Rankin won, and the Englishman went away.
Since last Friday I have been angry. I began by feeling angry towards those who voted Leave, all those who campaigned on that side. Then I felt even more anger towards David Cameron for allowing such a vastly complex, far-reaching, destiny-shaping decision to be made, not through our time-honoured processes of parliamentary democracy, but in a referendum few had demanded, and whose terms and rules Minimum turnout?
Required margin for victory? Angry that one of the few genuine success stories of modern history — the transforming of Europe from a slaughterhouse of total war and totalitarian regimes to a This is britain essay region of liberal democracies living in near-borderless friendship — should now be so profoundly undermined by such a myopic process as took place in Britain last week.
I am angry that the UK is now very likely to cease to exist, only two years after the Scottish referendum seemed to secure its future. But anger will make a treacherous guide in our current situation, and it is imperative we think and act coolly. We are where we are, and there is still a huge amount left to play for.
I believe, in fact, that in the coming weeks, what we face is a fight for the very soul of Britain. If I were a strategist for the far right, I would today be rubbing my hands with excitement: I can well understand the emotion behind the growing campaign to persuade parliament somehow to overrule the referendum result.
We cannot afford at this moment to be ruled by anger or by a sense of self-righteousness. A proportion of these people have, and will always have, an unshakeable hatred of foreigners including white European ones. It is this latter group that must now consider carefully the wider context of that assessment, and decide what next step they really want the country to take.
For what has become rapidly clear is that the Leave camp is not at all united about the sort of Brexit it has won. Of course, they were never obliged to be. They are not a party; they had no official manifesto; they have no formal or legal collective accountability to the nation.
Such is the nature of a referendum, as opposed to parliamentary democracy, which David Cameron chose to abandon. Nevertheless, the country will soon have to decide. Almost certainly, the UK will not be allowed access to the single market without retaining the free movement of people across her borders.
Many Leave campaigners always knew this would be so, but allowed their less savoury colleagues to go on enticing the electorate with impossible promises. So we will soon be faced with this question: This might easily be rephrased as: This second debate will have to be one that is openly, unambiguously about the trade-off between ending free EU immigration and continued access to the single market.
It will be one in which those who campaigned for and voted Leave for non-racist reasons will have the opportunity to stand this time on the opposite side from those who did. And it will be a chance for those who have instinctively blamed European migrants for the pressures on their housing, jobs, NHS services and schools to listen to arguments putting forward other causes — the failure of successive governments to create affordable housing, the banking crisis, the cutting and underfunding of public services, the long-term failure to address the devastation of large regions previously dependent on manufacturing and heavy industries.
What if a second referendum produces, effectively, a mandate for racism? What kind of place will this country become then? I speak as a year-old man of Japanese birth who has lived here from the age of five; who has observed and experienced this society from the perspective of a small, visibly foreign child who was for years the only such child in his school or his wider community; as someone who has lived in various parts of the country as it went through the major upheavals of the next four decades.
The s and s, for instance, saw immigrants come and settle here in large numbers from the Caribbean, the Indian subcontinent and Africa, even as the country went through one economic crisis after the other, and yet the National Front, the BNP and other racist parties have never been able to gain a proper foothold here, not even to the extent of their counterparts on the European mainland, and have crumbled one after the other.
The Britain I know — and deeply love — is a decent, fair-minded place, readily compassionate to outsiders in need, resistant to hate-stoking agitators from whatever political extreme — just as it was in the first half of the 20th century when fascism rampaged across Europe.
Let us find out who we are. And to isolate the racists who today deludedly believe they have won the backing of the country.
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