“Take back control”. What an intoxicating proposal. It touches a deep desire, fuels an ambition, that grows into a demand, that becomes a rallying cry so powerful that it prompts a revolution.
Control is power. The power to influence and direct events. The power to influence and direct other people. And we want it. Power for me. Or you. Perhaps us? But not ‘them’. We want to take power and control from ‘them’, whoever you or I might think they are.
The problem is, ‘they’ want power too, and once they have taken it back, where does that leave us if they obsess about their sovereignty and use that power to influence and direct us. What about our agency, and the power we need to control and direct our lives?
Surely the rallying cry was not to make the already powerful more powerful, yet that’s what many have come to believe.
Having invented the slogan and won the vote, those with the power thought they were in possession of something magic – a direct line to the will of the people. To them, what the people wanted was obviously the same as what they wanted, since both they and the people voted Leave.
But they misunderstood the magic of “take back control”, the magic of its vagueness.
It does not unite the nation in pursuit of a singular goal, it holds up a mirror that reflects our hopes, desires, ambitions, fears, and provides an empty vessel into which all of these can be poured.
They don’t mix. They sit separately like oil and water, some to be addressed, the majority to be ignored. The powerful got their sovereignty; the rest of us, we got nowt.
So, in steps Labour, to see if they can harness the will of the people in all its diversity and contradictions.
Can they take control of “taking back control”? Will they, upon winning power, give that power away? Is that what the people really want? Time will tell.
What’s certain is voters have a powerful thirst for change. Not just tweaks around the edges, but an overhaul of this spluttering, stalling, broken country we call home.
Offer this and Labour should find the votes it needs. Deliver it and it could take control of power in Westminster for many years to come.