Today the people of Britain have woken up in two different countries. The Metropolitan folk who have prospered here and there down the years have failed to engage with or understand the other country that is also Britain. For here deep alienation exists in huge quadrants of our society that have suffered the true consequences of austerity and cuts.
For many this WAS a vote about Europe, but for as many it was a vote about dispossession amid constant images of largesse and greed. For them we have failed to represent the true costs of policies that ensure that economic recovery is somehow, of necessity, underpinned by a tightening of their belts.
They are the many who have never had a pay rise in a decade. They are the many who have been forced to tighten their belts amid cuts in benefits upon which they depend, and who have suffered a severe reduction in many of the services that we the Metropolitan folk can remedy by purchasing.
Worse there has been a failure to recognise the feelings of these self-same communities who feel they are being “swamped” by immigrants who would work for less, and yet have access to the very services that are already in ever shorter supply. Easy pickings for politicians determined to blame Europe for all Britain’s failings.
If the UK is allowed to end this day thinking that it was only about Europe, we shall never address the true scale of alienation in which we live. This is a wake-up call – calling upon us to reach out to towns like Barnsley in Yorkshire, Boston in Lincolnshire and great tracts of Wales in the west, and many other places and sections of society.
The woeful campaigns by both Leave and Remain have allowed us to blame the ‘other’ without ever looking at ourselves. Race, religion, class and more have all played their part in the most unpleasant domestic political campaign most of us have ever witnessed.
The referendum challenges us to render our democratic institutions more truly representative of and responsive to who we are and the lives we lead.
This must become a day for renewal. Let negotiations with Europe take their course, they will not resolve the crisis at the heart of our own society. A government enjoying 36.9 per cent of a General Election vote has to begin accept that it governs for us all, whatever our condition or our politics.
Dangerous choices lie ahead. We can survive them and prosper if we begin to understand and act upon what this referendum has told us. Act now to reverse the consequences of austerity and cuts. We can only prosper if we all share the burden of bringing us all through to a fairer and more egalitarian future.
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