I have always voted, ever since I was old enough to do so, aged eighteen. I voted in the General Elections, and always in the Local Council elections too. In most of the places I lived, and the one where I live now, my party of choice rarely if ever won, but I carried on voting anyway. If I lived somewhere where there was no candidate that I was enthusiastic about, I voted tactically, to try to reduce the majority of the party I liked the least. I never once failed to vote, not in the forty-seven years I had the opportunity.
When other people told me that they didn’t vote, or had never voted, I would pontificate on the history of the working people’s struggle to gain the vote, along with a mention of the bitter struggle of the Suffragettes, to get that same right for women. I reminded them that people died so that they had the right to vote. If after all that they were still determined not to bother, then I would tell them that I was ashamed of them.
Some people made the claim that it made no difference which party was in power, so that was why they didn’t vote. I was quick to remind them that The National Health system that they enjoyed had only been brought in because of a Labour Government. Had the Conservatives remained in power, it would never have happened. I might also add that laws pertaining to the working week, safety conditions, and rights to holidays and weekends off, were all brought in by Labour Governments. I would assert that it made a great difference which party was in power, especially in Local Councils, who control the distribution of money for things like care of the elderly, education budgets for schools and colleges, and the provision of social housing.
I was a ‘Voting Evangelist’. God forbid anyone in my hearing mentioned that they had no interest in voting.
Then came 2016, and The EU Referendum. I voted to leave the EU, as I have mentioned many times before. To my great surprise, the Leave side won. I spent the next day in quiet contemplation of the power of the ballot box, the will of the majority, and the triumph of a well-managed voting system. But I soon became uneasy. The losers on the Remain side started to make noises about refusing to accept the result. Court cases were brought, and lost, and many leading politicians openly spouted about the fact that they did not really accept the vote was ‘informed’, based on a real knowledge of the issue. In other words, the ‘Plebs’ had won, and they were too stupid to understand the consequences.
To make matters worse, we had a Prime Minister who had been firmly convinced we should stay in the EU, and she was now charged with taking us out. So the machinations began, behind closed doors in Brussels, or other European cities. Two years later, the so-called ‘best deal’ was presented, which amounts to us staying in the EU in all but our name on the paperwork. Mrs May went to Europe, and came back with their deal, already written down in a sealed envelope, presumably. Nobody likes or wants that deal, not even most of her own party. But it is being presented by her as the only deal on the table, and when she was told that it was not the deal the Leave voters wanted when they voted in the referendum, she may just as well have shrugged and said “So what?”, for all she cared.
So after a life time of voting, I can finally see that if I ever vote for something that does not suit those in power, it will be overturned. Not in a bombastic fashion that might actually cause disgruntled workers or revolutionaries to take to the streets, but in a superior, ‘We know better than you’ manner. Slyly showing us, with a knowing smile, that they will get their way, whatever the actual vote might have been.
That’s it then, I’m done with voting. Sorry to the Suffragettes, and everyone else that fought valiant struggles to get the vote for all adults over the age of eighteen. It might have been worth your trouble for a hundred years or so, but now it has become pointless, in this deceptive modern age.
Please feel free to turn in your graves.
This week has seen the British Supreme Court debating whether or not the country will be allowed to leave the EU without the seal of approval from Parliament. Naturally, the whole subject of the referendum has been subject to great scrutiny once again. Long-winded news reports, features on discussion programmes, and the constant efforts by those unhappy with the result to derail the whole process. Today I heard that Ireland is to mount a legal challenge to the result too. Well, not exactly Ireland, but a British barrister, Jolyon Maugham, who is trying to use their courts to allow for a future overturning of the current process.
It is worth looking at what is really going on here. Behind the rhetoric, lurking in the wings of the legal actions, and hiding in plain sight in the words of many broadcasters and journalists, is that old British anachronism, Class. If you examine where and by whom most of the votes were cast, it is easy to see how the result happened. Those wishing to remain in the EU were predominantly from the larger cities, and the affluent suburbs that surround them. Ignoring the overwhelming Remain votes in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which had very different agendas, anyone who looks at the voting demographic can clearly see the sort of areas that voted to remain. The University Towns, the areas with Science Parks, or places where the price of property is generally unaffordable to those on average incomes. Many of those Remain voters were also from the younger age groups; some still in full-time education, or hoping to travel extensively later on. The Intelligentsia, the bureaucrats, the wealthy retired, and the second home owners, all voting to stay in an EU that suited them very nicely, thank you.
