Saturday, June 25, 2016


It was a gloriously sunny day yesterday - 23 June 2016. Today, at just before noon, it has started hosing it down again, which seems more appropriate to my mood.
On the night of the referendum vote I went to bed at about 11.30, fairly certain that we'd dodged a bullet. There was no exit poll from the Beeb, but signs seemed to be that at the last minute the electorate had swerved towards voting to remain in the EU.
I won't say that they belatedly saw sense, because that would be insulting to those who voted leave - I'll get on to that.
Anyway, ragged reports were coming in that Farage had already conceded defeat and that a poll taken during the day had remain ahead by 52:48. Well, at least the figures were right this time, albeit the wrong way round.
Ian Duncan Smith was being interviewed by Dimbleby and had the look of a man who had given it his best shot but suspected that the gig was up. At least that's how I read his Cheshire cat grin. To me, he appeared demob happy, preparing to return to the Tory fold with a sense of "Yikes, that was a jolly jape. What larks!" to share battle stories with those on the In side with whom he had previously violently disagreed. It was quite unseemly actually.
There was even a story that Boris Johnson had confessed to a fellow Tube traveller on Thursday night that the leavers had lost.
So, I went to bed ready to sleep a good night's sleep, untroubled by my fears of what could lie ahead.
What a chump!
I'm glad I got that night's sleep in though. I'm not sure it will come so easily over the next few weeks and months.
Hearing that the leavers had won the next morning was stunning. I can only compare it to the feeling I had a few seconds after 10pm on election night last year, when Dimbleby announced the scale of Labour's defeat and predicted a Tory majority.
Nobody saw that coming. A defeat yes, but not on that crushing scale. Cameron, fearing another coalition at best, had his resignation speech ready to deliver on the morning of 8 May 2015, so he probably only had to make a few amends for yesterday's announcement. It was dignified and polished as you expect from him, but didn't really hide the fact that he had put a gun in his own mouth and dared people "don't make me do it".
If that election result made me reassess the area where I live, then yesterday made me feel like I'd woken up in a different country.
Last May, like many on the left I was angry at the Labour leadership for being so timid and presenting nothing - they hoped the Tories would simply keel over and gift them a hung parliament which they'd control with SNP and possibly Lid Dem allies.
But I was angry at the electorate too who were happy to vote for austerity, and happy to be re-fed the pat "if it's not hurting, it's not working" philosophies of the Thatcher years. However, I sort of understand that attitude. Thatcher's homespun tactics continue to serve the Tories well more than 30 years later. It's easy to blame fecklessness and laziness for more complex socio-economic issues. Work hard, save more, obey the rules, and everything will be okay.
Except things aren't always okay. The world keeps crashing in on us and ruining our sturdy attempts to do the right thing.
This referendum was different. I couldn't really accept any of the three main arguments to leave:
- economically, we'll be better off. Oh, grow up! We're hindering access to our main market. If Britain has great products that the world wants, they're already buying them. There will be no revival of the UK car or steel industry. We won't produce a rival to Apple overnight.
- sovereignty and bringing back control. Frankly, I don't want to give any more control to a bunch of ideological right wing coneheads who are are already hell bent on wrecking our health and education systems, and who have little regard for more local democracy or electoral reform. This is a smokescreen - it's not the 17th century.
- migration will be controlled. Will it really? Half of our migrants come from outside the EU - I suppose we'll get to them later. We will have to allow freedom of movement to remain in the single market. Illegal immigration will probably continue at similar levels, unless the UK economy starts to tank. Most illegals come here to work in the black economy. By definition they can't claim benefits.
So, I don't buy it, but many people do. It's hard for me not to walk around mentally labelling people who I suspect voted to leave. Does that mean we can't get along? In many cases, absolutely!
For my sins, I'm of the never forgive, never forget school. It will always be a way for me to define you, just as I mentally register people's politics. It doesn't always affect my behaviour, but it probably does affect how I think of you and how I analyse what you say and do. I'm not particularly proud of that, but I'm trying to be honest.
And I think it's how the rest of the world is looking at Britain, or more accurately England, now. It's not a country full of small-minded, insular, xenophobes, but it has definite traits in those areas, and those are what we showed yesterday. More than one person I know has remarked on their 'shame' at the vote to leave and even of being British.
Last night, I went to see Essex play 20:20 cricket in Chelmsford. It's an annual outing with the guys from my book group - how wishy-washy liberal does that sound - but I wasn't looking forward to it this year. From past experience, when T20 Essex comes out to play it is a bit like Brexit on tour - white, male, lager-fuelled, shaven-headed (and that's just me). Having read of the chants of England football fans in Marseilles recently, I wouldn't have been surprised to have heard enthusiastic cheers for Farage, Brexit and Boris.
As it was, people seemed as stunned as I felt. Was I imagining slightly embarrassed looks on the faces of people from a county that voted strongly for leave? The kind of look after a party where things got a bit out of hand and you want to keep a low profile for a while.
It probably was just me projecting, although the term Regrexit has already been termed for just those people. I've also heard the more scatalogical Brexshit and Brexcrement to describe the merde we may soon be in.
Or will we?
The fact is, as was spelled out regularly during the campaign, not least by those damned experts so loathed by Gove, nobody really knows what happens now. We have a good idea of what would have happened had we stayed - not quite business as usual, and possibly the start of a new, tweaked relationship with the EU that Europhobes would have hated, but that would have been reassuring to Joe Public, business, and the rest of the world.
But that didn't happen. Things are more uncertain, and more scary than they were two days ago, and they'll probably stay that way for some time. I didn't see much bunting being strung up yesterday.
On a day of high emotion yesterday, the thing that got me most was an instant message from a friend in Scotland. In an exchange about what was happening I joked about strapping a mattress to the car and heading up the M74.
Her reply, "Come home," just about broke me.