A long but heartfelt piece about my Remain journey and what I have experienced, what I have learnt along the way and some thoughts on the European Elections.
Let’s start at the beginning.
I campaigned door-to-door for Remain in 2016, in Doncaster. I knew Remain wasn’t going to win here, but if we managed to change a few minds it might have made a difference to the vote overall.
I had talks with relatives and friends about lies on buses, and telling them that Turkey was not joining the European Union any time soon, if ever. This didn’t always go well but I kept trying to dispel the myths that were being put out there by Leave.
After making everyone I knew who was apolitical register to vote, and encouraging them to vote Remain, I, like most of you, woke up to the devastating news that the Leave campaign had won.
I cried for the next generation that, for the first time in 100 years or more, will have fewer rights than the one before, for my EU27 friends and their families, and that the hateful campaign I had seen had won.
I cried that people I knew and loved had not only believed the lies but agreed with them, at the opportunities lost by all the children in our family, daughters, nieces and the children of my cousins.
I cried for the people who had lived in peace in Northern Ireland and the border region – a peace I had not lived under as a child. A whole generation has since lived in peace in Ireland and Northern Ireland for 20 years.
Within a week of that day I had deleted my Facebook account.
I had seen the ugly side of some people I had known for years and no longer wanted to see it. I admit I went into a social foetal position at this point.
I couldn’t talk about how upset I was or how much the landscape of the UK had changed for the worse because I was surrounded by people who had “got our country back” with cries of “Sovereignty”.
There were endless incidents of racial and xenophobic abuse reported in the press unleashed from the Pandora’s Box that was the Leave campaign. I saw elected MPs, Leavers on social media, and people in the streets dismiss the Irish border.
I have personally heard people say “Let them kill each other, it’s not our problem.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg said it will be fine to have borders back. There was no respect for the Good Friday Agreement.
These are your patriots. These are the people who want their country back but not if you live across the Irish Sea. Then, you must fend for yourself.
So many near misses, so many setbacks, so many things that seemed like victories then were snatched away by people the electorate had elected to protect their interests and ensure our democracy.
They were siding with policies that would harm the most vulnerable of our society. MPs take office with the express promise to not harm those they represent. They borrow our vote; they do not have them indefinitely. Yet, none of them are being held accountable.
I have marched on London 3 times against Brexit and once for the NHS in the last 12 months. I have marched and protested many times before but never with this intensity and frequency.
I have marched against war and poverty, against the removal of rights and against NHS cuts many times. The NHS is close to my heart. I worked for them for many years in Mental Health & Learning Disabilities Nursing.
The issue of Brexit encapsulates them all. The EU was born out of peace and was a step forward in eradicating poverty and the denial of rights.
I have been betrayed by those I put my faith in. I fell for the Corbyn crap of “For the many” in 2017 because I thought only Labour could stop this. Over the last 2 years, all that faith has been trodden on and abused.
A bit of research, after my initial naïve approach, revealed an EU hater, a man who will sacrifice the rights of UK citizens for a personal vendetta he read in a book when he was a student and never grew out of.
As for Theresa May, a woman so hateful she sent out vans telling people to go home. People say she was a Remainer, but to me she had the same hostage look on her face during the campaign as Corbyn.
She orchestrated the deportation of the Windrush generation, people who were invited to the UK to help rebuild it after the devastation of the wars.
Her ‘red line’ is Freedom of Movement. When Leave supporters cheer this I just shake my head. These are our rights too, only in ending those rights can she end Freedom of Movement. She is a hateful woman who is very far from a Christian.
As in any story, there are heroes and villains: some on the same side, most on the other. The opportunity for a national and Europe-wide platform has made for some strange people emerging. Some with no experience of politics but a whole lot of ego, and some of the most humble and knowledgeable people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting or reading their words. Some on both sides have seen Brexit as an opportunity, while some have used their knowledge to help others.
