Alan Newman seeks redemption for his actions of June 1975 - it is now June 2016.
Alan Newman remembered walking the four hundred yards to his local polling station and casting his first ever eligible vote, in favour of continuing membership of the Common Market; it was June the fifth, 1975.
Alan had studied politics at 'A' Level, including The European Communities Act 1972, which amongst other things, made provision for the accession of the United Kingdom to the European Communities and gave some European law, primacy over domestic legislation. Knowing his passion for politics, his Mother had taken him to a local Chamber of Trade meeting hosted by the local Member of Parliament and he had shone. The MP, reddish in face and oozing self importance, lectured the local businessmen on the perils of the Economic Community; it was rhetoric and very short on facts, Alan had taken the opportunity to contradict him, quoting verbatim from the Act. At that precise moment Alan had felt proud, striking a blow for progressive youth against the regressive tyranny of the establishment, against the check shirt and the Royal Marine regimental tie and blazer that had sat in front of him. He also remembered the moments after his triumph, the long silence, the vitriolic stare, the coldness that swept through his body as he felt the contemptuous eye of the politician fixed upon him.
'Son, there is no doubt you have studied well and are more than familiar with the European Communities Act,' began the MP. 'You have the alacrity of youth but also a young mans naivety. The Common Market is a not an economic blueprint but a political ambition. It will not be a democracy but a bureaucracy in which the will of the people will be subsumed and curtailed by a political elite. Old empires will decline behind a veil of protectionism as the rest of the world springs forward. I fear it is already too late - that the die is cast.The best we can hope for is that your generation, in repentance, in years to come, will have one chance, just one chance to redeem yourselves. If it occurs, you must grasp the opportunity, you must not shrink from the forces of the establishment that will range against you.'
His rheumy blue eyes were glazed with tears. He shuffled his papers together and slowly stood up without relinquishing his gaze upon Alan.
'You will see. You will recall my words. I charge you to correct the wrong that will be perpetrated against our country and threaten our nation state. These forces will not relent because they will be the elite forces of self-interest.’
The MP left the room ethereally, head held high, chest out, eyes staring into the distance. As he trod the passage between the audience they turned in their seats to watch his exit. The strange thing, to Alan, was the silence and that no one turned back for some seconds after he had disappeared from view, beyond the swing doors.
On a turnout of sixty-five percent, sixty-seven percent of people voted in favour of continued membership of The Common Market.
Today is June the 23rd, 2016 and the time is 8 am. Alan is now sixty, bald and grey. He pays just £10 for a grade two haircut which takes the barber no more than three minutes, although he kindly spins it out to ten. Scattered around the house are half a dozen pairs of cheap reading glasses, 2.5 strength, to cut down on search time. Sometimes he will forget the word he is just about to use in mid-sentence and hopes no one will notice his improvisation.
Once again he walks to his local polling booth but this time as a political warrior seeking to rectify his grave error forty-one years ago. Poised with his own pen, he carefully reads the question on ballot paper:
"Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"
Alan carefully put his cross in the box titled, "Leave the European Union,” making sure the black ink did not stray outside the perimeter of the little box. With his vote safely ensconced in the ballot box he paused outside on the steps of the polling booth, took a deep breath and exhaled, redemption coursed through his veins. Upon looking around, all was very quiet, nothing happening, except an old lady with two walking sticks making her way to the polling booth. Two - nil, thought Alan and set off in contemplation towards the shops on the way home.
Inside the newsagents, the headline in the Sun caught his eye, "BeLeave in Britain". A faint flicker of hope arose, after all "it was the Sun wot won it" in the 1992 general election for John Major, against all expectations. Why not now? Alan picked up The Daily Telegraph, a huge Union Jack and a picture of the Elizabeth Tower and " Big Ben" took up the whole of the front page. "Now you take control on Europe" was the Telegraph's advice; no surprise there then. A faint surge of patriotism was kindled, but rational thought intruded and it disappeared as quickly as it had arisen. After all, Mr William Hill was still offering odds of 9-1 for a successful leave vote.
'You voting out mate?' said the newsagent as Alan paid his £1.40 then folded and tucked the paper under arm.
'Up early; already have. Fight the fight. Take back control. What about you?'
'Knew you would because of the paper,' he replied insightfully. 'Me, yeah, I'm voting out. Although my Dad came over from India, he always told me I was British. So yeah, out.'
'Good man,' beamed Alan. 'That's three nil to my knowledge. Just need another fifteen million or so, but we're on our way. See you at the street party tomorrow.'
'I'll be there mate, don't you worry. See you tomorrow.'
The referendum campaign had been divisive, pitching friends and members of families against each other, often in heated debate. Alan's other half, Jane, now refused to speak to him on the subject, citing him as a bore, a racist and a dinosaur. The strangest aspect was the generational split, or rather the antipathy felt by the young towards anyone over sixty. They considered their future was threatened by the 'old' and many wondered why 'old' people should have a vote at all. Alan reflected that they should have been taught modern history and worry less about mobile roaming charges and never going to the continent again on holiday.
Everybody in the world was against the misguided miscreants who wanted to leave the European Union. Step forth The President of the United States, The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, The Prime Minister, The Prime Minister of Australia, The Chancellor of the Exchequer, most of The Cabinet, The Civil Service, Whitehall, a vast majority of the huge corporations, The City and the splendid, nay fabulous, Governor of the Bank of England. All these and more, decried the economic illiteracy of the 'Little Englanders" and rained down plague and pestilence upon Brexiteers.
The saddest moment of the campaign was the savage murder of Jo Cox, MP for West Yorkshire, struck down on June the 16th by a maniac. An attempt was made to link the rhetoric of the Leave side to her killing, Alan considered whether he had helped to pull a more than metaphorical trigger.
After a thirty year struggle Alan had recently closed his betting shop; he was unemployed and unemployable. He reflected how strange it was, that of all his previous customers only one was going to vote Remain, yet the betting odds in favour of Remain were prohibitive. During the day he conducted various errands but each time he stepped onto the pavement he was fated to bump into a neighbour. Most knew he was an ardent Brexiteer and as house owners in an area of inflated prices, they were all voting Remain. Until recently they had bombarded Alan with predictions of Armageddon if we left the EU, viewing him as the enemy within, somewhat surprised at his ignorance. Now, with the world proclaiming a Remain victory, their fears had dissipated and they hailed him cheerily, benevolent victors showing mercy to those already vanquished. Obviously he had taken leave of his senses but would be fully restored to sanity in the morning.
It would seem his days as an armchair pundit were now numbered. By early tomorrow morning his political views would be rendered irrelevant, quashed by an omniscient political elite. He would be yesterday's man, swallowed up by the brave new global world that transcended the individual and communities. Despite hectoring anybody
and everybody over forty years, his warning of an Orwellian future would finally become untenable to the mainstream. The people will have spoken and history would record the exact moment when the United Kingdom ceased to be a nation state.