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July 05, 2016


Hilary Richards

I think this article touches on one aspect of the problem but I think the problem started when the public became disengaged with politics and relied on politicians to sort thing out and the media to keep the politicians in line. Both politicians and the media have taken advantage of the low level of public engagement to take us to the post-truth, post-morality world we now inhabit. The public are seen as little more as dupes who judge a lying competition to see who next gets power.

One of Jeremy Corbyn's great achievement was to create a more engaged Labour membership and to persuade them that the TINA narrative was completely wrong. The greater the numbers of people engaged in rational debate on political subjects the more likely the average person will know someone who knows what they are talking about without having to rely on remote experts. Of course some politicians/media types may not like this situation as it is a model of society that restricts their power but I think it is a lot healthier model and social media makes this model a lot easier to sustain


I am sure you are right that inequality has these effects and other bad effects such as poor health/ reduced life expectancy etc But we have had a lot of inequality for a long time now. You might have to consider that lots of people have never trusted politicians or institutions. That has not prevented the elite introducing radical changes. The Brexit vote arises from a split in the ruling class. Your arguments are surprisingly silent on that key issue. The result is the consequence of the economic and cultural division running through powerful groups in society, especially the economic and political groups. Refrenda like Political revolutions arise when these splits cannot be resolved within the instituions set up to formulate policy. We still do not know if the consequences of the vote can be resolved by the Institutions. That is why the result is unsettling. May be the people at the top are as stupid and venal as they seem, and who knows what that will produce?

I agree that it is odd that graduates of Dulwich College should be seen as tribunes of the people. Equally odd to have a banker running for Tory leader who when backing Brexit tells people to ignore the Governor of the Bank of England as he is a plant by Goldman Sachs. You cannot rust those people!

If the Cretan tells you all Cretans are liars do you believe him....


Trust left the building a long time ago.
No-one paid attention to the three ring circus, which makes blaming Corbyn an oxymoron.

The 'Dog and Pony' show was ignored.

People voted in their economic interests, ignoring the Cassandra at the Bank of England.


"The statistics are extraordinary. The well-to-do voted Remain, the down-at-heel demanded to Leave. The Brexiteer/Remainer divide splits almost perfectly, and beautifully, along class lines."


"Let’s make no bones about this: Britain’s poor and workless have risen up. And in doing so they didn’t just give the EU and its British backers the bloodiest of bloody noses. They also brought crashing down the Blairite myth of a post-class, Third Way Blighty"


"They feel patronised, slandered and distrusted, not ignored. They feel their working-class culture and attitudes are viewed with contempt. These are the kind of people looked upon by officialdom as unhealthy and un-PC, too rowdy at the football, too keen to procreate, too fond of booze, too sweary: too attached to the idea of England."

I share the views expressed in this article.

Igor Belanov

"The well-to-do voted Remain, the down-at-heel demanded to Leave. The Brexiteer/Remainer divide splits almost perfectly, and beautifully, along class lines."

I don't know how those posh Scousers and Mancunians had the cheek to vote against the interests of hard-pressed, poverty-stricken residents of Bournemouth, Clacton, rural Lincolnshire and Suffolk.

If you're making the argument THAT simple, then you're going to miss out on a lot.

Churm Rincewind

"One reason why we had a referendum on the EU was that many voters didn’t trust MPs to take the decision for them."

So David Cameron and Conservative MPs backed a referendum because they believed that they couldn't be trusted? Politicians telling voters not to place any trust in their judgement would be an extraordinary event, to say the least.

But of course that's not what happened at all.


The article gives the example of Burnt Oak in the context of Barnet (which voted remain).

There is the Golden Triangle in Cheshire (George Osborne's constituency). Full of Footballers, from Manchester Utd/City and Liverpool etc.


"The Golden Triangle is an area of affluent, leafy towns and villages in Cheshire"

"Withinlee Road in Prestbury said to be the most expensive street in Northern England - with prices on average over £1.5 million"

Large cities in the North (Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York) may contain a sizable element of relatively wealthy residents. The article gives the statistics to support the wealth argument.

Rural Lincolnshire.


All of Yorkshire voted out, with the exception of the Yorkshire Golden Triangle.


"lying between Harrogate, York and North Leeds."

