I mentioned two weeks ago the danger the Leave campaign risked in opening the Pandora’s Box of Nationalism. Unfortunately in the wake of their victory last Thursday I seem to be being proved right.
There are hundreds of stories emerging up and down the country of hostility and threats which are making a lot of people feel very uneasy. I’ll recount just two incidents that I know of personally.
I have a friend who is married to a Spanish woman. She’s lived here ages and worked in the same office for 12 years. She’s always felt part of the team at work, but on Friday she was greeted by her manager with the words “Welcome to Britain”. It wasn’t ironic, or sympathetic, it was threatening.
My next example would be comical if it wasn’t for the potential consequences. My son was walking home for his lunch when a car came round the corner and three young men shouted “Get out of our country” at him. Now, perhaps they were very well informed and knew that, although born and bred in Beeston, he is a quarter Australian (although his grandmother naturalised as a British citizen sixty years ago so I’m not sure he’s even that). No, you’re right, it was probably mindless prejudice.
So what’s happened in the last week? I think we are seeing what was seething under the surface now thinking it’s not only OK to hold racist views, but also now to express them openly.
Now before I go any further can I stress that I am talking about a tiny proportion of those that voted Leave. But they are a scary minority and they are setting a tone of xenophobia in this country.
If you look at social attitudes surveys it’s clear that for most people in Britain attitudes have genuinely changed towards minorities whether that be race, gender, sexuality or disability. But some people haven’t been touched by the arguments; they just learned that you couldn’t express your bigotry openly. We all need to stand up to these people.
If most of the Leaver voters weren’t racists, why did they vote Leave? My impression is that people voted leave for a range of reasons, but which add up to wanting change. People are fed up with their elected representatives, with the London elite, the 1% who own the country, the bankers who got off scot free after buggering the economy.
They were told that £350 million a week could be diverted from Brussels to the NHS and that EU immigration would be stopped. Of course those promises started unravelling as soon as the polls closed.
The Remain campaign was pathetic, famously ran Project Fear, which just fed into peoples’ sense of nothing will change if I vote for this lot.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting change. I want change.
I’ve got a lot of time for our MP, Hilary Benn. He’s been a great supporter of South Leeds Life and many other community groups in the constituency. However, choosing this week to launch an attack on his leader was unforgivable.
As I mentioned before people want change. They want a break from the last forty years of Labour and Tory governments that, whilst different, shared more of a world view than they might like to admit. Buying infrastructure on the PFI never-never; letting the financial services industry do as it wanted; opening the NHS up to the ‘market’ (or privatisation as I prefer to call it); starting foreign wars – it’s hard to tell the difference.
Jeremy Corbyn offered a different approach, which is why he was elected by such a large majority in the party. I accept that Labour MPs disagree with him, but for heaven’s sake listen to the wider party on this one. I realise you genuinely think Corbyn will lead you into electoral wipeout, but so will sticking with what hasn’t worked.
So while the Labour Party work that one out, we can all show some leadership locally by remaining friendly and respectful and reassuring our friends and neighbours that they are safe. Wear a safety pin to show that you will not be spouting threats and abuse.
I’ll be on back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.
3 Replies to “South of the River – Don’t leave me this way”
I posted this else where but still relevant.
For me it is not just about immigration. It is about our right to vote, young people had to lowest turnout yet they bitch and moan about their futures, well blame the other 78% of lazy students who did not bother to vote..
We was not longer a democracy in the EU we had no say in laws we had no say in who runs Europe. EU would say here Dodgy David do this, or here David accept this. Negotiations with the EU are none existent. None of us had a say in what direction the country went in while in the EU because we did not run it. The 5 unelected bureaucrats in Brussels ran England and we had to sit down shut up and put up.
And to all the Lefties crying and moaning about leaving. Why is it such a bad thing for a country to stand on it’s own two feet. We teach our kids this so we should live by example.
As for the lefties, I have seen attacks on people for brexit so it goes both ways. A girl was punched in the face for wearing a Union Jack flag at a pro EU rally. Now I know lots of you hardcore labour voters will not agree with my im sure a certain someone will quote me and make a big deal out of it but these are my views.
A few typos because of my phones auto correct kicking in but you get the idea.
I don’t think lots of piss weak anecdotes, including the two you cite, prove anything. What’s more, having lost the vote, you now try to portray the leave vote as some kind of continuation of the occupy/crap-left analysis as hitting back again “the 1%” and “the bankers”.
In general people voted to have more say over the running of the country they live in – it’s that simple. And part of what is so positive about the result is that – faced with the politics of fear and the real uncertainty of what Brexit may mean – the majority of voters preferred to take that risk rather than stay within the institutions of the EU; and in the process put two fingers up at a political elite that clearly feels more comfortable in the corridors of Brussels than rubbing shoulder with its own electorate.
What the referendum has also done is created a clear division in politics for the first time since the end of the Cold War: around the issue of democracy itself – between those who believe in the will of the people; and those who are, at the mild end, uncomfortable with democracy or, worse, who are willing to try and actively undermine it. It’s also exposed the real “bankers”, to use Cockney Rhyming Slang, in other ways too.
If a Pandora’s Box has been opened, it’s one that reveals the fear loathing of the masses from many of those who view themselves as oh so liberal and tolerant. Having slagged people off for years for being “lazy”, when those same people do become politically engaged and turn out to vote on mass, because it didn’t go the way some would like, those same voters are then slagged-off in the most vile way, as thick, xenophobic scum. But then people kind of knew how they were viewed before, and that’s another reason they gave the establishment a kicking on 23 June.
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