The Guardian piece put a persuasive case for seeing bigotry at the heart of the support for Brexit. It is persuasive but not totally compelling, in that I know people who voted Leave out of a sense of alienation or wanting to waive two fingers at politicians, and others who voted Leave because life has been very tough and they felt that “something has to change” — without thinking too closely of the possibility of things changing for the worse.
What’s intriguing about the Daily Mail story is that the claim has been that “immigrants are taking our jobs”. Though the reality is that immigrants also boost the economy and therefore create jobs, this has been a real fear. But Brexit is leading to staff shortages in the NHS, and the Daily Mail is proud of people volunteering to plug the gap, then something else is going on. Volunteers are not paid. The Daily Mail initiative has turned “immigrants taking our jobs”, which sounds like an economic argument, into “we should be prepared to work for nothing”, as a price (apparently) gladly-paid for getting rid of foreigners.
Two years ago I wrote an article suggesting that Brexit makes sense as a new “class war” — in this case an attack by the rich on the rest. The details have changed, but the suspicion persists.
Shortly before Christmas, Dominic Raab made the extraordinary suggestion that we might crash out of the EU on a hard Brexit, not pay the agreed £39Bn settlement, and use that money instead on tax cuts for business. A friend acidly — and rightly — suggested that, when more and more people are needing food banks, and there seems to be an explosion in the numbers sleeping rough, there might be other uses for that money. Her point was underscored by the death of homeless person just outside the Palace of Westminster later the same day.
As a point of fact: if the UK fails to honour what has been agreed, then why would any foreign government trust us? This money is not a sweetener: it is honouring commitments the UK government has already given. If foreign governments can’t trust us, how on earth are the promised “trade deals” to be negotiated?
And the idea of “trickle down”, where money given to the rich somehow boosts everyone has been seriously challenged. The perception is that it instead widens the gap between rich and poor in a way that fuels social tension.
Support for Remain was hightest among young voters and lowest amongst elderly in 2016. Young people coming onto the register and older voters dying is gradually changing the balance. Even if nothing else changes, these demographic changes will remove the majority for Leave towards the end of 2019. This erosion of the legitimacy of the 2016 vote is a strong argument for a People’s Vote.
Support for Remain was highest among young voters and lowest amongst the elderly in the 2016 referendum. Young people coming onto the register and older voters dying is gradually changing the balance. It will take only a few years to reverse the result. In among all the reasons for a People’s Vote, this erosion of the legitimacy of the 2016 vote is a powerful reason to ask voters again.
There’s been lots of discussion of whether the 2016 referendum result makes sense as “the will of the people”. Much of that has centred on lies from the Leave campaign, their apparent bending of election law and the possibility of Russian interference. But YouGov found that 71% of those under 24 who voted, voted for Remain, where among the over 65s that figure falls to 36%. The implication is that, even if no-one changes their mind and there’s no change in voter participation, Remain will be ahead of Leave by the end of 2019.
Writing soon after the referendum, David Howarth asked if it is reasonable for the elderly to bind the young like this.
In May 2018 The Express took up the story, and also naming serious concern over the long term legitimacy of the result.
The poll in 2016 simply records the numbers voting Remain and Leave. Various organisations undertook polls soon after the referendum in which they asked people whether they voted, and if so, how. For the purposes of this post, I am drawing on a YouGov poll, offering some fine-grained data. I’m making four assumptions:
A People’s Vote is looking increasingly likely, but it’s outcome is not in the bag, especially if there are three options.
There’s a warning in a comment from Gina Miller: “We discovered that a vast swathe of people who would vote for no deal across the country would do so because their perception is that no deal means remaining”.
As a strong supporter of full EU membership, the danger is that I seize on every opinion poll that suggests Remain would win in a People’s Vote. But the polls are still uncomfortably close: Remain is ahead almost everywhere, but not by nearly enough. The tracking at whatukthinks.org shows Remain on 36%, Leave on 33% and “don’t know” at 31%. That’s too close. Over at BrexitCentral numbers are being quoted that show Leave in a strong position. My twitter feed showed a BMG poll putting Remain at 52% and Leave at 40%, with the gap widening, but BMG also have a more fine-grained poll showing 51% against a second referendum, and “Canada Plus” as the preferred option for all age groups except those under 34.
Speaking about achievements in the last year, particularly Sophie Bell’s victory in the Watton-at-Stone by election, and the fast-moving situation around Brexit.
It feels as if we are in a very different place from this time last year. Sophie Bell’s super victory in the Watton-at-Stone by election means there is now an oppostion party on East Herts District Council. In Sawbridgeworth, Annelise Berendt Furnace has been doing a brilliant job on the Town Council. Seeing what she’s done in that role, the people of Sawbridgeworth would be daft not to elect her to the District Council in May. The action day in support of David Payne in Goffs Oak on Saturday is another step along the way — in the last elections there we’d gone from fourth to second and are working hard to go further. I won’t be at that action day — instead I’ll be with the people canvassing as part of Terence Becket’s campaign in the by election in Meads ward, Bishop’s Stortford — another place where we have a real prospect. Plans are coming along well for the District Council elections in May.
Help is needed for all of these — you can sign up to volunteer or to donate via the “contact” section of Hertford and Stortford Liberal Democrats web site.