Voted Off the Island

Brexit has now completely displaced all of the other important stuff that’s supposed to be filling my head right now, and promises to do so for months if not years. The same must be true for countless others in the UK and elsewhere. The opportunity cost will be enormous, and is only going to get worse; other crises don’t stop happening simply because Britain’s voters have self-inflicted the biggest crisis of them all—they compound one another.

This is another spectacular implication of the older generations voting this onto the younger: not only have they stolen the potential of a future as a full part of Europe, they’ve dictated what the rest of us will have to do to secure a least-worst future. Instead of helping plan how we’ll cope with climate change and energy shocks, how to address inequalities in society, how to help solve the biggest refugee crisis since the War, how to protect the NHS in actual fact rather than “extra £350 million a week" fantasy, we’ll be running around trying to reinvent long-forgotten bureaucratic wheels.

I don’t absolve the younger generations here, either; turnout among 18-24s was apparently half the national average, and the missing half might have helped put Remain over the line, so every generation is culpable. (In any case, those missing 18-24-year-olds might not have been as strongly Remain as the ones who actually turned out to vote.) And despite the enormous temptation to do so, I can’t hate on the Leave voters expressing buyer’s remorse (although this particular example is hard to stomach). They were sold a lie by very practiced and persuasive liars. It’s the ones who aren’t expressing any sort of remorse who should worry us. Can they not read, or hear, or see what’s happening around us?

It’s with no great pleasure that I contemplate my vote in the second Scottish independence referendum—many of the potential problems that gave me pause last time still apply, and even some Yes voters from 2014 must have realised that we had a near-miss once oil prices halved. But the game has changed so utterly that I feel I really have no choice, and from the weekend’s polls half a million No voters (out of a total Scottish population of five million) appear to agree. Not least, we need to be able to draw a clear line between Scottish civil society—emphasis on the word “civil”—and the horrific racism now let loose in England. If I were in England, I would do whatever I could to fight that racism on the beaches, to speak up when I see or hear it on a bus or in a cafe, to help any fellow immigrants—and native-born Britons!—under attack, and I am filled with admiration for those English and Welsh people who are steeling themselves for that fight. If I see any of it here in Scotland, I’ll do the same, but the mood here is different enough that the racists are still largely lurking rather than revealing themselves—as they pretty much had been in the rest of the UK since the days of the National Front.

I feel awful about this, as if I’m abandoning the English friends I voted to stick with in 2014. Maybe some last-minute diplomatic miracle will head off Brexit and IndyRef2, but whatever happens the mental landscape of the UK has irrevocably changed. It’s going to get so much worse before it gets better.

(One further reflection that’s pretty irrelevant now: the Leave vote among SNP voters was high enough that I can’t help wondering if some proportion of them voted that way deliberately to trigger IndyRef2. Something similar has been suggested of Republican voters in NI. People take whatever opportunities they can, I suppose. but it’s further evidence of how spectacularly short-sighted and ill-advised David Cameron was to call this referendum in the first place, after No voters saved his bacon in 2014.)

27 June 2016 · Politics

When I was talking this over with my folks on the phone yesterday they said they’d seen a TV news clip of a Leave voter on Friday saying we’d won back the Britain of Winston Churchill. “Great,” I said, “bombed into ruins, and facing a decade of rationing.”

Added by Rory on 27 June 2016.