How can anyone forget the midsummer madness of 2016? As midnight crept into the early hours of 24th of June and Brits at home and across Europe stayed awake to hear the outcome of the referendum a horrendous downpour of biblical proportions bashed the roof. Branches swayed in the turmoil of a midsummer storm, thunder cracked its whip making the windows shudder and lightning lit up the night-sky turning the garden into an x-ray shot of bent trees straight from radiology. I swear, if a plague of locusts had tried to fight their way in through the window at 2.00 a.m., having laid the garden to waste, I would not have been in the least bit surprised. Something momentous was afoot. The gods were making sure we sensed it – perhaps they were doing battle with Puck from a Midsummer Night’s Dream to break the magic spell before it was too late – and lost. The electorate remained in love with the ass and the cheshire cat until polling day. I wish a plague of locusts on both their houses for so deceitfully telling tall tales of nonsense and outright lies.
By 3 a.m. the writing was on the wall. I was on my second single malt – it you’re heading helter-skleter into a recession – you might as well go out in style. Luckily a small band of old school buddies, trusted family friends and various family members spread across the continent were keeping me company on FB as the minutes crawled by. Everyone else had, sensibly, gone to bed. The house was quiet other than the dog snoring next to me and the storm outside – oh and Dimbleby rattling on.
I began this blog three years ago sensing which way the wind was blowing. In December 2012 the referendum was not even on the table but the Eurosceptic thugs were already on the prowl spreading their false tales of EU corruption and dastardly deeds. The incessant, drip-drip, poke-poke of negative news stories about the EU in Britain’s right wing media were beginning to take their toll on ordinay people’s understanding of the EU. The loonies from the periphery were beginning to crawl out of their swamps and spread in to the mainstream from where they managed to spray an unwitting population with the pollution that was to culminate in Brexit. Time to fight back and set the story straight. I have tried so hard to persuade people that the EU is not a monster. A bumbling fool, yes. Hopelessly unable to communicate its true intentions perhaps – but not a monster that needs to be slain or even feared. In the soap-box world of being heard euperspective is at the bottom of the heap, muffled and unable to raise a whisper above the brahoo shouting of a fool like Johnson who commands the high-ground with his editorials in The Telegraph.
For the past twenty years a right-wing media run by an octogenarian from the Antipodes living in the US, Paul Dacre from The Daily Mail and the Barclay brothers from The Telegraph have given Eurosceptics a very comfortable platform with a microphone to peddle tall tales of an opaque and corrupt EU, to confuse minds and to tell outright lies. For the past twenty years the Eurosceptics, aided and abetted by a willing, complicit media, have patiently ploughed the field, fertilised it with a nutrient-dense mush of nonsense and tripe and sown it with a seed that befuddles and confuses good people’s minds. When the time came to reap what they had sown they were in for a bumper harvest.
One of my more widely read blog pieces Ignorance is Strength, written in April 2013, warned about how the Eurosceptic element in the UK were taking advantage of people’s ignorance to strengthen their cause to leave the EU. I take my hat off to the Eurosceptics – it was a brilliantly effective strategy. A less well read piece from October 2014 warned that unless the EU began a more effective communication strategy and began to establish a credible European media to counter-act the negative narrative being written in the national capitals it would all end in tears.
In the early hours of 24th of June I was still hoping that the legions of us who, in our own way, have been trying to persuade the nation that the EU is an integral part of our future, could put Boris Johnson’s, Michael Gove’s and Nigel Farage’s myth’s once and for all to bed and move on. We were still hoping that we had all done enough to uproot the bindweed of misinformation and lies Vote Leave had sown in the weeks before the referendum and that the electorate would see the Brexiteers for the liars they are.
Much as I moan about social media, on that fateful night, the small company of like-minded chums on FB made the early hours of 24th June that little bit less lonely. Below a snap-shot of the conversation as the night enfolded:
K.G. @ 10.57 p.m.: OK, I’m settling in front of the TV – keeping my fingers crossed we all voted for tolerance, openness and peace!
K.B. @ 10.58 p.m.: Unfortunately I think too many years of an underfunded education system will win on this one.
K.G. @ 11.01 p.m. : Oh no! Don’t say it … I’m still hopeful.
K.G. @ 1.00 a.m. : Phew – Remain for Newcastle!
R.B. @ 1.01 a.m. : Not a great margin though
K.G. @ 1.02. a.m. : Still – better then a Leave
S.R. @ 1.18 a.m. :(after the Sunderland result came in) I knew it would be a leave for Sunderland – but didn’t think it would be that high!
K.G. @ 1.20 a.m. : Pfff….
R.B. @ 1.25 a.m. : I am going to sound like a pessimist here, but so far it’s not looking so good for remain. Newcastle was expecting a much stronger remain vote and Sunderland has a big margin to leave.
K.G. @ 1.26 a.m. : Well R. it’s not over yet
R.B @ 1.34 a.m.: Have you seen what’s happened to the pound? *shudders*
K.G.: @ 1.54 a.m. : OK – so now its Swindon. What’s the bet it’s a vote leave
K.D. @1.52 a.m. : Swindon is leave..for sure..only the cities can save us now…it’s like the hunger games
K.D. @ 1.56 a.m. : Nah Swindon was predictable..what’s important is how many of those who made it out of the provinces to London went to vote
B.G. @ 1.57 a.m. : Well I hope there was a 90% turnout for London and they are all remain!
