bus service that connects a community or even just running a petition and presenting it to the council about setting up speed cameras on the High Street.

I strongly believe there should be a vote on the final deal with an option to 'Remain'. After all, a healthy democracy needs scrutiny and should allow the electorate to change their mind at any given time. That time is now.