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6 December 2019updated 25 Jun 2021 4:07am

What we want: A second referendum

By Marina Warner

Labour to win, with a majority. It would change everything for the better. Many of the shadow cabinet (Angela Rayner, Keir Starmer, John McDonnell), and recent entrants into parliament (Thangam Debbonaire) have an integrity in their desire for greater equality across society that the current PM and his sorry forsworn crew have never known (and only pretend to acknowledge as even valuable).

The thinking that has influenced the Labour manifesto – of Mariana Mazzucato and other anti-neoliberal economists – is visionary, but it is also hard-headed realism for our times, if the rise of repressive and polluting kleptocracies is to be checked now. I even think the long game Jeremy Corbyn is still playing might have been prudence: Brexit will not be resolved for decades unless it is stopped and gradually voters (for instance in Wales) are coming to recognise this dreadful prospect.

Voters for a second referendum should include 16- and 17-year-olds, UK citizens living abroad and EU citizens with settled status here. Those over 65 should listen closely to the younger people they know since they (I am one of them) are unlikely to live to see the continued consequences.

More specifically, I’d like funding for part-time higher education to give everyone a chance to make a change to their work and interests as artificial intelligence grows. The same goes for public institutions, museums and libraries, which are the spur to vital curiosity and knowledge.

I’d like a recognition that literature, foreign languages, music, visual arts, poetry, theatre and dance are all necessary for young people to thrive and must be restored to the curriculum; support for public transport in the country, so families can move out of the smoke into the green; a profound rethink about EU refugee arrangements, especially the treaties with Libya and Turkey, and an end to indefinite detention in immigration centres here; divestment of arms profiteering; and an end to Trident.

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If this Conservative government is returned to power and Boris Johnson blusters on in triumph it would mean a rupture with the finest strands of the national story, which I still hope include an understanding that a good-enough society needs to reduce drastically the current differentials between rich and poor, and that such a change of direction would be for the good of all. 

This piece is part of our “What we want” series. Read the rest of the articles here

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This article appears in the 04 Dec 2019 issue of the New Statesman, What we want