A glooming peace this morning with it brings,
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished.
The Prince, of course, at the end of Romeo and Juliet, as the star-crossed lovers lie dead at his feet leaving both their families bereft.
And the sun barely showed his head to lighten today’s morning-after-the-night-before referendum hangover. The vote was called purely to still the (seemingly inexhaustible) disquiet in the Tory party on this subject and it has unleashed forces so powerful that I predict we do not have the leaders to control them. The outcome has claimed another high level Tory scalp and more will follow.
Party politics no longer interests me. It did once, but now I want only stable government. By and large the swing of the pendulum, between broadly centre left and broadly centre right, has served the country well throughout my political lifetime. I regard most party-ideological issues as fit for the playground, not for serious debate. And it would take a great more than political differences to make me fall out with a friend or colleague. I have close friends who have been passionate on both sides of the referendum campaign, and they will remain close friends if it’s anything to do with me.
But, however sick we all were with the unending campaign – with the paralysis it brought on the Government for several months, with the bizarre behaviour it drew from seemingly rational individuals, with the lies and misrepresentations, with the repeated exposure to people I would rather not be repeatedly exposed to, and all the rest – last night was compulsive, wasn’t it? I stayed up long enough to be sure the voting pattern had been clearly established. As a result, today I am exhausted, deflated, angry and seriously in shock. A genuine shock, shared widely today by all accounts.
Let’s not forget, in all the excitements of the day and all the ‘interesting times’ we will be living in for the foreseeable future, that one of the forces unleashed expressed itself in the terrorist murder of the defenceless Jo Cox MP, exuberant campaigner and irreplaceable mother of two small children. Her blood cries out from the ground. She died for her beliefs. Her terrorist murderer killed for his. Whose values do you prefer? What genie has been let out of the bottle?
Still, Christmases will be white again now, because that’s what ‘we’ voted for, isn’t it? For Nigel Farage, who could pick a fight in an empty room and wants everything to be just like they were when he was growing up. For Boris Johnson, who would love to think of himself as the inspirational, single-minded, out-there-on-his-own leader from the 1940s. For Bill Cash, who maybe belongs in the 19th Century. And that preposterous man-of-the-people-with-the-oh-so-common-touch Jacob Rees-Mogg, who hails from the 18th century at the latest and enjoys the inestimable privilege of knowing he is always right.
I predict that, whatever they do:
- Immigration will barely fall, because the market will demand otherwise, and markets are far more powerful than governments
- Wages in most low-paid environments will not rise, because bosses like the hard core Brexiteers are not that kind of boss
- If wages rise in any sector, higher unemployment will follow
- Lawmaking at Westminster will continue to be heavily influenced by, even dictated by, factors from outside the UK because that is the way the multi-national world now works
- Whatever happens, my pension – maybe yours too – will be at risk
- And Christmases will not be white again (even in the 1950s, Nigel, they hardly ever were).
And I fear unrest when the expectations they have aroused are not fulfilled, not only because they cannot be fulfilled but because the Brexit camp’s status as a very rum set of bedfellows will be exposed, now the campaign is over, for the pack of contradictions it is. UKIP alone fight among themselves like ferrets in a sack: try adding in the violent right, the politically homeless ex-Labour voters, the army of pensioners who’ve enjoyed the good times but can’t look forward, and all those sensitive Tories, young and old.
Members of independence movements (remember the IRA?) can usually be divided into the romantics and the hoodlums. Look at the Brexiteers and you can see the same phenomenon. Whichever type each individual is, they’re fantasists, the lot of them.
Never in my life have I so wanted to be proved wrong. There may be possibilities here, and hiding within the Brexit camp are some important points. It could hardly be otherwise – and the worst may indeed not come to the worst.
Enough – as usual I set out not to say much but to direct your attention towards a really excellent commentary in today’s Times by the perceptive journalist Philip Collins. Click on his name to read his wise words. He says it so much better than me.
The sun is not hiding his head any more and I am going to take my lovely partner for an hour’s relaxation before dinner, with some great views of my beloved home town. Why not an independence referendum here in London on the day the Scots hold their next one? Now there’s a thought. I like the idea of a self-governing City State. Boris liked the idea once – how about it now, Boris? We’re out of step with you these days, but I expect you’ve been too preoccupied to notice.