Friday, June 24, 2016

“There’s no hope, there’s just despair…”


Hmmm. Proud of Londoners today, at least.

Ignore what any demagogue, armchair pontificator or “pens in the polling booth” conspiracy theorist tells you – this feels like a sad day for the UK, the saddest in my lifetime, and yet it’s felt somehow inevitable, like watching a slow-motion car crash whilst you’re in that car. The referendum has also had the effect of crystallising the reality that, just like the States, we’re split down the middle as a nation, into two almost irreconcilable tribes.

I respect that England voted “out” (our friends in Scotland gracefully resisted, kudos to them). I accept that was the will of the people, perhaps including some of you who’ve stumbled across this catharsis piece. But that doesn’t stop me being ashamed of my country right now, and embarrassed to have had a Prime Minister who thought that endangering people’s futures and livelihoods would be a suitable political stunt. Quite rightly, he’s resigned (though leaving a vacuum which readies us for a right-wing coup of sorts, and so I find myself seeking solace again in “Hope Springs Eternal”, “Election Day”, “Dry Land” and “William Blake”, to name but four of Keris’s most poignant and enduring legacies…) And don’t get me started on him.

The majority of working people voted Remain. The majority of people who don’t work voted Leave, as of course they were entitled to, but it won’t be them losing their jobs or their employment rights as a result, and I hope they can understand the genuine upset and concern for those of us for whom this referendum was about more than sticking a V-sign, Trump-style, to amorphous “elites”, defined conveniently (if somewhat elastically) as the 16 million of us across the country who ultimately voted to stay in the EU, plus all immigrants and refugees (the two terms, of course, conflated, with campaign imagery that would shame Leni Riefenstahl). And I hope they understand how EU citizens, living, working and paying taxes here, not entitled to vote, had been made to feel so unwelcome, even before the result was declared.

And regardless of whether people think this is good for the UK, and even if you believe that some abstract (almost surreally so) notion of ‘sovereignty’ is more important than solidarity, quite why the media should be celebrating the negative impact this vote will also have on the EU is beyond me. The fillip for the far-right across Europe is palpable. And when people here in the UK realise that leaving the EU didn’t address their wish-list of worries after all, we can only fear as to whom they will turn on next.

To dwell on the symptoms of this, and the undisguised glee of the wreckers, and the seemingly complete breakdown of intelligent discourse in this country, could soon tip me into a novella of incandescence, but I’m just tired and hung up on it all right now, so let’s settle for this.

This result diminishes us all. But now it’s happened, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get on, to start standing up for what we believe in all over again. And to fight even harder for unity and against the attitudes and the personalities and the detachment from the truth and the mendacity that made this result – and the way it unfolded – possible. Three-quarters of young people voted Remain, which holds out hope of better times to come: maybe hope springs eternal, after all.

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