Leeds, Harrogate, York voted remain, the rest of Yorkshire voted Leave, including Sheffield.

Igor Belanov

You can't deny the fact that while there were a lot of of anti-elitists that voted to Leave, there were an equally significant amount of 'reactionary elitists', affluent, snobbish, royalist, empire nostalgist, hang-em-and-flog-em, Colonel Blimp Tories. These two groups hate each other.

Both sides of the campaign consisted of momentary alliances based on loose bonds of identity. Hopefully the issue has been laid to rest and we can get on with politics as normal.


" We have good evidence that increasing inequality leads to lower trust."

Doesn't that apply both ways, in that "elites" don't trust the people to make the "right" decision? In that case it becomes a self-feeding loop of mutual mistrust.


«One reason why we had a referendum on the EU was that many voters didn’t trust MPs to take the decision for them»

That seems rather exaggerated, as it seemed to me that it was demanded by a large minority of tory europhobic MPs, because they did not trust their party leader to take the decision for them.


«David Cameron and Conservative MPs backed a referendum because they believed that they couldn't be trusted?»

I think that sometimes our blogger's topic of discussion contain points that for the sake of consistency get stretched a bit too far...


«"elites" don't trust the people to make the "right" decision?»

I see the quotes around "right". Of course there is no single "right" decision, but there are "right for our interests" ones. Talking as if there was a "right" decision is a standard rhetorical device, nothing more. Like talk of "the economy" or "the national interest", rhetorical devices to pretend there are no distributional issues.


«People voted in their economic interests»

Not just, as in a lot of people perhaps voted their territorial instincts, outraged that some immigrants come the to UK as a matter of right, with mostly equality of rights, without having to beg permission.

But also if you look at the map there is another interesting detail: places with universities usually voted "remain".

«making the argument THAT simple, then you're going to miss out on a lot.»

Well, in first approximation it was «voted in their economic interests» straighforwardly, as in areas with many people affected by lower wage growth and higher rents in the south, either as residents or prospective immigrants, voted "leave".

But more generally the "leave" vote was mostly a vote of distrust against the "southern english cosmopolitan elites" who have pursued a policy of pushing down "hoi polloi" for decades.

So my impression is that the vote was basically the poor that view the EU as a tool for the benefit of the southern elites voting "leave" and viceversa.

Other groups:

* Some poorer people voted "remain", mostly where the EU is seen instead as a tool to constrain the southern elites.

* Some richer people voted "leave" presumably because they felt their sense of "ownership" of the country was constrained by the EU.

* Some richer people (the leadership and funders of "leave") voted "leave" because they think their wealth would be greatly boosted by turning London into even more an "offshore", "tax haven", "money has no smell", free-port like Dubai.

So rereading above the theme seems to me "control": the question many voters may have asked themselves explicitly or instinctively may have been "does EU membership give me more control with respect to the people who have interests opposed to mine?"

Nicholas Shaxson

It's worse than this. A loss of trust, and inequality, contribute to political fragmentation, which turns into a self-reinforcing cycle. As Chinua Achebe put it: "“A normal sensible person will wait for his turn if he is sure that the shares will go round. If not, he might start a scramble.” When there are ethnic, religious or class fractures, this scramble becomes more likely and more vicious. When people start pushing in at the front of a queue, it's really hard to rebuild that trust, once lost. My WaPo article on this points to these dynamics as a recipe for corruption, and for conflict. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/05/26/want-to-end-corruption-crack-down-on-tax-havens/
Britain isn't Nigeria - but we're seeing some of the same dangerous processes.


"a campaign which was dominated by lies, racism and crass anti-intellectualism"

Well I'm not sure about this. I don't think an honest profession suddenly discovered lying. I thought the campaign was very clear to avoid racism and most Leavers would be outraged if you said they had voted out of racist feelings. And as for not trusting "experts" I think many Leavers remember being ridiculed for thinking open doors would lead to mass immigration, and being labelled neanderthals for not wanting to join the Euro and judged these remarkably convenient statements from experts accordingly.


"Readers of this blog might be well aware of the big differences between, say, Ed Miliband and David Cameron, but to someone living in poverty in Hull they are both posh Oxford types."

Well, I read this blog but I'm inclined to agree with the dude from Hull.

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