The Longest Night: Inside the Remain Camp

Remain campaigner
A remain supporter campaigns in the lead up to the EU referendum in London on June 20, 2016. The Stronger In campaign is now asking itself what went wrong. Luke MacGregor/Reuters

It's been a long night for myself and many Remain campaigners. After being involved in the campaign both nationally and in London where our efforts resulted in such disparate outcomes I can't help but feel distraught. The last few days have been emotionally draining and as we sat in Hammersmith and Fulham town hall watching the count come in, it was with increasing shock and disappointment. As it became clear that the referendum was going to be close, if not bad for us, we had time to reflect on what had led us to this point.

The overriding feeling that I and many others have is that this entire referendum has been the greatest folly of our age, a political gamble to heal Conservative party divisions that has left our nation more divided than it was before. It was Lord Attlee who called referendums a device of dictators and demagogues, I don't think it can be denied that this has proven true.

Constitutional questions should not be toyed with for political expediency and yet they have been with increasing frequency. We live in a representative democracy because we understand that an uninformed choice is no choice at all, therefore we elect representatives to devote their time to understanding our needs and all aspects of complex decisions in order to reach the best decision.

David Cameron's name will now most likely follow those of Anthony Eden and Neville Chamberlain in the ranking of our nation's most infamous leaders. If the Conservatives are to blame for the referendum in the first place, then Labour is largely responsible for Brexit. A party that has long lost touch with many of its traditional heartlands, its leader Jeremy Corbyn proved halfhearted in campaigning. We needed the Labour party to lead the campaign instead of Conservative politicians who are frankly despised in those areas that we most needed to win. We needed a Labour party that listened to and recognized the concerns of voters—sadly it hasn't done so for quite sometime.

Sitting and watching not just the results but also the debates of recent weeks one can reflect that we have finally entered into a post-factual democracy. One can draw a line from the 2003 Iraq War through the 2009 MPs' expenses scandal to 2010's broken tuition fee pledge, from which it's clear where we have reached this point of distrust in politicians and as Michael Gove put it in "experts." To predicate a campaign on this factual basis then and ignore the raw and emotional concerns of a large portion of the electorate was a mistake by the remain campaign.

Cameron today said he "fought [the campaign] in the only way I know how" and for me as a remain supporter that is perhaps the problem. Both that he was our first and foremost campaigner instead of a more prominent Labour voice and secondly that the Conservatives relied almost solely on the economy on an issue that Brexiteers have long turned into a far broader emotional argument.

This outcome has in hindsight been a long time coming: the perfect storm of continued weak leadership from our government and opposition parties, and immense distrust in voices of authority. The Leave campaign was long organized, and Remainers were hugely enthusiastic; they simply were let down by our leaders first and foremost.

We were left this morning as the sun rose watching some positively gleeful reporters ponder what this outcome meant, while squabbling and posturing politicians were already trying to ensure they were best positioned to take advantage. Farage meanwhile claimed distastefully that this was a victory achieved without a shot fired. Given the murder of Jo Cox on June 16, I cannot deny there was uproar in the room at that particular comment.

However, the question I asked others and I would ask fellow remain campaigners, is would you rather be intellectually vindicated by being correct on the economy and our nation's fate but suffer the consequences, or would you rather be wrong and see your country continue as before? As someone shocked at the vitriolic and derailed national discourse it's tempting to hope the former would be a course correcting forest fire but it would also be inhumane to not desire avoiding the economic failure which will hurt everyone especially the poorest the most more.

Luke Blackett is a freelance filmmaker and former remain campaigner