It’s happened. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but it’s happened. And it’s raised some interesting questions.
How did we get ourselves into a position by which just 52% of voters could make a decision that so hugely affects everyone in the UK? A decision that most outsiders, excluding the likes of Le Pen and Trump, think is mad. Almost half the people in the UK think so too. My daughter said that one of her friends said he was voting Out because he wanted to be able to go back to smoking in pubs again. Truly.
I have a problem with referendums in principle. A one-issue group decides we have to ‘let the people decide’ and forces us into a referendum. A politician, dealing with a potential party schism agrees to an ill-advised referendum. (I’m talking about Harold Wilson in 1975 of course). It’s set a precedent that we’ve been stuck with ever since. So we get endless political warfare until we get a referendum that delivers the ‘right’ result. Let’s see how far ‘letting the people decide’ takes us from here. I think that if the subject comes up again, we’ll be told that ‘the people have spoken’.
Look no further than Jo Cox’s family to see how far the emotions this campaign has stirred up can take us. I was talking to a woman of mixed heritage today who said she’s been racially abused twice in the last fortnight. It last happened to her when she was at school, more than 25 years ago. Oh, and another friend told me that his son (who’s a good person) said he had decided to vote Leave because an African national grouping he identified hadn’t integrated into our city. I kid you not.
Hearing people being interviewed on TV, the theme seems to be that the Leave vote was older white working-class people sticking two fingers up at the political elite. This raises a genuine issue: people are rightly feeling excluded from political decision making. They have views on immigration, not my views, but they have fears that they think are not being addressed. But voting us out of the EC for that? It’s like burning down a house because the windows need cleaning. (Well, that’s saved me a job, hasn’t it?).
I hear that older people were more inclined to vote Leave. Be careful of getting what you wish for. Many older Leave voters will end up in nursing homes sooner rather than later, and let’s see who’s there to care for them if immigrants are ‘sent packing’. They may have a nasty shock.
They should also remember that Europe was the trigger for two World Wars in the last century and that the EU was partly set up to make sure there wasn’t a third. I thought it had done a pretty good job in that.
So who said turkeys couldn’t vote for Christmas?