I was lying in a tent just outside the french city of Lyon when I first heard that the Brexit campaign had won. I didn't quite believe it and insisted on seeing the headline for myself. Since I left school at 18 Europe has always been a consistent source of freedom, escapism and opportunity. I have backpacked around the continent twice, spent a whole summer working on farms in Portugal where I fell in love with a Spanish girl who I then moved to Madrid with to start a new life as an English Teacher.
I have never felt separate from the continent and have always felt welcome and cared for no matter where I went. I have always found, that even though there are cultural differences between every country, there is also a common theme that is shared by the majority of us. A love for democracy, a belief in the need for free movement and an overall agreement that to progress as a continent it is better to do it together in a way that transcends national boundaries, puts differences aside and perceives everyone's rights as equal no matter where they are from. When I first moved to Spain I was pretty much the Daily Mails worst nightmare. I was an immigrant in a foreign country who couldn't speak the language and didn't have a job. Yet through the help of others, I set myself up and began to slowly learn the basics. I never once found myself being judged for my nationality, or felt any sort of hatred towards me. It therefore deeply saddens me to look at my own country and see how a super nationalistic, anti-immigration and an out right racist campaign has come out on top.
I'm not saying that everyone who voted for Brexit was a racist, as there was an anti-austerity, anti-corporation and pro-democratic aspect of the campaign that sadly got drowned out by Farage, Gove and Johnson's politics of fear, but I can't imagine how it felt waking up as an immigrant in a country where a large majority of the 52% voted against them personally. It was the ugly side of politics that won this election, the side of politics that propels itself by hatred, the side of politics that 'others' those from different countries. The side of politics that ended up killing an innocent MP.
If you look at the majority of Cities, Towns and Burroughs that voted out it is easy to see how such a vial political narrative won. From Hull to Stoke on Trent, from Middlesbrough to Sunderland. from Gateshead to Grimsby, all these places are predominantly white and working class. All these places used to have thriving industries. All these places suffer from generational unemployment. People in these cities believe they have been forgotten about. In the booming economic years of New Labour, of which a large proportion of them voted for, they didn't see any of the wealth trickle down from the London estates. Under the Conservatives they have received nothing but austerity and blame for a financial crash that they had nothing to do with. They're places of discontent and anger. They're places, which until recently, have thought 'whats the point in politics' and it is this thought exactly which lies at the core of 'Remain's' failure.
The political elite are now facing a backlash for never seriously addressing the economic and cultural disparity of our country. For too long the post-industrial problem of many of these towns and cities was ignored. The narrative of 'those bluddy immigrants' was allowed to develop because no politician, or political party, gave enough thought to the economic hardships that people are being forced to live under. There was no explanation.
This isn't an excuse for the vial racism and hate which has come out of Farage's mouth, it is merely an explanation to why it worked. Labour now have a real job on there hands. They have never appeared so distant from those they need to win back. The Conservatives will move even further to the right and UKIP will receive more media coverage than ever. If Labour can't unite and figure out a coherent message to win back the white working class, I think any GCSE history student will be able to predict the dark road our country could be going down.
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