So, the last few days have been some of the most surprising of my life. First of all a surprising victory for the Brexit campaign, and secondly my own reaction to it…which I have to say I am deeply shocked and surprised by. I was surprised to find myself bursting into tears on a regular basis, and when somebody mentioned the feeling of grief to me yesterday, we all agreed that that is exactly what it felt like. Obviously I have very deep European connections, and I work for a very European organisation, but I know I am not alone.
Of course there has been a lot of emotional out-pouring on various social media, and most people are beginning to tire of it a little. I am trying to move on – onwards and onwards I keep saying. In my heart I hope and believe that we will learn from this. But what I am concerned about is the the fact that some of my nearest and dearest don’t understand why I feel like this – and that that may cause a gulf between us. I know we are all having those ‘which way did you vote’ conversations, uncomfortably at best…and I think we have to recognise the factors that made individuals take the decisions that they did, on both sides.
For me, I was totally ambivalent about the Referendum simply because I felt completely unqualified to make the decision that had befallen me. I didn’t understand the issues, the impact or the consequences involved, and I just didn’t believe that we would ever get close to an ‘out’ vote. It was only when somebody challenged me – he gave me ‘homework’, said he hadn’t decided which way to vote, but said that it was our moral duty to inform ourselves and make an informed choice that I started to get engaged. He also sited immigration as a reason he was thinking out, and used the prison population as an example. And that was where he hooked me in, because I worked in a prison for 2 and half years and I suddenly felt qualified to comment.
From that point on I started to ask questions of people I considered to be more intelligent, more knowledgable and more qualified to make the decision than I. I started to listen intently to anything that was on the radio – and there was lots – all coming at it from different angles, not just politicians doing what they did so badly, not just irresponsible headlines on tabloid and broadsheet press alike, but lots of debate from ordinary members of the public, businessmen, different communities, etc. I wanted a balanced view from all parts of the argument. The Jeremy Vine Show became my friend. I listened to Eddie Izzard make an impassioned plea for Remain, but I didn’t find it very convincing I have to say, much to my disappointment. I listened to others declare that we needed control, we needed sovereignty, and we needed democracy. And I didn’t really understand what they meant by that. I read lots of blogs, trying to sort out the facts from the fiction. I got increasingly angry with the ‘official communication materials’ being shoved through my door which gave ‘factual statements’ which were not factual at all but were intended to motivate people to vote a particular way.
The truth is that not everyone took the time to become informed – they believed the soundbites, the headlines, the literature coming through their door. Because they probably never thought the consequences would be what they are either. And I only really became truly engaged and motivated when the ultimate tragedy happened. A young and promising politician who had so much to give, was taken from us, at a time when she was needed the most. Boy can we see that now!!! I felt I owed it to her and people like her to vote with knowledge and with belief and with hope for my daughter’s future. And that’s what I did.
Now I also know I live in a bubble, and that I can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be long term unemployed or anything like that – those that know me however, know that my roots are humble, and any successes in life, is self-attained. And I also appreciate that lots of people were angry, wanted change, etc. But I have to say that most people that I have met who voted ‘out’ didn’t vote for those reasons either. As far as I can tell the ‘out’ campaign had so many ‘toys’ in their ‘toy box’ they managed to get something to resonate with anybody who was struggling to make a decision. And the ultimate irony was, that people bought it and believed that they could deliver. Which of course they can’t , because we now realise that they actually have no power. And that if we want those things to change, we need to do it a different way!
In my view, a lot of people (and I say a lot, not everybody obviously) got this confused with a general election, they thought that the argument was rich versus poor, left versus right, that immigration had to be stopped at whatever cost, even though Europeans make up only part of the immigration statistic, that we would be better off making our own decisions. All of these are worthwhile reasons to vote ‘out’ if you really believe them – all of them are worthy reasons for any vote if you really believe that that vote will right the wrongs that ail you, and I totally respect anyone and everyone for the decision that they made. But as somebody who left school with a few ‘O’-levels to her name, even having failed sociology, I for one felt ill equipped to make that decision – and I think that others felt the same. We have therefore made a huge decision for our nation based on ‘gut feelings’, fear, believing untruths that were unforgivably told to us, rolling a dice even, and now we can’t do anything about it. I think the ‘out’ vote was a sum of many parts -people grabbing something they could relate to – but when you’ve only got a choice of two, it’s hard to make a balanced decision right?!
I also think we have to stand by the referendum result and learn from it! Because I think we will. If this process has shown anything it is that people really do care, that they really do want change, and that there is a lot of passion out there to get it done. Out with the old and in with the new is what I say! And please educate the future generations better than you educated mine! Now somebody go and buy Angela Merkel a very large beer! And make sure it’s cold.