Polly Toynbee writes: When politicians from a mainstream party use immigration as their main weapon in a hotly fought campaign, they unleash something dark and hateful that always lurks in all countries not far beneath the surface.
Did we delude ourselves we were a tolerant country – or can we still save our better selves? Over recent years, struggling to identify “Britishness”, to connect with a natural patriotic love of country that citizens have every right to feel, politicians floundering for a British identity reach for the reassuring idea that this cradle of democracy is blessed with some special civility.
But if the vote is out [of the EU], then out goes that impression of what kind of country we are. Around the world we will be seen as the island that cut itself off out of anti-foreigner feeling: that will identify us globally more than any other attribute. Our image, our reality, will change overnight.
Contempt for politics is dangerous and contagious, yet it has become a widespread default sneer. There was Jo Cox, a dedicated MP, going about her business doing what good MPs do, making herself available to any constituents with any problems to drop in to her surgery. Just why she became the victim of such a vicious attack, we may learn eventually. But in the aftermath of her death, there are truths of which we should remind ourselves right now.
Democracy is precious and precarious. It relies on a degree of respect for the opinions of others, soliciting support for political ideas without stirring up undue savagery and hatred against opponents. [Continue reading…]