I know in my heart that Brexit can be stopped – The Independent
Depression is an illness. It is why I normally get a bit antsy when people say they’re “depressed” when they mean they’re fed up because their football team lost, or they say the weather is “so depressing” when they mean it’s been raining a bit. But sometimes an event comes along that is so, well, cataclysmic, that I will allow the misuse of the D word without comment. June 23 2016 was one such event. Depressing beyond belief.
So how to Get Good Out Of the Bad that Brexit represents? The short, long-term answer is that it has to be reversed – but that is going to take time. It is going to need a lot of pennies to drop in a lot of minds that what seemed like a good idea at the time was in fact an act of national self-harm equivalent, if I may keep the mental health analogies going, to attempted suicide.
Also, with a government and much of the media dominated by right-wing ideologues for whom the EU has become the blame vehicle for all ills of the world (and who in any event do not like to admit they are wrong even as the evidence mounts daily), shifting the terms of debate and keeping alive the possibility of a rethink is not easy. Nor is that task helped when the official Opposition appears to want to ignore the single most important issue facing the country, and instead turn politics into an austerity coronation for Jeremy Corbyn against the hopeless Theresa May, the fourth Tory PM to come a cropper on the back of her Party’s European insanity.
With the government so useless; Labour so focused on anything but Brexit – even though none of Corbyn’s ambitious spending plans are likely to be met amid the economic shrinkage Brexit is already helping to deliver; and the media so biased, The New European has been one of the few good things to emerge from the ashes of June 23. At 48 pages for the 48 percent (remember them, Theresa?) it is a weekly print representation of my life rule that good can and must come from bad.
It is also, in these Trumpian, Zuckerbergian days when journalists worry about the survival and viability of their profession, a sign that print has a future after all. It started as an emotional spasm, editor Matt Kelly wanting to have a pop-up paper which for four weeks at least could give vent to his and others’ anger at the madness of the vote to LEAVE the greatest trading bloc on the planet, which had helped deliver peace and prosperity across a continent historically defined by war.
I shared the anger, shared the depression, and came on board from the off. Four weeks after the birth, it was clear we were not alone in feeling Brexit was a catastrophe in the making. Given the start-up costs were so low – zero launch and marketing budget for example – the team so small, the goodwill of contributors so generous, the paper was even ticking over a small profit in no time at all. Four weeks became five, became ten, became twenty, became … Happy Birthday, we’re one year old!
Along the way there have been some superb campaigning front pages, some great scoops – chess genius Garry Kasparov the latest star contributor next week – but above all, amid the madness that our national political debate has become, a place where voice can be given to those prepared to stand up and shout out what most of our MPs think but for some reason dare not say – that Brexit is a total disaster.
One of the reasons the referendum was held, and one of the reasons it was lost, was that we have in this country a very right-wing press whose commitment to truth is tenuous, and whose role as spectators now takes second place to their role as political players pursuing the political and economic interests of those who own and edit them.
The differences between them and and The New European is that we are open and honest about our goals, but do not need to resort to the lies and the distortions to make our case.
Our sales are miniscule compared with the Mail or the Sun, the Telegraph or the Express. But our influence in the debate will grow as the next twelve months unfold, for this very simple reason – they have to shout and scream ever louder because deep down they know they are losing the argument; and if the country had the chance to think again, it would, and with a different answer. We, meanwhile, can continue to set out the facts as they are, and trust the people, over time, to do that thing we all have to do occasionally – admit we made a mistake, and put it right.
The New European will be there to help that process along (and I know The Independent will too, sharing as it does our broad approach, reflected by a heavily Remain readership). As I said in one of the very first editions – ‘Believe Me, Brexit Can Be Stopped.’ I couldn’t tell you then precisely how that will happen, and I can’t say now, but it will. I believe that even more strongly today than I did when I first wrote it.
And when the country changes its mind, and the madness is stopped, it will be the best GGOOB of our lifetime, and The New European will be there to tell the tale.