Thursday, 7 July 2016

A let down

                                                  After the Brexit Vote

We were on holiday in Guernsey, a non-EU bailiwick of the UK, for EU referendum day.  Our postal vote, sent in on June 3rd, stated we wished to remain. I hardly slept the night of June 23rd, too eagerly engaged with the BBC news as the votes came in. Yes, even Guernsey is not beyond the reach of the internet. Indeed signals were excellent. But the news, at 4.40 a.m., UK time, showed Brexit was winning by a million votes. Birmingham, predicted to vote Remain, did not follow anticipated voting patterns. We were OUT of the EU.

Ian Jack, Guardian Opinion, June 25th, wrote ‘Just as the pound was reaching its peak, Iain Duncan-Smith said: “Turnout in the council estates is very high.” It was about a quarter past ten.’ (Fifteen minutes after the polls had closed and the BBC’s live EURef programme had started its overnight broadcast.)
To my mind that comment about council estates seemed very class-ridden. Ian Jack said canvassers for Remain had told him “The Greens got the Tube stations, Lib Dems did the shoppers, Labour went “round the estates”.’ 

So Britain still has council estates? I thought social housing had been all but demolished, during Thatcher’s reign, to around 10% of former council-owned housing stock. Yet now the council estates' vote seemed so pertinent in the EURef. I D-S had hit on something. Ian Jack quoted Michael Sandel, an American political philosopher, on the British working class. “The sources of their dignity, the dignity of labour, have been eroded and mocked by … globalisation, the attention that is lavished … on … financial elites.” The working classes had plenty to protest about.

Jack continued: ‘On Sky TV Michael Gove spoke of how his father’s fish business in Aberdeen had been “destroyed by the European Union.” In fact, a report in The Guardian showed that the senior Gove had sold his business rather than closed it.
Believe Michael Gove if you will but since this article was written he has already managed to get Boris Johnson out of the running for Conservative Party leadership and gone against his own words – he had said he wouldn’t run for party leadership.  Yet he is, today, a fortnight after votes were cast, hours away from being second in the running for PM. Theresa May is way ahead in the votes for party leadership - and she voted to remain. Thank heavens for small mercies. May might be one of the few adults around capable of running the country since EURef.

On the same Saturday Philip Aldrick, writing in The Times stated ‘British industry has been left reeling by the European Union referendum result as fears increased that carmakers based in the UK and big aerospace companies such as Rolls-Royce and Airbus would transfer work abroad.’ Those companies used to be based near the school where I taught; it had a non-privileged intake. Some reports say such areas are worse off now than in the Depression of the 1930s. How will Brexit help those people who have already suffered from unemployment and worsening prospects? If big companies move off our shores working class labourers will have fewer choices after Brexit than before. Did Michael Gove point this out  to voters in his rush to greatness? Derby-based Toyota has likely had the go-ahead to build new hybrid cars scuppered since EURef. Again it will be workers in these industries who suffer the most. It’s the poor what gets the blame.

Back to The Guardian. John Harris said the ‘...signs of discontent have been obvious for years... In Peterborough in 2013 we found a town riven by cold resentments, where people claimed agencies would only hire the non-UK nationals who would work insane shifts for risible rates.’ He continued ‘Last year 3.8 million people voted for Ukip. The Labour party’s vote is in seemingly unstoppable decline… Jeremy Corbyn might be seen as that problem incarnate. The trades unions are nowhere to be seen, and the Thatcher-era ability of Conservatism to speak to working-class aspiration has been mislaid.’

The working classes feel let down and the referendum gave them voice. Sadly as the country makes plans to leave the EU it seems their lives will likely be further blighted. Their issues are closer to home. Leaving the EU will make things harder for them, not easier. Did Brexiteers know what they were voting for? What now for the impoverished living in council housing? They have suffered from austerity, reduction in local services, underfunded schools and a stretched NHS. Will leaving the EU help their plight?

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