That's not how I would phrase it

Last week I found The Daily Mail and The Daily Express competing with each other on the best way to deal with those of us who think that the vote to leave the UK was fundamentally flawed and the decision outright wrong. They declared us unpatriotic, "bremoaners", trying to "plot" the rise of an EU superstate. The Express, I think, just pipped The Mail to the post with its, rather ominous, call for us to be "silenced".

Today, I wake to find a Tory councillor promoting his to people who:

  • imagine, devise, promote, work, or encourage others, to support UK becoming a member of the European Union;
  • conspire with foreign powers to make the UK, or part of the UK, become a member of the EU.'

This is a call to criminalise a large swathe of the population for their political positions.

Again, this is a call to criminalise a large swathe of the population for their political positions.

Should I say it again? Yep!

This is a call to criminalise a large swathe of the population for their political positions.

Now, to be fair, the local party chairman pretty damn quickly suspended this councillor.

What scares me - what terrifies me - is the government response: Theresa May's spokesperson was asked about this petition and May's spokesperson's response was:

Different people will choose their words differently. The prime minister is very clear that the British people have made their decision.

Theresa May's press spokesperson is right: English is not NewSpeak, different people do choose to use different words, it's one of the joys of language which allows us to tell stories, create new worlds, have debates. For example, the UK says "aubergine" while the US says "eggplant". One person may say "that wind turbine is fucking ugly" and another may call it "an eyesore".

But, "Different people will choose their words differently" has an unspoken coda to it, without which it becomes a useless phrase - that those different words have, at their core, the same meaning.

If I describe a wind turbine as having "majesty and grace" and someone else calls it "an eyesore ruining our landscape", then saying we chose to use "different words" ignores the whole disagreement. It suggests that fundamentally we think the same thing.

Here's a different choice of words for that quote: "That's not how I would have said it".

Even if we open up "different words" to include levels of hyperbole and exaggeration ("a bit ugly" vs "a monstrosity which will unfairly dominate our landscape"), the spokesperson is still saying that the core idea of criminalising a significant portion of our population is sound. That I am so unpatriotic that my thoughts are treasonous.

Just to forestall any excuses of not having addressed this issue in detail with the PM: the team have had time to discuss a line to take on "silencing" "bremoaners" and this spokesperson did not think the line was clear enough to enable them to condemn the criminalisation of political beliefs.

Not criminalising free speech should be a given in a functioning democracy. It should not require a specific instruction from the PM to assert it on her behalf.

"imagining the UK being part of the EU should be considered as treason punishable by life imprisonment"

"different people chose their words differently"

Every time I think we've sunk to the lowest point something astounds me. I've said and thought that I may not be safe in the UK much longer, but it's always been a little exaggerated, a little hyperbolic because I've always believed we'll come back from the brink. But every time this government does something (and Labour inevitably fucks up its response) that belief is eroded, the hyperbole, that exaggeration becomes a little less.

And I don't know what to do. Emigration usually relies on having in-demand skills - I work for a charity doing unprofitable advice work. My foreign language skills are piss poor and I rely on my English skills in my job. My job is tied to UK/English law (yes, I can learn). I don't have the money, savings or confidence to move and start somewhere new. I have been well and truly screwed by this vote and this government's reaction. I really needed my government to tell me that I was not under threat of becoming a political prisoner, instead I'm told that's not how they would phrase it.

Alex
x x