OPINION: Power vacuum should not mean a vacuum of decorum

Paul Richardson

Paul Richardson

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Newspapers exist to tell their readers what is new, what has changed in the world.

But at certain times it falls on a newspaper to meet an even more important duty; not to tell people what is different, but to remind them what remains the same.

The last few days since Friday’s result have seen the entire nation rocked and it would therefore be strange if there were not some struggle here, as elsewhere, to grasp what leaving the Europe Union means for all of our lives.

That being said, this newspaper has been utterly staggered by the sheer unpleasantness of some comments that have been made by all sides of the debate since the result was known, particularly on this forum.

It is still far from clear what this poll means in a political and economic sense but, for better or worse, we are in a new era.

But what we must not fall into the trap of thinking is that Suffolk and its values are changed.

Inclusiveness, fairness and the willingness not to be judgemental - these have not changed.

Respect for each other and the resolve to treat our neighbours, of whatever background, as we ourselves would wish to be treated - these have not changed either.

These are the values towns like Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket and Haverhill were built on and are justifiably the source of great pride.

When something of the magnitude of a referendum result is revealed, there may be a temptation to believe that all the old rules no longer apply.

We should not give in to it.

Tolerance is now even more important than ever. Positivity is vital. Giving reassurance in word or action to those who are fearful is beyond crucial.

Our leaders are working to shape what our political future looks like.

But the vacuum in power should not translate to a vacuum of decorum.

By the way we treat each other, we have always wielded as much influence as the politicians, and a referendum - no matter how momentous - could never alter that fact.

People whose frustration at being marginalised has expressed itself in their vote should not now feel justified to lash out at others who may suddenly feel marginalised themselves.

That would have been wrong last Thursday and it remains wrong today.

Similarly, those whose vote did not result in the desired outcome should not seize an opportunity to belittle and patronise those who disagree with them.

That, too, would have been wrong last Thursday and remains wrong today.

And, most importantly of all, both sides should seek at this time of uncertainty to be conciliatory, not only towards each other, but towards those who had no vote and are watching and waiting to see how their community now reacts to them.

We should let them know beyond any doubt that they have nothing to fear from their community, that they are as welcome here as they always were. That our community has always valued their hard work and decency and has never - and will never - persecute anyone who believes in those ideals.

That was right last Thursday and remains right today.

As the weeks and months pass and deals, treaties and quotas are forged, there will quite correctly be much attention on the new laws that will dictate us as we step forward into a new future as an independent country.

But it is important we remind ourselves that the rules that govern our interactions with all our fellows are not, and should never be, up for negotiation.

Paul Richardson

Editor