Creating a more inclusive democracy will allow us to rebuild our country
On Thursday, 33 million of us voted. It feels like we’ve gone over the precipice.
For those of us who campaigned for Britain to remain, this was a devastating result. Our worst fears are now being realised.
The outpouring of anger is entirely understandable. But there is a choice in how we respond.
We can blame and dismiss the 51.9 per cent who voted Leave. Or we can seek to understand how the final result was a sad indictment of decades of political failure by successive governments.
For too long, ordinary people have seen their quality of life squeezed while political elites have appeared distant or disinterested.
The Westminster spin machine is already in overdrive, with rumours swirling about which ambitious cabinet minister is next in line for the top job.
But the question on the ballot paper wasn’t Boris vs Dave.
Despite all the vile rhetoric, it wasn’t a racist ‘no’ to migrants and refugees and it wasn’t a ‘yes’ to selling off the NHS or more austerity.
It wasn’t a rejection of leading the fight against climate change, or a call for a country that is exclusive rather than inclusive.
It wasn’t a cry for narrow self interest over our common interest, or an endorsement of being mean spirited rather than generous.
This was not a mandate for Michael, Boris, Nigel or anyone else.
Neither are those the views of our friends and family who may have put their cross in a different box to the one we chose.
However unpalatable, this was a clear instruction. We must recognise that many of those who voted Leave did so to try and take some control.
Britain stands at a crossroads. We are a nation divided culturally, geographically, economically and politically. The bitterness of this vote could last for years. But we cannot allow the inequality and alienation to grow.
If we are to truly heal the divisions, we must seize this opportunity to restore people’s faith and hope in a politics that works for everyone.
And as Green MEP Molly Scott Cato has said, while much anger was directed at the EU, it is our own broken system that is in desperate need of a fix.
In this referendum every vote counted. This was a marked contrast to the general election, where just 24 per cent of those eligible to vote elected the government that called it.
We need a proportional system for the House of Commons so every vote matters. We need a more representative, inclusive democracy, where people feel that they have a real stake, and where everyone’s voices are heard.
And if we get it we can begin to repair our country. We can push forward a more progressive agenda that doesn’t just focus on the few hundred thousand voters in ‘swing’ seats, but represents the broader concerns of the wider community.
We can demonstrate how the free movement of people can enrich, not impoverish people’s lives both in Britain and beyond.
We can defend our hard-won rights at work and environmental protections, showing how they benefit the whole community. We can protect our NHS and public services from the privatisation driven by big vested interests.
Change the system, and we change people’s lives. That was the sentiment behind many people’s vote to Leave.
As uncomfortable as it may be, we should work with it, not dismiss it.
Jonathan Bartley is the Green Party’s work and pensions spokesperson, and is running for the leadership of the party with Caroline LucasLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.