Yesterday was the strangest day.
Anger, of course. Sadness. And confusion: how could this happen? Why did it happen?
What the hell is wrong with people?
But above all an overwhelming sense of change. Of everything having changed, and not in a good way.
I went out for a walk at lunchtime, and it all felt so strange. What it felt like was that the future had changed.
I know that sounds odd: how can the future change when it hasn’t happened yet? But that’s exactly how it felt. Like some time-meddler had taken the future and given it a twist, so that it was off by forty-five degrees or so.
It’s not like I’m constantly thinking about the future normally, but I guess we just have a kind of background-hum sense of where things are going, and that hum stopped in the early hours of Friday, or changed frequency.
Enough of the metaphors and similes. I did some basic arithmetic. On a turnout of 72%, 52% voted to have the UK leave the EU. That means 37% of the electorate voted to leave the EU.
Which means 63% of the electorate did not choose to leave.
It’s true that you can’t really assume the desires of the non-voters. But my thinking is that the decision to leave the EU is tantamount to a constitutional change. I don’t know what rules countries with written constitutions have regarding amendments, but my guess is that they will have a higher bar than a simple majority of the turnout. A two-thirds majority, or a majority of the electorate at least, I would expect and hope.
I had this conversation on The Guardian site yesterday, wherein the people I was discussing with were saying in effect, “You knew the rules when you went in.” Which is true enough, but unhelpful. My real point is that the rules should have been different. Now we, the voting public, obviously were not paying close enough attention back in 2015 when the legislation for the referendum was passed. But we have representative democracy, and our representatives — our MPs — should have been on top of this. The referendum should never have been brought with such a low threshold allowed for leave.
I’m surprised that Cameron himself didn’t ensure that it was hard to leave. Maybe he was a secret Brexiteer.
Or maybe he just didn’t believe that the public would ever actually vote to leave. I think with hindsight that that’s where I was: in my heart of hearts I couldn’t believe that this would happen. And that is probably the root of the cognitive dissonance I felt yesterday.
It’s too late now, of course. There’s not much we can do (though there is this petition, which has enough signatures already for parliament to consider it). I wonder if someone could mount some sort of legal challenge, maybe get a judicial review.
Because from where I’m sitting 63% of the UK electorate are about to be dragged out of the European Union without asking for it (or having actively stated their opposition). And that’s not even to mention the people who aren’t in the electorate, who will be most affected of all. My fifteen-year old daughter came home fuming yesterday; her whole school was in turmoil over this.
We’re failing a whole generation if they see possibilities being closed off before they’re even old enough to to vote.