After what has been an extraordinary political week for the United Kingdom, the continent of Europe and indeed probably the world – like I suspect most Rust readers, I spent much of yesterday watching the aftermath of the EU Referendum result unfold in the media.
I’ll leave the expert political pundits and correspondents to do the detailed analysis and draw the lessons from what brought about the unexpected UK Referendum vote to Leave by a margin of 52% to 48% and indeed do the speculation for us on what happens now and in what order.
However, the standout feature for me yesterday was the viciousness of the reaction of those who had supported and/or voted for Remain.
Whilst most politicians on all sides of the argument trotted out the platitude that ‘the people have spoken and we must respect that’ you could tell, even though they couldn’t say so in public, that de facto the inner feelings of most Remainers were more extreme and resentful – simply because the bottom line is that in reality none of them actually believe in democracy – or should I have written ‘plebiscites’?
Non-politicians were less restrained. I don’t personally belong to Facebook, Twitter or indeed any organ of social media but listening to those of my acquaintance who do, I could scarcely believe the reactions that they reported receiving on their smartphones.
Of course, you’d expect minor celebrities and luvvies, dripping with condescension, to give vent to their ‘holier than thou’ attitudes – see here as reported in the – DAILY MAIL
However, I was equally if not more shocked as my companion on a trip to the countryside yesterday read out a succession of reactions from her ‘friends’ or ‘acquaintances’ on a range of social media outlets.
I’ve never heard such resentful and bigoted sentiments being expressed by what I’d hitherto regarded as perfectly normal human beings – i.e. liberal, social democrat-inclined, rational and possessed of a sensible mix of self-interest and socially aware attitudes. However, the gist of many of their comments read out to me yesterday was that the UK (and its future generations) had just sent upon a one-way road to oblivion by a bunch of knuckle-dragging, educationally sub-normal, racist Neatherthals.
For the most part, the postings concerned just about managed to avoid adding other tags such as ‘self-centred idiots, petty criminals, welfare-spongers, unemployed layabouts, Little Englanders’ … but in some cases it was a close run thing.
What was most shocking to me was that in normal circumstances these supposed ‘commentators’ were the sort who you’d expect to defend the tenets of Western democracy, not least ‘one person, one vote’, to the death.
Not so, it seems, when it comes to a one-off vote to depart the EU. It is almost as though some of them regarded EU membership as far too important a decision to leave to the people.
Or rather, to people whom they disagreed with.
It is always easy to be wise after the event, but it seems to me that David Cameron, the British Establishment (and the Remainers generally) presumed far too much.
They were banking upon the fact that their basic logic – better the status quo than take a leap into the unknown – was so obviously conclusive as to be unanswerable, despite the fact that natural British scepticism about the political nature of the EU project and the EU bureaucracy’s lack of democratic accountability was so widespread and deeply ingrained.
They also mistakenly took the view that the overwhelming weight of support from ‘worthy or important’ (wealthy, Establishment, celebrity, expert) folk who held similar views would impress the UK’s Great Unwashed. They relied upon the pollsters’ hearsay theme that, at the end of the day when the average Brit on the Clapham omnibus was walking towards the voting booth, ‘hanging on to what you got’ would hold sway over anything remotely more risky; that provided the main political parties ‘got their vote out’ a Remain vote was inevitable; and lastly that ‘normal rules in UK politics’ would apply.
They got some – or indeed all – of those wrong.
Strap yourselves in for the ride, folks – it’s going to be a bumpy one!