B.G. @ 2.07 a.m. : There is just over 1000 difference at the moment!
K.G @ 2.08 a.m. : You’re right. It ain’t over yet!
K.D. @ 2.09 a.m.: Early days…early days
B.G. @ 2.09 a.m.: Yes! Fingers crossed!
M.G @ 2.10 a.m. : I’m going to duck in and out (if you don’t mind!) just to say hello to you all! Wasn’t intending to stay up, but results so terrifying that I haven’t quite managed to make myself go to bed. Think I may try and crash, as I can’t stand the tension…but if sleep evades me, I’ll be back on here!
B.G. @ 2.10: Hang around Mary Ann – please join the party😃
K.G. @ 2.09 a.m. : OK – I’m on the Bowmore single malt now.
M.G @ 2.15 a.m. : Sod it. I’m getting a gin and tonic
R.B: @ 2.18 a.m. : Second glass of whiskey getting poured now – I’m letting my hair down
B.G. @ 2. 23 a.m. : The streets in London are silent! Highly unusual even for 1:30am. No cars, no drunks etc.
B.G. @ 2.29 a.m. : Come on London! Vote Remain!! (In massive amounts!!!)
M.A.G. @ 2. 36 a.m.: Ooh, 2 minutes ago there was a 28,000 difference, now it’s just 3000!
B.G @ 2.38 a.m.: bbc is already predicting leave will win
K.D @ 2. 47 a.m.: Basildon and Mertyr Tidal – I’m starting to sweat
B.G. @ 2.48 a.m. : But Essex has always been leave
K.D @ 2. 49 a.m. : They are all depending on the capital now
B.G. @ 2.49 a.m. : Another 30 minutes and most of the result start to roll in
K.G @ 2.52 a.m. : Dimbelby just pointing out we’ve got a long long way to go. it’s only when it’s reached 16 million can they say definitively which way this vote is going to go. Curtis also saying its far too early to say – and he’s a wiseguy geek
M.G. @ 2.52 a.m. : COME ON LONDON! Currently at 836,000 vs 758,000.
K.D @ 2.58 a.m. : Maybe I was naive but I’m scared now. Didn’t think it. Would be so close..damn the Tories
B.G. @ 3.03 a.m. : Only 8.5% counted – so all to go for!
K.G. @ 3.03 a.m. : Right – that’s it. I’m off to be now. I think it’s a leave. What a mess.
B.G. @ 3.07 a.m. : Apparently the financial market is rattled and in panic mode – as am I!
…and so on and so forth until we all awoke not to Brexit the Movie but Brexit the Horror.
What this referendum taught me – and should teach all those who still value the values of the EU as enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union – is that you can only sell the EU if you make a positive case for it. Why do we even doubt the EU’s values? Surely we all agree that the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities is good for everyone? We should have the confidence to promote and defend them with vigour and confidence. How many times I hung my head in despair when I heard those battling for Remain say, “….the EU is corrupt but we must remain….”; “….no one finds the EU more frustrating then me … but we must stay in….” “….I’d give the EU 7 – 7.5 but we must stay in….”.
If I didn’t understand the EU better I’d not exactly be fired up to place my faith in it either. Another brilliant piece of half-truths was “Brexit. The Movie” with the contention that the EU is undemocratic. I found myself explaining again and again why this is not so. Few of the official remain campaigners did and not one, as far as I’m aware, made Article 2 a central plank of their arguments – how can the EU be undemocratic when we have this Article enshrined in our Treaties?
The second lesson I learned – and everyone else who has an interest in this should learn – is that when the undecided voter reached out to become more informed about the EU they did not turn to the EU’s glossy, corporate-style brochure set out in neat rows in the EU’s info-centre, they did not even read government published brochure’s on the EU and they certainly did not listen to independent experts. Rather, they placed all their faith in the journalist commentator and the editorials of the traditional media. They read opinion pieces by the Brexiteers who are eloquent rogues with a fine prose and convincing rhetoric and Newpaper proprietor’s on-side. Social media is proving good at reinforcing everyone’s entrenched positions but not at reaching out to those who have valid questions. It is high time those who still believe in the EU begin to prepare an excellent, quality media that reaches a wide public to counter-balance the national media’s interpretation of the EU and its intentions.
Like many of those who voted for and supported Remain, the past few days have been painful. We see our beloved country plunged into turmoil, uncertainty and confusion. We are fearful for the future. What was prophesised has come to pass – the pound is falling and shows no sign of recovering, the UK has lost its AAA credit rating, the value in shares has dropped, jobs are threatening to move to the continent, the Prime Minister has resigned, the Union is breaking up and no one seems to have a plan moving forward. Johnson and Gove have been exposed as the liars they are; unable to offer Britain access to a single market and curb immigration – unable even to deliver on their Pound 350 million pledge to fund the NHS.
Even in these dark days, however, there are reason to be optimistic … but more of that in another post.