A close vote like this results in a swirling deluge of emotions that are difficult to isolate but my overwhelming feeling is one of disappointment, less at the result than at the people who voted for it. Yes, they were lied to repeatedly by politicians on the Leave campaign — and for much longer by the media — but these are lies they were willing to accept out of self-interest. Humans are convinced by the notion that that their capacity for rational thought makes them more than simply a selfish animal. That is often true on an individual level but, whenever it is tested on a larger scale, humans seem to be found wanting. Driven by a combination of greed and fear, politicians are able to manipulate them with remarkable ease.
When Trump ran for the Presidential nomination, vast swathes of the Republicans denounced him as not representing the party. Over time, given his overwhelming support, they had to look at their party and realise that, however distasteful his views may be, they appealed to the majority. The party was not what they had thought. A similar period of introspection is falling on the UK in a far more profound way than following any General Election, where negative reactions are shrugged off as sour grapes with a suggestion to do better in five years’ time.
With voting results skewed by the older demographic, the same people who ruined the housing market have now propelled their children down another unwanted path. The traditional threat would be to remind them that those children will be choosing their nursing home. As the leave campaign already backs away from its claims about healthcare, perhaps a more pertinent question would be whether there will be any affordable nursing homes for their children to choose.
Anger threatened to overtake disappointment when I learned of my little sister’s treatment this morning. Commuting to work she was approached on two separate occasions by people warning her she was “next” and suggesting she “go home now”. A colleague queried her history to decide whether she was a “foreigner”. In one morning she saw her home, the country into which she had been born, begin to crumble around her. I certainly hope that was an aberration, with the wrong sort of people invariably buoyed by today’s result, but I am far from certain. Here’s a tip for the students reading this post as they study for GCSE History in 2096: when asked to name two causes of World War III, Britain leaving the EU and the election of Donald Trump are probably good bets.
Of course I am being cynical. This country was already in a troubled state due to a huge and ever-growing class divide, the dangers of which were ignored even after riots erupted a few years ago. At the time I described it as feeling like “a caged beast had broken loose of its shackles and was determined to express its newfound freedom, knowing it was temporary, but roaring just to hear its own voice.” I have a similar sense today as that same divide and misplaced anger has led, in part, to today’s result. Leaving the EU will do nothing to improve this and, indeed, an unchecked Tory Government with increased financial control will undoubtedly widen the gap. As our good friends across the Channel would say, plus ça change…