The trouble is the clock says 1931

George Szirtes comments on Brexit xenophobia. He’s an immigrant himself, one who has lived in the UK for 60 years. (What happened in Hungary in 1956? You know.)

It is not as if the xenophobia that so influenced the leave campaign as it moved from economics to immigration did not exist before – it exists everywhere and often in more virulent form. Indeed, it set the stage for the campaign, and those who had muttered in the wings were encouraged to come out and occupy it. The filthy messages to Poles, the graffiti on public buildings, are part of the same spectrum that saw the hooligans on a tram in Manchester threaten a man with the words: “You’re a fucking immigrant. Get off this tram.” And: “Immigrants get deported!”

And such things resonate well beyond these shores. There are plenty of politicians just waiting to echo the cry, Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders most overtly. Some, like Viktor Orbán in Hungary would simply ban immigrants getting on Hungarian trams in the first place.

I sometimes think – and am not alone in thinking – that we are turning the clock back and have been doing so for some time, that everywhere in Europe and the United States, and in Russia, indeed worldwide, people are busily turning clocks back. They think they are returning to a golden age when everything was better. The trouble is the clock says 1931, maybe even 1932.

That’s certainly what I keep thinking. Don’t people know how this went then? Do they really want that all over again?

There is generosity in this country. We are generous with little lies and have been suspicious of bigger ones but swallowed a few whoppers in this referendum campaign. It has been a filthy war if a phony one. Some are already retreating on their claims about the economy and about the procedures that will lead us back to those famous sunlit uplands.

Big lies work. States are fragile fabrics. We are more fragile at this point than at any time in my life here. As is Europe, partly because of us.

Big lies do work. They work for Trump and they worked for Brexit. Bad times.

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