Friday, 24 June 2016

San Giovanni Battista

Excepting days involving personal family loss, today has been the worst day of my entire life.

I just can't quite believe what has happened. I concluded my previous blog by observing that I didn't want to go back to 1971. It appears that a majority of my fellow citizens thought differently.

I've lived long enough to remember the 1975 Referendum,when the political centre rallied together against the fringe on either side to deliver a very different result. When this current process started, I kind of assumed that this time would in the end be the same, except that this time the pincer movement the Leavers might attempt would be so much weaker because in the interim its left wing had lost much of its power, never mind its inclination.

Even when it became apparent during the campaign that this optimism might be misplaced I retained a belief that, even if my own admitted European enthusiasm might not be likely to be widely endorsed, economic "common sense" would still carry the day, much as it had, as a last resort, in September 2014.

So, as the results came in I was seized not just with the disappointment that accompanies any normal electoral reverse but with a real sense of grief. My whole life ambition, reflected, with the occasional reverse, in my whole life experience was being called into doubt. Ambition and experience combined as it seemed towards greater tolerance and co-operation, across domestic society but also across the wider world. In a moment,a result declared from Sunderland, that had experienced an almost certainly permanent set back. The great European project would, at best, go forward without me and, at worst, disintegrate altogether as a result of a process to which I had been an, even unwilling, party. It was as if there had been a vote to reverse the Equal Pay Act, or repeal (what was originally) the Race Relations Act. It was as if s.28 had been reinstated or that we had voted in a referendum to close the Open University because working people should know to know their place.

It was, it is, terrible.

And of course with grief initially comes anger.

Anger at the voters. Angry at them being racist, although patently by no means all of the Leavers were. Angry at them being stupid, although patently by no means all of the Leavers were. Angry at them being selfish, although.....Angry at them being old and comfortable and choosing to deny opportunity to younger generations, although......Angry, yes, at them being English, although actually they were also Welsh and indeed here in Scotland there were almost 40% of them right here among us.

And also anger at the press, except that in the North of England, ultimate Leave heartland, Labour voters mainly read a regional press and/or the Daily Mirror, all of which were relentlessly Remain. Kevin Maguire, the Mirror's chief political correspondent,  is arguably Sunderland's most famous son. Nobody could have argued the Remain case consistently or better. Yet Sunderland voted 60% Leave.

So also anger at the ineptitude of others on my own side, particularly the utterly useless Jez and Kez, engaged not meaningfully against the enemy but in a private competition for the prize of most useless Party leader of any Party, in any Country, at anytime. In the entire history of the recorded world.  But angry also that, inept though Jez was, nobody really thought that, even with Liz Kendall as leader, Barnsley (Barnsley! Residual headquarters of the NUM) would have been transformed from a 70% Leave vote to a populus skipping to the polls singing the Ode to Joy? So anger also at the Labour Party for having lost touch with its own voters,

And anger also against events. The Syrian War that has led so many desperate souls to seek refuge, refuge anywhere, but hamstrung liberal opinion here on the hook of "We're sorry, we'd have you in but our voters won't". But also anger at a European commitment to free movement that anticipated lots of moving about among mutually attractive destinations rather than reaching a common sense conclusion, in certain late accessing countries, that the movement would inevitably be overwhelmingly only one way. And anger that pointing that out would be denounced as "Racist".

And, finally,  anger against a Scottish communality that allowed Nicola to seize the agenda in the aftermath, talking up grievance, as always, without even being asked, never mind answering, the basic questions: "Will you actually have a referendum rather than just a grievance?" "What currency would this hypothetical (substitute) 28th member use?" "What do you think Northern Ireland should do?" or "So, on your argument,  38% of Scottish voters are English racist scum?"

So the public me is angry. But the private me is also sad.

Today, the 24th of June, is the feast day of St. John the Baptist. It is regarded as Midsummers Day in Italy and is a major feast day there, "San Giovanni Battista".

Wee Mo and I always planned to retire to Italy and to one day celebrate the feast day in situ. Had Mo not become ill, we undoubtedly would have . And we would, in that earlier world, have congratulated ourselves that we didn't have to queue up once a quarter, as Mo did when she lived there in the seventies, for a "Permesso di Soggiorno". Or pay, as she had to do then, albeit only in the form of English lessons for his children, to see a local doctor. For we were all EU Citizens now.

And although Mo has gone now, mentally if not physically, Andi, my new companion*, Hungarian born but here twenty years past, long before she was automatically here as an EU citizen, still talks with alarm about the days she didn't have the automatic right to be in the UK. When she worried that, if her first marriage broke up, she might have to leave the country while leaving her children behind. Until at cost and trouble she obtained UK citizenship shortly before, until yesterday, that turned out to be apparently academic. For we we were all EU Citizens now.

And yet she is still told today by her workmates that they are sorry if the vote means that she will have to go "home".

We thought these days were past. Past for good and for well.

I hate. yes that is the word, hate what has happened today as the votes were counted. But I console myself  that there are many others of even mind. Labour people certainly but also Libs and Greens and above all decent Tories. If what has happened can yet be reversed, I'm up for any alliance. Even if it involves the death of my other great love, the Labour Party itself.

*So, what do you call a woman who you love desperately and would marry in an instant, except that you are still married to another woman, who you also love but is now at late stage Alzheimer's disease.  Even German complex nouns would struggle with that. 


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