So, where to start? Well, we’re out. I didn’t really see this coming, I have to admit. I thought it would be close, but I didn’t anticipate the result we’ve ended up with. David Cameron, barely twelve months into the first mandate a Conservative Prime Minister had received from the electorate in twenty-three years, has announced he’ll be gone by the time of the Tory Party Conference in October, leaving the path clear for Boris. A motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn has already been issued by Labour MPs. Nicola Sturgeon has more or less declared she’s preparing for another Scottish Independence Referendum. Martin McGuinness has called for a plebiscite on a united Ireland. I’ve a feeling we’ve only just begun.
There’s been a lot of fatuous waffle so far today about ‘standing together’, about ‘uniting the country’ now that the decision has been made; I don’t envy anyone entrusted with that particular task. The fact is that the result of this Referendum has exposed the bleedin’ obvious, that Britain in 2016 is more divided than it has been at any time since the ideological wars of the 1980s – not just economically or socially, but regionally and nationally. It somehow seems apt that the pound has plummeted to its lowest level in thirty years. Nigel Farage, understandably euphoric this morning, has achieved his lifetime’s ambition and one wonders if he’ll now turn into a pumpkin at midnight. He referred to the result as ‘Britain’s Independence Day’; he was partly right. This isn’t Britain’s Independence Day, though: it’s England’s Independence Day – independence from Scotland, from Northern Ireland, and (eventually) from Wales. What could turn out to be England’s very own Declaration of Isolation has possibly set the ball rolling for the dissolution of the United Kingdom.
How did we get here? A cynical conspiracy theorist could surmise the whole EU issue was a mere smokescreen for a Tory Party plot to oust Cameron and for the SNP to restage 2014’s Independence Referendum; if so, both have succeeded. Dave’s dangerous gamble, perhaps the key selling point of the Tories’ 2015 Election manifesto, is probably the most personally disastrous move by any serving PM since Ted Heath took on the miners in February 1974; he was really left with no option but to walk. The liberal wing of his party represents a small section of Conservative England and it’s reflective of Cameron’s utter ignorance of the world beyond his privileged little circle that he didn’t foresee he had presented the old-school True Blue corners of the country with a golden opportunity to give him a kicking.
But this hasn’t just been a rejection of David Cameron’s brand of Toryism; it’s also been a rejection of all so-called metropolitan politicians of either colour who have ignored and neglected their traditional core support for decades. As divisive as she was, Margaret Thatcher was the last Prime Minister to take the concerns of the ordinary working man and woman into consideration. Cameron has indeed been the heir to Blair, treating anyone that didn’t fall into his preferred demographic with contempt, thus leaving huge swathes of the nation without a voice or party in Parliament. UKIP’s success in both long-time Tory and Labour heartlands – and the phenomenal rise of the SNP – has made this all-too evident. Donald Trump’s emergence across the pond has happened for similar reasons.
The Remain campaign was dominated by celebrities masquerading as those who (like Huggy Bear) are in synch with ‘the word on the street’. Well, they clearly weren’t listening to that word, because the word was ‘Leave’. Maybe if Eddie Izzard had tried to engage in debate with Farage on ‘Question Time’ instead of shouting at him like a hysterical Anne Robinson, those accustomed to dominating a stage rather than sharing it might have come across as less remote to the people they profess to care about than the Westminster Mafia does.
The immense size of the turn-out for the EU Referendum has exceeded any turn-out since the 1992 General Election, and this is a crucial point. Persistent grumbles that there’s no difference between the two major parties have arisen from a belief that whichever party one votes for, nothing changes. The Referendum was different, however. Europe was pretty much a red herring in some respects, for this was a chance to vote against an entire political class, Tory and Labour, that a good deal of the electorate felt abandoned by; and the outcome speaks volumes. Many of those who made their way to the polling booths yesterday don’t bother making that journey during an Election, and this was something Dave didn’t take into account. He’s now paid the price for his aloofness, and no amount of unconvincing tributes to his premiership from the opportunistic old rival now ready to jump into his grave will excise his ultimate failure as a leader from the history books.
And the fact that Labour failed to take a lead in the campaign again underlines the cult factor of Jezza, an appeal that doesn’t stretch beyond the hardcore faithful. The Corbynistas, sentimental old socialists and their gauche social networking children, are the only people in the country who look at the Labour leader and don’t see a professional backbencher out of his depth; the Messiah couldn’t even motivate the Labour vote in his favour when his party isn’t as publicly split over Europe as the Tories. He performed dismally in his first opportunity to prove his mettle, so even if whoever succeeds Cameron goes to the country in the autumn, anyone not deluded by romantic nostalgia for the good old days of the left must be able to see Labour is doomed with him at the helm. What consolation for the Conservatives that must be.
