In the usual sonorous, regretful tones adopted by the moralists in the House of Lords, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, reproved the “out-welling of poison and hatred” from “both sides” in the EU debate.

Personally this writer has never seen any hatred of the “Remainers” by the Leave campaign. But some of the Remainers have seen fit to express themselves in respectable publications in terms which verge on the demented.

Thus in Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph (July 5th), one Jeremy Harmer of Cambridge said without qualification, “As an older, educated voter, I share with many of my peer group a visceral, all consuming, white hot fury at the toxic drip of misrepresentation, outright lies and barely disguised xenophobia which fuelled the Leave campaign. The anger many of us feel is rapidly morphing into a hatred of the people who got us here.  They have made the UK an uglier place and we will never forgive them”.

Is there something in the water in Cambridge (see Stephen Bush’s post of July 3rd “Doers and Talkers”) which has led some of the 76% of the people there, who voted to remain as part of the EU, to dislike or hate their fellow countrymen so much?

Another thing – given the Telegraph’s wide choice of letters to publish each day, is it not odd that they should choose Harmer’s paean of hatred to be published? Would they have even considered a letter in such terms from the Leave side about the “Remainers”?

Why are some Remainers so worked up?

The referendum in effect asked one question only: do you wish Britain to be governed in future by its own democratically elected parliament or do you wish it to be governed for most matters by a 28-member Council, of which 27 are foreigners, plus just one (unelected) who is British?

This is a question which would not even be put to any of the 166 non-EU countries in the world, and especially not to the 51 former members of the British Empire, who however imperfectly in some cases, do actually believe in the famous phrase: “government of the people, for the people, by the people”[1].

It seems clear that for the voluble Remainers (say one million or 3% of the voters) Lincoln’s speech, carefully crafted as it was 4½ months after the actual battle of Gettysburg, is entirely theoretical.  Certainly they subscribe to the first element of the phrase, possibly a bit of the second, but for them “by the people” means “by themselves”.

And now the monopoly of official influence has been successfully broken. G. K. Chesterton’s famous poem, the Secret People, says it all: “Smile at us, pay us, pass us, but do not quite forget – for we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet”.

Well they have spoken now[2].

End notes

[1] Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address of November 19th, 1863.

[2] E.g. A man in South Yorkshire (June 24th) said “They have thought of us as little ants – well they don’t now”.


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