In After the Vote, her talk for this week’s special edition of A Point of View (Radio 4) on the subject of Brexit, the philosopher (and former Reith lecturer) Onora O’Neill suggested that the media have played a large part in creating our current crisis. All branches of it failed ‘to communicate with the public an accurate and honest account’, she argued. The BBC, she said, ‘provided coverage but failed to challenge unfair or dubious claims’ by either side, adding that ‘democracy does not work if such claims are not properly challenged’. This for her is the true nature of ‘the democratic deficit’ — lack of information, of informed debate, of proper checks. The public, she argued, were not given ‘credible, accessible and assessable information’ on the big questions we faced before the vote and are now being confronted with afterwards.
O’Neill’s talk was just one of five this week, in an attempt to provide each morning a more balanced perspective on what Brexit means. It came as a relief after such days of bitterness, bile and misinformation to hear O’Neill’s measured thoughtfulness.
Elsewhere on Radio 4 there were other reassuring signs that the country has not yet quite gone to the dogs. The roses are still blooming in John Betjeman’s Metroland, those districts of outer London served by the Metropolitan Line and including Chesham, Pinner and Northwood, reported Hugh Muir in Black Flight and the New Suburbia (Sunday). Much else, though, is changing. In Pinner, for instance, the cricket XI is now mainly made up of black or Asian players, part of the exodus of people of ethnic origin to the suburbs. The high street has shops selling spices, yams and plantains. There are mosques and temples in the vicinity.