I don’t believe any of those who most vigorously campaigned for a Brexit have the slightest clue about what happens when they take down the Union Jack bunting. The aim was always to get out, not to sit down and navigate a path through the aftermath. I find it hard to feel celebratory with the prospect of a future in the hands of Boris, Gove and Grayling. As I peer through the barbed wire on the White Cliffs and cast my gaze over the silver sea, all I can see is Le Pen and Trump and every other ‘outsider’ capitalising on two decades of neglecting the people by the ruling class. As a human being, I find these extremely scary times to be living in; as a writer, however, I reckon I struck gold…
© The Editor
9 thoughts on “THE END OF THE AFFAIR”
I completely agree with every word. I feel curiously well placed to comment on this, because of my circumstances, here in a fading mill town, with it’s displaced working class and closed pubs. I read a piece in the Guardian last week by a chap who had travelled all over Britain canvassing views. Plenty of people in the leave Campaign had concerns on immigration which would have marked them down as a the classic Golf Club Racists, to be sure, he said (and I don’t doubt he was right). But there was something else too; a sort of rage amongst the white working class, impoverished, above all feeling ignored by The Political Establishment, sneered at, jeered at. He sensed a sort of rebellion, a working class revolution. And he was right. Remember that incident with the Flag of St George and the photo sneeringly tweeted by Baroness such a body? I do, and “they” may not, but what this is massive kick in the Establishment’s bollocks by a people who felt totally despised and ignored.
And so what we saw was a real phenomenon – a mass turn out from the council houses and sink estates, to say – “Fuck You.”
You know when I actually thought Leave might win? I had a sort of Damascene moment. Down the road from me and off the ordinary main road is a little public park An by the Park in an old converted Victorian house is a little café. It is called, simply, The Park Caff. It sells tea with lots of sugars, and mars bars and bacon sandwiches and Pukka pies – all the sort of stuff that would make Polly Toynbee vomit. It seems a clean, basic place, and I suppose it’s very ordinary owners just get by with enough at the end of the week for a pint in the nearby pub, festooned as it is with the flag of St John George. And do you know what was interesting about this little café? In the window, very neatly placed, was a Vote Leave poster. And above the entrance, neatly and prominently placed on a piece of signage were two more. Now, when I looked at that my instincts kicked in. That took real care, and effort. It was a straw in the wind, and for people like Cameron, a man with no understanding whatsoever of ordinary English culture, it was to become a whirlwind.
Both sides ran vile campaigns. The weaponisation of the death of Jo Cox was appalling. Perhaps the moment that summed it up was the Geldorf Moment, as he sat on a yacht, he and his rich flunkies screaming abuse at fisherman. It summed it up; as Rod Liddle wrote in a couple of acerbic and powerful pieces in the Sunday Times over the past few weeks. Mass EU immigration is great if you are rich and live in Hampstead and need a Polish nanny for little Chlymidia and Tarquin; it’s no so good if you are a plasterer in Lincoln. What this is a huge, primordial scream of rage an pain from a beast, or set of beasts, that have been variously ignored, starved, goaded and beaten fro years. The beast got loose, and set upon its tormentors, wrecking everything it could.
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One could say, I suppose, you reap what you sow. And the chickens born of what the political class established since 1997 on both sides of the dispatch box has failed to do for twenty years have come home to roost. Running out of cliches now…
Eyes still a tad bleary after the all-nighter last night, what really happened was that the ‘terminally ignored’ were given a chance to express an opinion without feeling disloyal to their natural party of default.
Basically, the Leave campaign got out the ‘council house’ vote in the post-industrial areas, and they did it by simply and repeatedly emphasising the one issue which resonated with them at so many levels – excess immigration makes jobs, decent wages, housing, schools, hospitals etc. less avialable to you because the newcomers will out-compete you for them. That’s all they needed to say. Nothing about the democratic deficit, the global economy shifts, the security issues, the EU’s further integration starategy, none of that works with those voters, they needed one issue that they could see, feel and believe in and they got one.
You are probably right that, rather like Bush & Blair in the Iraq invasion, no-one’s given a moment’s thought to what happens after the battle, how are they going to operate, who’s going to run the show, possibly because, unlike Bush & Blair, they didn’t really believe they could win it.
It’s certainly going to be a bumpy ride and, although delighted in principle with the result at a basic level, I share your concerns about its consequences, many of which we cannot yet imagine. Whoever ends up in the ‘hot seat’ will surely earn their crust over the next few years if they can pull this next part off with only limited collateral damage.
Whatever happens, the tectonic plates of politics have shifted noisily, not only in Britain but across Europe too, and it will never be the same again – let’s hope it’s better overall and not worse.
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My reading of this new found state is that the elites/ establishment/politicos still don’t get it. They are blaming everything but themselves for the mess we are in. Fortunately a considerably wiser electorate than had been given credit for told them what to do!! We have had enough and there’s every chance thios could just be the beginning. The old school are looking at their only, failed methods at climbing out of the hole and as we can all see they have FAILED. There is no considered reflection, no decency just quarrelsome, vindictive name-calling. If this has been Chukka Unuma’s worst living day then I am delighted – let them all rot
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Did Chukka say that? Then there IS a silver lining!
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I fully agree with your excellent article.
Eddie Izzard was dreadful on Question Time and I couldn’t understand why they had only two speakers for Remain but three for Leave, unless a Remainer had dropped out at the last minute.
Assuming that there really was a trend towards Remain at the beginning of the week, I wonder if certain developments in the last few days had helped to swing things towards Leave: Jean-Claude Juncker’s “out is out” and “no renegotiation” comments and the misinterpretation of these by Boris Johnson on BBC TV (he claimed Juncker was saying that the EU would not reform if the UK stayed in, which went unchallenged by the BBC interviewer) and Anjem Choudary’s declaration of support for Remain.
On the other hand, maybe this vote wasn’t about the EU at all.
“The British are frantically Googling what the E.U. is, hours after voting to leave it”
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Sorry for the bad grammar, by the way. I was in venting mode, and had to rush.
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Trust me, you should see the amount of editing that goes into each post before it appears!
And that’s only my comments.
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