We started talking about it at about nine thirty. “Seriously, though, if we do vote to leave we should move somewhere else…” Except we weren’t really serious. I’ve always been bad at pacing myself on election nights and I was already two glasses of wine in. It was a fantasy conversation.
“I’d like somewhere warm.” That’s Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland out, I’m afraid, even if they do get themselves back in. Berlin’s great. But also quite cold for a lot of the year and a beach would be nice. I can’t speak French, Italian or Spanish which is also a bit of an obstacle. Asia could be fun… but I can’t speak any of those languages for sure. America could get Trump. Canada (cold, see above). Australia ticks a lot of boxes and I hear it is great for academics. But it’s a long way and (I’m reliably informed) not without its own problematic attitudes towards immigration. The Carribbean? The children love “Death in Paradise”. And, now I come to think about it, I am sure I can pick up any languages using one of those Linguaphone things while I lie in the sun before heading for an evening cocktail (again, by the beach). Heck, I could even still blog! I’ll send you all a postcard.
St Lucia… or Sunderland?
And while I am sunning myself I can reflect on who’s to blame for voting us out? Actually I already made a start on this. Ultimately it’s the people who voted to leave, that’s democracy. But there are others at whom fingers need to be pointed. All politicians should be taking a close look at themselves – Gove needn’t bother, he doesn’t have a reflection. Sadly, one finger is firmly pointed at the abject failure of Jeremy Corbyn. Be in no doubt, the Labour party is in real trouble and it was those “traditional” Labour supporters who tipped the vote to leave. The runes were there to read for some time, and while people like me will always vote Labour, those traditional supporters will not. They won’t vote Tory either. In Scotland they’re already voting SNP and in Wales they might vote Plaid. And what fills the gap in England? Another nationalist party; although when minority countries in a union pursue a nationalist agenda that’s about autonomy. When the largest nation pursues it that is far more unpleasant. So let’s wait and see UKIP reinvent itself and pursue the extreme right-wing agenda that it barely concealed up to now. And I think a significant chunk of the population could vote for it.
I know I’m preaching to the converted saying that the changes also have profound implications for English and Welsh universities and especially science. All funding streams are now under threat. For education leaving means fewer students, fewer opportunities for student exchanges, fewer collaborations, fewer friends. And it will affect all overseas students, not just the European ones. Certainly most of the North American students I have met appreciate the bonus of a chance to travel around Europe while they’re studying in London; they’ll be needing another visa. And the research culture will take an extraordinary hit. There will, of course, be winners and losers. There is no doubt that some of those universities that are heavily reliant on EU funding will have to cut back. UCL for instance, whose finances may already be in a parlous state, receives over £400m from Europe. There is no plan B for this.
Back to last night, and by 5am there was no wine left in the house. And, when I finally woke up, there was evidence of inroads into a bottle of whisky too. Of course we’ll just have to get on with things. Be positive. They say there are some surprisingly good English wines these days, they’re really getting much better, almost as good as the French ones. Except the ones I’ve tried aren’t as good, and I suspect English wines are no more likely to match French wines than Graham from the Jeremy Kyle show is likely to become a chartered psychologist. And the cost of that wine, at least the decent French stuff, is going up.
And my dreams of seeing out my career in a Caribbean university are probably just that, dreams. Realistically, we’re stuck in England for a while longer. Kids, mortgage, you know… But I suspect many of you academics, both British and others, are thinking about your futures now too. Hey, when you go, we’ll miss you. So please send us a postcard and remember us as we sit in the little England of the 1950s. That’s not my country. I never knew it and I don’t want to live in it. And I couldn’t imagine saying it before, but now I just want my country back.