Open Letter on the EU Referendum by Barbara Nadel

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This is a letter from one Working Class UK nobody to a load of other Working Class UK nobodies. The rest of you can read it too, I’m not fussy.

It’s like this: You, me and all the rest of us are lumped together into some sort of ugly mass characterised by benefits, drugs, tattoos and an addiction to Greggs. We all know we’re as diverse as the rest of society, but it’s easier for those ‘up there’ to think of us in terms of chips and fags because those things are simple to sneer at. And even though they’ll tell you that they respect your ‘culture’, they don’t. Do they care, up there, about your background, your colour, your sexuality? No, they care about your class. In this country, that’s the thing. So don’t be fooled. Hang on to what you know, which is that we are just as diverse as they are. We have our bright sparks, our movers and shakers, our spongers, our sick, our mad and our intellectuals, just like they do. Do not conform to identikit images of loud-mouthed chavs, you’re not them any more than I am. It’s a trap.

So how does the EU referendum fit in with this? Well, some people are claiming to know what we want more than we know it ourselves. Good old beer drinking, fag smoking Nigel Farage for instance. Went to public school, but he’s just like us. No he isn’t. I’d not be surprised if he hates beer and thinks fags are rank. What he is, is manipulative and as contemptuous of us as any braying talking head at a North London dinner party. He’s worked in finance for God’s sake.

Then there’s Boris. Some of his ancestors were immigrants and he’s such a laugh! Yes, they were. Upper class immigrants. God forbid that we should take in people from abroad like us. More buggers sitting about eating chips and watching Jeremy Kyle on the telly. As for being a laugh, Boris is probably the most ambitious man in the country which may or may not be a laugh. But remember that both Thatcher and Blair were a bit on the ambitious side too, and how well did that all end up for us?

But then we know all this because we’re not stupid. They’ll tell us that we are, indirectly. They’ll tell us that we need looking after because it suits them. They’ll tell us they can give us what we want because, of course, they know what we want, don’t they. No. They know what they want us to want. And they’ll give it to us. Maybe. If it suits. But then maybe they’ll give us nothing.

‘Freed’ from countries like France who instituted same-sex marriage in 2013, who have abolished the death penalty and who ‘allow’ their people to protest freely on their streets, we can trade with regimes who kill their citizens for being LGBT and class an assembly of anything more than three people on their streets, a riot. OK I know we trade with these people anyway, but if our relationship with Europe weakens, that trade with increase. We will become more reliant upon people who do these terrible things and we will have to shut up about their human rights short-comings. And you know what? The people these regimes are gassing, shooting and chopping up, are just like us.

You think that regimes who kill people for being LGBT would kill their president or their monarch if he or she was LGBT? Are you having a laugh? Of course not. That’s not the way it works. That death stuff is for us. It’s who you are that matters. Whose blood runs in your veins, where you went to school, how much money you’ve got and how much contempt you can show for us. Again, it’s a trap.

I’m not going to tell anyone how to vote on the 23rd. Disagree with me. It’s OK. You can disagree with me as I have no power. All I can do is tell you I believe we’re walking into a trap here. The world is fucking dangerous at the moment and we need our friends. They can be difficult and maddening at times, but the other Europeans, I believe, are our friends. They also share the values we’ve all protested and died for in the last sixty years. None of us want another war, none of us want anyone to die for what they believe or end up in prison for their dislike of some bonkers autocrat. We don’t want to build walls between us – again – (take note Mr Trump) and we never, ever want to let people die even if that does mean they have to join us on the Jeremy Kyle sofa and share our tea-bags.

We are still the people who came out on strike against falling wages and shit conditions in 1926, who fought for universal suffrage at the beginning of the 20th century and who need to see, again, that division is not our friend. It’s the old class trap, again. I know it’s boring and it’s stupid but I didn’t make the rules. None of us did.

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