I don’t really know what I’m going to say here, other than I need to say something. It’s going to be fragmented, I’m afraid, but that’s how I feel.
Yesterday Britain voted to leave the European Union. I voted to stay, for the little difference that made. I know exactly two people who planned to vote to Leave, and yet here we are. A combination of nostalgia, blind principle, entitlement, xenophobia, fear and blind rage have brought us to an abyss. The EU is far from perfect, and there are some good reasons for leaving, though these are nothing compared to the pragmatic impacts of actually doing so. But I also suspect that for every person voting to leave with good intentions, there were an awful lot of people who simply wanted to break something so hard it would stay forever smashed.
There’s a Combat 18 neo-Nazi on the cover of The Sun, celebrating Brexit.
On Twitter, some cockroach threatened to burn the writer Nikesh Shukla to death for talking about the impact of the result. Someone else told him to go back to brown land.
Every time I found myself on the edge of tears, I had a cuddle with my boy. Indy is now eleven weeks old. When he sees me, his wee face scrunches in joy, and his arms and legs curl in too, as though his whole body is smiling.
A Polish worker at Dora’s school doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t feel at home here any more.
Dora’s best friend is Chinese. Her mother is thinking about moving back to Hong Kong.
A man stood outside a school on Friday morning, flashing V signs at Muslim kids and parents.
Most Leave voters are not racist. But whether they like it or not, they – and now the entire country – have legitimised open racism.
That man on the BBC – one of hundreds, it seems – who didn’t think his protest vote would count, and is now worried about the result.
The same expression on Boris Johnson’s face at that first press conference, knowing that he’d gone too far, that it had really happened, that he’d pushed the button. He’d taken back control, and now he had to deal with it. There’s no rush to leave, he said, sweating.
EU leaders already enquiring when Britain is going to start negotiations to leave.
Big companies already moving staff to Dublin and Frankfurt.
The extraordinary split in age between older Leave voters and younger Remain voters. The older generations have taken opportunity from the hands of their children, their grandchildren, and torn it into strips.
£2trillion wiped off the value of global markets inside 24 hours. A pro-Leave Lord saying that Britain will have to tighten its belt. All that austerity, all that pain. Literally for nothing.
It’s now excruciatingly clear that no one from the Leave campaign knows what happens next. Little wonder they wanted Cameron to stay. He was a Tory puff piece in a suit, and he’s broken everything.
How will we implement a border in Northern Ireland for EU workers moving north from Eire?
Why on earth would France maintain the border at Calais? That’s not their problem any more.
“The thing you need to understand about Michael,” said Cameron to Clegg, “is that he believes in change as a process of creative destruction. He’s something of a Maoist.”
Imagine Michael Gove as Chancellor, looking at the national balance sheets and rolling up his sleeves.
“£350million a week for the NHS was a mistake,” says Nigel. “We shouldn’t have said that.”
“Daddy,” says Dora, “I’ve drawn a rainbow unicorn castle. And some keys. Don’t tell anyone they’re made of paper. They open all the secret doors.”
A man in a cafe told three Poles they’d have to go home soon.
What kind of country have we turned into? Smaller and more selfish, sharper, colder, meaner. Leave voters keep talking about a warm Britain, an open-hearted Britain, a Britain that can finally choose the right kind of immigrants to let in.
The right kind.
Where will all the resentment go when the EU isn’t there to sponge it up?
If this is all about democracy, when do we move to Proportional Representation, please?
If this is all about democracy, when do we abolish the House of Lords and introduce an elected second chamber?
Yeah, I thought so.
I’m half Scottish. My dad is Scottish, and I was partly raised in Scotland. But I was also raised in England, Germany and Northern Ireland, and I have a very strained and jumbled sense of who I am and where I come from. Until yesterday, I was European more than British and certainly more than English, but now even that has gone, and I’ve been stunned at how bereft it leaves me. I feel Scottish when I’m in England, but when I’m in Scotland, and I start relaxing into the landscape, I hear my own voice, my weird middle-England voice, and feel like a cheat.
I briefly taught adult literacy, a few years ago. I met another army brat, who articulated it much better than me.
“Up north I talk funny. Down here I talk funny. I don’t know who I am.”
Unless Boris finds a way to never initiate Article 50, which I honestly think he’s terrified of doing, then Scotland will almost certainly have another independence referendum, and it will almost certainly be a Yes. Mon and I are not quite yet packing our bags, but we have started looking for a house in Scotland, and we have started looking for jobs, if only to know where the work is. I don’t want to live in a small-minded country, always looking in. I want to live in a country that knows what it is, and looks out. A country that doesn’t define an immigrant by where they come from, but defines everyone, native or not, by their contribution to the community.
I’m not an idiot. Scotland isn’t perfect – nowhere is. But Scotland is at least trying to move forward with the rest of the world, while England is deliberately, consciously moving back.
This is not sour grapes. It’s a spiritual schism about who we are and where we go from here.
I vaguely remember a book of fables from my childhood – the tale of the dog in the manger. The straw was no good to him, but he refused to share it. I remember, like a dream, the illustration of the dog – teeth bared, crouched low, ready to snap – and the other farm animals clustered at the door, both scared and disbelieving. That’s England today. There is no more United Kingdom and there never will be.