30/06/2016 11:24 BST | Updated 01/07/2017 06:12 BST

Brexit: It's Time to Fight Back With Education and Hope


In 1651 the last musket ball was fired in the English civil war, a battle over parliamentary sovereignty and the power of democracy that ushered in a new age in spilled into Europe and the Americas.

There is no smell of gunpowder in the air in 2016 but the battle of words is just as palpable as those famous battles of yesteryear.

That battle was the recent referendum on our membership to the European Union, which out in the pubs, buses, towns and work places certainly felt like a civil war. The split in the nation was evidenced by final turnout, with 51.9% voting to leave the EU, to 48.1% who voted to remain.

It wasn't a pretty environment to live in, I can assure you. With the leave campaign openly pushing xenophobic bile about Turkey which wasn't helped by UKIP's very own demagogue Nigel Farage, stoking the fires with billboards depicting streams of Syrian refugees cueing up to enter Britain.

The immigration card was lapped up by working class voters and the populist machine was in full grind with tabloid rags such as The Sun and The Daily Mail adding fuel to the hate campaign, constantly publishing stories about terrorists - with articles such as "EU rules force Britain to let in criminals and terror suspects" - a direct quote from the latter.

It was exhausting and I still feel downhearted from the ordeal. Not so much because of the final vote, that's democracy in action, it was how you were mercilessly pounded with hate and fear from both campaigns.

I want to tell you a story that isn't London centric. An insight to what the impact the referendum has had on middle England towns.

I am from Dudley, the second biggest town in Great Britain and the capital of The Black Country, heartland of the industrial revolution. It's a modest living here, we suffer a range of issues from lack of jobs, low wages, skills shortages and child poverty.

There is always someone to blame and immigrants are an easy target.

And boy, aren't they getting a bashing listening to people talk on the streets at the moment. The BBC, Sky and ITV have all interviewed Dudley residents, all stating immigration being a major factor, a lot of it you could consider as racist.

The social demographic is broad too, British Muslims who would largely consider themselves are left leaning are lurching more to the right. I've had conversations with Muslim friends, colleagues and peers stating they are voting leave due to Romanians moving into their communities.

Frankly, I am personally surprised with hearing this kind of chatter on the high street. I have always found The Black Country to be such a welcoming place.

I do not blame the people who live in England's marginalised towns, I blame the UK Government and their failure to stand up to hateful propaganda, especially when they are part of that output.

Some people may accuse me of painting our great region in a negative light but we, like other areas in England and Wales, need to take a long hard look at ourselves. We let this happen and we allowed xenophobia to manifest itself in our communities.

It's time to fight back with education and hope.

I will always be proud of where I come from, but I am not proud of the institutions that represent us as they have quite clearly failed us.

In the process they have created a legacy that the people who live in our neighbourhoods will need to clean up.