On 24th June I woke up to the knowledge that not only had I endangered several long-standing friendships by voicing my decision to vote Leave, but that I didn’t care. Perhaps if the Remainers had won my metropolitan liberal friends would have continued to regard my backward opinion as amusingly fuddy duddy and out of touch and perhaps they would have learned, with time and patience, to forgive me. Now I knew they never would.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been taken for a liberal and probably a Guardian reader – it’s mainly to do with the places I’ve lived. Time and again friends have said, ‘Did you see in the Guardian…?’ or, ‘As it said in Saturday’s Guardian…’ and expected me to know what they meant. Usually I would simply smile, or say that I hadn’t read it. Partly it was laziness; this was the easier path. Did my acquaintances need to know that I never took the Guardian or the Observer and that I preferred the Spectator or the Telegraph? I thought not. It would only confuse them to be told this, and I’d have to explain myself and they still wouldn’t accept it. Why bother? And after all they weren’t being unreasonable in assuming they knew my political stance, because nearly everyone in my corner of Oxford is a well-educated, arty type, an academic, a teacher, a doctor, or some kind of new-fangled consultant – and we all agree on the important issues, don’t we? How could we not? It was the same in Bristol, the same in Paris. These, perhaps a little to my shame, are the infested corners I inhabit.
But owning up to my wrong opinions comes as a relief, like owning up to murder after decades of denial. I’m out in the open and it doesn’t feel that bad. Even the flatulent self-righteousness of the media is bracing, in its way.
An Australian friend, eagerly following the referendum story, had received the impression that post Brexit Britain has been torn asunder by a disgusting outburst of intolerance and hatred. Well it has, as I told her, but not in the way she thinks. The intolerance and hatred are coming from the Remainers, those who’d prefer not to see that people of all races and colours have in large numbers expressed contempt for an elite that thinks they’re too stupid to be consulted about anything. And isn’t it funny, I said to my friend, that when 17 million ordinary people disrupt the pound and the financial markets – because they have this bizarre notion that some things are more important than money – they get treated as a bunch of dingbats who ought to get back to their crappy jobs, care homes and council estates, whereas when bankers do the same thing it’s put down to global factors and their salaries inexorably rise?
Am I extremely right wing, as my acquaintance will now say, or am I actually on the far left? I’ve voted with the working classes, haven’t I, so doesn’t that put me on the left and them on the right? Left is best, apres tout, we all know that.
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