Brexit: The Class struggle behind the words.

This week has seen the British Supreme Court debating whether or not the country will be allowed to leave the EU without the seal of approval from Parliament. Naturally, the whole subject of the referendum has been subject to great scrutiny once again. Long-winded news reports, features on discussion programmes, and the constant efforts by those unhappy with the result to derail the whole process. Today I heard that Ireland is to mount a legal challenge to the result too. Well, not exactly Ireland, but a British barrister, Jolyon Maugham, who is trying to use their courts to allow for a future overturning of the current process.

It is worth looking at what is really going on here. Behind the rhetoric, lurking in the wings of the legal actions, and hiding in plain sight in the words of many broadcasters and journalists, is that old British anachronism, Class. If you examine where and by whom most of the votes were cast, it is easy to see how the result happened. Those wishing to remain in the EU were predominantly from the larger cities, and the affluent suburbs that surround them. Ignoring the overwhelming Remain votes in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which had very different agendas, anyone who looks at the voting demographic can clearly see the sort of areas that voted to remain. The University Towns, the areas with Science Parks, or places where the price of property is generally unaffordable to those on average incomes. Many of those Remain voters were also from the younger age groups; some still in full-time education, or hoping to travel extensively later on. The Intelligentsia, the bureaucrats, the wealthy retired, and the second home owners, all voting to stay in an EU that suited them very nicely, thank you.

This section of the still-present British class system did not dream for one second that they would ever lose that vote. That is very clear from their reaction to defeat. They considered the Leave voters to be from the uneducated and poorer classes in the main; and these people do not bother to vote, do they? People working for minimum wage, on no-hours contracts. Those without jobs, or any prospect of finding one. Young people who could never dream of being able to go to university, and will never be able to afford to move out of the family home. Agricultural workers, industrial workers, fishermen; all have seen their industries dismantled, sold off, or crippled by regulation. Pensioners struggling to make ends meet close to the poverty line. People who left school as soon as they could, trying to earn something to make a contribution to the family income. Those who read tabloid newspapers, watch trite entertainment shows on television, and like to often eat fast food. They had no gap years, no thoughts of backpacking around Asia, or worries about which university to choose. They have never read The Guardian, or watched ‘Question Time’. Their opinions didn’t matter, and their thoughts were irrelevant. They would do what they had always done. Shut up, and do as they were told.

But they didn’t, and now the losers cannot bear it. They hate to think that this majority of their own country, one generally disregarded by the affluent south and the well-educated, actually didn’t do as it was supposed to. So now they throw everything at them. They seek to overturn that voice of the people, or to put as many obstacles in their way as they possibly can. Some dress up their protest with accusations of racism. Others assert that there should be a second referendum, as the 52% could surely never have really understood what they were doing. They don’t say why, but the implication is clearly visible in the patronising language. They believe that the 52% were low class, pure and simple. More than 17,000,000 citizens of their own country should not have been allowed a say in their own destiny, because their social position and educational background were not up to scratch.

So when you see talk of a ‘divided nation’; a country split by a bitter referendum, don’t be fooled. It is Class, pure and simple. The scourge of this island, and something that has never gone away.

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15 comments

  1. Jim Medway

    My twopenneth; as the terms of Brexit are unclear to say the least (remember Boris’s face the morning after?), why would anyone not want it debated in Parliament? Our representatives are pathetic (especially Labour), so it took a member of the public (a metropolitan elite!) to ensure that a little scrutiny might make sense. Would it not be to everyone’s advantage to see a clarification of what will happen to environmental protections, employment and workers rights, and protections for EU citizens here and ours over there?
    I’m also a little unsure how accurate it is to paint all those living in a city as metropolitan elites (let’s not forget the very class of cleaners, NHS workers and warehouse staff you are arguing on behalf of!), to dismiss Scotland and Ireland’s reasons for wanting to remain, and their right to defend it. Young people of all classes want to remain too, yet those it will affect most were denied a say.
    Middle classedly and selfishly, I want my kids to have the option of going to study in Amsterdam, or Madrid alongside Preston or Leicester, so I’m seeing massive chunks of their potential futures vanishing. We all benefit from scientific and medical research carried out in partnership across european universities, much of which is now uncertain.

    I’ve not read all your posts, so I’m sure I’ve missed many of your points. I respect and understand your reasons for wanting Out, but don’t feel the same about those (of any class) who thought they were defending the NHS, or their jobs from bloody foreigners, or thought they were giving the ‘elites’ a good kicking. It’s those at the bottom that are going to do the worst out of this mess.