This section of the still-present British class system did not dream for one second that they would ever lose that vote. That is very clear from their reaction to defeat. They considered the Leave voters to be from the uneducated and poorer classes in the main; and these people do not bother to vote, do they? People working for minimum wage, on no-hours contracts. Those without jobs, or any prospect of finding one. Young people who could never dream of being able to go to university, and will never be able to afford to move out of the family home. Agricultural workers, industrial workers, fishermen; all have seen their industries dismantled, sold off, or crippled by regulation. Pensioners struggling to make ends meet close to the poverty line. People who left school as soon as they could, trying to earn something to make a contribution to the family income. Those who read tabloid newspapers, watch trite entertainment shows on television, and like to often eat fast food. They had no gap years, no thoughts of backpacking around Asia, or worries about which university to choose. They have never read The Guardian, or watched ‘Question Time’. Their opinions didn’t matter, and their thoughts were irrelevant. They would do what they had always done. Shut up, and do as they were told.
But they didn’t, and now the losers cannot bear it. They hate to think that this majority of their own country, one generally disregarded by the affluent south and the well-educated, actually didn’t do as it was supposed to. So now they throw everything at them. They seek to overturn that voice of the people, or to put as many obstacles in their way as they possibly can. Some dress up their protest with accusations of racism. Others assert that there should be a second referendum, as the 52% could surely never have really understood what they were doing. They don’t say why, but the implication is clearly visible in the patronising language. They believe that the 52% were low class, pure and simple. More than 17,000,000 citizens of their own country should not have been allowed a say in their own destiny, because their social position and educational background were not up to scratch.
So when you see talk of a ‘divided nation’; a country split by a bitter referendum, don’t be fooled. It is Class, pure and simple. The scourge of this island, and something that has never gone away.
I don’t really like the term ‘Brexit.’ It is one of those snappy things, coined by the media, latched onto by so many. I prefer the fact. We voted to ‘Leave.’ It is not an exit, it is a final departure.
The ‘official’ part of the Remain campaign has been very quick to organise, in retaliation for their disappointment. Over 17,000,000 people voted to leave the EU. According to the critics on the other side, that makes us all xenophobes at best, Nazis at worst. The Far Right will sweep to power in the UK, followed by a Fascist revival in major European countries, according to many commentators. War with Russia, or somewhere else, (anywhere will do) seems to be the obvious outcome, and must happen sometime soon.
Many want another referendum, calling the vote ‘too equal’ to be considered binding. Mass protests have been held in London against the decision to leave. The difference was 1,268,501. That is the population of quite a few large cities here. It is far larger than most margins in parliamentary elections, and more than the population in at least sixty independent nations. But the numbers are irrelevant. It was a referendum. One vote either way would technically have been enough.
Frustrated and bewildered by losing, the accusations from the Remain side have come thick and fast.
Leave voters hate foreigners, therefore Leave voters are racist.
Leave voters are ignorant.
Leave voters don’t understand the consequences.
Leave voters are uneducated.
leave voters come from poor backgrounds.
Leave voters come from areas where crime rates are high.
Leave voters will cause the collapse of the EU.
leave voters will devalue the pound.
Leave voters will bring about the financial collapse of the UK.
Leave voters will break the Union, by disuniting the kingdom.
Leave voters will cause another European war.
I also read this week that an institute in Cambridge has determined that most Leave voters are clinically obese, and have poor diets. They came to this startling conclusion about more than 17,000,000 Britons by researching the areas that mostly voted to Leave, and comparing those with national obesity rates. They also said that many of them are likely to be unemployed, claiming benefits, and to live in deprived areas. All based on the same pie-charts, no doubt. Nice to know that these statistical boffins are making good use of their time. Perhaps they would have been better employed looking around the county of Cambridgeshire, outside of their cosy science park. They might see real deprivation, in the rural community on their doorstep.
