Every cloud … This week, I had a serious accident when I was nearly run over and killed on my bicycle by an articulated lorry travelling at 50 mph. I was admitted to A&E and found to have a number of fractured bones in my lower back and in areas connected to the spine. I am presently recuperating. As is the way with such things, people tend to get in touch to find out how you are. My estranged sister was one of them and she was WhatsApping me on Thursday. I decided to break our arrangement of silence and called her by phone. I say estranged because I asked that she stop visiting for family teas some years ago after she said she and her husband voted for Brexit to “keep two million German rapists out of Tonbridge” and to “stop Sharia Law in Britain”. I found our conversation deeply depressing and cut ties for family gatherings as a result. We must still Brexorcise people if we are to move the dial – see Books to change minds, although my sister is not really part of my target market – she is beyond redemption. The phone conversation went something like this:
S: I’m only phoning up to find out how you are Peter. I’m not going to go on about my ailments.
ME: I thank her, explain briefly that I’m OK and answer questions about the accident. As expected this is followed by a full exposition of ‘her ailments’, which I allow, as she is quite old and it’s expected anyway as part of our normal conversation. I find out which pills she is on and so on and host of other unnecessary information. Still, that’s family for you.
S: I suppose you are really pleased today?
S: Well, Boris going and all that? (she knows she should not bring the subject up but cannot help herself).
ME: No, not at all. (she is perplexed as she only sees issues as being binary off / on, in / out, yes / no decisions). I wait a bit and then continue: As you know changing the figurehead does not change the underlying problem which remains, in other words Brexit.
S (looking for an escape route): Well, I could not vote for Keir Starmer.
ME: What exactly is it that means you cannot vote for him? Nor can I by the way.
S: (long pause) er, um, well I don’t know really but it’s just a feeling (she reads The Daily Maul). I note that she is beginning to question her statement and let it go.
S: (after my embarrassingly long pause): Well, Boris is funny isn’t he?
ME: Yes, he is …. (long awkward pause), but being funny is not the most important thing if you are running the country …
S: (fumbling) Well, he did COVID well didn’t he.
ME: Er, yes if you think that 170 000 unnecessary deaths is good (long pause). You do realise that there were other choices and that this course of action was not inevitable? (long pause). S: Did you know that I’m a great grandmother? We continue with small talk.
A friend wondered why I continue to bother and in some ways she is right. My sister represents a small group of people for whom little will change in terms of their beliefs about Brexit. They do however offer an excellent practice arena for the larger swathe of people who now doubt the wisdom of Brexit. We must work on this group now that they are starting to question the lies they were sold about Brexit. In a relatively short intervention I was able to raise significant doubt about the following matters:
- Remainers are not all Boris haters or ‘lefty losers’.
- Keir Starmer has some competences to lead. My sister is of the view that Starmer represents communism in her binary world.
- Entertainment is not a core leadership skill. Other qualities matter more. Johnson was good at the Olympics and could have possibly had a career presenting ‘It’s a kockout’. However these skills are insufficient to run the country.
- Killing people unnecessarily is not something to be proud of.
- Herd immunity was not the only choice to address COVID (Brexiteers love the modal operator of necessity – see the books for more information on linguistics).
We simply cannot change the outlook on Brexit unless we work outside the bubble. Read the books today and arm yourself to have these difficult conversations. Every cloud …