Britain has voted to leave the European Union. I still can’t quite believe it. I couldn’t write yesterday because I felt too upset but today I have managed to marshall some thoughts. When I first found out, looking at my phone yesterday morning I was in total shock. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I was crying on and off through the morning.
Part of my new regime is not to let things get to me so much so rather than crawling back to bed with a bottle of wine as I might have done in the past I put the dog in the car and drove to Felixstowe for a beach front walk. Everything had changed but nothing had changed. Pensioners and mothers were out enjoying the fine weather. As I walked along I actually felt good – feeling the sun on my head and the wind in my hair. Everything was ok. It did me good.The world had not ended – it was still spinning on its axis.
I was really wedded to an idealistic version of the EU. I liked the idea of nations joining together, sharing common aims and values, working for peace and prosperity. I liked the idea of free movement and the fact I could settle in any of the member states if I chose to. I thanked the EU for the peace we have enjoyed in Europe since 1945. I liked the way they seemed to provide a brake on the worst excesses of the Tory government. This was why I was so sad to hear the news that a majority of the British people had voted to leave.
It is hard to know the reasons for doing so. Much of the media has blamed working class racism. Others have said it’s not really about that. I am from a working class area in the north. Some people certainly were racist when I was a child. Asian people arrived in some numbers in the late 70s. They were universally referred to as “Pakis”. Nobody would live next to them. If they moved next door people sold their houses. This ended up with a kind of voluntary segregation. I don’t know if attitudes have changed as I haven’t been back for years. Probably they haven’t. Since then there have been plenty more waves of immigration – refugees from war zones in Africa, Eastern Europeans looking for work, Asians looking for a better life. Looking at the north of England vox pops on Channel 4 news most people mentioned immigration as the number one issue in the referendum. I am not sure why they are so worked up about it. Maybe they think the immigrants have taken their jobs, or driven down wages or taken up housing. It could be these things. It could be that they see their own culture declining. I have never quite understood what British culture is. I am not sure that a lot of people have one. Anyway, worries about immigration seem to have played some part. This does not mean that all those who voted Leave are racists as some on social media have tried to make out.
It may be a kind of protest vote. They feel neglected and powerless. Their areas have been in decline for years. Politicians of all stripes ignore them. This was their chance to stick it to the Establishment and they did. The media don’t seem to understand working class communities. Journalists seem well bred, public school educated types and I grow tired of their simplistic takes on areas they don’t understand. Many of the media are blaming “the poor” for Brexit with an undertone that they are too stupid and ignorant to understand the issues. This is divisive talk. They had their reasons, whatever they are and they should be listened to by the elites, not dismissed.
What has largely been ignored in the many newspaper articles I have read is that wealthy swathes of southern England also voted to leave. They are not poor, not dispossessed but doing very nicely thank you. Why on earth would they rock the boat and leave the EU? I have absolutely no idea. It is these people that I can’t understand. I currently live in a prosperous market town. It voted to Leave.
We are entering uncertain times. The pound is in free fall, the markets jittery, businesses are threatening to pull out. It is all scary stuff. What terrifies me is that Gove, Farage and Johnson et al will get what they wanted: an unfettered free market where they can treat the workers like dirt without a worry about European Union regulations. It will be like Thatcherism gone mad: Maggie on and acid trip. It is horrifying.
But hey this is the new me. The me that is not going to get depressed right? That means I am not going to wallow in worst case scenarios or mope about the result.
The people have spoken. They want to leave the EU. Fine. Let’s get on with it.
So what’s the plan? How do we stop the ultra right from getting what they want? By making the progressive Left stronger. All partied on the Left must join together to defeat Boris and his ilk. We need co-operation and understanding. We need to listen to people and to understand their concerns. We need decisive action and decisive leadership. Maybe Corbyn can do it. Maybe he can’t. Someone must. We really could take this as an opportunity to build a new Jersusalem. We could build a country to be proud of based on egalitarianism and equality of opportunity for all. We could face out to the world instead of facing in and make trade agreements with Africa and Asia. We could strengthen bonds with the old Commonwealth and find a new community of nations to belong to.
Comrades let’s work for a truly green and pleasant land. We will be so great Europe will be begging for us to come back. Does that sound like a plan?