I imagine that, like me, many of the 15,000,000 Remain voters went to bed on Friday night exhausted after hours of lurching between disbelief, into anger, out to reflection and the beginnings of acceptance, only to turn on the TV and see that strangely-stretchy-mouthed-Muppet-faced Fuckwit Fromage declaring that the Brexit win was a victory for “decent and ordinary people”.
I imagine that like me, many of those same voters shouted at the tele “Oh really? What the fuck am I then you unholy turd of a man?” while having visions of wielding razor-blade accented caps in our apparent new status as “scum of the Earth”.
In between herding and feeding small people, I had spent the entire day reflecting, ranting, and rehashing the entire god-damn-shit-shower-of-a-show and now I was ready for sleep. I brushed my teeth, had a wee and
refreshed my social media one last time read a few pages of a Booker Prize-winning novel, before wandering into my bedroom. I was looking forwards to not thinking for a few hours and possibly waking up to find that the whole fiasco had been a terrible dream.
Alas, I had forgotten to make the bed.
After a few furious seconds of looking for someone else to blame I recovered my sense of perspective and realised that the best response now was to accept what needed to be done and take appropriate action.
Just like with Brexit.
Yes, you heard me. With a huff and puff just to make sure that everyone in the completely empty room was clear about my dissatisfaction, I came to the conclusion that making an unmade bed at bedtime is the perfect domestic metaphor for the shit-the-bed day we had just had in the Actual World. In seconds I had gone from disbelief to anger to blame to acceptance and finally, as I wrestled with the duvet, to action. And aren’t those the exact same emotions that we have gone through over the last few days when wondering how we, the Remainers, could have got it so monumentally wrong?
Stage one: complacency
I live in London. We now know that London, unlike most of England, voted Remain almost without exception. During the campaign I kept commenting that I had only met a handful of Leave voters. I hadn’t met a single Leave campaigner on the streets of The Village and it appeared that most people were seeing through the film-flam offered up by Boris, Gove and Stinky Fromage. But something niggled.
Ensconced as I am in my multi-cultural, middle-class London bubble, I most definitely should not have been so certain. The rest of the country just IS different, a fact that usually punches me in the chops with every election debacle in my home town. UKIP? BNP? Oh, we welcome all of the undesirables in my homeland. Of course I recognise that this lies in feelings of disenfranchisement from, and betrayal by, the mainstream political parties, but ashamedly I also feel unpleasantly and smugly superior to these concerns having “escaped” by dint of education and good fortune.
Comfortable in complacency, the political establishment, and us its minions, arrogantly ignored the rustlings and downright ragings of discontent from the less privileged, more desperate parts of our country. We allowed them to be flattered and pandered to by unscrupulous men in suits with alarming hair and “characterful” faces. And now we are paying for it.
Stage two: disbelief
I awoke on Friday morning to the news that the Leave campaign had triumphed and my oh-so-erudite first words were “Are you kidding?”
Throughout the rest of the day that feeling of disbelief reappeared repeatedly as we struggled to come to terms with the fact that our country felt like one we no longer recognised and no longer belonged in.
Disbelief that people, who feel like they have nothing left to lose, feel that things cannot get any worse for them, and who feel like this is their chance to stick it to “the man” who has ground them repeatedly into the ground, had therefore voted to kick him in the ballsack, is however, laughable. What is there to disbelieve?
Stage three: blame/ avoiding responsibility
I imagine there are times when we all seek to attribute responsibility for the thing that has so irked us elsewhere. And surely this is where much anti-immigration sentiment stems from: our lives are shit, who can we blame?
But just as indefensible is that the Remain vote have also sought to blame others for things not going OUR way. We pointed fingers at Leave voters and accused them of being racist, xenophobic, narrow-minded bigots with only a handful of D grade GCSEs amongst all 16 million of them. We shook our heads and shouted angry words at the television whenever Boris, Michael or Bilge-el showed their faces. We wagged our pointy forefingers at the media for not making a better fist of educating the poor souls being sold a dud one. (It remains unclear to me whether the Leave campaign consciously embraced the immigration angle aware of it’s risible power, or did The Media fail to promote any Leave voices saying “Hang on, that’s not the only thing we’re about” because that didn’t make for such a sexy Britain-divided story? I suspect it is a potent mixture of both.)
