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August 07, 2016

Comments

Hugo Evans

'Why the surprise?' Because leave ran a clever campaign.
Was the campaign any more dishonest and anti-intellectual than the Tory 2010 and 2015 'labour bankrupted us so TINA' campaigns? Is the argument for free trade based on comparative advantage less dishonest and anti intellectual than a reserve army explanation for low wages? It's never about honesty. It's about punishment. The entire remain campaign boiled down to 'if we leave they'll punish us'' and the leave response was 'good'.

Blissex

«only 3.9m voted UKIP but 17.4m voted Leave.»

That's a ridiculous argument, because "Leave" was fronted not by UKIP but by big-name Conservatives, and 2/3 of Conservative voters went for "Leave". The referendum itself was demanded by a large number of tory MPs.
UKIP is (or at least was) anyhow created by Conservative splitters hoping to influence the Conservative party leadership, which worked very well.

«It played upon hostility to immigration – a hostility the conditions of which were laid in part by austerity.»

That's the usual mediamacro mythology.

The "Leave" win is in large part a consequence not of "immigration" in general; as long as mostly well-paid german and french immigrants came in, they were not an issue, any more than immigration from York to Bristol or viceversa; they were not immigrating to win the race to the bottom, to compete on lower wages and worse working conditions and to pay higher rents.

The "Leave" win was in part created not so much by "austerity", but by immigration from low wage and low living cost countries from eastern Europe.

For several decades now UK governments have spent fantastic sums of public money in subsidizing jobs in southern England (and of course even more fantastic sums subsidizing many fewer jobs in the City of London), many of them connected directly or indirectly to house price speculation. There has been not so much austerity in southern England, plus house prices have gone up a lot, while those in the north have collapsed; even benefits cuts were targeted at northern regions.

Since little to no government subsidy has gone to jobs for their class enemies in the North, they often had to "get on yer bikes" and find jobs in the building and service trades in the south, where they compete directly with much poorer much more biddable workers from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, etc.

The EU13 expansion, without any transitional period of restricted immigration to the UK from the lowest wage countries, was also perhaps a long term plan by UK eurosceptics to destroy lower class support for the EU.

Dipper

So Remain was honest was it? Where was the plan for reform and was it agreed with Juncker? And where was that emergency budget and massive increase in interest rates?

The lies that are the most dangerous aren't the obvious ones told by the other side, they are the ones told by your own side that you would really like to be true.

AaronMDellutri

You say that, "longstanding anti-EU sentiment was infra-marginal". I confess I don't understand the meaning of the term *infra-marginal* in this context.

An online econ dictionary says it means 'changes inside of margins, as opposed to changes at a margin' - this isn't too helpful to me. Could you say it another way? Why was anti-EU sentiment infra-marginal?

Blissex

As to an interesting opinion on the causes of Brexit, Lord Ashcroft pulished this remarkable summary of polling:

http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2016/06/how-the-united-kingdom-voted-and-why/

Especially the graphs towards the end, starting "Social attitudes".

A note says:

«* A small majority of those who voted to remain think that for most children growing up today, life will be better than it was for their parents; leavers think the opposite by 61% to 39%. Leavers see more threats than opportunities to their standard of living from the way the economy and society are changing, by 71% to 29% – more than twice the margin among remainers.
* Nearly three quarters (73%) of remainers think life in Britain is better today than it was 30 years ago; a majority (58%) of those who voted to leave say it is worse.»
«By large majorities, voters who saw multiculturalism, feminism, the Green movement, globalisation and immigration as forces for good voted to remain in the EU; those who saw them as a force for ill voted by even larger majorities to leave.»

It looks like EU membership was a proxy for something else.

Blissex

«So Remain was honest was it?»

Project Fear was not very honest: the EU does not matter much either way (the Eurozone matters a lot more), as reflected in its 1% of GDP budget, so the "precautionary principle" suggested Remain.

«Where was the plan for reform and was it agreed with Juncker? And where was that emergency budget and massive increase in interest rates?»

