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BREXIT Episode Two - Never Ignore the Will of the People

Episode Two - Bradford, Yorkshire, UK

Over my first few days I met people from all walks of life. Politicians from both sides of the political divide, the working class white English, Asians and Eastern Europeans. What I learned was this; there may have been great poverty, but as we say in English, there wasn’t poverty of mind. People were deeply informed and profoundly honest.

'I worked for 51 years and finally retired. And now I have nothing left’

I walked down an old paved street, overgrown as nature seemed to be reclaiming it. It was empty of life but full of litter and dirt - as though people had given up. A man came out of his house to talk to me. He was trying desperately to sell his home and move to a new area. He had lived there for forty years - but since the eastern European migrants have moved in, house prices had crashed by 40%. He said, ‘I worked for 51 years and finally retired. And now I have nothing left’. We have a saying, ‘An englishman’s home is his castle’. It was difficult to argue as I looked around at the filthy street, that this man didn’t have the right to be resentful.

John Pennington is the Conservative Councillor for Bradford. He is a Brexiteer. In his words ‘The sooner we get out of Europe and take back control, the better. As a nation we have a history of coming together through adversity, there is absolutely no reason why we won’t make a success of this’. I wanted to say, ‘Yes, but what about the fact that Europe has finally been at peace for 70 years?’ but he said his goodbyes before I could speak, and started knocking on people’s doors, campaigning for the local elections. Politicians know when to leave.

John Pennington, the Conservative Councillor for Bradford
Conservative and Labour Councillors, out campaigning for upcoming local government elections.

Everyone I spoke with was fed up with the media, and it’s clear from the conversations I had with people, that what were reading and hearing from news channels, was simply not the truth. When I was in Afghanistan, reporters would fly in for three days, make a song and dance about what was really happening there, and then fly back to their ‘ivory tower’ in New York or whatever. I used to hate them; they had their story planned before they ever arrived - they were just part of some great elitist proxy. That's how it felt to me anyway, and it was how people here felt.

There are times when I miss my country, the subtle stuff that you can’t see or hear, but you feel it because you are the same. And I understood my people. I really felt their anger. Because it was an intelligent anger. When I listen to how the European media reports on Brexit, I sometimes find that anger rising in me, and I become even more English as a result. It was the same message again and again from the people I met, ‘we don’t trust the Government, we don’t trust big business and we don’t trust Europe’ - and here’s the weird thing, when I questioned them, they responded like professors of political science and you were knocked over by their knowledge. And maybe it’s why I stopped listening to politicians and the news years ago.

I think I became in danger of being confused and annoyed in those first few days. After so many conversations, I was beginning to see Brexit differently. Living in a nice apartment in Paris, protects you from the truth of the lives of ordinary working class people. I felt unsure.

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© Martin Middlebrook | All Rights Reserved

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