Let’s not mince words. Thursday’s vote was both cataclysmic and catastrophic for the UK. Paul Krugman doesn’t think the economic fallout will be as bad as some fear, but the political consequences might be severe. He doesn’t consider the incalculable social damage which is already being wrought.
I grew up in a predominantly white British city in the 1980s. I was spat on and called P*** on more occasions that I care to remember. So did my Ma, who worked in the sorting offices of the Royal Mail and local supermarkets. My parents owned a confectionary shop which they had to close after the windows were smashed in by skinheads.
Johnson and Gove are wrong to believe that the Leave vote has taken the “wind out of the sails” of UKIP extremists. It has done the opposite, and we already have evidence of a torrent of post-Brexit racism. It will give them succour. As Gary Younge rightly points out, there’s nothing wrong with talking about immigration, it’s how you do it that matters.
My fear is that the vote has returned us to a level of debate about immigration and granted a license to racism that hasn’t existed since the 1980s. In the course of a toxic and vile referendum campaign, we have likely set the cause of racial equality and multiculturalism back decades.
In my book The Future of Multicultural Britain I warned, with depressing prescience, that the British Left’s belief that engaging in debates about national identity and immigration were beneath them would have dire consequences. Now we know just how dire.
I now have a three-year old son whose world is monster trucks and emergency vehicles. His best friend is an earnest Spanish boy, and the two of them are inseparable. His parents future in Britain is under threat now, but so is ours. Life for ethnic minority Britains -even those who voted Leave – will be much worse if we leave the EU.