You know I said in my post about Jo Cox (funny how she’s dropped out of the media) it’s really important not to dehumanise groups of people and despise them. And re: our politicians, I’m trying, I’m trying. But it’s been a difficult and eventful week. Who was it who said, ‘events, dear boy, events, dear boy’? I think it was Harold Macmillan, and he would be the last politician I could say I really admire. Yes, it’s just over a week now since I woke at 5.30 a.m. on Friday 24th June and let out a primal scream of ‘No! No way! Please! No!’
There have been many think pieces in the media some quite witty and bordering on the humorous. Sighs. It’s not funny. However. You see, for those of you over the pond, let’s put it this way. A referendum on the EU was on the cards for some time, but every leader (both Conservative and Labour) managed somehow to wriggle out of it, because, people, if you had many more of these referendums who knows where you’d end up – back to hanging, for a start. So yes, the wriggle factor and continuing with the explanation. Throughout the last election (in 2015) Cameron and the Conservatives were not expected to get a clear majority and a coalition was definitely an option, and depending on the votes it could have been a Conservative coalition with the Lib Dems, or maybe even Labour with the Lib Dems (pigs might…but there was a plan for that, apparently).
Anyway, the Conservatives, surprise, surprise, got a majority. And with no coalition with the Lib Dems, who would have put up a big fight against said Referendum, Cameron had to go with his party manifesto and have one. He also had to have a Referendum to appease both the voters who were slipping away to UKIP and the MPs on his backbench who have always been anti-Europe. Cameron couldn’t wriggle any more. So, really, for the sake of a political party, rather than any big ideological views on Europe (because Cameron is ideological-light) a Referendum had to happen. Cameron is no more, but he will certainly go down in history, and not in quite the way he hoped.
And then we have Boris (a Trump look-alike for those of you who don’t know him) now yesterday man, but very definitely a big contender for the Conservative leadership all through the EU Referendum, plus his side-kick, Michael Gove. Events have happened so rapidly, because in a matter of days Cameron is going (resigned) and Boris is no more (knifed in the back by Gove who considered him unsuited to higher office – keep up there at the back) that some media types have compared Michael Gove and his wife, Sarah Vine, with Claire and Frank Underwood. Deep breath. How dare they. Frank Underwood may be many things, but at least he has class, which Gove lacks, in buckets. As for Sarah Vine, how could she be thought of in the same breath as Claire Underwood? That totally evil and regal feline with a wardrobe to die for? Sarah Vine is more a scribbling Lettuce Leaf, in my view, or maybe, to give her her due, one of the Borgias?
And the current battle for the Conservative party leadership has also been compared with Game of Thrones – actually, I think GoT is set at a somewhat higher level. I mean, think about Boris and Gove during the Referendum. And we must. Boris took days to make up his mind as to which side he would take. He is many things, but under that oafish bluster is a bit of an intellectual and you know, a European. But no, he decided he wanted to be a leaver and why, because everyone knew, of course, that it would be a close run thing but remain would win. So he, Boris, would have picked up the pieces of his outraged Conservative party and go on to lead the Conservatives with the UK still in Europe. Did any of you, outside the UK, see the Boris and Gove press conference immediately after the win by the leavers? They looked as miserable as sin, because Boris is a natural European who did not want to lead a decimated, smaller Britain (well, England, because just you watch what Scotland does) out of Europe. But up to Thursday he was still there, in body, if not in mind. Then his side-kick Gove took him out. Actually it’s not Game of Thrones (and yes I have started watching Season 6 and no, we can’t bring Boris back to life). Actually, Boris and Gove were more like Laurel and Hardy with the fat one (Boris) saying to the thin one (Gove), ‘well, that’s a fine mess, you’ve got me into now.’
Cameron is, of course, Fatty Arbuckle. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn (Leader of the Labour Party and a Bernie Sanders type) is being chased by the Keystone Cops, otherwise known as the Parliamentary Labour Party. Whether the cops catch him or not is another matter, which I’ll discuss in Part 2 of this piece.
But yes, the people had spoken and the UK was leaving the European Union. I was in shock that day (June 24th). And then I was angry. But it’s not healthy to live in despair. We have to move on, we have to look at what has happened, we have to understand. And through that (I’m getting serious now, because this Referendum result is serious, and will have profound consequences) we learn, we comprehend, we cope, we restructure, we remodel and get to grips with our environment and our nation, which will undoubtedly change over the next two, ten and twenty years, but not in the way I wanted (or thought I wanted, because as ever this blog is all about ordering my thoughts and making sense of the myriad think pieces that are scattered throughout our newspapers and social media) and neither is it what 48% of the voters wanted.
