nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

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It was very kind of ol’ Postman Vince to remind us exactly how those wanting to return to a blue-passport-white-faced-pink-empired nation have condemned us to the Brexit pickle we find ourselves in. Obviously, there are always exceptions to the rule but broadly speaking, the north voted out, the south voted in, Scotland voted in, England voted out, the old voted out, the young voted in. And we are where we are. We all know this but the real value would be in trying to appreciate exactly why these people, my people, your people, wanted to return us to this nostalgic utopia? It’s wrong for each side to dismiss the other as mere idiots and it would be wise to attempt to understand the causes that made them vote the way they did.

The late 70s, 80s and early 90s changed Britain dramatically. During this turbulent period, industrial and manufacturing jobs fell from seven million to less than five and over 90% of these were north of an imaginary line running from the Wash in the East to the Severn in the West. Whilst deindustrialisation wasn’t all her fault, the fact that Thatcher was in power for much of this time should not be lost on anyone and the impact of Government policy hit hardest the traditionally left-leaning communities of northern society. Industries disappeared, skills were lost, traditions ended, community cohesion lessened, societal values evaporated and ambition drained away.

Employment & social pressures were further exacerbated when, in 2004, Labour opened the UK labour market to eight EU countries that had only just joined. Approximately 5-10,000 migrants were expected to take up the kind offer; as it turned out, 130,000 snatched our proverbial hand-off. It speaks volumes that (with hindsight) we didn’t need to do it this as the vast majority of fellow EU members, including both France & Germany, failed to follow suit. Both these situations led to a disenfranchised and increasing isolated minority. Which was about to become a majority.

A couple of years ago, the German beauty I was sharing my life with, bet me that at some point in time during each and every day there would be a programme on the tele about Herr Hitler. And for the week we monitored it, she was right and we named it the ‘Dam Busters’ effect. What is our preoccupation with the World Wars, and the 1966 World Cup for that matter, all about? I’m pretty certain it feeds our misguided belief of a level of difference, individuality, of moral superiority, of the underdog punching above its weight. Come and have a go, Junckers, if you think you’re hard enough! We will fight the red tape of European bureaucracy, and their weights & measures, Canute-like on the beach…

The other issue is today’s need for a simplistic answer, a yes or no, a black or white. In or out. Our nature dictates this and is highlighted by our pugnacious, belligerent and confrontation style, and it was fed by an overly complacent and simplistic referendum. I feel this also goes some way to explaining our aversion to anything that approaches proportional representation: compromise, who me, work with someone towards a common goal? Over my dead body. The only positive I can draw is that we are now having the informed and intelligent debate we should have had two years ago and it’s too late now. The simplistic approach adopted by the ‘out’ campaign has been shown to be woefully uniformed, matched only by the complacent view of the Eton elite.

Those with a penchant for the rose-tinted ‘Call The Midwife’ yesteryear need to tune into two more recent BBC sitcoms to observe a slightly more relevant representation of today’s green and pleasant land. This Country and the Detectorists are both set in the modern day British countryside, the former, written in a docu-drama manner, follows the trials and tribulations of under-achieving Kerry and Kurton Mucklowe, bored, restless, jobless and a bit dim, as they struggle to find their way in the world. The portrayal of rural teenage life is as hard-hitting as it is witty. The Detectorists on the other hand is a softer, quiet, restrained and supremely well-observed pageant in which Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones weave a magical, almost mystical, tale of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club’s search for buttons, musket-balls, Tizer ring-pulls from the 70s and the mayor’s ceremonial chain.

Both, in making molehills into mountains, clearly highlight the issues faced by the indigenous, local communities of our little Britain, including lack of opportunity, unemployment, business failure, insecurity, introspection, an aging population, housing & house price inflation, relationship breakdown, fractious friendships and the overall sh*g & hassle of modern-day life. Thankfully, they’re superbly written, hilarious beyond expectation and pointedly display we’re a droll, facetious, self-deprecating and (deep down) self-aware bunch of silly b*ggers and, come what may, we will make the best of the cards we’ve undeniably dealt ourselves. Not to mention our unexplainable liking for khaki and camouflage and British Leyland sports cars of a certain vintage…