Open Letter to People Who Regret Voting Leave: You Have My Sympathy

by Suw on June 25, 2016

Dear Regretful Leave Voter,

I want to open this letter firstly by apologising to you for the way that the UK has let you down. You were openly and repeatedly lied to by the Leave campaign and by the right-wing media, and no one seemed to have the will or the authority to do anything about it.

If an advertiser lies, the Advertising Standards Agency can penalise them and stop them from doing it again. But the ASA does not cover political campaigning, so they were unable to stop the Leave campaign from lying to you.

When the media lies, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which took over from the Press Complaints Commission, can force a news organisation to publish a retraction or correction, but by the time they do the damage has been done. The press can pretty much lie as much as they like without having to worry about it.

Many of the Leave politicians lied to you too, and they are now walking back their claims about giving £350m per week to the NHS or stopping immigration. There are more lies, but we’ll stop with just those two because they are big ones, the pants-on-fire-sized lies.

No one had the political will to stop the lies. People did try to counter them, but that’s not the same as stopping them being made, repeatedly, even after they had been shown clearly to be lies. And I’m sorry for that. It’s a dreadful state of affairs when our national civil discourse is peppered with lies and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

I’m also sorry that it wasn’t made clear enough to you that your vote really counted. Really, really counted. We are so used to our votes being useless, no matter which side of the aisle we inhabit. I vote in a safe  Tory seat, so I am used to being in a minority of non-Tory voters. I vote all the same, but I can understand the urge to not bother, because what’s the point?

I haven’t read every single news article or watched every single bit of Brexit TV. Who could? But I don’t think that enough of a fuss was made that this was a vote where every single person’s opinion counted, and where all that was needed was a simple majority.

You voted to Leave, even though you didn’t really want to, and maybe that was a protest vote. Again, I understand why you would do that. I mean, who wouldn’t be ticked off at the nasty financial repercussions of the 2008 financial crash, a disaster for which no one was punished and, worse, after which there were no meaningful reforms. Could it happen again? Well, we have to hope it doesn’t, but the banks are no better regulated now than they were then.

And, of course, we can’t forget the years of Tory austerity, which hit people hard. Austerity was never the right way forward, and indeed, economists and financial institutions begged the Tories not to continue with austerity, but they carried on. We could discuss why, and that would be a useful discussion, but all we need to point out here is that austerity hurt people. It hurt them badly. It made them financially insecure, it made them struggle. Maybe it made you struggle. I certainly felt the pinch, as did many of my friends.

So I can understand why you felt that you wanted to protest. And I understand why you are now mortified at what has happened. And I am sorry that you are in this situation. But…

It’s not over. You can still fight. You can still be heard, you can still have an impact. We, together, can still turn this nightmare around. If I may, I’d like to make some suggestions:

1. Sign this petition asking for a second referendum. Whether or not the horse has already scarpered from this particular stable is not the point. This petition is a symbol of how unhappy we are about what has happened. Sign it, share it with your friends, ask them to sign it. It’s already well past 2 million signatories at the time of writing, and rising rapidly.

2. Contact your MP and tell them you regret your vote, and that you now want to remain. You don’t have to go into any detail about what happened, but just be brave, be strong, and tell your MP that you were lied to and that you want their help to make sure that we stay in the EU. It’s really easy to do — just go to Write To Them and that will help you get in touch with the right person.

3. Complain to your MP as well that the lies told by the Leave campaign amount to electoral fraud. You can also complain to the Electoral Commission. Even though they have no power to deal with political advertising, it is important that they understand the depth of feeling that this referendum was held under false pretences.

4. Talk to your friends about what happened, especially other people who voted Leave, or who were so unsure that they didn’t vote at all. See if you can persuade them that they have been lied to and that it is OK for someone to change their mind when they realise that something they thought was true is actually false. See if you can get them to engage with the political process, and help us to make sure that the UK doesn’t make this huge mistake.

Why bother doing any of this? Because if we come together to give our MPs, most of whom want to remain in the EU, a new political mandate to stay, then we might just get out of this mess before it’s too late. Article 50 has not been triggered (and don’t believe the scaremongering about it being done over our heads or whatever), and we have a short window of opportunity to make sure it never is triggered. But we have to act now. We have to lobby, and persuade, and make our voices heard above the lies.

I know that people like you are scared of being abused by some folks who voted Remain and are very angry about what happened. I can only, again, apologise if you have been on the receiving end of that kind of abuse. It’s not nice, and it’s not right, and it shouldn’t be happening. I shall make no excuses for it: I fundamentally disagree with any sort of abuse, no matter who it’s directed at or why.

But if you know people who voted Remain, and who are being civil, talk to them. Try to mend some bridges, as I will try to mend bridges myself with those Leavers who are civil. This referendum has created some deep divides and we all need to work hard to try to mend what has been broken. Do not give up hope. Do not feel useless or overwhelmed. Together, we can make things better, if we act now.

Finally, if you want some context about just how many people in the UK really voted to leave, this chart might be useful.

As you can see, there isn’t really a majority in favour of Leaving, not least because a lot of people couldn’t vote, either because they were not registered, not eligible to register, or not old enough to register. We cannot go forward with such a major change to our country, which will affect not just us but all future generations, but which only a quarter of the population actively supports.

Thank you for reading this, and thank you for being open enough to consider that your Leave vote was mistaken. That takes guts, and I admire you for being willing to rethink your position.

Best regards,


PS. Comments are closed, because I know that a lot of people feel very strongly, and that some of those people are unable to remain polite.

Comments on this entry are closed.

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