Melissa Kite: Is half of Britain stupid?

Melissa Kite: Is half of Britain stupid?

On the hottest day of the year, a friend and I were lucky enough to be having lunch by a rooftop pool in a swanky private members’ club. The sound of splashing water and the chatter of a glamorous crowd made for a pleasing enough way to spend a sweltering August day in London. That is until my friend turned the conversation, as it seems all conversations must still be turned, to the dreaded referendum result. “You know what I’ve noticed? All the stupid people voted to leave the EU,” she said, making a disgusted face.

At the next table, two media luvvies were also catching up on their summer by discussing political events in bereft tones. “Oh I know, I was at Glasto when it happened,” said one of the men, tucking into grilled octopus. “I went to sleep that night thinking everything was fine, and when I woke up the result had gone the wrong way.”

Well, I thought, that will teach you to scuttle off to Glastonbury to see Adele when your country needs you.

But more pertinently, I turned to my friend and said: “Stupid? What about me? I voted Leave. Are you saying I’m stupid? Lots of my friends outside London voted Leave too. Are they all stupid?”

An awkward silence prevailed, so we decided to move on. Too many friendships have fallen by the wayside to Brexit. But I have had this same conversation about “stupid Leave voters” many times, so before we moved on, I told her that I believed intelligence to be a funny thing. When it comes to making decisions, is intellect the crucial factor, or is what matters most a fully functioning moral compass? In other words, did not most of those who voted Leave – even those who lacked university degrees – have a sense of right and wrong?

Are we really suggesting that we wish to stop those considered “stupid” from voting, thereby ending universal suffrage in the name of getting election and referendum results that suit the so-called chattering classes better? And bear in mind, those classes included people who moaned about the result affecting their mortgages on multi-million pound homes. How moral is that? Or do we stop people voting unless they pass an IQ test, perhaps?

Surely good instincts and an understanding of right and wrong are qualities all God’s children possess regardless of conventional intelligence as quantified by the educational norms of the time. Indeed, in my experience, some of the most deeply moral people with the keenest sense of right and wrong have been, for want of a better description, ordinary working people.

Strange that so many on the Left, in the ultimate analysis, mistrust the working classes and prefer to hand power and decision-making to those with expensive qualifications, while a rabid old right-winger like myself defends the common man.

The Glasto-going luvvies eating grilled octopus need to realise that millions of hard-working Brits who will never see a rooftop pool vote the way they do because they believe it is the right thing to do.

And while the European issue remains hotly debated, and the outcome is far from clear, the least courtesy that could be paid to the majority is to acknowledge that they participate in democracy in good faith, with their country’s best interests at heart.

Having said all that, I must point out that after seeing it, I ordered a portion of the grilled octopus myself, and it was delicious.

So many rows on Facebook. I really do want to get off it. But whereas I find it easy to stop calling or seeing a friend from whom I have grown apart, it is nigh on impossible to end an online friendship. “Unfriending” seems more drastic somehow than never seeing a friend again in reality. How odd that it is easier to put down a boundary in real life than in cyberspace. On Facebook, people irritate and infuriate me, but I cannot block them for fear I will miss something. Every time I log in to close my account I think: “One more little peek …”

And so I’m off again, adding my barbed comments to the acres of debate about burkinis. What upsets me most is the consensus among Christians saying: “Nothing to see here. Move on, please.”

I think this must be about guilt and denial – two very powerful emotions which often force human heads into the sand for long periods.

Guilt, for we have enjoyed it our way for so long. Denial, because what is happening is slow, but so frightening, in my view, that if we were to face up to it we would have no choice but to run screaming down the street in panic.

Denial is a lovely blanket we wrap around ourselves to keep ourselves safe when the truth would shock us so forcibly it would do us more harm than good. At some point, we will be forced to face facts. But not yet, it seems, which is frustrating for those who do want to tackle the issue head on.

I think that is why some of us feel edgy about burkinis. It is not because we do not like the wearing of them by the women who wear them now, but because we look into the future and see all women wearing them.

And in a desperate attempt to avert this, we lash out at the outfit in a vain attempt to contain the ideology. I can understand that, kneejerk though it may be.

In the beach of tomorrow – in my nightmares, anyway – everyone is either covered from head to foot or upside down with their head in the sand.

Melissa Kite is a journalist and author. Mary Kenny returns next week