London Diary: How Leave' overcame the will to Remain'

Brexiters celebrated as if the UK was independent after years of slavery.

Was it complacency? Or did so many of us just not imagine this could possibly happen? For Londoners Brexit bore specially bad tidings, as they had voted to “Remain”. And now they live in a country which is split right down the middle because a very slim majority actually want to “Leave”. And in fact, unless there is something we have missed, UK has left the EU. This has effectively cast a web of uncertainty, because Prime Minister David Cameron has resigned and no one knows who the next occupant of No. 10 is going to be. Will it be Boris Johnson? He was a popular mayor, but there are many who wonder if he only opposed the “Remain” campaign in order to become the next PM. In his disarming way he had joked that there were as many chances of him becoming the PM as of him being re-born as an olive. Now it seems both are possible!

And at a time when symbolic gestures are all being avidly devoured — how about getting the monarchy back? At least that will unite everyone! Let George be announced King, with William as caretaker. And honestly, nothing else matters any more. Until last Thursday night, Londoners were carrying on with their lives. Just a week before, we got the shocking result of the brutal murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. She was shot in her constituency in West Yorkshire while about to do her weekly surgery for her constituents. She was just 41, a wife and a mother of two small children. People gathered in Parliament square, not far from the statue of another assassinated leader, Mahatma Gandhi, to pay tributes to her.

The horrible news gave everyone a pause. The hard, bitter campaign for “In” or “Out” was suspended for 48 hours. The campaign resumed with tabloids arguing for “Out” and some of the serious newspapers supporting “Remain”. The Sun even got the Queen into the argument by reporting that she had asked her dinner guests why UK should stay. No one can confirm this. Jo Cox’s death had swung the vote in favour of “Remain”. Thursday was a typical British summer day with heavy rain in London. In many voting booths, you had to wade through water to get your ballot paper. Some voting booths had to be closed.

But the earthquake came early Friday as results came. Just the day before there was near certainty that UK will remain. London would vote 60 per cent to 40 per cent in favour of “Remain”. It was a false hope. That could have also contributed to some in the “Remain” campaign perhaps staying at home. They were not as angry as the “Leave” campaigners. The great British public has decided to leave the EU. Brexiters celebrated as if the UK was independent after years of slavery. June 23 will be declared Independence Day if Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, has his way.

Early morning, Mr Cameron came out of 10 Downing Street. He was almost tearful as was his wife Samantha. But you have to admire the “no excuses” tradition in British politics. When you have lost, you resign. The one person who has gained much prominence is Priti Patel. Many of her supporters had been surprised that she went for Brexit against Mr Cameron and Osborne — her boss at the treasury. Ms Patel has been the face of the Brexit campaign and no doubt she brought in a lot of Asian votes. It is early days but one should not be surprised if she becomes a highly placed Cabinet minister in a Boris Johnson government.

The campaign showed the importance attached to the Indian vote in Britain. You saw the leaders visiting gurudwaras donning the saffron turban and the Swaminarayan temple in London. The issue may have been immigration but Indian communities are no longer regarded as immigrants. They are part of the local population. Their votes were divided just about as much as for the rest of the British.

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