The political earthquake caused by Brexit has not yet subsided. It has led to much bitterness and soul-searching among those who wanted Britain to remain. Yet for those who advocated brexit, the direction was clear-cut. Across all of Europe, the result has been dubbed as ‘a revolt against the political class’. This sentiment certainly holds some truth, given that EU leaders unanimously implored the British public to vote remain. Yet they were beaten. Beaten by a vote that was disproportionately made up of voters from disadvantaged backgrounds – many of whom still hit hard by the global recession, and felt a growing resentment to mass immigration.
For the last couple of decades, those from underprivileged communities have witnessed their towns change, they’ve witnessed the destruction of industries, along with stagnation of wages. Small business owners are subdued by the crony corporatism that flourishes within the European Union. Instead of having their concerns listened to, and addressed, many will be dismissed. To see this, one has to look no further than in 2010, when then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown met a voter who expressed her concern about mass immigration. After walking off, not realising he was still live on air, Mr Brown complained about being put with a ‘bigoted women’.
Such disdain is also reflected by the attitudes of remain voters, specifically the progressive left. After the referendum, many took to social media to express their indignation. But for years, people voicing their concerns about mass immigration would not be listened to, they would be shut down as bigots and racists. Some have gone as far as broadening this misconception to the entire leave movement (so Dennis Skinner, John Mann, and Tony Benn are racist little-Englanders too?).
Clearly the views of much of the progressive left supplements the disregard the government holds towards those at the bottom. For often, they are dismissed as uneducated; something given credibility by the educational differences among voters — with more degree educated folk among remain voters. Yet does it not occur that this correlation exists due to the fact that those working in vital and lower-skilled positions would be hit harder by the poor decisions of the governments?
But no, we must listen to the experts, rather than the frustrations of those hit hardest, many will imply – citing the views of economists and big business figures. This view itself is flawed, as it suggests expert opinion is infallible and should not be questioned. If it were true that the ‘experts know best’, does this mean that Galileo should have kept quiet about his discoveries of the universe, rather than going against the word of the authorities — who were considered ‘experts’ in the 17th century? And was it a good idea that the tiny minority of economists who foresaw a financial crisis prior to 2007 kept quiet, just because the majority didn’t see it coming?
Such disdain, sidelining and condemnation of those who voted leave had led to what even many among the ‘remain’ camp described as a protest vote; and they are absolutely correct in describing it this way. Clearly, this frustration had brewed up to such an extent that many would vote leave as it was the only way to express themselves, and make their voices heard. A rebound effect, if you like.
Some have admitted these errors, including Jeremy Corbyn, who could resign as Labour leader. Yet many do not; Labour MP Soubry callously blamed the ‘white working class’ for such a defeat. Obviously the failure to learn from this could cost them in the future.
From Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, to progressive leftists in the remain camp, many are unsurprisingly distraught about the result. Yet such people should blame themselves for this, for the callous and condescending approach they have held. If they were more willing to engage in dialogue, and listen to the concerns of those who felt discontented, then perhaps Brexit could have been prevented. I see a real need for those guilty of this to realise the error of their mistakes, and to reach out to them in the future, to cement such divisions in society. From the view of the EU leaders, this approach is very much essential, given that this frustration exists in their own nations. Otherwise, the entire European project will fall flat on its face.