What an unholy mess this all is…

THE old man on the television was in tears or perhaps his eyes were rheumy. That word, incidentally, shows what a mix we are with its roots in Middle English, Old French, Latin and Greek.

Our language gives us away as we are made of many parts, rather than one pure whole. Anyway the old man said: “I’ve got my country back.”

He’d got his country back and I’d just lost mine down the back of Nigel Farage’s sofa, shoved down among the old fag packets, forgotten promises and tatty old lies. The tolerant Britain, the slightly eccentric Britain, the Britain that embraces and accepts the world; proud, a bit down at heel, sometimes grumpy, but generally kind-hearted, if prone to obsessing about the weather.

Now we have to worry about the political weather. David Cameron once told his party to stop “banging on” about Europe and he gambled that a referendum would settle the matter. Which it has but not in the way he was hoping. And his party is still banging on about Europe as he prepares to leave the almighty mess he’s made (that sour shambles is your legacy, Dave). Jeremy Corbyn might go; Boris Johnson might be prime minister (God, no, please no)…

The trouble with referendums, and certainly the trouble with the one we’ve just had, is that they are so divisive and offer only a binary choice to a complicated question. In or out, yes or no. Add to that a vile and ill-tempered debate conducted with ill grace on all sides, and bullied along by a rabidly anti-European popular press, and you get the result we saw.

Let’s never have another referendum – or, to coin a word, “depress-erendum”. The debate was nasty, shallow and uninformed. Was this vote even about Europe or was it a chance to register anger about other matters? Half the time it seemed to be a shouting match about immigration, with those areas with the fewest immigrants shouting the loudest, and multi-racial London solidly voting to remain.

Once the result was known, stories started to emerge of people wishing they too had voted remain. This phenomenon even has a name: regrexit.

My own mood chimes with the headline in yesterday’s Daily Mirror: “So what the hell happens now?” The country is divided in random fragments, with London and Scotland being pro-Europe. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been called on to declare his city an independent state linked to Europe. Perhaps London and Scotland could join forces, with York as part of the deal too.

An online petition calling for a second referendum is at the time of writing approaching the three million mark, adding further to the anger and chaos.

This was an advisory referendum and the people who voted advised by a small but significant margin that they’d like to leave Europe. The vote was 52 per cent in favour and 48 per cent against – a margin which Nigel Farage recently said would not count as a convincing win for Remain and would require a second ballot. Now that his side has won by that very same margin, he seems to have piped down about that.

I keep hearing that “the people have spoken” as if we had one voice and had made one decision. Yes, the people have spoken. Some said one thing, some another. Almost as many spoke up for remain as they did for leave. Some of the people who spoke up now with they’d chosen remain, or so it appears.

Have we made the right decision? Despite all the hollering and the whooping from the Brexit side, there is no way of knowing. Just as there would have been no way of knowing if we’d have been better off remaining in Europe.

If we leave we won’t know what would have happened if we had stayed, so there will be no valid comparison to make, just the usual bluster and bullshit. I have been unhappier about this result than about anything I can remember, especially in the way that the older generation seems to have screwed our young people by voting to leave.

That old man with his rheumy eyes will be long gone by the time our children are facing up to the consequences. And for now the political unravelling continues.

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