It seems fair to suggest that we've just experienced one of the most depressing and disturbing campaigns in our nation's history. Ironically, the result is one of the least of my concerns in that sense, grim though it is if you're a liberal, internationalist sort of person.
No, with a 52-48 split, you can at least hold on to the possibility of 'buyer's remorse', although I personally wouldn't count on it. You can even entertain the hope that, when push comes to shove, either the European Union will panic and offer the United Kingdom concessions, or that the prime movers of Brexit will blink. Frankly, I'm not getting my hopes up there either. Gove and Johnson have painted themselves into a corner here, and whilst they may think that they can intellectualise their way out, the people they've persuaded aren't likely to be as forgiving, especially with Farage goading them to go further, move faster.
For me, there are worse developments from this campaign.
- Migration and the re-emergence of 'acceptable racism'
Is migration an unalloyed good thing? Probably not, if you live in, say, Wisbech. Probably yes, if you live in a multicultural society where there is rather more opportunity, mobility and education. However, the political debate has been couched in terms of dealing with a problem, rather than taking a holistic view of the pluses and minuses. It was understandable that the Conservatives would treat it that way, after all, there has always been a minority in their ranks who see outsiders as the enemy. And, of course, they've spent more and more time trying to fend off the UKIP threat, perhaps not understanding that, by pandering to the extremists, you merely legitimise them.
But, increasingly, Labour have gone the same way. And yes, they risk losing a chunk of their support to UKIP too, given that they've similarly pandered, as the likes of Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham have demonstrated in their responses to yesterday's result. The old Labour Party might have seen it as an opportunity to call for an expansion of council house building, or for higher taxes to build new facilities, or a redistribution of public spending to achieve the same ends. But oh no, it's talking about 'what we do about migration'.
Nobody, well nobody relevant anyway, is talking about unrestricted migration. They never did, which is why we have immigration rules, vast swathes of them, that impact on individuals, on families, on business. Heavens, there are times when it seems like Parliament talks of little else.
But the whole idea of freedom of movement within the European Union was that it would be multi-directional, that economies that were doing well would be able to attract people from across Europe to do jobs that needed doing, skilled or unskilled. The expectation was that, as the emerging European economies grew through access to this huge market, their standards of living would improve making it less likely that they would travel and more likely that they could afford to buy our goods and services. A rising tide lifting all boats, if you like. It was about removing barriers and increasing freedom, something that liberals across Europe could support.
The British people have indicated what they think of that as a concept, one must assume. But then, they were given every reason to look darkly upon the idea, by the media, by politicians looking for popular support at the cost of their principles. In that sense, it feels good to be a Liberal Democrat this morning.
It doesn't feel anywhere near as good to be a foreigner in the United Kingdom this morning, I suspect. On my flight to Luxembourg this morning, one young woman said that she'd already been told to go home, doubtless related to her darker skin. And, whilst not all Leave supporters are racist, the ones that are have been emboldened by the result of the referendum to believe that their view is mainstream and, accordingly, acceptable. Outside of our urban centres, there will be a sense of unease amongst our minority communities, and even where voters opted to remain, there will still be an undercurrent of tension. And, for all of Boris's talk of confronting racism, he is a poster child for the easy option, and has to accept his share of the blame for what happens next in terms of community relations.
2. The Advertising Standards Authority isn't going to help you here...
£350 million per week for the NHS? No, that was never promised, says Nigel Farage, confronted with a picture of Boris Johnson standing next to a poster saying that, if you voted to leave, that's what you'd get. And, of course, Nigel never did promise that. He was happy not to deny it until after the vote, but then he wasn't part of the official Vote Leave campaign. It was Boris and Michael who promised that, even though they knew it not to be true.
Heavy restrictions on immigration? No, that isn't going to happen, says Dan Hannan. And, after all, he was promising the Asian community that it would be easier for family members in India, or Pakistan, or Bangladesh, to come here to visit them. Dan believes that. Strange that he's a member of a political party that doesn't, but nonetheless, he does believe that. Nigel doesn't. He wants you to be scared of them, millions, billions of them coming here, taking your jobs, that sort of thing. He was, of course, lying about that. There is no credible prospect of Turkey joining the European Union, and given developments in Ankara, what prospects there ever were are diminishing fast.
No, we've learnt a valuable lesson here. If you tell enough lies, and you can find enough people willing to believe them, you can win an election, even when it is demonstrated that you've lied. And it's not because people are stupid, it's more that they're ill-informed or, more likely, uninformed. After all, who knew that this stuff mattered?
And how could you campaign against such seductive lies? The truth was multi-layered, complex, not conducive to Twitter-sized rebuttal. Let's be clear here, many pro-Europeans support the concept, not necessarily the actuality. Many of us wanted more democracy, more transparency, more accountability. Ironically, it was British Prime Ministers, amongst others, lest it be forgotten, who stood in the way of a more credible European body politic - subsidiarity was only ever words for too many national leaders. No, the lies, so easily told, were most effective. Winning mattered, apparently, rather more than what might happen next.
So, we are where we are. It's not necessarily where we thought we'd be, and one has a growing sense that it isn't where the Vote Leave leadership thought they would be either. The calls for informal talks (with whom exactly, over what precisely?) prior to submitting an Article 50 request, smack of bet hedging. Perhaps they always meant to use a Leave vote as a bargaining chip? But did those who voted Leave see it the same way? You'll pardon me if I'm unconvinced...
I'm a long marcher. I didn't join the Liberal Party in the expectation that it would sweep to power, nor do I expect the liberal cause to sweep the country in response to this referendum result. But change is often not what those driving it intend, so I'm going to wait and see how this plays out. And when the dust clears, we can start to fight for what we believe in.
In the meantime, we need some core principles to articulate. Here are my thoughts.
1. We believe that the United Kingdom is better off working with others to solve our common problems. That means being part of multinational groupings and, as necessary, pooling sovereignty to do so.
2. We believe in opportunity and freedom, and that in order to advance that, we may have to offer the same to others.
3. We believe that change has to come with consent, and that this means properly explaining what is being done in the name of the people.
I'm sure that other, cleverer, people can come up with something better, more thorough. But it feels right to me at this point, and it offers something for most people, which is better than the Punch and Judy stuff that seems so prevalent at the moment.