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24 June 2016

A time for respect and healing – on both sides

There should be no pitting of urban Britain against suburban Britain, no young people against older people, no London against the rest of England. We made this decision together.

By jonathan Reynolds

The UK has voted for Brexit. Whichever side you were on, democracy has occurred and the result must be respected.

The result was very close. Many people who voted for Remain are understandably reeling. The phrase ‘divided nation’ is on every broadcast. As a Remain voter, a parent, an internationalist and an advocate for those already in dire deprivation, I empathise with that. However, I believe many of the early reactions we are seeing are not helpful and, in some cases, wrong.

Across social media, in workplaces and on school runs, the 48 per cent of us who made a different choice are trying to process the impact on our identity and our communities. Accusations of bigotry and stupidity are flying from some quarters towards our fellow electors who voted Leave. This comes from grief and fear, not hatred. But it must stop, and it must stop immediately. Stop “#referendumb” and other patronising rebukes. Stop #whathavewedone.

There is as much foolishness and prejudice in falling for this type of reaction as anyone can say there was in voting for the unknown. For the small minority of extremists who genuinely do seek to divide us – including the killer of our friend Jo Cox MP – mainstream voters turning on each other is a sign of success. Where there is division, they win.

It may not feel like it today but we still have, in Jo’s words, “more in common than that which divides us”. My friend and Jo’s husband, Brendan Cox, tweeted today with typical dignity that “Today Jo would have remained optimistic and focussed on what she cld do to bring our country back together around our best values.” We must all do as Jo would have today.

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There should be no pitting of urban Britain against suburban Britain, no young people against older people, no London against the rest of England. We made this decision together. If you would have respected the result if your side had won, you must respect it if your side lost.

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On Tuesday, in my capacity as the Chair of Christians on the Left, I published a cross-party letter calling for a kinder tone of debate and a deeper framework for our decision making. I asked that we begin to “disagree well”. We must remember that today, and we must also learn to “heal well”. To take action to heal the economy, to heal the uncertainty, but also to heal the growing rifts in our communities, and in our hearts. Let us show grace and responsibility in defeat. It is our responsibility to prevent, not predict, Armageddon and strife. If ever there was a time for hope not hate, it is now.