Brexit, The Disconnect Between London And Greater England

In the lead up to June’s Brexit referendum, the plebiscite on Britain’s membership of the European Union, there were several things which made me question just how great the expected “Remain” victory would be. While I was presuming that the pro-EU side would win I’d already guessed that the vote would be closer than predicted, not least because of the fluctuating polls in the weeks before the plebiscite. However like the vast majority of observers I had little expectation of the anti-EU “Leave” camp succeeding against the serried ranks of what many perceived as mainstream British opinion.

One knew of course that England would decide the outcome of the vote for obvious demographic and political reasons. The United Kingdom is after all simply Greater England. That meant taking due note of the general antipathy to Europe and immigration, and the rise of a sort of post-imperial nationalism, in that country. However in a tight vote the people of Wales, Scotland and the British administrated north-east of Ireland were expected to provide a comfortable margin on top of a probable pro-EU majority vote among the English. As we know that expectation was dashed when voters in England supported the “Leave” option in far greater numbers than predicted, topped up by a narrow majority in Wales too. The majority “Remain” outcomes in Scotland and the Six Counties were then rendered meaningless (at least in terms of the immediate referendum result).

There has been a lot of soul-searching in Britain since then, while both the Conservative and Labour parties have gone into internecine meltdown. Many have now accepted that the metropolitan elites of the UK, primarily in the “city-state” of London, have lost touch with the country – by which they mean, England. The concerns of the northern and rural English seem in particular to have been ignored or sidelined by the political centre, to the eventual benefit of the “Leave” campaign. That these concerns were of far more importance that credited should have been obvious from the surprisingly high vote for the Euro-sceptic UKIP in the last general election. Shockingly the right-leaning party gained an incredible 3.9 million votes, or 12.6% of the national share, coming second in 120 out of 650 constituencies. Even more shockingly that impressive result yielded it exactly one seat in the UK parliament (or 0.2% of MPs), a perfect illustration of the island’s antiquated “first past the post” electoral system. Denied democratic representation in the House of Commons is it any wonder that UKIP’s supporters used the next opportunity presented to them to register their anger? Of course plenty of Conservative and Labour people jumped on board the out-of-Europe bandwagon to give it a majority outcome in England, however their reasons were not too far removed from those espoused by the followers of Nigel Farage and company (which does not make such folk explicit bigots or racists, however misguided).

The Irish blogger, Fitzjames Horse, has written some excellent posts in recent weeks examining the disconnect between the political, business and media classes in London, and the disdained hinterlands to the north and west. I would recommend a read of the following to get a flavour of the changing situation: “The Day Politics Rose From The Dead“, “EU Referendum: England“, “From “Coronation Street” To “Brexit”“, and finally ““Mock The Week” Or “Mock The Weak”?“. The determination of some commentators in Britain to dismiss “Leave” voters out of hand clearly shows that such individuals have yet to learn the lessons of the June referendum. The sneering condescension so-called “Brexiters” have been treated with by many in the liberal and left-wing press has been shockingly revealing of the ever-present class divide in British society. The sight of young, university-educated men and women from affluent middle class families, self-denying Blairites, damning the views of working-class and elderly voters has been quite repugnant. One might well find such opinions problematic but the way to address them is through engagement and dialogue not condemnation or censorship (which some seem to advocate). The demand for a second referendum, in this case, is akin to the complaints of bitter “Remain” advocates in the United Kingdom who have all but called for an eligibility test for the right to vote based upon educational achievements. Because the uneducated have no right to vote, since clearly only the uneducated could vote against membership of the European Union!

In a similar vein to Fitzjames Horse is this short documentary by Guerrera Films, “Why we voted leave: voices from northern England“.

Of course being Irish, and a republican, I have a very different horse running in this race. Britain’s calamity may well be Ireland’s opportunity. If the UK opts out of the EU, disintegrating its political, social and economic core in the process, then my country may finally rid itself of the last bedraggled remnant of Britain’s medieval colony on this island nation.

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8 comments

  1. Seo alt maith, mar is gnáth leat.
    I have been appalled by the hatred and condescendance that have lately flooded the internet from Remain voters – supposedly open-minded people who try to understand the world and support democracy. Their total incapacity to fathom the problem and their hysteria have shown that they are not more competent to vote than the Brexiters. I personally think Brexit is a good thing if we want to bring down the anti-democratic, oligarchic and ultra-liberal EU to replace it by a more stable and people-orientated cooperation between sovereign States. The mass hysteria that followed the results of the referendum has shown just how much some among us have been convinced that the people are unable to decide from themselves and that countries must (according to Brussel and Berlin) be ruled from the top down. Many Brexiters didn’t vote out for good reasons, but we’ve lately seen that many Remain voters didn’t vote in for good reasons either. So I guess nobody can judge the other camp. Anyway, now that the EU is seriously questioned, we might start thinking about alternatives to create new, more sustainable societies and to come closer to the citizens rather than away from them and closer to the capital. Is e seo aisling 1916, nach bhfuil ?
    Táim sásta freisin ceann is go bhfuil ceist na Sé Chontae ar ais ar an mbórd. Tá súil agam go mbeidh Éire aontaithe san am seo chugainn. Ní bheidh an troid ar son na saoirse críochnaithe riamh, ach b’fhéidir go mbeidh Éire ina iomláine go luath.

  2. “then my country may finally rid itself of the last bedraggled remnant of Britain’s medieval colony on this island nation.”

    1. Er, would that also include all the Catholics called Hume and Adams and Sands and Bennett and Nelson?
    2.What exactly do you mean by “get rid of” Ethnically cleanse them?
    3. Would getting rid of em also mean getting rid of the folks in the Republic called Fitzpatrick and Fitzgerald and Burke and Lynch and Butler: who are themselves the descendents of medieavel British settlers?

  3. John Cronin, i was going to argue against you but im left speechless. Lol

  4. Nationalists + Remain Unionists = re-unification. All it takes is a 5% swing, 10% of Unionists prefer EU to UK and it’s over.

  5. Well said on the disconnect.
    The shrill hysteria that no, the people voted wrong, in that referendum has really got my goat.

    In some ways it reminds me of the gay marriage referendum here, the righteousness that lurked behind the excitement of the “young people who were getting stirred about a big question for the first time”. There was an unusual black/white viewpoint that would accept no nuance – I expected it from the fundamentalists on one side but not from the so-called liberals on the other.

    I wonder is the modern sensibility, sometimes driven by wildcard independent opinion-formers, really suitable for majority vote democracy. I can see parties being less and less relevant anyway. The fact that the Tories and British Labour were split, and that the Unionist parties in the North were split, and FF and FG are split on Europe just shows how outmoded they are when the BIG questions come up (Abortion bills, etc.)

    I won’t even comment on the two, “march em back until they vote the right way” elections in this banana republic. Still makes my blood boil.

  6. By ignoring Scotland here, you’ve missed the core of the story. And describing us as Greater England is insulting, stupid, and wrong.

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