When I checked in to a hotel in Worcester for a gig on Friday night I told the Polish receptionist it was the middle date of a three-day trip and I’d spent the previous night in Bristol.
“I hope you voted”, she replied.
There was a subdued mood at the gig; what happened affected band and audience. There were doubts at the back of the mind over how well this little grassroots scene would survive the coming storm. There were conversations about future gigs and festivals that ended with “Assuming of course it still takes place”.
Almost everyone I know has been completely devastated by the referendum result. Many are in fear of their livelihood, some are in fear of their personal safety and even their lives. Not only is the entire economy heading down the toilet, but the result has emboldened the very worst people in the country; especially the stupid, violent racists who now believe that 52% agree with them and think they have a licence to hurl crude abuse at anyone who looks foreign. If you voted Leave, you have helped enable these knuckle-draggers regardless of your reasons for voting that way.
But I can’t bring myself to hate everyone who voted Leave. Yes, some of those who voted Leave were unpleasant small-town xenophobes. Yes, others were the worst kinds of sociopathic libertarians. And many more were ignorant fools who were too willing to believe obvious lies. But there must have been many more who voted in protest against a political establishment that had ignored or taken them for granted for decades.
This doesn’t mean we should not be angry at those who should have known better, and there are many of them.
But I am far angrier at out political elites for getting us in this mess. David Cameron, whose catastrophic political misjudgement is the direct cause. And George Osborne whose ideologically-driven austerity program has screwed-over the poorest communities.
Then there’s the entire Leave Campaign, every single one of them lying two-faced slime. Boris Johnson is revealed as an utterly cynical charlatan. Farage has revealed his true nature as an out-and-out racist. UKIP are the natural successors of the BNP; the decline of that openly racist party not so much a rejection of their values as UKIP hoovering up their base. And don’t even get me started on the Daily Mail and the Daily Express for printing out-and-out race hate on their front pages.
And last, but not least, Jeremy Corbyn. There is increasing evidence that Corbyn, or at least his inner circle, actively sabotaged Labour’s contribution towards the Remain campaign. In a way that duplicity is even worse than Boris’ lying. It may be that Corbyn himself is innocent and the blame lies with people surrounding him such as the odious Seamas Milne, but the truth is the leadership did not support the party on the ground. That is why the party is now in meltdown.
We are now two nations who inhabit different cultural universes, and we must ask ourselves how the hell we got here. What happened to the confident outward-looking Britain of the 2012 Olympics? What made 52% of the voters believe the only way their voices would matter was to utterly screw over the other 48% in revenge?
It may well be that in the end we won’t actually leave the EU after all. The referendum was technically advisory and not legally binding, a deliberate loophole that neither campaign wanted to draw attention to. David Cameron did not send notification under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on Friday, and that may prove to be very significant. For all the talk of respecting the will of the people, a democracy is not the same as tyranny of the majority, and democratic systems have checks and balances for a reason. The majority was less that 4% and both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain. The only thing stopping Parliament from overruling the referendum is how they’re going to sell it to the voters at the next election. But anything could happen and a lot could change in the next couple of months.
Healing the deep divisions in England and in Wales is going to take a lot longer.