Yesterday, I posted the surprisingly prescient results of my unofficial blogpoll on the EU Referendum. While I was a strong supporter of Leave, I have to say I settled down to listen to the results last night feeling that a defeat was almost inevitable, and that once this had been confirmed by a few declarations I would head for bed. However, when I heard the Sunderland result – 61-39 for Leave, as opposed to a forecast of 53-47 – I realised that things might not be going entirely according to plan.
So I woke up today to the glorious news that Britain had decided to leave the European Union. It’s made especially delicious by the fact that today is my birthday. Many commentators in recent months have made the point that the motivation behind this goes well beyond a simple dissatisfaction with the EU, and represents a general feeling that the political élite have ceased to listen to or represent ordinary working people. This has been widely expressed by writers of impeccable left-wing credentials such as John Harris of the Guardian and Stephen Bush of the New Statesman – the latter reporting from Hull Wetherspoons.
It was well summed up by these comments from David Cowling, the BBC’s head of political research, in an internal memo, which were included as “Quote of the Day” on Guido Fawkes’ website (and still are, for now).
It seems to me that the London bubble has to burst if there is to be any prospect of addressing the issues that have brought us to our current situation. There are many millions of people in the UK who do not enthuse about diversity and do not embrace metropolitan values yet do not consider themselves lesser human beings for all that. Until their values and opinions are acknowledged and respected, rather than ignored and despised, our present discord will persist. Because these discontents run very wide and very deep and the metropolitan political class, confronted by them, seems completely bewildered and at a loss about how to respond (“who are these ghastly people and where do they come from?” doesn’t really hack it). The 2016 EU referendum has witnessed the cashing in of some very bitter bankable grudges but I believe that, throughout this 2016 campaign, Europe has been the shadow not the substance.This applies especially to the Labour Party, as it was originally set up to give a voice to the working class, and still makes a claim to represent their interests in a way that no other party does. But, in recent years, it has often given the impression of regarding the attitudes, lifestyles, opinions and values of working-class people with utter contempt. A prime example of this was the smoking ban, which has absolutely devastated working-class pubs, clubs and bingo halls while leaving establishments favoured by the comfortable middle class largely unscathed. So last night I tweeted the following:
And I make no apology for that. Of course it’s only one small factor amongst many. But all these things add up, and I firmly believe it did play a part in convincing many voters that “these people no longer speak for me”. It is a connection that has been drawn by others, notably Frank Davis. Personally I really couldn’t care less whether the Labour Party lives or dies. But I do care strongly that ordinary people, the kind who keep the ordinary local pubs of Stockport and so many other towns in business, deserve a voice in the corridors of power.Message to @UKLabour - treat the working class with contempt, take their pubs away, and they will come back and bite you on the bum— Pub Curmudgeon (@oldmudgie) 24 June 2016