Astonishing scenes in this week’s edition of “Liddle’s Got Issues” as Rod Liddle turns up outside Parliament and attempts to engage some of the anti-Brexit protesters in conversation.
Some of these people, such as Steve Bray, nicknamed “Stop Brexit Man” are so committed to the cause of stopping Brexit that they have been turning up outside Parliament with their placards, draped in EU flags, almost every day for the past year, or even longer.
So you’d think that given the opportunity to speak to the Sunday Times about their concerns, they would leap at the opportunity.
But no. When approached by Liddle, they turn their backs, hide behind their placards and flat-out refuse to engage.
Now, it is fair to assume they know that Mr Liddle himself voted for Brexit. So of course they can be expected to be a bit wary as to how any conversation about Brexit will go. But he is there in his capacity as a reporter for the Sunday Times, accompanied by a cameraman and politely asking questions any decent journalist would ask of any protester. Surely, if they are sufficiently committed to their cause to turn up outside Parliament and protest every day, they should be eager to articulate their reasons and engage in debate about that cause?
Sadly not. And in the interests of fairness, Liddle points out that were he to approach any of the pro-Brexit protesters who usually can also be found outside Parliament on a daily basis, he would likely find a similar unwillingness to engage.
This is what is so terribly wrong with our politics at the moment. The reason, I suspect, why these protesters were so unwilling to engage, was that they actually can’t articulate their reasons for wanting to stop Brexit. They feel, with every fibre of their being, that Brexit is wrong – but they can’t explain why. And sadly, many of those who voted for Brexit and who still passionately defend it, would similarly be unable to articulate their reasoning.
How is it that one can feel so passionately about an issue without being able to explain why? Surely that passion should translate into ensuring one fully understands, and can debate, at least some of the underlying issues? Brexit is hellishly complicated – we all know that – so why is it so hard for people to admit to themselves that actually they don’t fully understand all the issues and that the passion they claim to feel, either for or against the EU, may in fact be a proxy for some other deep dissatisfaction in their lives?
I am probably one of the more staunch defenders of Brexit, yet even I would not claim to be sufficiently passionate about it, to actually turn up outside Parliament every day. I am always more than willing to attempt to articulate my reasons for believing in Brexit – but I will also always admit that there are areas of our relationship with the EU about which I know next to nothing. I will also always admit that there are risks, as well as benefits, to leaving.
But those who turn up outside Parliament each day, despite their supposed passion for and dedication to their cause, don’t actually seem to want to engage in debate about any of the issues, nor attempt to change others’ minds. They just want to keep shouting, and waving their banners. Is it narcissism? A desire to see themselves on television and in newspaper reports, to be able to brag to friends and relatives that while others may have taken a back seat, they played a part in such a significant historical event? Or is it a deep-seated loneliness and lack of purpose in their everyday lives, that finds relief in a shared cause and the camaraderie they encounter among their fellow protesters?
Whatever it is, it’s hard to believe that it actually has anything to do with the EU. It’s passion devoid of reason – and sadly it’s becoming all too common a feature of our current political debate.