DOMINIC SANDBROOK: As a historian, I can assure you this is the most tumultuous event of modern times, a people’s revolt against the elite that’s been brewing for years

By DOMINIC SANDBROOK FOR THE DAILY MAIL

PUBLISHED: 21:01 GMT, 24 June 2016 | UPDATED: 22:33 GMT, 24 June 2016

There are times, not very often, when you can feel history being made. An archduke falls, a wall comes down, a plane hits a building, and in that moment you can feel the ground shifting beneath your feet.

When those initial results came in from Sunderland and Newcastle in the early hours of yesterday morning, I could barely believe it. Even now, to write the words ‘Britain has voted to leave the EU’ feels extraordinary, like a leap into some alternative reality.

For once, all the cliches are justified. This was not merely an electoral earthquake. It was a popular revolt by vast swathes of England and Wales against the political, financial and cultural elite, whose complacent assumptions have been simply blown away.

Indeed, for once it really is impossible to exaggerate the significance of the moment. What happened was undoubtedly the most dramatic, the most shocking and even the most revolutionary event in our modern history. We will live with the consequences for the rest of our lives.

Every rule of politics has been broken.

Barely a year after winning a stunning majority, the Prime Minister has gone, a broken man. The Tory Party, plunged into a three-month leadership battle, has been divided almost beyond repair, while Labour’s leaders have been exposed as almost comically unpopular and out of touch.

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Scotland has probably never been closer to secession from the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland, which will now have our only land border with the EU, has been thrown into tumult. And to cap it all, the pound — ironically, the supreme symbol of the independence for which millions of people voted on Thursday — has plunged on the exchange markets.

Perhaps never in living memory has our national story become so unpredictable. Never has our country been more divided, and never has the future been more uncertain.

I cannot think of a modern political moment to match it. The fall of David Lloyd George after leading Britain through World War I until his Liberal-Tory coalition broke up in 1922, the Labour post-war landslide of 1945, the advent of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, all supposedly seismic events, feel trivial, even irrelevant, by comparison.

What makes all this so dramatic, though, is that it represents something new — a revolution by millions of people, many of them traditional working-class voters, against the massed ranks of the political and financial Establishment.

If nothing else, the result should banish for good the stereotype of British voters as deferential, forelock-tugging yokels, dutifully falling into line behind the country squire.

The Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Governor of the Bank of England, the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Italy, the IMF, the World Bank and the head of the TUC all lined up to lecture the British electorate. But what is now clear is that every time they hectored and cajoled, every time they piled on the doom-laden prophecies, millions of ordinary voters bristled with resentment.

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