How did we not see this coming? How?

Torn Union Jack Image: PakistanCyberforce.com

How did you not see this coming, UK?

The crash of sterling and the stock market. David Cameron deftly passing the poisoned chalice on to his successor. An immediate backtrack on extra funding for the NHS. A Leave team with no actual plan. Germany and the rest of the EU setting a hard line.

All these things were eminently predictable. Indeed, they were predicted by the experts so many happily denounced as scaremongers. They were predicted by me – and I’m certainly no expert.

Not that the Remain campaign was any better, mind you. I aired my views before the referendum, saying, “I am angry at the way spin has given way to bare-faced lies – from both sides.”

I also spoke of my fear that, regardless of the result, the UK would emerge from the referendum “a broken nation”.

Well, it seems pretty broken now, doesn’t it?

How did you not see this coming, UK?

The rising tide of racism

In the aftermath of the referendum result I spoke of the need for unity, while at the same time silently fearing the triumphalist rise of those who now feel they have a mandate to enforce a far-right agenda. (No need to wait for actual laws to be passed, right?) It gives me absolutely no pleasure to see that I appear to have been proven correct.

After a spate of racial attacks all over the country over the weekend was widely reported across social media, you will probably by now have seen (or at least heard of) the sustained racist attack against a fellow passenger by three young men on a Manchester tram yesterday.

You may have seen people pointing out you can’t just say every racially motivated incident is a direct consequence of the Brexit vote or that this kind of thing was hardly unknown before last week. They’re correct, actually, on both counts, but equally it doesn’t take a genius to work out the cause of the sudden and dramatic rise in racist attacks since last Friday. This was no isolated incident. Cause, effect.

What you probably haven’t seen is the comments to people who have posted videos of the incident on social media. Many are actively in support of the racists. “Britain is for whites, so get out foreigners” is the gist of it, minus some atrocious grammar and accompanying profanity. Because nothing makes an argument more compelling than swearing and every other word being misspelt.

These attitudes have always existed. The referendum campaign gave them a voice, couched in an argument about sovereignty, making Britain ‘great’ again and securing our economic future. And the referendum result served to legitimise those who think Britain would be better off by expelling all non-whites.

This was a plaster being ripped off to reveal a festering wound beneath. Before the referendum it was buried out of sight. Now it is there for all to behold, and it is an ugly sight.

How did you not see this coming, UK?

What do you really want?

What do these people – who, let’s be clear, are not representative of the majority of Leave voters – want?

They claim to want a history they have never known and understand nothing about other than some rose-tinted fiction that makes Downton Abbey look like a gritty documentary.

They want to send all ‘foreigners’ home but won’t want to accept back those who have emigrated from Britain.

They want to reclaim jobs they didn’t want in the first place. Let’s see how many of them will happily pick fruit in the middle of the night or sweep the floors in McDonald’s.

They blame immigrants for the economic ‘woes’ of a country that has actually been growing faster than its major Western European counterparts in recent years and where unemployment stands at 5%, the lowest since 2005.

They think it is acceptable to murder an MP and troll her grieving husband and children.

They think the country belongs to them and only them. That they can take back Britain through intimidation and violence.

Who will they blame when those with the skills and the money – the doctors, the business professionals, the scientists, people like me – decide to up sticks and move to a country that actually wants them? Push hard enough, and we will, not because we are running away from the bullies but because we are striding proudly towards somewhere our value is recognised and appreciated.

Who will they blame when Britain is anything but Great?

What makes them think they have won? What makes them think any of us have won? We have all lost. All of us.

I have heard people say over the last few days that they are sick of talking about politics and that we should just get on with life. But now is absolutely the time for us to talk more about politics, not less. Our world has changed. Yes, we have to move forward. But if we stop the conversation now then we will do so as a crumbling nation, not a united one. And that, despite those who would happily see the back of us so-called ‘foreigners’, is not the UK I want to see.

How did you not see this coming, UK?

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