Not that I know for sure how the UK will change as no one can say definitively that this will happen, or that will happen, as no one has picked up the baton yet (as I said, the leavers did not expect this result). There is no plan to leave. But my musings on that is for later on.
Let’s start with what we do know – how people voted. Please look at this link for Lord Ashcroft ‘s analysis of the voting patterns on June 23rd. On Referendum day Ashcroft surveyed 12,369 people after they had voted to help explain the result.
A few details to note are that (and I quote from Lord Ashcroft’s post here) nearly three quarters (73%) of 18-24 year-olds voted to remain while a majority (60%) of those aged 65 or over voted to leave. Interesting to see that a majority of those working full-time or part-time voted to remain, while in contrast most of those not working voted to leave. And a majority of the AB social group (professionals and managers) voted to remain (57%) while C1s divided fairly evenly; and nearly two thirds of C2DEs (64%) voted to leave the EU. I cite these class and work related divides as I will be looking closer at reasons for voting leave.
Also, and note this, only a minority of respondents who voted Conservative in 2015 voted to remain (42%) while, in comparison nearly two thirds of Labour voters (63%) voted to remain.
Soooo, it would seem (but remember this is a survey of a proportion of voters) Cameron failed to get all the Conservative voters to do what he wanted, while in the meantime Corbyn got a majority of Labour peeps to vote remain – not what the media and some Labour MPs are saying.
Always, always, try and get at what’s actually going on rather than what people are telling you is happening, or has happened.
And why did people vote this way – I’m keen to understand. Interestingly in Ashhcroft’s survey the leavers say the most important thing for them was that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK. That took precedence (and this is found in both Conservative and Labour voters) over voting to regain control over immigration and its own borders. Now, it is well known that people don’t always answer survey questions truthfully. So I am asking the question were people too shy to answer that first and foremost they wanted more control over immigration? Or is it that people really felt they wanted more control over decision-making? Or was it that people voted leave as a protest as so many articles in the press have said.
Interesting, this view of wanting control over our decision-making. Some view the EU as a vast, undemocratic, monolithic bloc that needs drastic reform. Of what, I asked myself, when I read or heard these views. Because, actually I have no real idea how the EU works at all. Yes, I know that it is a politico-economic union of 28 members. And I know it has an internal single market and that the EU aims to have free movement of people, goods, services and capital within this market. But I’m awfully vague about its decision-making processes.
I mean we have our MEPs, but do you know who your MEP is? Actually I don’t. I voted for an MEP person, but have absolutely no idea how the person who won the vote has acted or functioned on my behalf or where they fit into to the overall structure of the EU. Because, did you know that there are seven principal decision-making bodies? They are: the European Council; the Council of the European Union; the European Parliament; the European Commission; the Court of Justice of the European Union; the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors. Well, no, I didn’t know this.
So, we have our MEPs sitting in the European Parliament, but we also have this complex structure, of which one example of an unelected body would, perhaps, be the European Commission that has a president, seven Vice-presidents, including the First Vice-President, and the High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy and 20 unelected Commissioners (our one British Commissioner has just resigned btw) in charge of portfolios that include energy, climate change, jobs, growth, investment & competitiveness, digital single market and deeper monetary union. Well, OK, I had a vague understanding of the European Commission, but, I can’t say I knew the detail. And really what I’m coming to the conclusion is that we, I, should have known more, understood more, and certainly contributed more and participated more with this large complex institution. OK, it’s undemocratic, it makes decisions over above our heads – does it? Well, if it does, why didn’t we, I, care enough to do something about that?
So, the leave vote is a protest vote against the undemocratic nature of the EU? Maybe it is. But, if we look at who voted we can see a definite class divide and it is to this I return to briefly now and in more depth in Part 2. A post on the New Statesman that I’ve just seen has reiterated that graduates voted to remain (59% to 41%) in contrast to non-graduates who voted to leave by 68% to 32%.
And where were the most remainers and leavers placed? If you see the map of the UK with blue for leave and yellow for remain – it is a very blue map. Contrast Lambeth (78.6% for remain) Hackney (78.5%) the City of London (75.3%) Camden (74.9% and Edinburgh (79.4&) all in the top 10 of remain areas and all multicultural, fairly prosperous places with Boston in Lincolnshire the area that had the most votes for leave (75.6%).
Boston is an interesting case in point. And I shall return to this in the next couple of days in Part 2, when I look closer into why this vote (to leave) has come about.
Penny Kocher 2nd July 2016