I can’t orientate myself around what has happened.
Of course, at one level, I do get it. A sliver more than half those who voted (38% of the electorate, which is indeed impressively more than the 24% which I’ve noted before voted for the present Government) have chosen the option to leave the EU, and, as a result, the first domino has been pushed and all the predicted economic, political and social consequences (including much the Vote Leave campaign successfully dubbed ‘Project Fear’) are beginning to fall over in turn, beginning with the fall in value of markets on the first night and the promise of a shift to a more right-wing Prime Minister on the first morning.
My disorientation is probably simply that I live in a world in which greater consensus is demanded before radical change takes place. The Church of England doesn’t move unless more than two thirds of the Bishops, clergy and laity in the General Synod voting separately say it should. The Government itself has been legislating to insist that industrial action is not taken if it isn’t explicitly supported by more than half the workers entitled to vote. I see a protest that a threshold of a majority of more than 60% on a turnout of more than 75% had been set for this sort of political change, although that level of turnout is probably unachievable across any national poll.
Or it may be my disbelief is how few are saying that the UK has bought a false prospectus. The Vote Leave leaflet which arrived here the day before voting was still leading with the claim that an imaginary large number of billions will become available to spend on the NHS and other UK priorities, when we all know that that money simply doesn’t exist and the initial market ‘instability’ and any longer term even slight international marginalisation of London as a financial centre will actually make the grip of ‘austerity’ much tighter.
Perhaps my discomfort is particularly that I live and minister in an area which has voted most eurosceptically – 47% of the electorate in North East Lincolnshire turned out and voted Leave (and down the coast 58% did so in Boston, where turnout impressively did exceed 75%) at least in part in the belief which I cannot share that things like the historic decline of the fishing industry and the current dependence of labour intensive harvesting on migrant labour would somehow all have been avoidable had the EU not existed.
And all the things I’d love to have explored instead being regarded as marginal, eccentric, irrelevant and over intellectual: the fact that the ‘British values’ the Government now requires promoting in schools (democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance) are ones we share with all our EU partners and many others, and that the tap roots of our culture are in the shared soil of Europe and of the Jewish and Arabian cultures within and neighbouring it.
Perhaps this will all seem normal in a few months time, as the majority of those under 45 across the UK who voting Remain watch their elders slowly negotiate the way out for them.
The picture comes from the church at Deddington in Oxfordshire where we passed by recently.