[Foreword: I wrote this in October 2016 and never published it. It seemed a bit rabid, even for me. And then I came close to writing all the same things all over again now that we're faced with a general election and the probability that the government will increase their majority and use that majority to claim it's time the minority "shut up". I refuse to shut up. I refuse to be told that it's not right for the opposition to oppose. I refuse to sit down while prominent newspapers refer to democratic opposition as "saboteurs" and require them to be "crushed".]
I don't suppose it escaped the notice of anybody reading this blog that I was just a little bit anti-Brexit. Or that I was more than a hint upset at the outcome of the referendum. And it probably won't come as a huge surprise to hear that I'm still not exactly happy about the result, or about the words and actions of our political overlords.
There's one particular thing that's really, really, really winding me up at the moment though. It's not the tanking pound, it's not the xenophobia, it's not the insulting attitude to "foreign" doctors within the NHS, it's not even the embarrassment of having Boris Johnson representing us on the world stage. Those things are all separately worthy of my ire, but they're not the things that are niggling at me like a tiny pebble in the shoe of life. The thing that's currently pushing my blood pressure up is the attitude being shown towards anyone who voted "Remain".
According to Paul Dacre, the poison-peddling, scum-swilling, EU-subsidised* editor of the Daily Mail the "Bremoaners" are whinging, contemptuous and unpatriotic. Obviously I shouldn't pay any attention to what that particularly odious man, and his vile rag, say. Except he either reflects or informs the views of an alarming number of people. And that alarming number of people include those who say that Remain-voters should "get on with it", or "shut up and stop being sore losers", or that we were "wrong" because more people voted Leave than Remain, or that we are damaging the economy by complaining, or that we are a sneering metropolitan elite, out of touch with reality, or that the "overwhelming majority" voted to Leave the EU and we should just leave now and make the best of it.
Let's get some things straight:
1. Majority opinion does not confer "rightness". All it does is indicate the views of the majority, and there is nothing to pre-suppose that just because most people believe something it automatically becomes true or right. People, and I generously include myself in that, are quite capable of being very, very wrong, in very, very large numbers.
2. As a Remain-voter, of course I think voting Leave was the wrong thing to do. If I thought leaving was the right thing to do, I'd have voted Leave. The outcome of the Referendum did not make me shrug my shoulders and think "Aw, shucks, I was wrong." This is not "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" There was not a right or wrong answer, revealed only after we'd had a go at answering the question. And, I am completely entitled to continue holding my opinion, and disagreeing with yours.
3. Me disliking the outcome of the referendum, and fearing for the political, social and economic consequences has absolutely no effect on the value of the pound. Or on the likelihood of multinationals pulling out of the UK or not. I have not suddenly jacked in my job, stopped spending in local shops, given up paying taxes or in any other way ceased to be a contributing member of society and the economy. I am, in fact, working just as hard as ever, building scientific instruments for export. Stop trying to blame other people for the consequences of the political acts of this government. Political acts being undertaken based on your vote.
4. Sixteen million, one hundred and forty-one thousand, two hundred and forty-one people voted to Remain in the EU. This is not an "elite". This is not a small slice of over-paid, over-educated urbanites who patronisingly think they know best. This is not the top 1% of earners in the country. This is not sneering, public-school-educated, home-counties dwellers. This is a large swathe of the country.
5. A split of 51.9% to 48.9% is not an "overwhelming" majority. It is a small majority. And if the split had been the other way, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that those who voted Leave would be vociferous in demanding that their point of view was heard and respected. And they would be right. If the result shows anything, it shows that roughly similar numbers of people voted pro- and anti-EU. If we'd narrowly voted to remain, I'd fully expect our elected government to be working to reform the EU in the knowledge that nearly half the electorate were unhappy with our membership. And in the current situation, I expect our elected government to attempt to extricate ourselves from the EU while retaining strong links in the knowledge that nearly half the electorate were happy with our membership. Yeah, good joke isn't it?
6. The answer "No" to the question "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?" is not a mandate to do anything the government feels like. Repeatedly gibbering "Brexit means Brexit" sheds no light whatsoever on the subject. The electorate expressed an opinion on membership of the EU. It is an outright lie to claim that that opinion can be taken as a mandate on immigration, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Justice, the Single Market, financial passporting, customs union or any other matter. The people were not explicitly asked about any of those issues, so cannot be deemed to have given an answer on them.
7. Why the hell should I shut up? Since when did being in the minority suddenly mean I have to be silent, bowing obsequiously to the vocal majority and their mighty opinions? Isn't it at the very heart of democracy that I should have the right to hold and express whatever political opinion I want?**
* Yes, that's right, Paul Dacre's estates received £88,000 in agricultural subsidies from the EU in 2014. Nothing like a nice bit of pocket-lining hypocrisy with your morning coffee.
** Within reason, and within the bounds of the law, obviously.