How the hell did we get here?
It’s midday on June 24th. Britain has voted to leave the European Union. David Cameron has tendered his resignation. Nicola Sturgeon has announced the inevitability of a second Scottish referendum. In Northern Ireland too the possibility of a referendum on a United Ireland suddenly does not seem such a pipedream. Labour MPs have begun the groundwork to oust Corbyn. And now it’s fucking raining too.
Apart from two short naps, I have been up since 5am yesterday, reality has taken on that strange fuzziness which offers false hope that this is all a terrible dream. But there’s no comfort in kidding ourselves, having watched the results roll in with ever greater despair, witnessed the value of the pound drop off the map, seethed in the early hours as Nigel Farage declared victory, there is no denying the stark reality we’re now faced with. We truly have gone through the looking glass.
And Farage, that abhorrent cockweasel, insisting that today would be known as Britain’s Independence Day, as if he were Bill Pullman rallying the troops in the face of alien invasion, a proposal that not only exposes him for his utter self-serving absurdity, but also seriously undermines the very real, often devastating, fights for freedom that many countries have endured. That Britain, a power that has invaded 90% of the world’s countries (so far!) could claim independence from anything is a grave insult to the centuries of blood on their gnarled hands. Worse still, Farage had the audacity to celebrate that an exit from Europe had been achieved without “a single shot being fired“, as though the cold blooded murder of Jo Cox just last week were already a footnote in the history books.
“Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future.” – George Orwell, 1984
The Tories who campaigned for Leave and now seem inevitably on the cusp of parliamentary power, mercifully, are approaching their victory with more delicacy, calling for patience, stability, consideration. They seem to be in a similar state of shock as the rest of us.
Because this is scary. Really fucking scary. I’ve always been a firm believer in the power of language but I’m still overwhelmed by the sheer impact of writing the words down in black and white pixels.
We are living in a post-factual era, a time when people care more about perception than fact, trust scaremongering politicians more than industry experts. This morning feels like the opening pages of a dystopian novel. The vote is being championed as a working class revolt, a movement I’d likely join with gusto, but it was hijacked, if not orchestrated by the very bureaucrats of the Westminster elite they wanted to depose.
As a British resident (though thankfully, not a British passport holder) I am no longer considered a citizen of the European Union. My neighbours have cast me adrift from the greatest union in history. Think about what that means, we’ve left the biggest, most inclusive party rocking across the world over the past half a century. We now live in an inward looking, insular society, we’re getting smaller. I’m welling up at the thought of it, even in the sound knowledge that being Irish, my passport still allows for the right to free movement to work and travel that I enjoyed yesterday.
But I write this from my beloved Duke Street flat in Liverpool, a city whose foundations were laid by immigrants, that has welcomed with open arms all the peoples of the world, that was rebuilt by European money, a city which, although it delivered a majority to remain, has been split down the middle by their decision. I’ve seen first-hand just how close it was here, I spent two evenings this week talking to voters, trying to persuade the undecided on the virtues of remaining, the dangers of leaving, who knows if I made any real difference but here I am sitting on the sofa with a can of Scrumpy Jack still in my Britain Stronger in Europe t-shirt.
How did I get here?
I’m reminded of the last time I found myself shell-shocked, wallowing in post-election grief, not so long ego. The 2015 General Election left me reeling. I sat in this very spot watching Ed Miliband‘s resignation speech, similarly hungover, sleep-deprived, disillusioned. I watched Nick Clegg bow out and, having detested him for months, suddenly pitied him. Isn’t it odd how swiftly we soften to the political puppets when their strings are so ruthlessly slashed. This morning I felt the same way about David Cameron who, although he played his part in orchestrating this mess, was probably better the devil we knew. It’s somehow less distressing this time round though the repercussions will be greater – hardened by experience maybe, perhaps just more disillusioned.
I’m reminded that last year, I did manage to pull myself together, I did drag myself out of bed, shook off the cloak of gloom and, in an effort to feel effectual, joined the Labour Party.
And then Jeremy. My hope for a better future restored, my faith in democracy renewed. Fuck the media slurs, Corbyn was a ray of light in a time of darkness for many Labour supporters who flocked back to the party. Corbyn challenged the status quo, he didn’t wear expensive suits or march to the beat of the party line. When a young Cameron and Boris were burning fifty pound notes in front of the homeless, Corbyn was being arrested for demonstrating against apartheid. He should have been the man to bring the working classes back into the Labour fold. And yet…
Whether it was the negative media onslaught or the resounding lack of support from the rest of his party, Corbyn has struggled. I have adored Jeremy throughout it all for his strength of character, his unwavering beliefs, his commitment to a kinder breed of politics. But having spent the majority of his parliamentary career as a Euro sceptic, do I think he did enough for the Remain campaign in the last few months?
I’m not sure. But I’m not surprised by the challenges to his leadership this morning. Personally, I don’t believe Jeremy is the problem in the Labour Party, I certainly don’t want to see him ousted. He needs to do more certainly, but as a Euro sceptic and man of the people he is exactly what this country needs in the face of a Tory government led by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith.
We shall have to wait until October to see a new Tory leader taker power. At least there’s a timeline in place for that.
We can only wait and see in regards to the Labour leadership, the Brexit deal, the trade negotiations, the strength of the economy, the physical manifestation of a new European border dividing the Irish countryside, the referendums which will follow, the charities, childrens’ and disabled services funded by Europe which will now either eat into an already thinly spread UK budget, or worse, be abandoned in the fallout; the inter European relations we leave behind, the possible rise of the Far Right across the continent, the fragile state of the NHS, the future of millions of displaced people seeking refuge across an already fraught Europe, where does it end?
Guys, where the hell do we go from here?