Dear Remain voters — get a grip

Disclosure: I voted Remain

Before the referendum my Facebook was overwhelmingly filled with compassionate, uplifting and powerful arguments to stay in the European Union, based on unity, solidarity, and staying together. Such messages were a welcome world-apart from the dreary economic scare-stories which were all we seemed to get from the official Remain campaign.

But every now and then I glimpsed something else. When someone dared to say something else, to provide a different story, they were shot down with what I’ve seen described, accurately I think, as a “cold superiority”. Much of it in a mocking tone. I’m probably guilty of it myself from time to time (especially on Twitter) but I try my best to refrain. But it was obvious to see, because everyone I know has only one or two people who were for Leave, in this social-media bubble that we create for ourselves.

Now it’s over, and we have genuine posts about heartbreak, sadness and being gutted. But again — something else. And this time it’s not just a glimpse, but an outpouring: ‘dickheads’, ‘morons’, twats’, ‘idiots’ and on and on ad nauseam. Really, this is how you feel about every second person who voted? Articles about Google trends on ‘what is the EU’, were clearly shared to suggest all Leave voters are thick. We have no clue who these people are, whether they voted, whether they’re even old enough to vote. It’s clutching at snobby straws (and in the media pieces like this, which seriously raise Kristallnacht…).

How can we not see that this behaviour is as divisive as the vote which just won? How can more division help?

And now people are signing a petition to vote again. Seriously? Can you imagine, just for one second, if the result went the other way and this petition started? Imagine the outrage, disgust — and mocking — that would have occurred. Is the vote a democratic travesty — from some perspectives, yes, of course it is. But in the 2015 General Election it took 40,290 votes to get a Labour MP. It took 3.8 million votes to get a UKIP MP. I didn’t see anyone complaining about this truly extraordinarily failure of our democracy then.

We all have right to be angry, but it gets us nowhere good. It’s not an excuse for this ugly behaviour. It’s infantile and it’s just spinning around and around in an echo chamber. I’ve been struggling to find a word for it, other than disappointing, and I think unedifying comes closest. I really think we need to stop this as soon as possible and get a grip. Calls for uniting people, and “for the whole country coming together” are utterly empty gestures too. When has the country ever done that?

After months of fantasies and lies, from both campaigns, what I think we need now is a bit of realism. We need to muddle through this. Monty Don, who, for those who don’t know (you should really know, what do you do with your Fridays?) is a gardener from Gardner’s World on BBC2, gave what I thought is the best, most simple, and most fair response to all of this:

Politics needs to be about muddling through, not spitting bile at each other. And those of us who voted Remain now need to show some humility and start engaging, and quickly. Because we don’t have the political leadership for this: Farage, Gove and Johnson are a disastrous trio of elites to emerge strengthened out of this mess. And there is the awful potential that many Leave voters are going to be seriously disillusioned should the promises made in the referendum fail to materialise in political reality, which I think is highly likely. And when that happens — we need to be there to muddle through and try to patch things up somehow. Not throwing nasty and sarcastic jibes from the sidelines.

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