We’re closing 2016 by republishing our ten most-read articles of the year. Here’s No. 3: Matthew Parris’s article from July, where he says the fallout from the referendum has left him feeling ashamed to be British for the first time.
Before even writing this I know what response it will meet. Some who fought for Leave on 23 June will be contemptuous. ‘Bad loser’, ‘diddums’, ‘suck it up’, ‘go and live somewhere else’. From the online Leave brigade who stalk the readers’ comments section beneath media columns I’m already familiar with the attitudes of the angry brigade; but aware that there were also plenty of perfectly sane and nice people who took a considered decision to vote for our exit from the EU. To what I shall say, such people can reasonably reply that their side have beliefs too, and Remain can claim no monopoly on reason or conscience.
What follows, however, is not an argument, but a report. I would not trouble you with it if I thought my feelings untypical of many others.
For the first time in my life I have felt ashamed to be British. Something in my relationship with my country has gone.
I have often disagreed, sometimes profoundly, with things that my country or countrymen have done; often been horrified at democratic decisions we’ve taken at elections. But these (to me) mistakes have never undermined a basic pride in our country, with all its faults and false turns. I’ve sometimes regretted what we do but never hated what we are. Foibles, yes; miscalculations, yes; selfishness and silliness — well, which of us is immune?
But these last few months I’ve seen a Britain, specifically an England, that I simply do not like. I’ve seen a nasty side, and seen colleagues and friends pander to it in a way I never thought they would.