Sunday 19 June 2016

We have our country: we don't need it “back”.

Thereis a time for mourning, there is a time for resolution, and there is a time for truth. Sometimes those times coincide, and this is one of those moments. Being a time for truth also means a time for confrontation. We have to tell the truth about the Leave campaign's great lie about immigration, about the brutal enthusiasm for stoking up imaginary fears with their anti immigration rhetoric, and the atmosphere they have helped to create, an atmosphere of fear and hate, in which it becomes possible to think that taking someone's life is a legitimate act. “He was nothing to do with us” they say, as they weep crocodile tears about the abrupt ending of a life.

Sometimes I feel really sorry for Nigel Farage. He complains about having to sit on a train with people speaking foreign languages around him. He must have such a fragile sense of identity, sitting in an English train, with English language ads and instructions on the wall, reading an English newspaper. He makes me want to pick him up and cuddle him, take him home and tuck him into bed with a nice soothing cup of ovaltine. Poor little Nigel. Only, of course, he isn't. He knew exactly what he was doing when he unveiled his Nazi redux poster this week, playing on the worst fears of the fiction he and his like have created. And when somebody finally takes him at his word, he will wash and wash and wash his hands, but the stain will not come out.

A worse lie still is the one that has taken hold in the mind of so much of middle England that their country has somehow disappeared. It has not. It is still here. As our football team once again misfires magnificently through a major competition, as April rain in June washes out the cricket, our country has not gone anywhere. It is in nobody else's hands. It is still here. It belongs to us and we belong to it. People have been bamboozled into thinking that they have lost their country. What they have lost is security, identity, pride – and all because of the way the world works, not because of Europe or immigration. Zero hour contracts, low wages, precarious employment, food banks will not disappear if we leave the EU. They will not disappear if all the immigrants go away. Britain will continue a gradual slide down global economic rankings, because other countries are developing. There is no way to stop that, and the slide will be faster if we leave the EU. People say “We're still number 1”. We're not. That does not mean we can't be proud of ourselves. I'm very proud of being English, of being British. I don't have to pretend I'm better than anyone else to do that. Yet people are being made to be unhappy, and in fact to be murderous, because somebody across the road is wearing different clothes or speaking a different language. That is foul.

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