J.S. Villiers's Blog - Posts Tagged "referendum"
I went for lunch yesterday with some friends. We’d all voted Remain, and we were all upset. Someone suggested we should have a European lunch to celebrate our continental cousins, so we went for Portuguese.
Ok, we went for Nandos.
It still felt good.
I had work to do afterwards, which always normally prevents me from drinking at lunchtime. Yesterday though, I didn’t care. I drank. It was important.
They say you go through a number of emotional states when coming to terms with a major change in your life. I’ve gone through many in the last 24 hours. It started with a chaotic blend of emotions I can’t honestly reconcile with the traditional gamut of human experiences. There was certainly shock, if that’s even an emotion, and definitely some anger, topped off with a host of more abstract feelings such as shame, frustration and panic.
“We’re going to leave the EU,” said my fiancée. They were the words that woke me up, the words that filtered into my newly conscious mind, the words that first roused a sense of semblance to the new day, only to dash the whole fucking sordid awakening against the bleak and empty carcass that was to be the morning.
That was the theme of the day, and yes, it was miserable. Yes, it was also immature and not befitting of a man who should by rights have got better at coping with emotions by this point in his life.
And no, I still haven’t got used to it, and yes, it’s still going to take some time.
We went for lunch.
I achieved little else. I scoured the webpages of the BBC, reading through torment after torment as all my emotions that had risen and fallen throughout the campaign reared their heads for a last, painful moment of horror before I finally sunk to a low I hadn’t experienced for a long time.
The anger was just the beginning. And it was, at least in part, justified. The campaign had been fought on a bed of ever deepening lies. Both sides had excelled themselves in demonstrating an ability to reach lower and lower levels of depravity in their dreadful attempts to outdo each other’s gibberish. On top of the awful bullshit spouted by one politician after another came the stench-bedecked piles of crap heaped upon us all by the tabloids, the internet memes and, it turned out, even the broadsheets. No-one could be trusted.
None of that in itself was a surprise, of course. It was de rigueur for any political process. What hurt was the freedom of politicians to lie so openly and so blatantly, and to know that so many people had been misguided by such horrendous mistruths as to vote for something they were never going to get. That was the rub; or rather, that was the part of it that was most sickening. All of it was the rub.
The anger flowed.
And yes, there was shame, because I’ve taken great pleasure in meeting people from all over the world throughout my life, and travelling and holidaying in all sorts of interesting places, but mostly in the EU, where I still have many friends, and to be part of a nation that’s been duped into committing such a foolish act by self-serving arseholes is something that fills me not just with anger but with immense embarrassment. I know most continental Europeans have long had a certain disdain for the stereotypical drunken English football hooligan, but despite that it’s generally a positive moment when I’ve met people from other nations and they’ve discovered I’m English. Our nationality has enjoyed a reputation that is, on balance, very positive. But, at least for the foreseeable future, I will remain embarrassed to meet anyone from any part of the world, not least the EU. We are now a nation of fools, and they all know it.
I also had to endure the frustration that was, despite my best attempts, dedicated to my fellow Britons. Yes, we live in a democracy. I believe in democracy as the best option available. I’m used to being annoyed by its failings, but never before have I experienced a moment when I genuinely doubted its place as the premier system of government.
And I was wrong to, of course.
I shouldn’t be angry with my fellow Britons, however much I may disagree with them. Much has been said of the anti-immigrant sentiment, amongst other reasons for voting Leave. The truth is there are good reasons for voting Leave. I just happen to believe there are far better reasons for voting Remain. I also believe that many people that voted Leave will come to regret it, but that’s not for me to decide.
And I absolutely believe that many people who voted Leave did so because of the lies told by politicians. This is where I tormented myself today with many horrible thoughts that were never going to help. The biggest of these was the question of whether there is anything that can yet be done to prevent this awful moment in UK history. Many have signed a petition to have the issue debated in parliament, which is a nice idea, but really it’s just heaping democracy on top of democracy, and there’s no genuine justification for doing so.
I pondered for some time the idea that the referendum wasn’t actually legal, because so many voters were compelled to vote Leave by a campaign that had lied so blatantly to them. This was more credible than a parliamentary debate, as there is a genuine issue around the freedom of politicians to lie to the electorate during campaigns. Surely there are few in our country who believe this was acceptable? Some of the lies weren’t simply outrageous in their blatancy, but outrageous in how fabulously untrue they were. To think that a whole generation (or two or three) have been sold down the river because a career politician had the nutsack to scream falsehoods at 60 million people is utterly disgusting. This was a truly atrocious display of false democracy.
I maintain that a vote based on lies is not a democratic process. It’s warped, twisted, and utterly shameful. It has no place in a culture that prides itself on a free vote, and especially in one that has the temerity to demand a free vote in other nations.
This was the point in my thoughts today where I checked myself, and stopped my mind from disintegrating any further.
It wasn’t going to help.
I’ve not yet come to terms with this change, and it may take a while yet, but I have at least turned a corner. What confronts me around that corner isn’t much prettier, but it is perhaps a little more useful.
I have a new determination. I can’t change this result. This campaign is long over, and the UK is going to leave the EU. That was a difficult sentence to write, and it still makes me feel a little sick to say the words. But it’s happening, and I have to get used to it.
What I don’t have to get used to is the process that led to this moment. It was a new low in British politics, and one that shouldn’t be repeated. From now on, every time I see such bullshit entering the democratic process, I will declare shenanigans. I will scream from the rooftops if I have to. These arseholes must not be allowed to make decisions through sheer deceit. I will vote against every last fuckwit that tries to ruin British democracy, because even if all else is lost, a truly free vote at least brings hope of a better future.
I’ll remember that notion whilst I watch helplessly as the Conservatives elect a new prime minister of their own choosing.
Changing politics may be a long, slow process, and a fight that we can’t win today. But however bad things may look, I’m not giving up. The future isn’t written.
It’s not too late.