I have found that in almost every circumstance, just because questions can be asked, doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be. The thin veneer of civilness that keeps society running smoothly on a macro level – and personal relationships on a micro one – doesn’t function the moment people believe that honesty, no matter how brutally expressed, is a better option than a moderated reply. We could all learn to think a bit more before speaking. So when David Cameron decided to ask people what they thought, which is what a referendum essentially is, it was almost inevitable that some of the answers were going to be damned ugly.
And here we are, awakening each morning to a system broken, to good people feeling that they’re not wanted here, to Europe understandably turning her back on us and our government collapsing in ruins around ministers who did’t have any systems in place to prepare against this outcome. This isn’t government. This is an electorate reduced to a baying mob thanks to the hubris of a prime minister who thought he could run a referendum like a TV reality show, and those around him who complied.
I am so deeply, corrosively ashamed of what’s happened. I’m ashamed of a government, divided against itself to our terrible cost. I’m ashamed of the Labour party, that didn’t put up a decent fight against the terrible events unfolding, and spoke too late and too little. I’m ashamed of the media, who misinformed, fuelled anxieties and complicated issues. Most of all I’m ashamed of the electorate, who allowed themselves to be influenced by hucksters, and then used the system to smash everything into smithereens.
Put simply, when the question is ‘Does my bum look big in this?”, the answer must take account of many things: human frailty, the need to be loved, a desire for affirmation and the hope that kindness will prevail. Kindness has not played any part in what has transpired here, and that is the single thing waking me at 5 AM every morning to a sense of the deepest loss and fear for our future.