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‘.
Couldn’t agree more Jane, forward not back. I do hope that Theresa triumphs, she’s our local MP. I respect and admire her work ethic and principles. This confusion and chaos will bring great opportunities and hopefully healing and unity will follow.
I too agree with you – I am German by birth and British by upbringing and leaving the EU is a huge wrench.
The sentiment that it’s “alright for Londoners” is bewildering to me – the general consensus is that it was immigration that did it. Err, London has more immigrants than any other part of the country but we have seen the benefits (you all know what they are). I was outraged to hear a white man tell an Asian woman on the tube this week to “go back from where you came from” and cheered on another (black) commuter who told him to “get back to the rock you crawled under from”.
My grandmother told me stories of Germany in the 30’s and I truly fear that Britain could go the same way – through fear and ignorance.
Thank you Sarah for your calm and wise sentiments, I really, really hope Theresa May triumphs (and Trump does not!).
I would very much like a female leader of any party and certainly of the country but not one who has displayed Theresa May’s attitude to Human Rights in her stint as Home Secretary.
In the face of a bunch of politicians who are responding to the current crisis by fighting like ferrets in a sack rather than providing any kind of leadership, I’d quite like to put the whole lot in a sack and chuck them in the Thames.
I currently live in Manchester and many, many people here are also feeling the same. The majority of Northern cities such as Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester also voted to remain. We too are deeply shocked at the opportunities we may have lost, the rising costs we now could face and distraught that the racists now think that the country is behind them. I think however a large part of the reason many people voted Leave (not all as there was plenty wrong with the EU) is that they were unaware of the scale of the benefits we enjoyed such as regeneration spending and scientific funding – and only aware of the pitfalls. There also seems to be among some communities, a feeling of anti-establishmentarianism. Maybe as they had been let down by those in power in the past then this is their default position, unaware now that the government untroubled by the EU might treat them with more disdain than ever. However, a large part of the responsibility has to be laid at the door of the media. The misinformation peddled by the right wing newspapers is bordering on brainwashing. One of the many posts flying around Facebook has attributed Liverpool’s decision to Remain as being down to the fact that the Sun hasn’t been sold there for more than 20 years following its disgusting coverage of Hillsborough. I don’t think this is the reason but it’s food for thought.
What he says……
Thanks for this post Jane — all so true and as a Liverpudlian who moved to London over 40 years ago I totally agree with everything you say about that “divide”. I am now living within the EU, in France but who knows how this will change our status. We are at the age ( 69 and 75) when worries about pensions and healthcare supersede most other issues.
AS for the possible new political spectrum of 3 women leading the 3 most important countries in the western world ( and here’s hoping Marine Le Pen doesn’t rear her bouffant here in France, making it four), I am wondering if the emerging trend for the return of the pantsuit mirrors the new power of women ?!!
Haha love it Sue as we all know fashion and politics always in sync