Remember that referendum results map of Britain? I live on that island of gold in the middle of the north of England. I woke up at 5.30am last Friday morning and my first three words were “no, no, no”. I’ve been pretty pissed off all weekend but the last thing anyone on the internet wants to see is another Europhile’s ode to Brussels. So I’m making an effort to understand why the sea around me is blue.
What I do know is that our country is not 51.9% old and xenophobic. Sure you can take a look at the results data and see that more young people voted Remain, with the Baby Boomers voting to Leave, but look closer: 38% of 25 to 34-year-olds also voted Leave.
The people who got this over the line were the lost and frustrated working class. By that I don’t mean thick, aggressive bigots who if it weren’t for liking Will Smith would be fully fledged racists – I mean fun, humble, decent people who have been starved of hope for a generation.
In another era, they were represented by the Labour party. But while the parties in Westminster have grown closer over the past 20 years, social inequality has widened. Many voters in Labour’s traditional heartlands – in Wales and across the north and east of England – don’t have anyone speaking up for them anymore.
They know no one will ever make their homes more affordable, their wages more generous, or their jobs more secure. So they vote less, and politicians care less, election after election.
The Leave campaign was the first time they had been given a convincing case for something that could actually change their lives for the better, and “take back the country” they had in mind when they weren’t too old to dream. The referendum had given them hope for the first time. Everyone deserves hope.
Some of them knew Johnson, Hannan and Farage were talking bollocks on Friday – but threw their hats in the ring anyway. After all there was nothing to lose.
The sad thing is that there’s no obvious way that cutting important diplomatic and economic ties with our neighbours will improve anything. In fact it seems like a terrible, irreversible mistake. But I guess I would think that, as someone who has the privilege to understand our establishment and the opportunity to find his way in it – not someone who still needs so much more from their country.
This still hurts, but everyone needs to get over it, and try to make it work. Hopefully it will.
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