First of all, before I say anything else, I am really, really gutted about the result of the referendum in the UK. Drawing my rather clumsy (why is that when called on to make such an important choice my handwriting always resorts to that of a 10 year old?) cross in the box next to REMAIN felt powerful and crucial as well as important. As the great love of my life flashed his ballot paper at me before putting it in the box, with the same x in the same box, we smiled the triumphant smile of those who are absolutely sure they are doing the right thing.
6.30am the next day and the bottom seemed to fall out of everything. Vin woke me up with a stoney faced, ‘It’s leave.’ I assumed he was joking. He wasn’t. Then I checked my Facebook.
And it really frightened me. From the vitriolic glee of a few Leave-ers trotting out the rather tired and ridiculous, ‘Let’s make Britain great again!!’ to the huge amount of hate from the Remain-ers. Now, these people are my friends. These people are the people I agree with about almost everything. They’re mainly Labourites, Corbynites, arty, creative, intelligent folk.
Because essentially we surround ourselves with people who are just like us, don’t we?
Oh and almost all of them live in or around London. The vast majority of them are very well educated, at least half to masters level or beyond and yes, privileged. Just like me.
Leading my privileged life in Istanbul, dontcha know?
I read some really vile stuff from some really lovely people.
From scare mongering urging people to immediately withdraw their cash from the banks (foolish and just wrong) to comments urging old people to die to suggestions that most people in this country are so stupid they don’t deserve to vote.
Oh and everyone who voted leave is racist. All of them.
I was really mad too. It makes me deeply deeply sad that some of the people who did vote to ‘Leave’ are probably racist.
It also made me realise how ridiculously privileged and elite I am.
The UK is a hell of a lot bigger than my facebook feed, bigger than London and most people don’t read the Guardian (Robert Oldham, 2016).
As my friends went about their day I read a lot of statuses to the tune of ‘I don’t know anyone who voted Leave, how could this have happened?’ ‘London is in a state of shock, no one wanted this’ ‘I expected so much more from the British public’, ‘I guess I’m stupid for thinking the public were better than they are’ ‘It’s a tragedy that the unemployed and uneducated were allowed to make this decision’.
These statements seemed worlds away from the left wing ideals that so many of the people posting hold. They seemed undemocratic, bitter and elitist.
Now, as anyone who knows me will know, I LOVE posting on Facebook. So obviously I waded in with my own opinions (helpfully shaped by the brilliant minds that are Robert Oldham and Piers Barber) and posted a status of my own to this effect. It gathered likes, comments and some dissent. Then one of my good friends deleted me on Facebook. I’m not kidding. It’s mainly quite awkward because I am highly likely to see her again socially very soon. I asked her why, and she told me because of what I’d posted on Facebook.
Someone I know quite well and really like said they felt that the ‘Leave-rs were guilty of emotional laziness and hadn’t bothered to look beyond the obvious things they were told.’
Another example of the tripe people have been posting
In other words, the Brexiters fell for the horrible propaganda propagated by Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. Now, I hate these men. I think they’re odious, slimey, elitist, outmoded…… I could go on. But, that £350million a week sticks in my head. More than any other figure. Before yesterday, I thought it was incredibly stupid of people to not realise that, even if we are no longer paying into the EU, that figure (which has also been heavily disputed anyway) was not going to go into the NHS or something equally wonderful like education.
Then I realised, how stupid is it really to believe politicians? How stupid is it to want to believe that things might get a bit fucking better?
My friends and I were asking people to look behind the obvious and see further into the future. But we weren’t looking beyond the obvious either.
We were ignoring the fact that those who were most likely to vote ‘Remain’ were University educated, those most likely to vote ‘Leave’ had GCSEs or less, those most likely to vote ‘Remain’ earned a median income of £30k whilst those most likely to vote ‘Leave’ earned a median income of only £18.5k. Londoners voted ‘Remain’, the rest of the country, by and large, did not (see here for more)
London is a glittering metropolis, full of promise, excitement and acceptance. The rest of the country is… well… not so like that. I refuse to believe, as many people seem to think, that those over 65s deliberately went to the ballot box with the intention of ‘fucking up’ life for young people, for their children or their grandchildren.
As the oft shared FT paragraph put it, ‘young people no longer have the opportunity to work in 27 different countries.’
One has to think though, the young people that these over 65s, who in their swathes voted to leave, know would most likely never have had those opportunities anyway. Financial constraints, the language barrier as well as having the sheer cultural capital to make these things happen was off limits to them. To someone like me, with my (nearly) 2 degrees, my state (but excellent) education, my professional (and loving and wonderful) parents, my equally professional (and gorgeous) financé, my well stamped passport, working abroad seems like something quite cool but also quite likely. I have a lot of friends who have done it. To someone growing up in a deprived area in middle England, with minimal qualifications, with I’m sure as loving parents but perhaps not as well educated or with such professional level jobs, the idea is unimaginable.
We are asking so much from people who we have given so little to.
It speaks volumes to me that people have come out since the vote and said that they voted ‘Leave’ because they didn’t really think it would happen. It shows how long people have been ignored, so much so that they believe their vote counts so little. It shows just how London-centric our media, our culture and our politics are.
Which brings me on to the Remain campaign itself.
The Remain campaign was shit.
There I said it. I don’t remember a single slogan from the Remain campaign except the (so-what) Better In. Obviously being aligned with the city was problematic seeing as many people (me included)
hate have reservations about the city. All the things I love and care about let me down. My beloved Guardian with its vague, intellectual but obtuse headlines which were nowhere near as compelling as some of my much hated Murdoch’s offerings. Jeremy Corbyn, the man I thought was going to save British politics, who I now think might be better off resigning, made vague and weak speeches about staying in. To the point where 20% of Labour supporters actually voted out. The Leave campaign sent a BARRAGE of very well designed leaflets through my door. I received one from Remain.
Perhaps if someone had been brave enough to say the kind of things that (as much as I hate the man) Nigel Farage is so fond of saying the results would have been different. If someone had said, ‘Immigration will likely remain the same because in order to sell to Europe, we will have to have freedom of movement within Europe’, ‘Your mortgage repayments will be more expensive, as the pound will crash and we will have to raise the interest rates in order to get people to invest in the pound again’, ‘Your kids will suffer another recession, there may well be less jobs for them.’ If this had been said, we may have woken up to a better world yesterday. They didn’t though.
you are vile
Now I hate the hyperbole the hard left have been using to talk about their feelings about leaving Europe ‘I’ve lost my identity, this is no longer my country, nothing will ever be the same again’, but I cried this morning because I’m scared.
I’m scared I’ll lose my job seeing as the charity I work for receive European funding, I’m scared my best friend will lose his job because he works at European Parliament level and have to move back to Korea. Hell, I’m scared he’ll leave because he doesn’t feel welcome in this country. I’m scared a lot of my European friends will leave. I’m scared the language school I used to work for will suffer. I’m scared for my future. I’m scared for everyone I love. I’m scared my beautiful nieces will not know the luxuries I’ve known in the European Union. I’m scared the Spanish nurse who sat up with me in hospital as I cried with gallstones will go home, I’m scared the Fillipina health care assistant who rubbed my feet when I was cold in the hospital will go home, I’m scared the Polish radiographer who found my gallstones will go home, I’m scared the Italian surgeon who removed the gallstones will leave too.
But it’s time to listen to the people we’ve ignored.
It’s time we realised that life in the UK is not just jobs in media, advertising and marketing, with roof top bars and yoga classes (Piers Barber, 2016) and we started listening to the people we’ve ignored for so long.