The night we fell off a cliff…

OH SHIT! I didn’t expect to wake up sitting at the bottom of this cliff. But here I am, bruised and battered and sick to the stomach.

Up early we switched on the TV at 5.30am to see that the Leave vote looked to have won. At the time of tapping desolately at my laptop, the vote has gone 52 per cent leave against 48 per cent remain: exactly the opposite of what the last polls were predicting yesterday.

I honestly didn’t think this would happen. I certainly didn’t vote for it. The city where I live didn’t vote for it, but the country has (as has the county where I live: Leeds, York and Harrogate voted to remain; the rest of Yorkshire opted to leave).

With the television on, I keep seeing Nigel Farage being victorious, which is enough to put me off breakfast for life. I keep hearing assorted Brexit Tory MPs whose names escape me saying things like, “This is great news” while in my head the refrain carries on: “Oh shit! What have we done?”

The usual election language seems oddly ill-suited to a referendum. All that punching of the air at a result which ushers in not a new government, as is usually the way, but instead a level of uncertainty few of us have ever before witnessed. All that whooping and screaming with joy from the winners; all that despair from the rest of us.

What happens now? God knows but it won’t be quick and it won’t be pretty – not least because this advisory referendum has advised that Britain wishes to leave Europe, something most members of Parliament oppose.

David Cameron brought this mess on the country and unleashed a vile and virulent campaign, a sort of nasty game in which know-nothing shouting drowned out all else. It certainly drowned out his own insistence that we should remain in Europe.

What happens next can only be various degrees of chaos before life settles down; right now it feels that we’re sitting among the rubble and counting our limbs.

Plenty of the Leavers said: “I want my country back.” Well I just feel I’ve lost my country. I feel that the vile debate showed the worst of us. And now I have to live in a land where Farage, Johnson and Gove have won the argument.

Of course some on the left wanted us to come out too, so the picture is complicated to a degree, but I can’t help feel that the Tory Brexit side has ‘won’, helped along by warped coverage in many of the popular newspapers, their pages drenched in roaring prejudice.

For such a complicated decision, the level of debate has been deeply disappointing. Too much bellowing, too many clear lies, too many false dreams of freedom that could well end in nightmare.

Cameron and Osborne ran what is generally seen as a project fear campaign, delivering warning after warning. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn kicked his heels for weeks and then placed a half-hearted shoulder behind the Remain wheel. Corbyn’s support amounted to Project Shrug with his seven-and-a-half-out-of-ten support for remain.

On the TV right now Labour MP Diane Abbott is sticking up for her man, saying he was the only leader to get the mood of the country right. Oh yeah? Perhaps if he’d actually looked like he believed what he was saying, more of the Labour undecided might have chosen remain.

As for Cameron, the architect of this mess, what happens to him now? We shall learn later today. Some of his MPs are urging him to stay, but you can bet others will be wanting him gone.

The Guardian website has eight questions for David Cameron. Sensible questions such as what will be done to calm the markets, will he remain has prime minister, will he now evoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treat immediately (press the ejector seat button in other words)?

Here’s another question for David Cameron. As you look at yourself in the mirror this morning while you shave, what do you really think about yourself and what you have done? Did you ever think this is what would happen when you promised a referendum to silence all the anti-Europeans in your own party and to wipe the smile off Farage’s face? Well it didn’t work and Nigel’s gawping Teflon grin is all over the television this morning.

Whatever else you are remembered for, history will see you as the prime minister who helped push Britain out of Europe. The happy hollering of Farage and co is all very well, if upsetting, for a victory breakfast. But I can’t help feeling this is going to be a long, messy and painful divorce. And what sort of a state we’ll be in afterwards, what sort of a country we will be, is hard to say.

FOOTNOTE: Two hours after this blog was posted, David Cameron resigned as prime minister. So he will scuttle away from the blasted wasteland he has created and leave others to sort out the mess he has caused. He leaves with his integrity in tatters and his reputation shot.