Brexit and the responses to the EU Referendum result

On Thursday, the United Kingdom had one simple question to answer: Should the UK remain a member of the European Union? And by 7am on Friday, the decision was announced: The UK had decided to leave the EU, with 51.9% of the vote. On the road to this decision, both campaigns have been confusing and spreading misinformation, and both not without their faults. However, one side had more evidence from independent and reputable sources to say that the other would be a bad idea and spoiler alert: it is not the one that won.

I’m not here to talk about the ups and downs of the campaign trails though. Rather, the public’s response once the results had been announced on Friday morning.

As you would expect, many Remain voters were angry and upset to wake up to such a result, especially voters under 25, who may now feel like the last shreds of a prosperous future has been pulled from under their feet. After six years of a Conservative government which have proved time and time again they do not care for this generation (which I am a part of), whether its the abolition of EMA, the trebling of tuition fees, the cuts to housing benefits for people under 25, or the introduction of a higher “living” minimum wage which they have been excluded from, this generation that are finishing their education and are exploring the big wide world alone for the very first time have been the ones constantly suffering throughout this government.

In terms of the EU referendum, this  initially seems irrelevant – after all, MPs from both sides of the Commons fought on each side of the referendum. But when you consider the vast majority of people under-25 voted to remain, my generation’s anger and resentment is understandable. Depending on your source, 64%-75% of young people voted to remain, whereas 56%-60% of those over 60 chose to leave. Many feel like their parents and grandparents – who are frankly not going to live long enough to feel the effects of their vote – have chosen a bleak future for them that they did not want. They are angry and they want everyone to know it.

 

However, much like anything any millennial does ever,  this was not without criticism. Many have opposed this outcry, calling it whinging and undemocratic. Many more, including a lot of millennials, have taken to the likes of Facebook to denounce the unhappiness of their peers (if I have to see anything along the lines of “everyone thinks they’re a politician around voting time” again I will scream), as if referendums and elections don’t greatly affect people’s lives. Many declare this backlash as aggressive and undemocratic, as if the campaign to Leave was a bus of honesty  it wasn’t) and as if a woman wasn’t literally killed in the name of British Nationalism during the campaign.

To me, what seems wholly undemocratic is a campaign tarnished on both sides by falsifications and the spreading of misinformation; that an entire generation’s opinion being mocked and ignored because of their alleged immaturity, as if that very generation hadn’t been researching both sides and trying to find whatever legitimate information they can; potentially getting a new Prime Minister and entirely new government that we may not get the chance to vote for; some parts of the UK such as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Gibraltar facing crisis as they too are dragged into leaving the EU against their will, for better or worse; older generations claiming they are voting out “for their children and grandchildren” when those very kids and grandkids are telling you that is the exact opposite of what they want or need; people being silenced because the vote is over and everyone should just “get over” this massive issue.

52% is a very slim margin to win by, especially with a turnout of around 70% – meaning the mandate to leave is around 36% of eligible voters. After last year’s General Election there was a lot of upset as our current Conservative government received a similar percentage. Much of the same people who were upset about that twelve months ago are the same people who listened to Michael Gove’s call to ignore the experts, who believed a Leave campaign funded and fought by many in favour of NHS privatisation would spend that imaginary £350 million a week on the NHS, who claim any rebuttal favouring a stay in the EU is a lie, even when its backed up – even when the value of our currency dropped overnight and our economy went from 5th to 6th largest in the world! But even as the Pandora’s Box of Brexit has opened, none of this has been questioned at all.

The beauty of living in a democratic society is that we are free to air our opinions and concerns, and are free to do so whatever the current political climate, without our government censoring us. While you may not personally agree with public political rants, to write them off as aggressive and unreasonable is just disingenuous. Many are even more scared of what their future holds than they were on Wednesday, and as the damage of Vote Leave’s deceitful and often factually-incorrect campaign becomes clearer, its not hard to see why. A 52% majority is barely a confident and decisive result, and a 48% minority is only just that, with a large enough voice to (hopefully) bring about some sort of positive social change, even as we leave the EU.

What this referendum has done has shown the many ways our country has fractured, and has allowed the politics of hate, fear and distrust to win. My only hope is we can rise above it, but I am not optimistic.

“A compromise too far” – Iain Duncan Smith and the realities of being poor in the UK

In the same week as Chancellor George Osborne released his budget that saw further cuts to disability benefits while the most wealthy get tax cuts, the (now former) Secretary for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith resigned from his post, citing concerns about the juxtaposition of these unfair cuts to welfare for the most vulnerable alongside tax cuts for the most wealthy.Regardless of whether or not IDS’s resignation was out of genuine concern for the people he once tried to fool with propaganda leaflets with fake testimonials, or less savoury ulterior motives as Europe becomes a bigger issue within the Tory party and the country as a whole, it once again reminds us quite how much this Tory government, which was elected as a majority government last year after five years of a Lib Dem coalition, has waged war on the working classes and the most vulnerable in society.

The Tory myth that those on welfare for long periods of time are doing it to avoid working are generally untrue. Of course, there are people who do that and to deny the existence of such people would be a lie, but this is a tiny minority that appears larger than it actually is thanks to shows like Benefits Street and other media focus. It seems that Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne fail to realise quite how competitive job markets are, even for minimum wage positions that don’t require experience – this is something that is exacerbated by some parts of the country just not having jobs available. I was once told that I was “smart” for moving to London for university (and hopefully, after I graduate in the summer, work) because people who “can’t find jobs should move to find them” as if it’s just that easy. FYI: it’s not that easy.

Much of the reality of being poor in 2016 is not what the Conservatives or right-wing rags such as The S*n and Daily Mail want you to think. Being poor is four people living off incapacity benefit plus whatever can be brought home from a small start-up business. It’s not being able to put the central heating on when it’s below freezing because it costs far too much and we need to eat. It’s feeling awful for asking for money for basic things, and it’s having to make deals with local councils and bailiffs so they don’t take everything we own. It’s having to save for a long time to afford an electric wheelchair for my disabled mother, and even then not being able to make the necessary adjustments for her to be able to go out in it without prior help. It’s watching your parents constantly worry about how they’re going to pay the next bill. It’s the internet cutting out for days at a time, it’s the electricity going out randomly and having to rush out at 10pm because we needed the money for something else earlier in the week. And my experience is considered good compared to people who have it so much worse – nobody goes hungry, we’ve never had to rely on food banks, and we still have a roof over our head, and cuts haven’t killed anyone close to us. In recent years, my family and I have struggled a lot, but there are so many who have it worse, all of which is a result of the Conservatives putting ideology and austerity before human lives.

In his resignation letter, IDS says he is “proud” of what his government have achieved in terms of welfare. While I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the damage these cuts have done as a result of his resignation, he is no better than Mr. Cameron or Mr. Osborne. Why has it taken so long for you to find a conscience, Mr Duncan Smith? How can you in good conscience claim these new cuts are “too far” all the while still being “proud” of the cuts you and your department made that faced a UN inquiry, that have literally killed people? How can you be proud of policies and decisions so God-awful you had to lie in your literature, as if we were mindless followers who wouldn’t think twice? Where was your conscience when you cheered for policies that unfairly affected young people? Credit where credit is due: you are right – it is a compromise too far. It’s been this way for a long time. And the possibility you may be using such injustice for political gain about Europe is deeply sickening and symptomatic of Tory “who cares about poor people?” dogma. If you truly believe the cuts your government is making are unjust and cruel, its up to you to prove it. Be the change you’re telling us you want to see. Don’t let your words be in vain.