It has all the ingredients of a very British protest. A vote in favour of the underdog. A visceral dislike of being told what to do. A belief that the country can go it alone and its people will be plucky heroes, whatever the price to be paid. And the trigger would be a vote about what is often referred to as “Europe”, as though the UK isn’t part pf that. Which some would say it no longer is.
The UK referendum was about protest, more than it was about EU membership. It was an opportunity for those feeling excluded from the political debate and economic and social opportunities to proclaim a plague on the houses of all political parties as we know them, the political process, a capital that’s seen to bear no resemblance to the rest of the country and an Establishment that looks out for itself and doesn’t care about them.
The referendum result represents a further dismantling of the old order that began with the financial crisis. I don’t know what the end-product will be, but I have a strong suspicion that the country – and society – will be significantly different at the end of the process from the way it looked ten years ago. I hope there will be a fairer society. I’m pretty sure that it will be one where people expect to have their say – and be heard – to a greater extent than has happened in the past.
I expect we’ll see the end of politics dominated by two parties that are perceived as traditional and out of touch. Both the Conservative party and the Labour party are going through convulsions at present and both appear to have lost touch with the electorate. New political alignments seem inevitable.
And we need a new vision and new values, not clinging to nationalism as a smaller identity, but looking out, providing kindness to all, offering shelter to those who need it (regardless of nationality and place of origin) and sharing what we have.
On the evening of voting day, I was at a summer party – linked to work; not a social event. I left early. Inside, there was an air of the last days of the ancien regime. Outside, it was pouring with rain and thunderstorms had been raging during the afternoon. One of the worst storms I can remember in London had clattered and banged throughout Wednesday night. We’d upset the gods and they were telling us to sort ourselves out.
And now we have to do that. We have to pull together and look beyond the rhetoric, the international debate, the legal issues, the economic indicators and the personal positioning. We need politicians – and the Establishment as a whole – to pull together and heal the wounds of a damaged country that triggered the backlash we saw last week.