Recently, The Queen made a speech at the Sandringham Women’s Institute which included what some believe to be a thinly veiled political statement on Brexit.
The Queen is generally expected to remain apolitical, but Prime Minister after Prime Minister describe how vital and reliable Her Majesty’s advice is in their regular meetings. She has reigned over almost every political crisis in living memory, so I think her advice warrants serious respect. The Queen stated
“As we look for new answers in the modern age, I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture. To me, these approaches are timeless, and I commend them to everyone”
Whether this quote was referring to Brexit or not, I can certainly see how it is applicable. In fact, I think the Queen has produced a pearl of wisdom here. Everything Her Majesty recommends is something that the current discourse over Brexit is sorely missing: People aren’t speaking well of each other, aren’t respecting different points of view, aren’t seeking common ground, and I think we’re all losing sight of the bigger picture. And most of this disrespect, I posit, is from those who don’t respect the referendum result.
The referendum was meant to find this “common ground” that the Queen speaks of, we hosted a national debate on a topic which the public is very divided on in order to come to a definitive decision. That is how we, as a nation, democratically seek common ground. But whether it’s disrespecting people’s reasons for voting Leave, or simply disrespecting the voters themselves, there’s a disdain, a contempt, for the voters who dared get us into this mess. How often have you heard the referendum result be dismissed? How often do you hear the intelligence of Leave voters questioned? Or their motives ridiculed? This has infected the national debate, making undertones of derision and scorn a fundamental part of many Brexit discussions.
Of course, the same is true of the other side. Undoubtedly. As we saw very recently when Anna Soubry was hounded as a “Nazi” outside Parliament by pro-Brexit activists. However, it strikes me that Leave supporters have been similarly branded for years now, the term “Brextremist” is a common piece of political jargon for God’s sake. I have to say, from where I’m sitting, it certainly seems like the disrespect is fairly one-sided. And polling shows this to be the case: In a recent YouGov poll, only 9% of Leavers said they would mind if a relative married a strong Remainer, whereas a whopping 37% of Remainers said they would mind if a relative married a strong Leaver. This sort of bigotry, the refusal to accept other’s point of view, is what I believe to be the heart of the issue with Brexit and the foundation of this bigotry is disrespecting the referendum result.
This is not a good thing for British political discourse. Yes, it’s great that people are excited and passionate about politics, but if that passion leads you to disrespect or dislike anyone who disagrees with you, then all you are doing is sewing division.
A horrid myth is spreading across this country, the idea that to be civil, respectful, or friendly with someone, you must agree with their political beliefs. We have to accept that just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean that they are wrong, or stupid, or malicious. It is simply a difference in opinion. How are we ever supposed to come to a consensus and progress as a nation if we cannot accept the validity of an opinion, or a referendum, simply because we disagree with it.