Wait and see. The problem is not being out or in the EU; it is slightly better in, but Canada and Chile etc. do OK outside the EU :-).

The problem is the transition and adjustment, and that will be painful. There is a rule than in major realignements, changes are slower than expected at first and bigger than expected by the end.

Right now the government is pushing up debt and leverage like crazy for a "feel good" factor, but make an already fragile situation even more brittle. It could unravel pretty badly in the medium-long term.

In the short-term it will work; it feels like a pre-election policy swing. Probably the business/establishment plan is to have a rematch, a general election fought over "Remain", pretty soon (probably April-May next year), before Article 50 is invoked.

Theophrastus

"Vote Leave...was also dishonest and anti-intellectual."

Both sides were very dishonest in the campaign, but I'd say Remain were more so.

Btw, as for mono-causal explanations, Marxism is the exemplar.

Bastiator

"Vote Leave was surely one of the most successful political campaigns in history. It was also dishonest and anti-intellectual."

It is always tempting, having lost, to describe one's opponents as deceitful and/or cunning. This is a natural psychologcal reaction. But the Vote Leave campaign was no more or less deceitful or cunning than most election campaigns.

Leave won because:

1). The Remain side was incapable of articulating a single positive reason for the UK to be in the EU.

2). The more people learnt about the EU, the less they liked the sound of it. For years, people had not taken much interest in the EU but assumed that their political leaders knew what they were doing when they said the EU was a Good Thing. After Blair, Brown and Cameron, people no longer impart such trust in their political leaders.

If there was a surprise, it was that Leave did not win by a greater margin.

It is certainly not a surprise that Remain supporters are having trouble understanding the referendum result. It is a result of the Krugmanisation of politics: anyone who disagress with them is, a priori, a moron.

Blissex

«After Blair, Brown and Cameron, people no longer impart such trust in their political leaders.»

But a lot of people trust J Corbyn, and he was 75% for "Remain", and I think that meant "Remain" got a significantly larger number of Labour voters than otherwise.

Many lower income people seeing D Cameron for "Remain" and B Johnson for "Leave" must have thought "both want to screw me, what do I vote", and probably trusted J Corbyn.
Similarly scottish voters for N Sturgeon, apart from the other reasons why they would vote for less control by the english parliament.

George Carty

Blissex: "The EU13 expansion, without any transitional period of restricted immigration to the UK from the lowest wage countries, was also perhaps a long term plan by UK eurosceptics to destroy lower class support for the EU."

Unlikely, given that Britain's Prime Minister at the time was the moderately europhile Tony Blair. More likely he wanted to build a pro-British bloc of nations in Eastern Europe to counter the Franco-German axis, and miscalculated that those working-class voters who lost out from mass Eastern European immigration (whose numbers he also badly underestimated) would have nowhere else to go.

KickAssPacifist

"those working-class voters who lost out from mass Eastern European immigration (whose numbers he also badly underestimated) would have nowhere else to go."

I think it is really debatable that working class people lost out because of mass Eastern European immigration. Where is the evidence for this?

"It is a result of the Krugmanisation of politics: anyone who disagress with them is, a priori, a moron."

I don't think this is the case, in that people who buy the Sun and the Mail have always tended to be tarred with the idiot/bigot brush. So it is nothing new. The question is, is it warranted. Now I have spent some time looking at your average Brexiters reason for leaving and I would say in 95% of cases idiocy would seem appropriate. I have not been paying much attention to the motives of the Remainers before anyone asks!

I think this vote was won at a marginal level but the core of the Brexit vote has been sown over many many decades. Those with sour grapes tend to focus on the marginal, I think we should be more interested in the core.

George Carty

My workplace was overwhelmingly for Remain (not surprising, as Audi is currently their most important customer) -- the one admitted Leave voter I found is an avid fan of the Zero Hedge website (and presumably thinks the EU is doomed anyway).

Blissex

«working class people lost out because of mass Eastern European immigration. Where is the evidence for this?»