The difference is obvious for those who want to see.
At this stage, I was still crying, as I am now, at the injustice of it all. But now, it is more frustration than sadness as I watch politicians spew lie after lie to justify their personal goals, to protect their jobs not ours, to protect their parties not the country they swore to serve.
I despair at the three years wasted and the money spent on this vanity project that could have been spent on increasing benefits and help our most vulnerable, our NHS, our schools, and on Climate Change.
So, here is the point of all this. I live in a Brexit area, where 7 out of 10 voted to leave. I sit on the train going to work, and in my head I divide the carriage between Remain and Leave.
When it was announced that the European Elections were happening, I thought about my region: 2 Labour, 2 Tories, 2 UKIP. My lead MEP is Richard Corbett. They don’t get much better than him.
So, do I vote for a Remain champion and help keep UKIP/Brexit Party out or do I vote pro-Remain and potentially let in another right-wing seat?
People who live in majority Remain areas probably won’t understand what it is like to hear the conversations those of us in majority Leave areas do. In the village where I live, some people are boycotting the local newsagents because it is now owned by an Asian family.
One day, I forgot I was wearing a pro-EU t-shirt when going to the local shop. I bumped into the Leave-voting partner of a friend who made the action of spitting on me.
If you think about what it must be like to live surrounded by hate, you can begin to understand why someone would do everything they could to stop that hate from becoming more emboldened. They don’t need their hateful rhetoric further endorsed by more right wing or even far-right MEPs.
I spoke on Twitter briefly regarding my dilemma about the European Elections and it all went horribly wrong. I was called xenophobic for daring to consider voting Labour. I was called “too stupid to be alive” – all this, by the way, coming from my own party, the Lib Dems, to the point where I nearly resigned my party membership after nearly 20 years.
In the end, I ignored the tribal behaviour and concentrated on the opinions of those I trusted. One very wise and informed person told me that the European Union had dealt with the likes of UKIP for years, and that they made no difference to EU policy. They were effectively the naughty child on the step.
Another well-informed person told me that to take on the fight against the far-right as a personal mission in this capacity would only lead to disappointment.
They were both right and their advice made me rethink my whole goal of trying to keep right-wing MEPs out. I was still torn about making sure Richard Corbett kept his seat though. Then the Labour NEC happened. Well, that was shit! The less said about that the better. They let Barry Gardiner out on TV again and he delivered for the Tories again. He gave away the full plan.
On 3 May, it was obvious the country had spoken, but the leaders of the two main parties and lackeys tried to spin it as a vote to get on with Brexit. I don’t see how they came to that and I doubt anyone else with any sense could either.
I saw the results for Barnsley going for the Lib Dems, then Sunderland, St Helens! Some of the North West went Green. Unbelievable! This is what we have achieved as a movement. I felt a sense of hope I haven’t felt for a long time.
UK politics is broken and it is up to us, as the electorate, to fix it. Corbyn wants to play both sides. He has now said that publicly. May is living on borrowed time and is clinging to power to drag the dead donkey that is her deal across the line any way she can. In the face of this, what do we have to lose? Nothing that hasn’t already been taken from us, that is what.
The local elections results have given me the courage to follow my principles and vote for Remain parties.
We will all have these crisis of conscience moments as we get closer and closer to the end of all this, but humility is sadly under-rated by many. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to have to change our minds or go against long held loyalties. I have seen the personal struggle of friends who have been active in their various parties for years, trying to decide how to move forward with integrity and belief.
These decisions to cross party lines are never taken lightly by life-long party members. Many have been active for years fighting against injustice and for equality, long before Brexit was born.
I think some fellow Remainers would do well to remember this and not berate them while they grapple with this choice.🔷
Have you got a story you would like to share with our readers?
You can share your experience today by submitting your story to us:
Tell us your story now!
Liked this story?
Found it useful?
Here’s what you can do next:
(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s consent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.)