Brexit Watersheds

I’m fascinated by the period of time when Sixties radicalism realised it had failed to paint it black: the slouch away from Babylon marked by Withnail, The White Album, Altamont and Francis Wheen’ s Strange Days Indeed. A time described by Hunter S Thompson as “where you could see the ring of scum from the high-tide mark slowly appear, clinging to Californian hills as the dream drained” 
I think we’re living in a similar phase of history, but with that other baby-boomer concept in fast retreat: right-wing nationalism.
A year ago it appeared a tsunami; after a surprise 2015 election, the shock of Brexit. I was abroad when it happened, and spent the days following talking to other Europeans on the same Greek Island: Dutch concerned it would now break the dykes and flood their lowlands; Germans shocked at the poison they’d tirelessly drawn from their system for 8 decades was now being enthusiastically injected straight into an artery; French worried that as the channel closed, the wave would sweep East onto their beaches with Marine Le Pen elevated on the crest of foamed breakers.
Yet a year on, it looks like Brexit was the peak. Yes, it swept across the ocean, taking time to smash into Atlantic seaboards, but when it did it was diminished. Trump failed to get the popular vote, and was elected fatally wounded; his presidency limping along, bleeding out.
Le Pen, Wilders and many others touted in 2016 as the fresh face of democratic fascism have proven to be as robust as paper flag topped sandcastles.
UKIP are failed, and disintegrating fast. Yes, they have been largely absorbed by the Tories, but after a ‘Brexit election’ proved to be easily turned towards the social inequity that the right wing thought we could be distracted from with patriotic chest-beating. 
Boris Johnson increasingly looks less like the clubbable, charmingly-unkempt funnyman we always knew he wasn’t, and more like the nasty, self-preserving fuckwit he truly is. 
May is finished, after her tilt towards codifying the Tory belief in their divine right to rule. Andrea Leadsom revealing demands broadcasters support the government out of  patriotic duty. Davis looking like a mouse cornered by the European Bueracats he has long held irrational hate for.
A year on, it feels like we can breathe again. The young have stood up and shown they cannot be  dismissed again. Corbyn has crossed over to the mainstream, and now feels like a credible leader. Left-wing critiques on issues are being debated when previously the media wouldn’t touch such perspectives.  Half of all Sun readers didn’t vote.
It’s probably a reversion to the mean, a settling to sea-level. Liberal democracy has a way of doing that. As for Brexit? The day after the referendum, I was in a taxi after a day swimming in warm Greek seas. “We voted no, but we didn’t leave” the driver told us “You see, that will happen to your country”. I thought that as likely as breathing under water. Now it feels increasingly possible. We’re no longer swimming upstream. We’re winning.

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Shower of Soubs

For someone who was doing his very best to not write about the forthcoming election, I’m not doing too well. With my actual job, my freelance work, running The Beestonian and spending as much time I can with my beautiful son, I don’t really have time to write.

Yet I’m finding time today after one of the most revealing, nasty thing happened courtesy of Anna Soubry, who, as readers of this blog know, is no fan of mine. I revealed recently that she actually living in Leicestershire, despite promising many many times to move to Broxtowe. This has, I hear, really got under her skin.

I was taking my son for a walk in Beeston today, picking up the new copy of The Beestonian and generally enjoying the summer weather. I saw Soubry on the High Street. This is like Bill Oddie spying a dodo in his back yard. She’d actually deigned to descend on the town she clearly dislikes.

I thought it might make an amusing photo op, so i popped into Poundland and picked up a white board, wrote ‘LIVES IN CHARNWOOD’ on it and asked my friend Christopher to take a photo of my holding it behind her. He agreed, I stood a few feet to her rear and the photo was taken. At this point she span round, recognised me then said something quite extraordinary.

“You’re a horrible man. You’re horrible to everyone. You’re very horrible to you mother”

Boom.

I best give some context, without washing too much dirty laundry in public. A few years ago, I decided to cut off contact with my parents. This was a very tough thing to do, but a necessary decision. Years of emotional abuse and a childhood of physical abuse had done a lot of damage, and continued to eat at me. Having a clean break was startlingly effective. I have only just really started exploring it in my head. Having my own child has given immense clarity: I was terrified of having a boy in case I was to him what my parents were to me. Man passes misery on to man / it deepens like an ocean shelf, as the Humberside miserabilist had it.  But when he came along, my past fell away, and my future began. I loved him with every fibre of my existence, and that has only grown. My life would course differently. No ocean shelves of misery, no punches and kicks. I could only see love, pure love. I was cleansed of my past.

But to Anna it is fair game. Back in 2015, she mentioned my mother on social media on knowing it was a raw point. I wrote to her asking her to decline, as it was a low blow. She told me to man up.

So I was on the street, trembling with rage. What sort of person sinks that low? I decided I had to get her to clarify it, so I started filming on my phone and approached her again.

…and shot five seconds of my feet before mistaking the pause button for the record. I will instead give an account in words.

I approach the shonky politician “Anna” I ask her “Could you explain why you bought my family up just then? Why did you do that?”

Anna sees me, and turns from the camera. First for everything, I suppose.

I ask again. Her activist goons start crowding round me, trying to block the camera and telling me to move on. But I need an answer. I need to know why she feels she can do this to people.

I do a rather deft feint, and sidestep the blue-rosetted huddle trying to get round me. Suddenly I’m face to face with her. Her face contorts into a sneer. That often sounds a bit over-dramatic when people say that, and often refers only to a half-smile. But this is a sneer, a full, nasty, incisor-glistening sneer “Why don’t you get a job, you horrible layabout?”

Well, I have a job. I have several jobs, and have to now turn down work. I tell her this and she says ‘A real job, you lazy boy”.

I aspire to laziness, I really do. As it is, I’m up at dawn with the baby, work all day then do my share of the cooking and cleaning when i get back. I also run the magazine, contribute to a podcast, run local charity events, oversee several online community forums, volunteer for the local Civic Society, and lots of other stuff I could be doing now instead of typing this.

I ask  her to retract what she said about my family. She calls me a ‘loony’.

“Your mother has every right to think you are a despicable boy” Boy! I’m 43. The condescension is strong on this one. I am agog.

“I’m going to call the police” she tells me “They’ll have fun with you” (?)

I tell her she can call them, but first will she retract.

“You’re not worth it, rubbish like you” she shouts back.

Her activists are now crowding round me. One tries to be ultra-reasonable and ays ‘You’re obviously upset” and tries to shepherd me away. Another digs me in the kidneys from behind, making me jump.

I decide that i am not going to get an answer from her, and I am upset and shocked and utterly not going to get any form of apology for a remorseless, nasty Soubry.

The activist goons help speed me away. I can’t help but swear at this point “You’re a shower of shit” is my rather crap parting shot.

I go off and see my wife upset, as she can see what happens. We find coffee and a sit down. I go to check the footage. My mouth dry with fading adrenalin. I discover i can’t work my new phone and the footage is of my, appropriately enough, foot. A wave of depression blacks over my mind. It lifts when I later feed my baby, and I realise that I am blessed.

Soubry? I pity her. She is so lost in her nastiness, her sneering, senseless nastiness she shows how perfect she is in a party that uses hate, smears and fear to rouse their voters.