    Like

    • beetleypete

      Hi Jim. A pleasure to see you here, and to welcome your comment giving the other side of the argument.
      Of course, this post is deliberately intended to be argumentative, and a little controversial. That’s the whole point of this other blog, to offer a very different approach to the photos, dog-walking tales, and short stories to be found on my main one.

      I still owe you some answers, and comments in reply, so here goes.

      Scotland and N. Ireland. I ‘ignored’ those Remain votes for the purposes of this post as their reasons were always going to be different to those of most voters in England and Wales, so less influenced by Class. Scotland wants to stay in the EU, to retain the subsidies, and trade deals for their exports. They could of course have voted for full independence not that long ago (which I for one support) but chose not to. Northern Ireland wants to continue with unfettered access to the Euro spending from across the Irish border, giving them a very ‘personal’ reason to stay in the EU. That’s why I chose not to include them in this article, not because I do not respect their right to participate, or protest. (But why didn’t they just opt for independence when they had that chance?)

      My choice of the demographics of voters who chose to Remain was not exhaustive, and deliberately so. It was a direct response to those Remain pundits who label all Leave voters as fat, unhealthy, unemployed, racist, lacking education, and stupid enough to be swayed by one argument, and to be led by the nose by the right-wing parties. Therefore, they are unworthy of deciding the future of this country, or their own fate. I was included in that of course, as I voted Leave.

      I do not expect life in this country to be that different, to be honest. I foresee no expulsion of foreign workers, and very little extra restrictions on movement and travel, But whether I like it or not, the Labour Party politicians provide no valid opposition, and need to be reminded of what their party once stood for, and the roots that created it. They have to be brave enough to return to ideas and policies offering real left-wing alternatives, instead of playing a comfortable game, disconnected from those who once supported them. Perhaps we might get a real opposition as a consequence. Then again, perhaps not.

      Finally, I would like everyone to imagine what would have happened had the vote gone the way it was expected to on the 23rd. If the 48% were defeated Leave voters, unhappy with the result, and trying to cause disruption in the same fashion. I am sure that we all know what would have happened. Nothing. I have never claimed to like Democracy. I don’t think it works. For much of my life, Democracy has ensured that I live under control of a government that I do not support, so I am not a fan of the process. However, the EU Referendum was perhaps the clearest example of that process working in its purest form that I have seen in my lifetime, and by far the biggest majority I have witnessed too.

      As always, my love and best wishes to you and your family.
      Pete and Julie. x

      Like

      • Jim Medway

        Cheers Pete,
        I think life in this country is already very different, for those immigrants and refugees beneath the working class, facing an emboldened far right. I’d join you in rejecting any pundits (I must look up what a pundit is!) painting Leave voters as ignorant and racist, but you are wrong to use that to dismiss all other pundits (easily dismissed as chattering classes, media types and metropolitan elites etc) who describe a dismay at a xenophobic campaign, the power of the right wing press over working class voters, and how many were led to believe that they were defending the NHS.

        Your final point, about what would’ve happened if the vote had gone the other way – didn’t Farage make that perfectly clear beforehand? – https://www.politicshome.com/news/europe/eu-policy-agenda/brexit/news/75070/nigel-farage-narrow-win-remain-could-justify-second
        And a second referendum? Let’s not forget who’s idea that was! – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/27/petition-calling-for-second-eu-referendum-was-created-by-a-leave/

        I’m unclear on whether you want to see the terms debated in Parliament, or left in the hands of May, Fox, and the likes of Johnson.

        Kicking myself for getting drawn into this now – I’ve got work to do!

        Love and best to you and Julie too x

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      • beetleypete

        Here is the definition of a pundit, to save you looking it up.
        “An expert in a particular subject or field who is frequently called upon to give their opinions to the public.”

        Nothing like being drawn in to a debate! I am in a minority, in almost everything I can think of. I don’t like the Tories, hate Farage and his cronies, and also have little time for the majority of the ‘shadow Blairites’ in the Labour Party. I hold no brief for those who blame everything on someone else, and I firmly support retaining all foreign workers, as well as taking in more refugees.
        As for parliamentary debate on what/why/when/and how, I always assumed that was going to happen, and also suspected that they would do their utmost to stall, delay, and water down any implementation too. I would have gone for leaving on the 24th, and to hell with it.

