Like everyone else in the country I have been glued to social media since the heartbreaking news that Britain has voted leave the EU.
As a Scot who spent her teenage years in Yorkshire and ended up in London, I find it hard to understand why vast chunks of the country thought leaving was the right choice and like many people, I wonder why there seems to be such a UK divide. Not a North South divide, as Scotland voted to remain, but as many newspapers have suggested, an ‘us and them’ divide. Them being Londoners in particular.
The misconception that we are more privileged than the rest of Britain is hard to swallow for many of us, as we are not rich and work incredibly long hours, and the young people who are born and bred, struggle to find affordable rents, with little prospect of ever owning their own home.
Of course there are more rich people in London than anywhere else in the UK, but the privileged elite that run the country are as frustrating to us left wing Londoners as everyone else. Just as we shouldn’t label those who voted out as racist – Londoners shouldn’t be branded rich and self satisfied and unaware of the struggles of the rest of the country.
Most of my friends came to London from other parts of the country and worked hard to carve out a career and create a life for ourselves and our families. We sent out children to state schools, contribute to our communities and work hard to build a tolerant, multicultural city. Day to day living for ordinary people in London can be much harder than other parts of the UK and while we also hate that we have to wait in A&E for five hours etc etc – we tend to blame the government, not immigration.
Many of my younger friends and increasingly my children are thinking about moving out of London, as it’s simply too hard and too expensive to live here. Our generation made straight for the capital after university and never looked back, as moving home was seen as failure. A friend said to me the other night, “I would rather have become a rent boy than move back home after university” and now he’s a barrister!
But for young people who can’t afford £700+ a month rent, while doing unpaid internships or working in coffee shops, the idea of living in one of the other vibrant cities around the country holds much more appeal than it did for us – which can only be a good thing, as maybe it will help bridge the generation and culture gaps that have become so apparent.
As both political parties go into melt down and we all face an uncertain future, surely tolerance, understanding and a sense of unity is the only way forward.
And in the words of my friend Vicky on FB this morning – things might not be that bad after all.
“So this time last week I was thinking eek..out of the EU and Trump as president. Now I’m thinking PM could be a woman (Theresa), opposition could be a woman (Eagle) Hilary could be bossing it in the US, Nicola Sturgeon clacking around Scotland and Merkel steadfast in Europe and suddenly you think. Yes this could finally look like a different kind of politics. #womensortingitout‘.