When I pulled off the drive very early Friday morning my elderly neighbour was outside, ready for his daily constitutional, punching the air with joy. It was the first time I had seen him smile in months. “We did it,” he shouted, “We got the right result. Now let’s get that Cameron out. Waster.”
I didn’t know what to say, so in the interests of maintaining community relations, I just shouted back, “..and the sun is shining…” It was, at last. And Cameron was resigning as I dropped Mrs. Monkey at work.
That moment seems to have summed up the day and the referendum result. My neighbour, in his late ’70’s, proudly part of the generation who have managed to throw into doubt the future of the younger generation outside of the EU. There has been interminable analysis conducted, not only regional and country voting, but also generational voting. The country is split almost every which way you can cut it.
Within hours the Brexiteers were rolling back on their pre-referendum statements. Gove and Johnson suddenly looked like two schoolboys who had been playing a prank that had gone horribly wrong.
Above all, it seems, the historians will see this as an electoral revolt by the working classes. Unfortunately, I am still trying to get my head around the notion that the “working classes” think that a Johnson/Gove led government will help them.
This sort of shock wave was always bound to happen at some point, on the right issue. And it is right that the people should be given a chance to speak and be heard. The problem is that they are not given that chance often enough, since we don’ t hold referenda very often, purely, in my view, because it is harder to control the outcome.
This wouldn’t be the case, of course, if our governments were more representational. You will readily hear, especially today, about how our democracy is the envy of the world etc. But I put it to you that it is a flawed system maintained to keep power and authority in the hands of an elite. That is why our system generally returns a Prime Minister, crowing that he/she has a mandate from the people, who takes office, in a country where most people have voted for someone else.
I’ll never be in a position to agree with a UKIP supporter, but when Farage complained that his party had one MP yet received 4 million votes in a General Election it was hard to sympathise. But I did.
Of course, we did have a referendum on changing the electoral system but somehow the electorate allowed themselves to be convinced that they couldn’t count to 3 and the referendum failed. Thus we reap what we sow and unrepresentational governments continue until a referendum result like this draws starkly the holes and divisions in our nation.
Unrepresentational governments are prone to creating disenfranchised blocs. So this lurch in our status as a nation is brought about by the disenfranchised being given the chance and finding their voice. Aren’t revolutions always the same?
My fear is that the disenfranchised created now are the educated young. 70+% voting to stay in, overruled by their elders. Because, of course, there has been educational analysis carried out too. Is this then, the precursor to a brain drain from Britain ? I hope not.
None of this is being helped by the media finding Leave voters who seem happy to admit that they didn’t mean it. “I voted Leave but I didn’t think we’d win,” being little consolation now that we stare into the unknown of a potentially independent Scotland and a physical border (the return of Hadrian’s Wall) between us and Sinn Fein calling for a united Ireland referendum.
I have always thought of myself as a progressive, open-minded, Pro-European, humanitarian socialist (if such exist) all my life. I grew up in the ’60’s, for heaven’s sake. I was always going to work to bring people together. It’s a strange feeling looking outside and seeing uncertainty fuelled by division.
I already live in a safe Conservative seat where my vote is little more than a token gesture. Now, the referendum result has yanked the European rug from under my feet. I have joined the ranks of a new disenfranchised too. Give me another 30 years and I just might get angry.