Ed West Ed West

The new nostalgia for a pre-Brexit world

Among its many treasures, Brexit has spawned a new genre of think piece, the nostalgic ‘what has happened to the Britain I love’ lament in the GuardianFrom an Irishwoman here; an Egyptian here; and a German, here.

It is sad to see people on the Wrong Side of History clinging to a mythologised, imagined good old days. This must have been a very different Britain to the one I used to read about in the Guardian that was a hot-bed of racism and intolerance.

Still, I’m not sure what has changed exactly; apart from the issue of hate crimes, which are hard to analyse because they are not broken down by seriousness or the race of the perpetrator (with the telling exception of anti-Semitic violence), and which compared to the everyday toll of mindless violence in London seem tiny in scale.

Other than that, it’s hard to find evidence that much has actually changed. People still get on with their everyday lives, talk, meet, trade and sleep with people different to them, as they did before June 23 and will do in the future.

At least people nostalgic for the 1950s can actually cite statistics for crime, unemployment and family breakdown rates to show that life was better for people like them. What do the Remain nostalgics actually have to back up their Sehnsucht, apart from the uncomfortably new feeling that for the first time in their lives progressives are on the losing side?

I wrote in a previous blog that post-Brexit hysteria was partly due to the Nazis crowding out all other history and people being unable to see parochialism as anything other than the road to Auschwitz. A better analogy I should have made was America in the early 20th century, when historically high immigration led to anxiety about integration and extremism.

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