Will Alan Newman be vanquished by the Referendum result ?
Since the beginning of the referendum campaign Alan had found establishment bias on both Sky and the BBC. He decided to give the BBC and David Dimbleby first advantage, being resolved to change channel immediately he detected any of the usual propaganda.
"Good evening and welcome at the end of this - momentous day, when each one of us, has had the chance to say what kind of country, we want to live in. At ten o'clock the polling stations close after weeks, months, years of argument, and we will have the answer to the question that's haunted British politics for so long. Do we want to be in or out of the EU"? So far so good, no need to change channels yet.
10.00pm and Alan was resigned to the referendum outcome: like a man who has already lost his money in the bookmakers and watches his horse come second again in the video replay. The Education Secretary announces she feels confident and hopeful that Remain will prevail, she appears very relaxed. The leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, is rumoured to have said that it "looks like Remain will edge it" and then not arrived at campaign headquarters. The pound has risen sharply to $1.50 as the polls closed in expectation of a remain vote. Alan's forty year struggle was over, doomed before counting had scarcely begun.
He perked up a little when the prominent leave campaigner James Edward Thomas, known by his acronym, JET is interviewed. JET has been impressed by the very high turnout from council estates, much more than the expected 40%. He thinks the promise of a punishment budget, if Brexit were to win, has hardened the attitude of the 'ordinary man' against the Chancellor. The first mainland result is expected around midnight and a race to declare first has developed between Newcastle and Sunderland. Ballot boxes are pictured being passed urgently along a human chain of students. Newcastle, a university town, is expected to be a healthy result for 'remain' and Sunderland a healthy result for 'leave'.
There are no exit polls because this is a national vote with a single binary result but a YouGov poll shows Remain has it 52% to 48%. Alan listened to an 'eminent' economist, “pound surging.....highest for a year against the dollar.....strongest week for thirty years.....footsie up 1%. All of these based upon the expectation of a remain vote, the markets were speaking."
Almost 10.30 pm and the tea cup is empty. For the last thirty minutes Jane had sat quietly alongside Alan, demonstrating she understood the importance of his big night.
'Cup of tea J'?
'I'll have some Ovaltine and then I think I'll go and read in bed’.
'Don't you find this interesting? I've been waiting some forty years for this day, although looks like we're going to lose’.
'Looks like, you’re going to lose. I want to stay in remember. Anyway, I can't bear all this pontificating. Just get up in the morning and see what the result is. You're not going to change it. You can get on with more important things tomorrow. That light needs fixing,' she pointed accusingly at the offending darkness where a ceiling light should shine out, 'and then there's the wall.'
'I know, but this is historic. Anyway as I told you it will be over by 1 o'clock so I'll come up then - I'll bring your Ovaltine upstairs.'
Back downstairs again and two interesting pundits are being interviewed, an ex-spin doctor from the New Labour administration and a representative of Conservative Home. Unusually it was honest politics, addressing the reality and not point scoring. The Labour man was for Remain, 'nervous' about the high turnout in the council estates, believing the vote was about inequality and division as much as about Europe. The 'Leave' man, from Conservative Home, believed we would see a massive rebellion against the status quo, and that although Nigel Farage thinks Brexit has lost narrowly, leave.com still think they can win. More pundits were reporting peculiar turnouts of up to 80% from the council estates, last seen during the Thatcher election of 1983. Overall turnout was estimated to be significantly higher than the recent general election.
Ten o’clock and Alan thought all was lost, but now reports of a high turnout were creating some uncertainty and kindling a slight flicker of hope within his chest. The eastern side of the country was the most affected by immigration, with employment, housing, schools and health facilities all under pressure. He checked the betting, Remain still long odds on. He checked the pound, still high. Then at almost 11.00pm Nigel Farage "unconceeds".
Suddenly a large snorting noise shook Alan awake. He had fallen asleep and the large snorting noise could only have emanated from himself, the only other person in the room being an ex Liberal Democrat leader, who was crying foul against the ‘lying’ Leave campaign. Alan checked the time and was gratified to find the action was still to begin. A rapidly made cup of tea and he was back in front of the television, just as the returning officer for Newcastle began her declaration; it was one minute before midnight.
'The total number of ballot papers counted was 129,072; the total number of votes cast in favour of Remain was 65,404; the total number of votes cast in favour of Leave was 63,598'.
Alan suspected his hearing, was he having an auditory hallucination? But there was the BBC visual, 50.7% for Remain and 49.3% for Leave, on a turnout of 67.7%. Immediately after the result the hall was subdued, just one foolish youth cheering the Remain victory before Leave voters noisily reflected the potential significance. He leant forward towards the screen and still nothing changed, it was supposed to be a comfortable win for Remain but they had scraped in by no more than a short head.
Barely daring to hope, Alan realised this result may be no more than a dramatic outlier and that further indication was needed. In the background various experts were now discussing the preponderance of postal votes made by older people who were more likely to vote leave. His internal focus was upon the upcoming vote from Sunderland, geographically adjacent to Newcastle. Nissan has a huge car factory in Sunderland which directly employs almost seven thousand people and is almost 45% owned by Renault, which itself is part owned by the French state. Although supposedly pro Brexit, Alan could not see Sunderland producing a huge Leave vote - turkeys do not vote for Christmas.
