Brexit (7)

Two further unrelated thoughts.

The first thing is that two people, who are themselves representatives of London’s über-rich, in recent months have said to me privately that they thought that there was bound to be a day of reckoning because of the increasingly huge discrepancy between rich and poor.   It looks likely that some form of reckoning may have to come out of the current turmoil.

The second is that the Brexiteers consist of an ultimately incompatible coalition between the right wing of the conservative party – free market, post-Thatcherite, anti-protectionist nationalists – and the heartlands of old Labour – pro-labour, anti-immigrant, anti-Blair nationalists.   The latter certainly won’t get what they want if the former are in power.


Brexit (6)

I’ve been touched by the number of comments on my post yesterday, which was indeed no more than a sense that we need a period to reflect on the implications of what has happened.   I have been reading much more comment than usual:  a very good piece in yesterday’s Guardian by Ian Jack on the reasons for the alienation of the old working class in northern council estates;  and a piece sent by Otto SS by the admirable Cambridge historian Peter Mandler in an online magazine called Dissent (   I recommend them.


Brexit (5)

I’m afraid that I have suspended all normal transmissions while, like everyone, I am trying to get used to a post-referendum world in which it looks as if Boris Johnson may become Prime Minister and Scotland leave the Union.   I was asked by someone if there was any advice I could give or anything one could usefully do.   I haven’t the foggiest, except wait and see.   It’s unexpectedly stormy weather, which seems appropriate, and the garden is lit up in an intense afternoon light after the rain:-



Brexit (4)

Oddly enough, I have been more troubled by the Vote to Leave in Wales than I have in England.   I keep thinking of Wales as it was in the mid-1970s when I first got to know it:  fiercely nationalistic, quite different from England, and poor.   It feels as if it has been developed very significantly through EU, as well as Whitehall, subsidy – made more prosperous, with new roads and infrastructure.   Now, it’s European, part of a much wider culture.   It has its own pavilion in the Venice Biennale.   What will happen ?  It’s a version of the issues for England, but somehow more extreme.   People think extreme nationalism can’t and won’t come back.   But it can.


Brexit (2)

Since I’ve discovered that I get far more readers for my comments on Brexit than I do for minor architectural features of the east end, I would add that one of the depressing aspects of travelling back from Derbyshire, as from Anglesey, is the way that the countryside is festooned with VOTE LEAVE placards, presumably because the farming community is implacably pro-Brexit in spite of the fact that they, more than anyone, have benefitted from EU subsidy;  and because, apparently, Remain has decided not to issue billboards, a potentially lethal mistake.


Brexit (1)

Nearly the last of the events we attended at the Derbyshire Literary Festival was a discussion between Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton, and Natascha Engel, Labour MP for North East Derbyshire.   It was meant to be about the role of women in Westminster, about which they might have agreed, but turned into an unexpectedly fierce debate about the Referendum.   Caroline Lucas, fresh from campaigning in Burton-on-Trent, was passionate and articulate about the virtues of immigration, the need to maintain open borders, and the historical importance of European collaboration.   Natascha Engel, who admitted to herself being a first generation immigrant, has already voted Leave, it appeared only as a gesture of solidarity with her elderly, ex-mining constituents, who blame the hardship of their lives irrationally on immigration.   She made the mistake of making a hostile comment about Poles.



I have just been to a long and interesting discussion organised by Royal Holloway’s Centre for Public History and chaired by Sarah Dunant about the cultural consequences of a vote to leave the EU.   I was interested in the long historical perspective, beginning with Stella Tillyard’s reference to the fact that the first prehistoric man was migratory.   As someone pointed out at the end, there was surprisingly little reference to the legacy of Greece and Rome or the unifying effect of medieval Christianity, but plenty to the fluidity of medieval borders and the fact that the Anglo-Saxons came from Germany and the Baltic and the Normans from France, and that we used to own not just Calais, but a lot of south-west France.   Caroline Moorhead talked about the benefits that the Huguenots had brought to British culture.   Out of the discussion came a sense of the gigantic benefits of postwar co-operation, the free movement of people within the EU, of travel, cultural exchange and tourism, and migration.   So, although it is hard to quantify or list the precise consequences of disaffiliation, there will be an inevitable move towards isolationism and a loss of a belief in the possibilities of a united, peaceful and cosmopolitan Europe which has been so important to our culture since the second world war.