Tavistock looked at its best this morning, its streets and buildings washed clean by overnight rain and gleaming under late November sun. Appearances are deceptive, though: a local told me the town was in decline, with shops closing and people increasingly resorting to food banks. In this it surely mirrors the fate of once prosperous towns up and down our country.
Our Democracymeter attracted lots of interest. People queued to have their turn and plenty of lively conversations took place. Most of the people I spoke with applauded our activity. The few Leavers I met sang the same tired old songs: “We put all that money in and got nothing out”, said one embittered elderly lady. I cited the Eden Project as an example of how start-up money from the EU pays huge dividends, but she was so consumed by her own resentment that nothing I said could make its mark. Full of scorn for the striking nurses, she reminded me of the envious, in Dante’s Purgatory, whose eyes are sewn shut as a punishment for their refusal, while in this life, to perceive and embrace the common good. The few remaining hard-core Leavers stand out in stark relief now, their unrealism so blatant that it would be funny if it were not so tragic – for themselves as well as for their country. This one’s acidity left me with a pain in the gut and I had to reach out to a fellow Remainer for a comforting hug.
Focused on a broader set of issues than the Brexitometer, the Democracymeter is definitely the right tool for this stage in our campaign. We ended up with a fine picture of public distress, ready for sending to Tavistock’s absentee MP Geoffrey Cox. Our campaign manager, says she wants to send him a pair of flip-flops and a “wish-you-were-here” post-card!