On Referendum week...A snapshot from the A12

Snapshot from the A12...

The last time I paid such avid attention to an election result was the night Barack Obama was elected.  I stayed up until 4am with my father and then went bleary eyed to work, confident, happy that brighter, more progressive times were ahead.  How different things felt Yesterday morning.  I must confess I thought remain would just nab it and so it was that I fell asleep, just as Newcastle declared it’s results. I was, at that point, still hopeful, confident that the last minute swing which seemed to have happened, particularly in the last few days and following the death of Jo Cox, meant that a sufficient number of supporters for remain had been galvanised into action.  No so. 

On reflection perhaps I should not be so surprised.  Disappointed, sad, maybe, but not surprised.  Over the last week, I have had to make some trips to a part of east London I have never visited before.  A member of my family is in hospital at the moment and we as a family have been making daily visits there.  On leaving the station or travelling by road, I have been struck by the difference in atmosphere.  OUT posters loom large on the A12.  At the station remain campaigners were desperate to shove leaflets into my hand, in a last minute pitch to secure my vote.  I assured them I would be voting in.  This vote has felt, to me, symbolic of greater things, the wider need for unity and cohesion in our society and, as the leave cacophony has grown loader, so the urgency to vote remain has increased for me.

However traveling through this edge of London I was joltingly aware of how my little bit of London, where remain posters sit politely in bay windows, underscored with terracotta planters in full bloom, is not typical of England.  It’s the little cosmopolitan bubble I have felt happy to call home.  As a second generation immigrant, I feel it is significant that I have felt at home here.  Last night we also ensured my elderly old mother, who is unwell, also made it to the polling booth to cast her vote, as she was determined to do so.  I suppose, unlike me she could remember less united times in England.  Ironically she spent her first few years here just outside Newcastle, the place which heralded doom for the remain campaign.  I have been fortunate that, through my parents’ efforts, I have enjoyed an education and career that have also been wonderfully cosmopolitan.  My parents are professionals and I do not feel directly affected by some of the issues that have driven people to vote out.   

As such I am saddened that there is a groundswell of disaffection so strong that it has pushed the UK, particularly England, in this direction and  I am concerned about the repercussions for rest of Europe.  I am irritated about the way this disaffection has been exploited, as it has been historically, by those with a far right wing agenda.  I am worried about how reminiscent of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speeches of the 1960s Nigel Farage’s comments have been and the fact that not dissimilar sentiment has, as history shows, lead to terrible times.

And what now?  Could  this be the beginning of the Boris - Trump nightmare scenario? It's a vision of the future that seemed ridiculous in the recent past and now terrifyingly close.  The question is how do we ensure that better, brighter future?