The 24th of June 2016 sees the UK collectively place one foot over the edge of a precipice whilst dragging the other foot along for the ride. A moment preceded by weeks of repulsive rhetoric, and politics toxic enough to wrench apart the delicate tapestry of a worryingly divided society.
One of the key figures of the campaign to ‘get our country back’ is of course Nigel Farage. A man who appears to be the result of an unfortunate coupling between Rosa Klebb and Toad of Toad Hall. He stands firmly at the crest of a wave of far right politics which I fear could break across Europe in the wake of a UK withdrawal.
Whilst it is without doubt that the 48% will fight this onslaught of debased views, and hopefully some of the 52% will see the truth of this man and his cronies, there are other battles to fight in what begins to feel like a war.
The Euro ’16 football tournament has seemed an oddity in the recent climate and for me highlighted something sad. The violence of a sliver of ‘England’ supporters served as a reminder that the George Cross is a symbol of nationalism and hatred; bastardised and subverted to the point I would be ashamed to bear it in public. This symbol of England or ‘Britishness’ no longer belongs to me. What it is to be British will mean a different thing to all of us but for the most part I’m sure that it can be agreed that it does not encompass xenophobia, racism or bigotry.
Farage has consistently done his utmost to exploit the immortal nostalgia for ‘days gone by’, for spitfires and derring do to convince so many that the national identity is under attack from foreigners; it isn’t. It is under attack from him and those who follow him and whilst Johnson and Gove entered into this to further their own slimy personal agendas I fear the aims of UKIP are far more sinister.
All of this brings me, as most thing do, to the pub.
Take a quick moment to Google Farage now and go to the image results. Without having to scroll down you’ll see Nigel there, pint in hand, in a pub; in fact one of the suggested additional searches is ‘pint’ as is the word ‘tweed’.
Now Nigel can keep the tweed; any clothing that uses piss in its manufacture I’m happy to give a miss. But he can get his rancid little claws away from pubs and pints right away.
Not only should the pub never become synonymous with his brand of thinly veiled fascism but it should be used to repel it. Pubs are warm, open and friendly places. A ‘public house’ should be just that; a space where all are welcome, to laugh, to drink and to share their common humanity.
Defend the pub as a bastion of what is beautiful about this country in being a melting pot of thoughts, cultures and ideas stretching back for centuries. Talk to new people there, listen to them, try to understand them and the challenges they face and seek some common ground.
In his ‘victory’ speech Farage sneered about pulling us out of the EU ‘without a bullet being fired’. He’s wrong. Three bullets were fired into a woman who had dedicated her adult life to a belief ‘that there is more that unites us than divides us’. An act carried out by a man who was most likely spurred on by the messages of hate and fear for those who are different.
Let the pub be where we rediscover the value in one another and where we work our way forward. Let there be no place in there for hatred or fear. Let Nigel know that the pub is ours and that he, his lies and his followers can frankly, bugger off.