Indicatively: millions of people on zero hour contracts; most low income workers have seen their wages fall by 10-20% in real terms in the past few years, as they are were holding up only as long as the bubble ended; many claims by employers that they need more immigrants as wages are too high; many claims by governments ministers that without immigrants the NHS budget would be hit by higher low-end wages.

Maybe private employers and government ministers are wrong that too little immigration from poor countries would result in significant wage inflation, but on that I think they can be trusted.

But *on average* things are OK; for every loser in the bottom 50% there is some middle aged middle class voter who gets cheaper gardeners, carers, cleaners, builders, shop assistants. A quote from one of them:

https://discussion.theguardian.com/comment-permalink/76604749
«I find this argument so bizarre. And surreal. Right now I have to wait 6 weeks before I can get a local builder to be bothered to turn up to do our extension. We live in an area which does not have any EU immigrants or any immigrants in any significant number. [ ... ] It's so funny - even the builders up here in the north complain about 'foreigners' taking their jobs!!! Then you have to point out that there aren't any local Polish workmen and that we would very much appreciate a few Polish builders. One of the mums from school runs a plumbing company with her husband. He is never available less than 6 weeks in advance and constantly complains of the backlog of jobs etc. When I said that he should take in an apprentice he says "why should I create competition for myself?" [ ... ] I for one would LOVE to have the choice of being able to hire a hard working conscientious Polish builder to be able to fill the gap in the local market!!! People voting for Brexit are essentially saying that they want to be able to charge me MORE money to get my already over priced extension done?!!! So, if my plumbers wages are going to go up then MY husband and my wages need to go up.»

nickj

politics is dishonest and anti intellectual.

acorn

It's not really correct to say that bookies were wrong on this one. Rather, the interpretation of the betting figures was weak. While the money was on Remain, the number of bets placed favoured Exit, i.e. lots of people putting small bets were cumulatively not a match for the Remain bets, which were generally for larger amounts.

Larry T

"It is always tempting, having lost, to describe one's opponents as deceitful"

It's also quite tempting to do this when they drive around the country in a bus with a proven untruth painted on the side in two foot high text.

formerstudent

I think it is worthwhile to mention that voter turnout was much higher amongst the >50 age group (upwards of 70% if I am not mistaken) who on average voted leave while the 20-30 age who on average voted stay was much lower (below 50% but I would have to check the source).

amk

Opinium estimated a turnout of around 65% for under 55 (with little variation 18-55) with hight for over 55.

http://ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/survey-results/did-young-people-bother-vote-eu-referendum

joe

What does not get mentioned is that the EU was a quiet 7th on the list of issues for the 2015 General Election. Milliband was addressing the issues of the squeezed middle, living wage and zero hours contracts. UKIP got 4m votes and 1 MP.
So any theory has to address why the huge change in just one year. Most of the reasons seem to be anti-the Westminster elite rather than an EU which few knew much about including the media.
One possibility is that the Conservatives had Government MPs out canvassing who supported opposite sides. You could join the Leave tribe and still be in with the ruling party. If Leave said all the Remain economic arguments were rubbish that was it you had permission not to waste your time listening. The media parroted "Project Fear" at every opportunity reinforcing the permission to ignore.
Cameron would not touch the immigration issue or explain in a comprehensible manner the hundreds of benefits that EU membership gave us. So those in towns with high immigration or with no immigration but feared it would come to them, put their faith in the Conservative Leave MPs. Immigration is tangible, job losses and trade agreements are part of a vague future and may or may not happen, so are far less day of voting motivating issues.

derrida derider

Yep, basically the Brexiters pushed their vote over 50% by a quite brilliant, if deceitful campaign. Of course it was made to look better by an incredibly inept opponent; Oxbridge graduates lining up to tell their inferiors that their falling wages had nothing to do with said graduates' access to cheap nannies was never going to persuade, even if it was sorta true.

Arguments about whether the inept campaign was also deceitful are a bit beside the point. As we all remember from the Bush presidency deceit and incompetence tend to be found together, but it is incompetence that usually does the most damage.

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