24 June 2016

A day of Brexit


0600 – Westminster.  Walking towards Parliament through quiet streets I pass two street cleaners staring at their phones and speaking in an East European language. All I understood was the four words they said in English – “48-51”, pause, “48-51!”.

06.30 – Twitterland.  I can’t resist and tweet “Politicos, media, and those tweeting they can’t believe it are underlining how little they know their own country.

0700 – 10.00 Westminster.  A round of interviews for TV crews from China, Israel, Germany, and Serbia. All asked the easiest question, which has the hardest answer –  ‘Why?”  I gave variations on the idea that if you socially engineer a society too quickly, and don’t listen to those you are engineering, eventually they won’t listen to you anymore.  The politicians spent too much time in the House and not enough in Hartlepool.  Huge swathes of continental Europeans want out as well. The direction of travel I say is towards a multi speed Europe because the true believers will never give up their dream, but national politics will result in compromises and an inner and outer core.

11.00 – Westminster.  Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone said he would leave the country if it was a ‘Leave’ vote. I tell his nemesis, Labour’s John Mann MP who campaigned for ‘Out’ that  “I hear Ken’s at Heathrow”. He smiles but doesn’t want to go there. Or to Heathrow.

12.00  – Westminster.  A long talk with a Tory Remain MP over the looming leadership battle. We agree that everyone’s calling it for Johnson, maybe Gove, but there are some Cabinet members, one in particular, who have played a sensible quiet game and who may be regarded as a unity candidate. The MP will probably be backing the quieter one – and no – that doesn’t mean Iain Duncan Smith.

14.00 – Sainsburys.  That’s enough Westminster politics, Ed. In the fruit and veg aisle two Brit Sainsbury staff are chatting; ‘What’s up with people?” said the women “I voted Out – someone else voted In, get over it”.  “I know” replied her male colleague “I voted In and I’ve been given a hard time about it”. While dealing with a bunch of carrots it was a relief to be reminded that most people don’t spit the dummy in politics and are perfectly capable of accepting views other than their own. At the fish counter the Scottish woman behind the salmon says “I voted in, even though I knew it might lead to another referendum in Scotland, which I don’t want”.

15.00  – High Street.  Walking to my local café a Russian friend, who prefers not to live in his country due to its current government, stops me “In a word Tim, what do you think?”  ‘Two words” I reply – ‘Putin’s happy”. He nods, grimaces, then shaking his head walks away towards our uncertain future.

15.30 –  The Office. Otherwise known as the local café. I sit outside. Cars are going past, people are going about their business, the butchers opposite is still open. I look up at the sky – yup – still there, hasn’t fallen down, but I still muse about whether this is the same country as yesterday. Surely the answer is yes.  The café guy, from Eastern Europe, comes out. “Whaddya think?” I ask, conscious, in my embarrassing English way that there will be many people here from abroad who may take the vote as meaning they are not welcome – ‘Bad. Sterling’s down” he says, which is a clever answer.  “What do you think” he asks, “Me?” I say – “I’m disappointed. But I’m not surprised”.

This article was originally published by Tim Marshall at The What And The Why, and can be found here.

Tim Marshall was Diplomatic Editor and foreign correspondent for Sky News, and now runs the website The What And The Why, where this article was originally published.