In June 1992, John Major - against the odds - won a Parliamentary majority in the UK General Election. He hadn't been predicted to win and Labour, under Neil Kinnock, looked like it was finally to take over the reins of power after thirteen long years. The Tories were tired and had killed off the great Matriarch, Margaret Thatcher. Me and everyone I knew, voted Labour. We had the momentum, we had all the celebrity endorsements. Our moment was now. How could we lose?
And then the results came through and the feeling of giddy anticipation turned to dread as one-by-one Labour candidates went down against their opponents. The pleasure at seeing Tory Chairman Chris Patten lose Bath was negated at the realisation that Major had a workable majority and that 13 long years would now be 18, at least.
Gosh! I wish social media had been around in those days! I would have spent the whole of the next day ranting on Facebook, posting links to articles that called into question the democratic verdict of my fellow citizens, how really Kinnock and Labour had won all the arguments and that only old and selfish people had kept them from government.
I went to work the next day full of righteous anger and fully expecting my colleagues to be similarly burning with the injustice of it all. No such luck. Most of my team at work had voted Tory. Older, wiser perhaps. I was shocked. They never talked politics in the office. They never disagreed with my leftie rants. And yet they still voted Tory!
Up until now, I didn't know anyone who voted Tory. And here I was surrounded by them. How had I not known (didn't they roast babies on fires to keep warm?) and how could they have been so stupid? Readers, I was shocked and angry. Selfish bastards. Stupid bastards, brainwashed by the Sun, The Mail, The Tory Media. Bitching about them later with my friends - who all voted Labour - we moaned 'why didn't they think for themselves'?
I was twenty four. I was also stupid.
I can relay this story now because, well, I'm older and perhaps have a little more perspective on life. I wouldn't call it wisdom because the first casualty of experience is, certainty. The old 'the more I know, the less I know' trope. The future is unknowable, unmade, events and inventions happen. What doesn't change however, is human nature.
Which is kind of a long intro into Thursday's vote... Interestingly enough, in 1992 I was editor of the staff magazine at a large multi national. Before the 92 election I penned an article (never published) on what I considered to be the biggest non-issue of the ballot - the EC, as then was, the EU now. My view was that all three main parties supported membership and that the issue wasn't discussed. I wanted to know who I could vote for to express my point of view.
And my point of view on the EU has been pretty consistent for about 30 years, ever since Jacques Delors came to TUC congress in 1988 and persuaded the left to support a supra-national, non democratic way of getting their domestic agenda imposed on Thatcher's Britain. I was appalled at the willingness of many 'progressives' to jettison their mistrust of a non-democratic, corporatist club in order to win some baubles (The Social Chapter). Denied the ability to introduce their policies in the UK due to the good sense of the British public, they decided to go over the public's head.
And at the time I supported the ends but not the means. For, I reasoned back then, what happens if this benign dictatorship does something I don't like? How do I change that? How do you veto it? How can you change the leadership? Of course now, 2016, I support neither the ends nor the means. I'm a bit of a purist on this - Britain should decide its government and its policies for the good of Britain. If we don't like it, or the government make a mess of it, we can chuck them out. To me, the symbol of Britain's democracy has never been Big Ben, Parliament, our free press and courts but, on the morning following an election, a removal van. A van bustling out the departing Prime Minister, so powerful just the day before but now, scuttling peacefully away at the will of the people.
That my friends is democracy. We just got that back.
To those bitching on Facebook, starting petitions; basically throwing their toys out of the pram, I say this, accept the result, move on and embrace the new opportunities we now have to forge our way in the world. We have many friends across the world, a well used language and, despite the EU elites being angry, many envious - non fascist - friends across Europe. Never forget, the Dutch and French also had their referenda in 2005. Both voted no to The Lisbon Treaty. Both were ignored. When democratic means no longer work, non democratic means become the logical solution. We have escaped that (though some people don't realise it). Let's hope my good friends in Europe get the chance (again) to have self-governing peaceful democracies.
Today I resigned from Facebook. It's an amplified version of that 1992 pub conversation my friends and I had following John Major's win. Back in those days you had to win arguments - now you just signal arguments. I think we've lost something.
Sign here to petition Parliament to remove David Lammy the Labour MP who has actually suggested ignoring the results of the referendum. Not only is it stupid and laughable but dangerous. This man is not fit to be an MP. Thanks to the great Rod Liddle for starting this.