Having been in charge of the campaign to keep the UK in the European Union in one of the largest boroughs of London I was devastated by the result. The polls, the bookies, the markets and we ourselves all thought Remain would win. The fact that the Leave camp went back on every major campaign pledge they made within 24 hours of the results just made this defeat more galling.
Almost all liberals, progressives and outward looking people had supported Remain. The fact that we lost the vote said something pretty depressing about my country. Imagine waking up to a Trump victory? There’s been a 57% rise in reported xenophobic and racist attacks since the results of the vote were announced.
The Brexit vote has left the future of the UK very uncertain. The pound hit a 31 year low earlier this week, UK bank stocks have fallen by up to 24% on fears that they will no longer be able to operate across Europe and the FTSE 250 which covers the domestic economy is down almost 10%. Several firms have said they are making plans to move staff out of the UK. The City of London, the world’s largest financial centre and a source of massive tax revenues for the UK government is under threat.
There are strong parallels between supporters of Donald Trump – white mainly non college educated men who feel their jobs are threatened and wages depressed by immigration and global trade – and those who supported Vote Leave here. Although during the campaign Vote Leave carefully paraded their ethnic minority supporters when the results came through in the counting halls you could see most of their supporters were white. Brexit, opposed by every major political party, is a massive f**k you from the white working class vote to the political establishment.
The only good thing that has emerged is that a cross party alliance of politicians, trades unionists and the general public, many of them young, was formed which supported us being in the EU, transcending the tribalism of British politics.
And from my personal point of view, the Referendum campaign – which involved me organising up to 70 events a week and in charge of a team of 100 volunteers – has been incredibly good for my recovery. I was described as a brilliant organiser and great with people by my bosses at Britain Stronger in Europe and discovered I had management skills I never knew I had. Although unsuccessful nationally, my local area voted 60% Remain, as did London as a whole which my boss said I had played a part in.
I have been extremely disorganised for most of my life. The only management job I had while I was working at the BBC was failing to organise a tea round. While I was training to be a reporter I made an incredibly poignant documentary about the bombing of a Jewish Centre in Argentina in 1994. Unfortunately I left it in the back of a cab in Buenos Aires and never saw it again. I then went on a reporting trip to cover the war in Sudan leaving half my equipment on the plane that went back to Kenya. I didn’t notice this omission for two days. When I was doing showbiz reporting in the late 90s I would have a curling tong crisis and would often miss the start of an event. Then I would be so keen to get the right library pictures for a report that it would be ready a week after it was due on air. In Jamaica I scored a massive coup becoming the only foreign journalist allowed into the country’s one women’s prison. But I did no preparation for this expose and when I got into the prison my microphone was as dead as a goat’s testicle floating in a Jamaican stew. The last documentary I did for the BBC collapsed as my mind was turned into confetti by snorting cocaine 22 hours a day.
For the past eleven and a half years I have been in recovery I have supported myself from the income from my rental properties. I have done many building projects, some very large, but have spent most of the time writing about mental health and addiction. I have never worked for anyone.
But I have now decided that my organisational skills are wasted on just blogging, writing novels and going to meetings and therapy appointments. I was never involved in politics before the Referendum campaign. But I was passionately concerned about Britain’s relationship with Europe and had to try to stop Brexit. The Referendum campaign, with its constant interaction with voters, has shown me that I love politics and I have now been asked to stand for office by a major political party.
I am not joking when I say my ultimate aspiration is to become the UK’s Minister for Mental Health – the first government minister to openly admit they snorted cocaine 22 hours a day. I have written a bio and brushed up my CV. But given the political chaos the UK is now in, with leadership contests in both major political parties, I do not know if now is the time I can start working with the government. I will probably end up working for a mental health charity.
