Big Ben chimed 10 pm and David Dimbleby announced that the polling stations were now closed for voting in the referendum on the UK's decision whether to remain within the European Union. I felt a shiver of something. It felt like not simply a personal shiver at the commencement of the momentous count, but a collective shiver. Collective in that what was to be counted over the coming hours and what was to be revealed, was a decision that will have ramifications felt for decades and longer. I felt very aware that I had taken part in and was now watching the unfolding, of a key moment in British history, the like of which in my life time I have never experienced.
I camped on the settee, under my quilt, glass of red wine in hand and settled in for the night to watch Professor John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde; Jeremy Vine explain the various graphics and Emily Maitlis on the mezzanine, where various politicians that had performed over the last few weeks now waited for their performances to be judged and where commentators speculated.
Throughout the campaign, Laura Kuenssberg has become my 'go to' for trusted reporting and last night I was constantly keen to see her take on the unfolding picture, but I was a news obsessive, craving more stats, opinion, perspective, nuggets of insight and I whizzed between ITV, Sky, RT, Radio 4 and social media, in my desire to just know.
At around 2 am 'Leave' was over 150,000 votes in the lead. Newcastle upon Tyne had not embraced 'Remain' to any great extent and Sunderland and Swansea had voted 'Leave'. Results came in from the South Wales Valleys and areas of the north of England and there was a resounding 'Leave'. I scribbled a note to myself during the night. I wrote, "Maybe playing on (the) economy had little effect on the already disaffected?" During the campaign, there had been much talk of the affect on the economy, but I started to wonder, perhaps if you feel you have little or no stake in the economic recovery, if the economic good times are seen through an opaque veil but they are not your personal experience, maybe talk of the economy was never going to galvanize you in favour of 'Remain'.
There were undoubtedly many and varied reasons why people voted how they did, but as large swathes of the North East of England, the North West, the Midlands, East Anglia and the South West, and massive areas of Wales came out for 'Leave', the feeling of revolution mounted. I use that word quite deliberately, alongside other commentators and politicians who have tumbled over one another to find superlatives to truly capture the magnitude of what was happening. As David Dimbleby said, in that statesman like voice that has come to be the backdrop and commentary for so many big events in the country's political and public life, that it had become apparent that the UK had voted to leave, words like seismic, magnitude, enormous, significant were tripping off tongues in a desperate desire to accurately capture just what was happening.
So what now? Writing this the ticker tape is flashing across the bottom of the screen, David Cameron has just stated his intention to resign as Prime Minister, Andrew Neil seems to be asking everyone about leadership and thank goodness I haven't seen Laura Kuenssberg on Downing Street for a few minutes, I dearly hope she is having a well earned rest right now - the questions and recriminations and analysis are charging on. What does this mean for Scotland, who emerged very pro 'Remain'? What does it mean for Northern Ireland, also generally pro 'Remain' and the only part of the UK with a land border with the EU? What does it mean for Cardiff with its resounding 'Remain' and the majority of Wales that voted 'Leave'? What does it mean for London, mostly 'Remain' against the rest of England?
The divisions, the questions and the implications are truly seismic, enormous, and significant and their magnitude is massive. There is a real danger of an implosion as family members, friends and colleagues have take opposing stances and massive demographic chasm have been thrown into the glaring spotlight. We need politicians of humility and intelligence, those with the skills to listen and really understand what has just happened in this country. We need politicians with the skills and ability to negotiate and navigate us through the short, medium and long term and above all to take the collective shiver that I believe many would've felt at 10 pm on the 23rd June to translate and guide that in to collective collaboration, collective efforts and above all collective healing to steer us forward to a safe and prosperous future. If our politicians do not posses those skills, I fear just how history will record this day and those we are yet to live.
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