The morning after the Brexit vote had taken place, there was a strange feeling of shock in the air. From Leavers to Remainers alike, nobody seemed to have quite expected that the result of the vote would have actually been in favour of leaving the EU. And rather like the word ‘Brexit’ itself, there was a new ugliness in town which caused both sides to feel at odds with the other. Those in favour of remaining in the EU shouted about a sudden rise in racism sweeping across the nation, while proclaiming the Leave campaign had been based on a web of lies designed to instil fear in voters. Those in favour of leaving the EU were appalled by the sudden viciousness aimed at the older generation – that they shouldn’t have a voice, that they were ruining the future for the young. They also proclaimed that the Remain campaign had been based on a web of lies designed to instil fear in voters. Remainers were deemed ‘liberal lefties’ and Leavers were deemed ‘racist idiots’. None of it reflected well on a nation whose identity has traditionally been based on soldiering on with a stiff upper lip and putting the kettle on.
The referendum itself seemed an odd concept to me. We vote for politicians who will make decisions on our behalf, based on the views of their constituents. To turn to the people may have seemed a good campaign promise but the reality cast the nation in to a swirling mass of disagreement and uncertainty. The general consensus of David Cameron, after deciding to call the referendum, was that if the vote went against remaining in the EU, the country would immediately go to the dogs. It seemed a bizarre decision to ask people to vote on an issue that apparently could only have one safe answer. Why ask the question then, one asks?
Cameron’s determination to put the case forward for EU inclusion, coupled with his apparent upper class inability to see what was really happening in the less affluent regions of his country, was his downfall. People everywhere, people who weren’t on social media talking about it, but leaning over their garden fences discussing the news, wanted change. They wanted an end to cuts, to a faceless bureaucracy making decisions for a country that had managed perfectly well for hundreds of years without it, to frightening images of religious extremists apparently entering Europe under the guise of refugees. That’s what they wanted. Whether others agree or not, this was the feeling and Cameron didn’t see it. The fact that he had asked a question then implied that there was only one reasonable answer meant that people didn’t believe him.
For me, I know people on both sides of the fence. Both, on the whole, are reasonable, good people who made a choice based on what they had been told. Some of what they were told was fear mongering, on both sides. But they made a choice. And now we all have to make the best of the decision that was made. The UK has always been stoical, rather kind hearted and keen on civility. I don’t see that changing, whether part of the EU or not.
And getting on together, moving forward together, has to be the biggest goal of all.
For the media, their message now needs to be one of optimism. This is not the time for gloom. Like Winston Churchill, who fired up the masses during the second world war with words of strength and spirit, the rhetoric has to be positive. As the saying goes, If you believe you can, you will. If we believe that we can make the UK stronger and freer, if we are told that we can – then we will.
Let’s focus on that.