The Referendum campaign has also been good for my recovery in other ways. Despite oodles of treatment, meetings and therapy I have struggled to love myself in Recovery. But after the Referendum I was so pleased with my achievements I thought “I do actually love myself.” After existing in a bubble of non drinking 12 Step Fellowship people for most of my recovery, I have now had heavy exposure to people who drink. Every meeting and get together during the campaign took place in a pub or a bar. Everyone was drinking around me and I was not affected at all. When offered a drink I said to most people that I didn’t drink. There were only a few I told about my former alcoholism and cocaine addiction. But now I know I can happily socialise, work and even date people who drink without any problems at all. Politics is a heavy drinking culture but I am confident I can manage this fine. This opens up a wide range of jobs and opportunities to me. The new job whether in politics or a charity will be my “bridge to normal living” which AA talks about. My only stipulation is that I don’t want to have alcohol in my home.
On the romantic front things are a bit less rosy. Despite being 11 and a half years clean I still only seem to be attracted to addicts who have a background in drug dealing or drug smuggling. I have been searching, unsuccessfully, for Mr Right for the past four months. But when I did actually meet him, another volunteer in Britain Stronger in Europe, although I fancied him at first I went off him as he wasn’t dangerous or unavailable. I am going to do an intensive two week work shop with my best friend in recovery trying to work through and free from my attraction to these unavailable men which has plagued me all my life. I am also determined to pursue a friendship with Mr Right. As they say in AA I will fake it to make it, hoping I start fancying him again.
You may notice that my hair looks different in the initial photograph. After decades of covering my hair every time a speck of rain fell from the sky and amassing a collection of 10,000 hats I have now said goodbye to what Jamaicans call “Dry wedder ‘ead” and have let my hair go into its natural Afro state. For those of you unfamiliar with the politics of black hair this is not a small thing. Apart from when I had a nervous breakdown two years ago and couldn’t do my hair the last time I had my natural hair was when I was 16. Water and damp once the enemies of my hair are now my friends creating greater “definition” in my curls. I was very pleased when someone asked me if I was Jamaican the other day.
Despite my romantic problems, (and because of my new hair) the future looks brighter for me than it does for the UK. The options for the UK seem to be leaving the EU and its single market of 500 million people entirely in order to have complete control of immigration, an option favoured by the hardliners of the Leave campaign. It was controlling immigration that was the single issue that won Vote Leave the Referendum.
The other option for the UK, favoured by Remain campaigners, is the Norway option. Norway and Switzerland are not members of the EU but have full access to the single market and accept freedom of movement from other EU states. Freedom of movement is impossible for the UK to accept because of the results of the Referendum. The UK is therefore trying to negotiate a deal involving membership of the single market but controlling freedom of movement. This would be a first in Europe and might prompt other states like Switzerland to demand the same possibly causing the break up of the EU. It is therefore being resisted by other European states.
As the Prime Minister resigned when the results of the Referendum became clear, some of the potential Conservative Party leaders have even said they want a second referendum. And there have been protests throughout the country against the outcome of the vote. Well over 4 million Remain supporters have signed a petition calling for a second referendum on the basis that Vote Leave won the vote based on lies. The claim emblazoned on Vote Leave’s Battle bus that the alleged £350 million pounds a week we send to the European Union (actually £140 million a week) will be spent on the National Health Service was retracted immediately after the vote came in. Vote Leave now say they may allow anyone who has a job offer to enter the UK which would mean the hordes of cheap Eastern European workers who’ve flooded into the UK could still come in. British firms, claiming they cannot recruit British workers for low paid jobs now recruit directly from Eastern Europe. But this would enrage Leave supporters.
But the leading contender for the Conservative leadership Home Secretary Theresa May who will likely be the next Prime Minister has said there will be no second referendum and no deal to stay in the EU through the back door. I think a second referendum is highly unlikely.
The big news of the Conservative leadership race is that Boris Johnson leading leave campaigner and former mayor of London has ruled himself out of the race. This was after he was stabbed in the back by fellow leave campaigner, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who said he was not fit to lead. Theresa May is now the clear front runner which could mean a female leader in the United States, Germany and the UK, something I would welcome.
Whoever takes over will have to find a deal that allows control of freedom of movement while trying to retain access to the single market. Otherwise our economy is f*****d.