One of the other complaints is that the country is now divided; with Scotland, and most of the south-east of England voting Remain, and Wales and the north voting Leave. They obviously had no idea that the country was already bitterly divided before any referendum, between the haves and the have-nots. The Scots may have voted to stay in the UK last time, but their hearts are not in a country outside of the EU. The divisions in the main political parties have always been there too. Corbyn is only the leader of the Labour Party because the members wanted him, not because he ever had the support of most of his own fellow members of parliament. And the Conservatives were never really going to want a buffoon like Boris Johnson as the next Prime Minister. When he had played his part, they disposed of him to make way for a hard-liner. Anyone who is surprised by all this just hasn’t been watching or listening.
Foreign critics are plentiful too. European commentators will be happy to see us go, and made sure to let us know that we will never be allowed back in. If we want to stay in the ‘single market’, we will have to pay for the privilege and have no say. Like Norway. I hope we don’t even try to, why would we vote to leave, and then negotiate to stay, with worse conditions? That might happen of course, one of the many chances we had to take, when voting Leave. Americans have been quick to lament our departure too, although President Obama toned down the rhetoric from his last visit here.
If I was reading all this guff from somewhere else, what would I conclude? Leave voters, like myself, come from a poor area, have little education, and are clinically obese. They hate foreigners, black people, and Jews, and would vote for Adolf Hitler to be the Prime Minister, if he was still alive and standing for office. From a personal perspective, I feel insulted, but not surprised. Bad losers are the same everywhere. It’s never their fault, always somebody else. If Trump wins in America, by less than two million votes, then I am going to write that all Americans are racist, stupid, hate Muslims and Mexicans, and want to build a wall, before killing anyone that gets over it with the guns that they all love to own.
And if you believed that, you would believe anything.
In years to come, this will be a date remembered. Like other memorable dates in the past, this one will take its place in the history books, and be spoken of by future generations.
Against the odds, and to my own great surprise, Britain has voted to leave the EU, and by a fair margin too. The vote says a lot more than just about dissatisfaction with Europe. it shows a country divided, between the haves, and the have-nots. The patronising intellectuals who tell the working people what is best for them have been faced with a revolution from the voters. The scare-mongers have had their bluff called, and the ranks of politicians who were sure that they knew best, have found out that they didn’t know anything.
This country has had the remarkable courage to face an uncertain future, and to accept responsibility for that future too. I am immensely proud of my fellow voters. They ignored the slurs, saw past the untruths and downright lies, and decided to take a chance on independence. Even faced with the prospect of hard times ahead, they chose to literally stand up and be counted.
Now it is all over, what happens next? Many years of negotiations to actually disentangle ourselves from this bureaucratic spider’s web, that’s what. A minimum of two years, up to a possible seven years, before we return to anything resembling how things were before we joined in the first place. David Cameron staked his reputation on a Remain vote, and lost. He will resign at some stage. He was going at the next election anyway, so no loss. Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party also failed to rally their voters to the Remain side, so heads will undoubtedly roll there as well.
Shares have dropped, then bounced back. The pound has ‘collapsed’ on world markets. So what? Cheaper exports for our goods, slightly more expensive imports, and a financial penalty for those going on holiday abroad. There is a chance of more expensive fuel prices, and there will undoubtedly be some belt-tightening in the country as a whole. Things will certainly get a little worse, before they ever get better again. But there can be no price on self-respect, and no value placed on the power of a genuine democratic vote.
What will not happen? Foreign nationals living here will not be required to go home. EU citizens living here will not be required to go home. The NHS will not disintegrate for want of a workforce. The valued workers from places like The Philippines, Thailand, Africa, and the West Indies, will not be required to go home. Doctors, nurses, and other workers from Australia, New Zealand, or anywhere else, will not be asked to leave their jobs and return home. Properties and businesses owned by foreign nationals will not be taken away from them, and their money and investments will be safe. This is Britain in 2016, not Uganda in 1972. Germany will not impose tariffs on goods exported to the UK. Foreign-owned companies will not close factories and businesses in a country where they are long-established. European countries will not suddenly impose a visa requirement on UK nationals. It would serve no purpose.
Just some of the things that will not happen.
