THE abuse of a young gay man on an Edinburgh bus by an older, white-haired, retired bloke points to a truth in our society which for the most part we like to avoid; a truth which the Brexit vote has made incredibly clear.
While those of us who like to believe ourselves as liberal, politically correct and free from bigotry live in our world of progressive thought, there are too many people who have not come along on the path of social change of which our country should be proud.
They don’t care about gay marriage, they are fed up being told that equality means women should be in positions of authority, they don’t like immigrants of the EU sort - or indeed of any kind - changing the areas where they live.
They think Nigel Farage would be a good bloke to have a pint with and maybe crack a few unpolitically-correct jokes safe in the knowledge they wouldn’t be looked at with horror and reported to the police.
They want their country to be “like it was” to “take it back”. They are, for the most part, discontented, older, working class, white males who have seen their industries collapse and die, their skill sets made redundant, their place in society mocked and scorned.
As the Brexit vote has shown there are millions of them, and they want the political classes to remember they exist.
They have replied time and again when asked by TV crews and newspaper reporters why they voted leave that it was because for the first time in a long time, their vote counted. They couldn’t be cowed and sidelined. Their rage against the ‘liberal elite’ and the changes happening to the world around them, without them, could be spelled out.
This is why it is Jeremy Corbyn who is taking such a pounding for the vote to leave the EU (well that and his obvious personal lack of interest in remaining).
Despite the fact that the referendum was held solely to settle an internal Tory party squabble, Labour is blamed for losing the hearts and minds of the older, white, middle-aged bloke in its working-class heartlands.
Even younger men who have seen any aspirations they may once have held - such as having a house and a job and a modicum of self-respect as a result - disappear because of the economic collapse of 2008 and growing globalisation no longer believe Labour can help.
They see all politicians - except perhaps those in UKIP - focusing on the plight of refugees, on encouraging women into positions of authority and making life better for the homosexual community. Where are they in all of that?
They have been left behind and are bewildered and resentful. Scratch the surface and latent racism, sexism and homophobia - which should all have been long-consigned to the dumpster of outdated points of view - show themselves. As they did on an Edinburgh bus and a Manchester tram.
Of course attacking people for their gender or sexuality or colour of their skin is completely unacceptable. And while there were other reasons for people to vote Leave, the EU referendum has proved there is still much work to be done.
While Nicola Sturgeon, Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale have a great day out marching with the Pride parade, celebrating gay culture in liberal, middle-class Edinburgh, while they and other politicians rightly discuss how to get more women involved in politics and on company boards - they are alienating many men who once knew how the world worked and their place in it.
So what?, you might justifiably ask. If these men hold such appalling views they deserve to be ignored. But that attitude leads us to where we are - out of Europe and in the kind of mess where lowest common denominator politics are on the rise.
As a woman who thoroughly believes in feminism it feels strange to say it but these men need to feel valued once again. We cannot just say move over, it’s no longer your turn; you’re a dinosaur and will soon die out.
It was recently asserted to me that Tony Blair’s success was down to being able to show the middle-classes why it was important to them that government invest in people on the bottom rung of society’s ladder. Improve education, create jobs, give aspiration - and they were less likely to want to take what was yours.
A basic, hard-headed approach perhaps, but one which has never been truer. Recession and austerity have stripped many of their aspirations. They are looking for excuses, for people to blame - people they can touch, because they cannot touch those actually responsible. So hate crime is on the rise.
It has never been more important that our politicians show the alienated why it’s better for them and their families to be part of progressive politics.
Why they should want the same for their daughters as their sons, for their wives and neighbours as for themselves, that an inclusive tolerant society is as inclusive of them as it is of everyone else, and why aspiration for a comfortable life is not now futile.
Of course, that takes leadership. And we’re still waiting for that to appear.
Catchment fraud failure
THE temptation to commit ‘catchment fraud’ in Edinburgh is high when there is such discrepancy between the academic outcomes of city schools.
It’s understandable that parents might cross the line to get their child into a high school which they believe will offer more opportunities, a better education and increased prospects.
Which is why the council needs to ensure a much more level playing field among secondaries - and even primaries - so that innate desire withers away.
For there is something obviously wrong if parents are prepared to commit address fraud to get their kids into schools which are bursting at the seams - as both the new Boroughmuir and Gillespie’s already are - when they could get more individual attention from teaching staff at less populated schools.
Sad farewell to Eddie Truman
EDDIE Truman was one of the gentlest, most kind-hearted, well-read, argumentative people I’ve ever met.
He used to be my ‘regular caller’ a lifetime ago when I presented an evening local politics chat show on a cable TV channel and he loved putting councillors on the spot.
He later became the media officer for the Scottish Socialist Party - before they imploded thanks to Tommy Sheridan’s sexual shennanigans. He never had any dealings with the perma-tanned one again.
More importantly he was a family man, full of love for his partner, daughter and grandkids.
Sadly he passed away last Friday; a loss to them personally but also to Scotland’s broad kirk political life. He will be much missed.