So the media, the Leave campaign, and the “stupid, ignorant” Leave voters are to blame, right? Except I can’t help thinking we also need to look more closely at why it was so easy for private-school educated, upper-middle-class men (plus their comprehensive-school-educated pal, who just happens to have wrecked education and driven teacher moral into the ground) to convince the working class that they were an alternative to the establishment. Perhaps we were just not listening while they at least pretended to be all ears.
Stage four: acceptance and action
Hourly there is a new frustrating story of people who B-regret their vote to Leave. With every Daily Mail article about the fallout to be expected accompanied by concerned comments from Leave voters claiming that they wished they’d had these facts before they voted; and with every anecdote about someone’s sister’s neighbour who reached her decision to vote Leave by doing Ip, Dip, Dog-shit in the voting booth, it feels like the second referendum being called for would likely result in a Remain decision. But, nearly 1500 words into this aimless wander, now is not the time to discuss why this will, and should, never happen – at the least however, it’s worth considering that the demands for a second go at this game feel akin to a three-year-old who screams and stamps her feet until she gets what she wants.
This is what we have got and now we have got to deal with it.
Assuming that if you have read this far you are unhappy with the outcome of the referendum, there ARE actions that we can take. This opinion post with its weak arse attempt to make something light out of a heart as heavy as lead is not the place to expand on that further, nor do I purport to be any kind of expert, but I urge you to go and read. Research what the clever people say, but also, remember.
Remember that while genuine racists and bigots do reside upon our proud but tiny island, many voters were dealt a whole card deck of lies. They have been convinced that in voting Leave they held the winning hand that would gift them a road back to a fictional time when everything was cricket and roses before the brown people came and ruined it all. The tragedy is that these voters are the exact same people who will be worst served by the political climate that lies ahead. Somehow they were convinced that swapping Dave and George for Boris, Mickey and Nige constituted a rebellion, a coup against the establishment who had so ruthlessly stripped their towns and cities of any meaningful opportunity. In fact, as one Tweeter Twittered with devastating accuracy, replacing Cameron and Osborne with Johnson, Farage and Gove is like wiping the shit from your arse and spreading it on your face.
Remember that there are people who have made an informed decision to vote Leave for reasons other than we don’t want any more brown people, or people with names too long for our three-syllable-limited British tongues to wrap themselves around. These are the people we now need to listen to and work with. We need to push aside the doom and loathing.
We must remember that David Cameron agreed to a referendum to save his flagging leadership of the Tory party, during a General Election campaign which was threatening to unravel. I consider myself a relatively intelligent, educated, informed person but I found negotiating the complexities of the Leave and Remain arguments difficult – this is a decision that should never have been given to us. Perhaps Cameron never expected to win that election with an outright majority? Perhaps he was relying on the moderating presence of a coalition partner to hide behind when the people at the far right of his party, with whom he had hopped into bed, came knocking at his door demanding their car keys back? Perhaps he arrogantly assumed that the Remain vote would be triumphant? All or none of these hypotheses may be true but regardless we must remember that we have certainly ALL been but pawns in this game played by powerful men.
Finally we must remember that whatever the gloating sentiments of a man who befittingly bears resemblance to an Actual Muppet, we are ALL the decent and ordinary people. As such we now have a responsibility to listen to our neighbour, put down our pitchforks, acknowledge that no matter how much you did or did not want this outcome we are now in this unholy mess together. We need to hear one another’s concerns, stop gloating or drum-banging, reflect on how we too contributed to this nightmare, and how we too can be part of the solution.
We can only hope that our politicians are capable of doing the same.
(if you want to call Boris, Dave, George, Micheal, or Nigel (especially him) a few rude names however, that’s all good too)