I took my children with me to vote today.
It has become a custom. Since they are barred by age from taking part in democracy I appoint them as my proxy. Then they can play some physical part in the process, whether it’s marking the ‘X’ or putting the ballot in the box they get to feel they have voted, that they aren’t just the passive victims of grown-ups’ decisions.
It might be a silly thing for me to do: the consequence of some naïve faith in democracy, a belief that it is intrinsically important. Whatever the reason I make sure we do it at every election.
So we joined the short queue and I answered their questions while we waited. What was the election for? Could we get rid of Theresa May? Would we stop Brexit? My answers disappointed them and I feared they didn’t help my aim of engaging them in the democratic process.
It’s hard not to feel pessimistic. Losing a rational debate is one thing. Losing to an irrational, right-wing populist argument is another thing entirely.
My children continued asking questions and made me realise that perhaps there are reasons to be more optimistic. Future generations are naturally far more global than their predecessors. As long as we can stave off a complete retreat into populism this will just be seen as a spasm. Brexit may or may not be inevitable. Remain may or may not win this particular battle. But what we’re really deciding is not about the bridges we burn, it’s about how many bridges the next generation have to rebuild when they inevitably take us back into Europe and the world.
I increasingly see things not in the light of a battle about the 2016 referendum result but instead about how we rectify the mess that vote created. In that light putting a cross in a pro-Remain box is an incredibly empowering act.