Scotland will ask for independence from the UK, once again. This time, they might win the vote that they couldn’t get in their last referendum. What then, an independent country to the north of England? A small and separate member of the EU, having to adopt the Euro as a currency, and enforce border controls with England? It is unlikely, but if so, so what? The United Kingdom is far from united, and may well fare much better as smaller, separate countries, who knows? Northern Ireland, long troubled, is once again divided by the vote, with the Nationalists wanting to remain in the EU alongside the Republic of Ireland, and the Loyalists voting to leave the EU. No doubt some accommodation will have to be made, as it usually is in those difficult counties.
We will have to attempt to curb the excesses of the old school, the silent elite, and the burgeoning racists. Unwelcome bedfellows in this campaign that they were, their presence cannot be ignored. Hopefully, they will also have learned not to try to fool the voting public anymore.
Lots of work to do, and many lessons to be learned. The main one? Ignore the ‘ordinary’ people at your peril, for one day they will rise up, even if only at the ballot box.
The debate about the EU referendum here has hotted up considerably over the last week. Last night, I watched a debate on BBC News 24, attended by over six thousand people. Each side had three speakers to plead their case, and to answer questions from the audience. In amongst all the mud-slinging, the counter allegations and accusations, real facts were few and far between. But there can be no real facts, simply because nobody really knows what will happen if this country votes to leave the EU. They can only presume, surmise, or scare-monger. The speakers wanting us to leave also quoted huge sums of money that would be saved, and how borders will be secured, as well as jobs suddenly becoming available for the millions of unemployed here. But they are also making presumptions that cannot be backed up with facts.
The young people were unduly preoccupied with freedom of travel, and the right to work abroad. But of those speaking, I doubt any genuinely had a deep desire to start their careers in France, Germany, or Greece. I cannot realistically see some young people from Lancashire going to work on the land in Slovenia, or a group of friends from London heading over to the Czech Republic, to work on a building site in Prague. Would a graduate from one of our red-brick universities want to travel to Lithuania to work in a Starbuck’s in Vilnius? I think not. Freedom to work and travel is not about enjoying a gap year in Tuscany, or picking grapes in the Loire Valley before starting at college. No more than it is about a stag weekend in Bucharest, or a hen party trip to Dublin.
The Europeans who come here to work mostly do the least popular jobs, for the lowest pay. Even though they might be well-educated in their own country, speak a foreign language well, and have an academic background, you will find them washing old people in care homes, picking crops for a pittance, or waiting at tables in a themed restaurant. They do it because they have to, not necessarily because they want to. How many young British people can be found in the other twenty-seven countries, doing menial jobs? I don’t have the answer, but will make an educated guess that it is close to zero. They might work in Banking or Insurance in Zurich, or Geneva. They could be posted to one of their company’s foreign branches on a training programme, or to be a trainer themselves. But they are unlikely to be serving the coffee during the morning break, I assure you.
There are some young Britons who go to places like Ibiza, or the Greek islands. They work in bars, in discos, sell ice creams, tickets, time-shares, and hire out everything from scooters to pedalos. But they are not economic migrants. They are sun-seekers, paying for long holidays with whatever jobs they can find. The truth is that British people, young or old, have rarely sought work in foreign countries since the end of the days of Empire, adventure, and fortunes to be made. They do not usually bother to learn a foreign language either, trusting that someone nearby will speak English. The smattering of German or French that they are taught at school is almost never developed past ordering a meal, or buying a train ticket. Freedom to work and travel? I really don’t know what they are on about.
There was a lot of talk about racism being the only motivation for those wanting to vote ‘Leave.’ This is an easy stone to throw, given that the Far Right groups obviously want us to quit the EU. But if 45% of the British public are currently in favour of leaving, does that mean they are all racists? Of course not. Many of the pro-leave speakers were black or Asian, so that scuppered that argument too.
The issue of the referendum has divided this country like nothing else I can recall in my sixty-four years. That has to be a good thing, whatever the outcome. Apathy no longer rules. Most people have an opinion, and a fiercely-held and argued one at that. Whether we vote to leave the EU tomorrow, which I still think is highly unlikely, or stay in for what is likely to be forever, we have all won. Because we argued, we debated, we got off of our bums and voted, and something finally meant enough for us to do it.