Britain of the past two weeks has started to take on the worst aspects of American politics, divided into opposing tribes each with world views the other finds incomprehensible, who regard each other with mutual loathing.
In England and Wales, there’s a gulf between the prosperous cosmopolitan cities and university towns, and the small towns and declining former industrial regions. One side effect of being a progressive rock fan is you do get to visit places like Bilston, Crewe or Wath-upon-Dearne. It’s a different world from the bustling cities and leafy suburbs, and it’s a world many from the prosperous regions probably never see.
What this divisive referendum has exposed is the way our structure of government and electoral system disenfranchises large parts of the country. People who don’t live in marginal constituencies had got used to their vote not counting for anything much in general elections, and used the one time their vote actually did count to send a message to the elites that had been ignoring or taking them for granted.
Whether we do end up leaving the European Union in the end, and it’s by no means as settled as some politicians would like us to think, we will have to heal those divisions.
It ought to be obvious that the fruits of whatever prosperity we might see in the future must be shared more fairly, and we need to think about the best ways of doing this without either stifling enterprise or creating political client states.
But constitutional reform needs to be high on the agenda. There needs to be a more representative electoral system for starters; never again should mainstream politics be able to ignore entire regions for decades. But there also needs to be more regional autonomy within England. It’s not clear quite what a more decentralised England might look like, but if people voted to “take back control”, they should be given more power over the political decisions that effect their lives.
Quite how this can come to pass rather than see the nation fall deeper into darkness and division is another question.