From scepter’d to sceptic to septic isle…
I was waiting for the dust to settle, hoping at least to be able to have a clearer view of what occurred a few days ago. But sadly (for me) the only clarity I can discern is in looking slightly backwards to my recent posts. Sure, there have been some very incisive pieces written and broadcast, many of them funny (the latest and greatest from Downfall being in some ways the most accurate view of all), many of them scary (the racists making the mistake of thinking that the majority of the country is with them), while others are just downright depressing (including the truth-sayers on the Remain side, and the lie-avoiders on the other).
But I’ll have a go at reflecting on what happened since that last post and see if I can figure how that related to subsequent events.
I arrived in London on the evening before the referendum, in order to gird my loins prior to launching my Poll of Proles upon the electorate of the capital’s south-east. Essentially, the idea was that I would hang around outside a polling station and buttonhole voters with the following question (again, from an earlier post):
Name the four core institutions of the EU, and if you can do that, describe their functions and relationship to each other.
Of course, it may be contested that institutions other than the ones I nominated are equally important (indeed, the EU couldn’t survive without any one of them… apart from the EU Council of course), but I think we can agree that the Council of the EU, the Parliament, the EU Commission and the EU Council could be regarded as the Main Four.
My concern over the last few months was that the populace was uninformed about what they were about to vote on, my suspicions having been aroused a couple of years back on a visit to London. There I was, sat in a pub with other members of what used to be The Serious Freud Squad, chatting on about stuff… and then the EU. It was apparent that Mark, Paul and Matt had no idea about what the EU was and how it worked, although they did have quite strong opinions about it.
So I asked them the above question.
And on Thursday I asked it of some of the Voters of Clapham – but only after they’d made their cross: I didn’t want to influence anyone (yeah I know: dickhead). So guess what happened?
- Of the eighty-three people I asked, only one came close (didn’t know the difference between the two Councils)
- That included four lawyers, three of whom dealt with the EU
- Three journalists and two journalism students
- A wonderful man called Stacey, who spent twenty minutes telling me about his role as a soldier in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, including where he’d fought for his country… and where and how he’d been injured for his country… and how proud he was to be British and how interlinked his family was with the land. As he eventually walked away, he called to me, “By the way, I voted Remain, because I’m proud to be British!”
- A rather brusque woman who answered with, “No! And that’s why I’m voting to leave!”
- One person, who gave me the alternative right answer, “It’s a bit like owning a car: you need to be able to know generally how it works and what it can do for you, while you obviously need to know how to drive it. Same with the EU: I know what its benefits are (and what I’d miss if I didn’t have it), I know how to engage with it if I need to… but I don’t need to know how it is made. I’m not a car maker, I’m a car user.”
- And lots of other lovely people who attempted to answer… but couldn’t.
The thing that was most apparent was the openness of the Remainers, who would ask about the answer and even want to know more (often saying they wished that they’d done a little research before voting!), compared to the indifference of the Leavers, who knew what they knew and that was it, I TELL YOU: IT!.
Later that day, while traipsing around Old London Town, I carried on with my decidedly unscientific research, asking locals on both sides of shop counters, people on the Tube: whoever didn’t run away, basically.
Later I was perusing swimmy stuff in the Speedo store (Covent Garden: I can vouch for the sensitivity and mature intelligence of the staff). As I was walking up the stairs to leave, I heard the five assistants at the counter (lots of rain – no customers, just in case HO is looking) talking about the referendum. So I turned on my heal and asked which way they’d voted. All Remain. So could they answer my question? Nope, but they definitely wanted to know the answer.
And then one guy, early twenties I would guess, chatted on for a while about all things EU, sometimes asking if I could fill in some gaps. He then said, “Although I voted Remain, all of my family voted Leave.”
That, along with the Newcastle results the night before, was what told me we’d lost. The next day was Stupid Friday and I sobbed for the first half hour of it, the rest being a kind of game where I was laden with ever-more heavy shit as realisation after realisation had me reeling with darker and messier consequences. Out of spite and hunger, I ended up in my friend’s Indonesian restaurant (i.e. immigrant Muslim), Bali Bali, getting spiced up rotten.
Saturday was the Charlbury Beer Festival, run by a school friend, Jim, who I hadn’t seen for an age. Once Dave’s beer festival of choice, I approached the CBF with some trepidation, as I wasn’t looking forward to having to headbutt someone – especially Dave if he dared to turn up. Turned out that part of the world was largely made up of Remainers, so beery conversation was largely cheery.
I did have the classic clichéd conversation with a fellow of about my age at the Single Aunt Sally thingummy though. He told me, apropos of nothing much, that he voted to leave the EU. Why? Because of the immigrants. We stopped for a while, taking in the crowds of beer-botherers across the field…
“Do you have a lot of immigrants around here then?”
“No – none at all as far as I know.”
“Oh, so why are you concerned?”
“Because there are lots of them in London. London’s about twenty percent immigrants.”
“Um… do you go to London much?”
I’d love to leave this here, in a kind of bucolic, beery remembrance of things past… but that would be playing right into Farage’s hands, which is what just about the entire political population of England and the EU is doing. Hands up everybody who thinks that now that it’s (possibly) over, that Farage has been sidelined?
Farage, as I have sometimes said, is the devil incarnate. He is playing the long game and he is the only one out there who knows what is going on, because he is pulling the strings. Even yesterday he was in Parliament, stirring up shit in the form of the French nationalists. There he is, unelectable even in his own constituency, waiting for for one of the Eaton Messers (with support from the utterly disagreeable, erudite-but-brainless Hannan) to call a general election. The two main parties are im/exploding, the Liberals are nowhere and Ukip is there to pick up the pieces: certainly not outright winners, but definitely king-makers.
And who would be king, Mr Farage?
As the little girl says at the beginning of Poltergeist, “They’re here.”
Just to be clear…
Yes, comparing Farage to Hitler does sound idiotic and takes hyperbole to the millionth level… but that’s not what I’m doing.
I’m not comparing Farage with what Hitler did, but how he got there.
German politics at the time was riven with self-doubt, weak leadership, weaker opposition, nationalism, fear of Germany being unfavourably compared to other countries, fear and loathing of ‘others’… within which one man with a strong vision and persuasive – although idiotic – arguments, rose up as a national saviour to ‘make Germany great again’.
As the Gove Puppet introduced his hat into the Tory leadership ring this morning, along with the Hippopotaman, Theresa Might, The Alternative Medicine Man, One Nation Crabb, John (I wish I was a) Baron and the rest of them, we are presented with a motley crew indeed. John Major was a force of nature compared to this paltry showing of political might.
Also, just to be balanced, take a peek through your fingers at the other side: Jeremy Corbyn, Tom Watson, Angela Eagle… really?
If you were to chop ’em all up and mix ’em around and try to extract one single politician to whom you could attach the label ‘statesman’, you might get an elbow. Or, more likely, an arsehole.
So here we are, in the deepest possible shit and we’re expecting one of this lot to haul us out.
Oh, hello Nigel.