It’s been three days and I’m still angry. As the dust is settling on the decision made on the UK’s membership of the EU I feel like we’re in Pompeii and suffocating to death.
I faced teenage faces on Friday and as the responsible adult they look to for advice and education I found myself lacking the words and knowledge to explain what had just happened. They couldn’t understand it, and frankly neither could I. Being a teacher I couldn’t be biased, but when the only answer you have is “I don’t know” you realise just how powerless you are after this kind of result.
Worse still is the political response over the last couple of days. When they say “I don’t know” then you know that you are fucked. No one has planned for this and apparently some at the top on the Leave side didn’t really want it or think it could happen. They saw this as a good job interview for Prime Minister but the situation they have in front of them is such a precarious one I doubt they’ll take it.
I thought to myself that this is the result of over thirty years of anger and hurt building to a climax that leaves everyone unsure and shocked. If I see one more tweet or video of a Leave voter “regretting” their vote or claiming “they didn’t think it would count” I worry about my fellow countrymen and women.
I think this is Thatcher’s final victory. No, hear me out.
Back in the 80s we were divided in a way we never had been before with the working class pushed to the side and left to fight for survival after the closure of mines, factories and industries that made this country great. We never did anything to help the situation and while some of us managed to get a leg up before university Grants and Fees were cut away we got an education and escaped a potential life of unfulfilled opportunities.
There was a fear factor in the air as the decade progressed – one that held “foreigners” in distrust. Europe slowly became the boogeyman of the Thatcher era – so much so it even claimed her scalp eventually. Racism was still a major issue in the 1980s and we didn’t really deal with it head on – instead we used politically correct terms to allow the racists a new language of hate and the rise of the BNP and other far right groups.
Thatcher also instilled a selfishness in us that meant we looked out for ourselves before others. This for me goes some of the way to explaining the decision by many in the baby-boomer generation voting away their grandkids’ futures. Over three decades if you are told the EU is to blame for all the shortcomings in our country what do we expect to happen when we’re asked our thoughts on the subject?
The children of Thatcher have finally found their voices and they are the voices of fear, rejection and self-preservation. And in many ways I understand it. If you are told something everyday of your life then eventually you will start to believe it. The invisible working class in this country have been ignored by successive governments of all colours and this was their protest vote. But what was the protest against? The elite and undemocratic system? Well they’ve replaced Cameron with Boris and the EU with the unelected House of Lords. Frying pan and fire I believe.
The fear campaign on the Economy from Remain has already shown its head in the hours following the result. The fear campaign over immigrants and refugees has already seen people being attacked in the street, people being told to “go home” and abuse across social media. Leave have now said they never promised to reduce immigration, instead they could look at how they allowed people in. The mythical £350 million has been brushed under the carpet, the validation of Farage and UKIP has been stamped and now we face a right-wing agenda in the UK.
When half the country don’t want the decision it’s hard to see how anyone can pull the two sides together. Those under 40 now look at their parents and grandparents wondering why this has happened. Right at the end of the age spectrum there was a 80+ group who predominantly voted to stay because they know what the EU has brought us. They lived through the war, they watched a fractured continent rebuild – and rebuild with help from former enemies. Welcoming in those who we had once fought and made a union that worked together. It wasn’t always perfect but compared to what we had in 1945 it was always going to be better and worth protecting.
Now we sit with a fractured and frightened country on both side – everyone unsure of the next step. Neighbouring countries and principalities wondering if it’s time to leave the party too. We’ve gone from being a United Kingdom in a United Europe to possibly being alone in the corner wondering who spiked our drinks.
Political parties lie in tatters as both Red and Blue are broken so there’s not a strong government or a strong opposition. While Alex Salmond would have us believe the SNP are strong, we know that this is not the way Sturgeon wanted to seek Independence because there’s no guarantee the EU will survive much longer. Many countries on the continent now look to see what happens next with us before deciding whether they too need a say on the matter.
The volcano has erupted and everyone is panicking. We know that there will be casualties and that the dust is smothering common sense and a way forward – but can we afford to wait to see what happens next, or should we continue the selfishness that got us here and follow it to its logical conclusion?