        When I write this stuff, I speak from the point of view of a minority of one. A person hankering after the old days of the Soviets, trade unions, nationalisation, and everything that went along with those dusty ideas of social reform, and a better life for many, rather than a few. As I get older, I accept that they might seem more like the ravings of a crusty Stalinist, living in the past. In that case, they are spot-on.
        Don’t work too hard. And don’t worry too much. We lived through Thatcher, and saw her off.
        Pete. xx

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  2. Eddy Winko

    I can hear the shop steward coming out in you Pete! Class, age, geography, who knows for certain, although I do get a strong feeling that the older generation voted to leave hankering after the good old days, an opinion loosely based on conversations with older relatives and in no way representative of the general population! In contrast my younger relatives all seem to have voted to remain as they think they have the most to loose.
    The one thing you can be sure of is that you will never get the leave that you thought you were voting for. As I have said before nothing will change, the UK will still be as closely tied to the EU as it always has been, it will just have a different label along with the spuds you buy at the market.
    As you quite rightly say the wheels of power are not turned by the people, but by the upper classes, but they know best after all!

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    • beetleypete

      Thanks, Eddy. I would never have got the exit that I wanted, as my agenda was very different. Not based on the good old days, fear of foreigners, or any of the other reasons so widely stated by many on the ‘same side’. My own grievances were both political and historical, and I always knew that I would have to accept the baggage that went with a Leave vote.
      My own preferred exit would have been a bigger package that included dismantling the nuclear weapons here, leaving NATO, and removing US bases too. But that’s a much wider argument, and I think I might be the only person advocating it…
      The sneering and patronsisng going on here has to be seen to be believed though.
      No wonder I had my ‘thumbs in my lapels’, and wrote this post standing before a lectern, on a small stage!
      Cheers, Comrade. Pete,.

      Like

      • Eddy Winko

        I wonder if the referendum question could have been more clearly defined? It would certainty have helped the current situation. As for your other wishes, well you never know, NATO is already under threat, not only from Trump but I’d also add the willingness of many members to actually commit if push came to shove. And if you are to believe the fearmongering press then there is quite a bit of shoving going on around this part of the world at the moment. Despite this I’m with you, NATO seems to be more of a threat than comfort. War is still a game to those with the buttons, which is also good enough reason to get rid of nukes as well, the only good th ones in the UK do is make it a target.
        So I have to say I agree with you on your wider goal, but would much prefer to stay in the EU, lets face it you don’t have to leave to achieve the other two.

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  3. Woebegone but Hopeful

    At last an intelligent reasoned explanation for the Brexit case! Thanks for stating the case in these terms
    I am someone who in direct contradiction to this demographic (like I’m 65, retired, sort of financial kind of comfortable…just about, but not complacent about it…who knows?), voted to Remain. My reasoning was that as we were tied into Europe we should stay there because we’re a declining country who needs all the help we can get. Also being a military history buff I saw it as a fine way to stop wars (tie everyone up in complex legislation and confusing rules…who can fight?).
    Having said that, we have to accept a democratic vote (which is usually a substantial minority of the population anyhow). All this tinkering and trying to find loopholes does a post-Brexit…. Return(?) cause no good at all. It will only serve to cause more anger, more divide and naturally this will result in minorities being citied as the cause (The Good Lord knows how!!)
    Me? I intend to make an un-socialist fortune in a few years time selling T-shirts with the slogan. “I voted Remain….Toldja!”
    (I feel that Socialism is strengthened by a smidge of irreverence in all directions, Right, Left, Up, Down, Backwards, Forwards and so forth).
    Keep up the good work
    Regards
    Roger

    Like

    • beetleypete

      Thanks, Roger.
      As always, you offer a considered and intelligent reply. I have to say that I do think that you fit the demographic for a Remain voter. At the same time, I am reasonably comfortably retired myself, and probably in a not dissimilar position. However, years of being involved with the extreme Left, (very extreme, I admit) swayed my vote to what I genuinely believe is the correct one. If you get to tell me that I was wrong, I promise not to insist on a commission to prove otherwise!
      I may not buy your T-shirt, but I will respect your right to have a different opinion. Unlike those now dubbed ‘Remoaners’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Woebegone but Hopeful

        Thank you Pete.
        Here’s to intelligent and constructive discussion.
        Who knows truly where this will go? Best case scenario, the current govt make a complete mess of the negotiations and folk wake up to the fact that Socialism is not a dirty word or personality defect but the only form of government which will look after them in these turbulent times…..IN such a situation, I will happily manufacture T-Shirts for charity purposes with the slogan “I voted Remain…Whoops,”
        Best wishes
        Roger

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  4. toritto

    It all sounds very familiar Pete. The “establishment” here, in the big cities and on the coasts, lost contact with the rest of America long ago. The scenes of weeping college students who supported Hillary are just pathetic. Unfortunately, those who voted for the Donald may not get what they expected what with bankers and crazed military coming out from under rocks to join the administration. Now we hear much more from Republicans about dismantling social security and medicare.

    Luckily I’m old.
    Regards and best wishes for 2017.

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