12.16am and straight over to the declaration in Sunderland. Once again Alan was scarcely believing, 61% leave and 39% remain on a solid turnout of 65%: the good people of Sunderland had put national identity before economic advantage. An iconic scene, as an attractive middle aged blonde lady in a pink T-shirt is carried shoulder high amidst a posse of fifty-something year old men, all cheering loudly. A faint feeling of patriotism arose within Alan, he was proud of the people of Sunderland, he was proud that they had a sense of belonging.
Two text messages announced themselves in quick succession. The first from Paul, his ex-employee, 'Game on!' was the exultation. The second from Winston, an estate agent friend, 'f...ing C2's and D's they'll put me out of business!' Whatever side you were on there was no doubt the outcome was now an unknown. Remain was still favourite on Betfair but only just, even the foreign exchange markets had become nervous with Stirling 6% down after the Sunderland vote.
Alan was transfixed, an unfounded confidence was growing inside him: was complete redemption was now at hand? He consciously checked his exuberance, mumbling to himself, 'you haven't won until the weigh in.' The pundits and politicians came and went but a realisation was dawning on even the most ardent Remainer that something special needed to happen to save the day. North and the East coast results continued to produce wider than expected margins for Leave whilst other results showed Lerave a point or two higher than expected. The Remain hope was London would produce a huge bias in their favour. More tea was needed to stay awake.
Just after 2.00am, and the likelihood of Leave winning is reflected on Betfair as they become favourite. Alan was listening to a New Labour aide blaming the Prime Minister for making a mistake and holding the referendum, now a senior Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist were espousing the same sentiment. Alan was now part of the television panel, and raised his voice so he could talk over the other pundits. 'Forty years! Forty years of national debate and you think it's wrong to hold a referendum'. He paused, they were not taking any notice and so he continued. 'Arrogance! Arrogance has nothing to do with it. - Ignorance, ignorance, that would be it. You all know better do you? You didn't want a referendum because democracy is not in your remit.'
He paused, the two politicians he was berating were nowhere to be seen. A cursory look around the room confirmed his splendid isolation, but nevertheless, he felt a strange glow of embarrassment. Just for a moment he doubted his own sanity, but only for a moment, he sat quietly and recovered his composure.
The leader of the unofficial leave.eu campaign thinks they have won as does a senior Conservative Leave MP and although Alan feels confident, he cannot relax. At 2.20pm his reticence is justified as first Lambeth and then soon after Wandsworth deliver big majorities for Remain. A renaissance is lit within the Remain camp but soon extinguished as results from outer London check the necessary momentum for them to win. The night is concluding and within England it seems that the only geographical region to vote remain is London: a capital estranged from its country.
Towards 4pm and a significant warning from one of Alan's Conservative Hero's:
'There will be an initial period of bullying, attempts to try and get us to change our minds. The EU is always very reluctant to accept referendums in any country that goes against their wishes.' ................ 'If the European Union is the sort of club, that if you want to leave it, you get kneecapped, its not a club you want to belong to in the first place.'
'Too true,' thought Alan, maybe the fight is only just beginning.
This was quickly followed by the UKIP leader at 4.01am proclaiming: "Ladies and Gentlemen: dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom.....This will be a victory for real people; a victory for ordinary people; a victory for decent people. We have fought against the multinationals, we fought against the big merchant banks, we fought against big politics. We fought against lies, corruption and deceit; and today honesty, decency and belief in nation - I think now - is going to win. And we will have done it without having to fight, without a single bullet being fired, we'd have done it by dammed hard work on the ground ....... Let June the 23rd go down in our history as our Independence Day!"
Alan reflected that without Nigel Farage this historic day would never have occurred, he had begun his crusade in 1992 when resigning from the Conservative Party after the signing of The Maastricht Treaty. He was a founding member of UKIP and had become the most significant politician of the last twenty-five years, proving that not all political careers end in failure.
A palpable sense of relief, almost joy, surged through Alan's veins. An opportunity to be liberated from the European Boa Constrictor that seeks to choke the life out of the European nation states and their people. Suddenly it was all over as the massive electoral region of Birmingham declared and its 700,000 voters choose narrowly to leave.
At just after 4.42am David Dimbleby made a valedictory speech on behalf the Remain campaign.
"Well, at twenty minutes to five we can now say the decision taken in 1975 by this country to join the Common Market has been reversed by this referendum to leave the EU. We are absolutely clear now there is no way the Remain side can win........And that's the result of this referendum which has been preceded by weeks and months of argument and dispute and all the rest of it. The British people have spoken and the answer is: we're out!"
'Yes! Yes! Yes!' shouted Alan banging the coffee table three times with a clenched fist.
Three muffled thumps on the bedroom floor above rendered him immediately silent, 'Will you stop shouting?'
He kept very still for some minutes until he was confident that Jane had gone back to sleep, then silently crept upstairs and slithered into bed. No need to let her know the result, it could wait till later.