A letter a day to number 10. No 1,474
Saturday 25 June 2016.
Dear Mr Cameron,
If the referendum has been about anything, it’s been about framing. Britain’s exit has been received as the triumph of ignorance. Brexiteers despised as some kind of Neanderthal, sub-human, knuckle dragging, species that have destroyed Britain.
And yes, divide and rule is still holding the foreground. From what I’ve seen, and I am inclined to go with Owen Jones and John Harris on this, the great divide hasn’t been about age groups so much as poverty and desperation. Poor areas voted Brexit, more affluent areas voted remain.
Back to the framing, or should I say frame up? Immigration has been wilfully used and abused by politicians and the media alike and it can hardly be any surprise that it took root. Desperate people with no answers have a tendency to clutch at straws and even pin their hopes on hopeless solutions. If the economic woes of the poor are blamed on immigrants and if the poor pick up the mantra thrust upon them relentlessly from all sides, who is really to blame? The poor, of course and never, ever, those who cause poverty or frame the debate. God dammit, the poor are always to blame! And now we have Brexit and the venom is dripping.
Ashton-under-Lyne, was recently described in the Guardian as having ‘developed a reputation as the embodiment of the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) grim frontline’. It’s one of the areas chosen as a test bed for new DWP policies prior to them being rolled out across the nation. A group of activists has been meeting weekly at the local Jobcentre for two years to assist and support those bearing the brunt of your brutal welfare policies. Charlotte Hughes regularly reports on the utter desperation of people driven to the brink, she described one man, sanctioned under the new in-work conditionality regime, who was deprived of his housing benefit ‘after he missed the jobcentre’s job search target by one hour’ – “He was working nights, all hours. But they stopped his housing benefit,” Hughes said. “He’s lost his home. We gave him a coat in the end. I’ve never seen a man more broken.”
Let’s just pause and consider how that man might have voted in the referendum, beaten, broken, busted and desperate against a political and media driven narrative of other blaming. Could anyone blame him if he thought Brexit might be a good idea, that it might offer some semblance of control back into his life, that change might offer a little light in a very dark existence, that his plight might be inextricably linked to the issue of immigration? It’s easy to condemn, the referendum was a festival of blame, such that I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. Personally, I think the timing was lousy, too many desperate people under a brutal regime. We now have to find a way forward and I, for one, hope that it includes regime change in which your resignation is only a start.