LAST night, Theresa May urged MPs to stop “navel gazing” on Brexit and decide what to do. Simple decision – leave with no deal next week, or extend until the end of June.

Watching angry MPs pulling her in different directions – some saying they were “ashamed” to be Conservatives – and others almost begging her not to leave the EU without a deal – it was evident just how completely ostracised our Parliament, the main political parties, and indeed our country, are.

The letters which stream through The Northern Echo’s letter box every time I dare to express an anti-Brexit view in an opinion column – the crucial word being “opinion” – are becoming increasingly vitriolic.

Healthy debate is good. That is why we have columns and letters pages and now social media, for all its ills.

Unfortunately the nature of disagreement is moving away from polite interactions and into personal attacks, and not just here.

It would be naive not to believe that there were Machiavellian machinations in most political, social and economic spheres. But whoever is pulling our strings is doing it masterfully.

“Divide and rule” has been a well-established strategy for many thousands of years. It was a favourite tactic of colonial superpowers.

Donald Trump has swept to power by pitting the people of America against each other, and fortifying short-sighted prejudices against Islamic immigrants and Mexico.

And everywhere the trend of blaming the poor, immigrants, different races, religions and classes for the world’s ills just deflects our eyes away from the real culprits of social and economic inequality, privilege, greed and supreme wealth. It creates invisible lines between the middle classes and the underprivileged and prevents them uniting against those further up the tree.

It also has chilling echoes of the worst episodes of history, the history we are supposed to have learned from.

Our political landscape has not been so divisive for many years. Europe is now cleaved into its different parts, with Britain cut adrift in so-called splendid isolation. America is no longer our friend, and Russia sits back, revelling in its clever campaigns of misinformation, waiting for us all to self-destruct.

We now appear to be caught up in a modern-day Crusades with so-called ‘Islamic’ extremists (they’re about as Muslim as my Irish Catholic granny) launching terrorist attacks against the west, which are now being answered by the misguided and ignorant alt-right, as we saw in the usually-peaceful Christchurch last week, with the murder of 50 innocent people in two mosques.

The unhinged need little excuse for violence, but the current climate only serves to fuel ignorance and hate on both sides. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday called for a “global fight” to root out right wing, racist ideals. She rejected the idea that immigration was responsible for fuelling racism and urged people to never create an environment where racism can flourish.

Unfortunately, we are living in this kind of environment. I cannot be persuaded against my view that there were many Brexit “leave” votes cast by people who did so because they have a problem with foreigners and they thought it would stop immigration.

But what matters now, what really matters, is to tackle and expose racism, prejudice and hate wherever and however it exists, and create a united, not divided, world. Only then will the voice of the people be heard.