91% of our school voted to stay in the EU in our internal referendum. As one might expect, a school fiercely proud of both its ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as its political engagement, is distraught. Almost none of us could vote, and 75% of the young people who could vote, voted to Remain. For the people we know and whose views we share, it’s hard to understand that this result really happened, and often in the name of our ‘future’.
Everyone I know is angry. We feel that our futures were risked by the choices of people – older, often geographically distant people- who used their votes as a misinformed protest, led on by the lies of politicians who hardly bothered about the EU until it became professionally convenient. These politicians fuelled the fire of disengagement, cutting services and failing to support those who needed it most, then successfully managing to manipulate what should have been their downfall into job promotions.
We also feel for the Scots and Northern Ireland, who just like the young and the Londoners, have been forced out by the ‘Little Englander’, crushed by the tyranny of the small, misled majority.
That just under 4 percentage points can decide the future of Britain is another one of the results which is hardest to accept. I have lost faith in the process of referendums as a whole: I am not utilitarian enough to accept the discontent, and often outrage of 48% of the UK as necessary for the victory of the 52%. Frankly, I feel that much of this referendum has turned into a democratic tragedy: the electorate was lied to and manipulated, we have seen the far right rear its head in the appalling murder of Jo Cox, and to add salt to the wounds, Leave often sold their argument on the back of some democratic ideal. Being left with few positive messages, politicians like Gove, Johnson and Farage hijacked the admirable principle of democracy for their own gain. We were told to vote leave in the name of democracy, the irony being that few people in this country do seem to care about our democracy at all, let alone genuinely its condition in regard to Brussels. Turnouts in elections have been worryingly low, we still are denied fair proportional representation because of our Westminster electoral system and we have an entirely unelected House of Lords. We have been left with a democratically worrying outcome after we were sold democracy itself in a packet of lies.
To make matters even worse, it seems just after their ‘victory’, many high profile Leave politicians have come out with sudden admissions that make the whole result more difficult to take:
Farage says that he never claimed that the (entirely debunked figure) of £350 million a week would be spent on the NHS. Johnson criticising those who ‘play politics with immigration’, saying ‘Britain is no less united’, ‘no less European’, ‘still part of Europe’. They seem to be admitting that they conned us all.
Now I fear for the future I could not have a say in: all the investment in business and culture about to be taken from us- which those in Cornwall have already pleaded for, after voting to leave. I worry about the economic inequality, and those immigrants living in Britain who now feel either unwelcome or unsafe. I also worry for our political system. Parties seem to have built for themselves a political consensus, and perhaps in a fickle attempt at vote chasing we will see a general rise of euro-scepticism. Will this leave those who supported Remain with even fewer places to turn?
Most of all, in an increasingly globalised world, with the worst of our problems going beyond the divisions of borders, I supported Remain as a way to hope that negotiation and diplomacy could be used to address together the worst issues we face. Not only are the far right and the refugee crisis serious problems, but we have chosen not to address them with our allies, and have turned our backs on partnership- much though Boris Johnson may have suddenly decided to deny it.
It feels like a bad day to be British, a disheartening day to be a young person, a Londoner, and most of all also a European citizen- which I for one still am, and will continue to be proud of. I am proud to be part of something larger than the country in which I live, and to think of myself as a citizen of a wider community. Speaking multiple languages and visiting and living in countries in the EU as long as I can remember has enriched my life since before I could appreciate it. I am deeply saddened that these values have been rejected.
Naïve though it sounds, I believe in the resilience of my generation. I believe that many of us will continue to fight for and advance the values of tolerance and cooperation that 75% of us voted for. Our largest fight now is not to fall into the pit of disillusionment, because if we do, Leave will have won two battles.
Year 12 Politics Student
Henrietta Barnett School.