As I stepped into the polling booth at a local church hall on the evening of 23rd of June and looked at the voting slip in my hands, the feeling that crossed my mind couldn’t have been further from the thought of being part of something populist, even if I had been confident that my No vote would contribute to an unscripted win.
I know that I am not alone, and whilst the bizarre polarity which now exists between Remainers and Leavers has reached the level that you will find friendships broken and even online dating profiles telling would-be suitors not to waste their time if they voted the other way, it is certain that David Cameron continues to do a great disservice to all voters by now suggesting that such a momentous decision could be made under the influence of a populist cause.
It isn’t cool to be a Leaver for the same reasons that our former Prime Minister came to draw that very conclusion.
Labelling and the use of umbrella terms to cover a multitude of different interpretations make life easy for politicians and the media alike. But they mean different things to different people. They provide an ill-considered opportunity to stereotype, and there is a very dangerous assumption that everyone who voted one way or the other did so purely on the basis that it was a populist choice and that we therefore think alike.
One of the most significant errors being made by politicians from across our range of political parties and even the USA beyond, is to believe that workable solutions to the root causes of the problems which have created these inappropriately labelled ‘populist’ votes can be narrowed down to focusing upon or addressing these tent-like terms such as ‘immigration’. Indeed, as we now progress forward from the Referendum they believe it sensible to use the newly coined ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit with the inherent suggestion that there is again some kind of black and white choice which still provides an ‘in/out choice’.
Not only are these terms misrepresentative and wholly misleading about the life-experiences which people are having across the Country, they are exacerbating the level of confusion that the mishmash of issues surrounding our relationship with Europe actually presents. And that’s the end of the story only if you are prepared to accept that the Referendum result was itself only ever about Europe.
People are neither one thing nor the other as leave or remain has been darkly painted suggest. The majority of people are in the most part probably sat somewhere in between.
But even ‘somewhere in between’ would be far too specific a way to try and position the basis of a debate or the questions which support it, when the European question relates so differently to so many people, depending upon just how the plethora of issues involved may have impacted upon their own lives on perhaps a very meaningful basis.
The European Referendum arrived at the front of what we will perhaps look back upon as the beginning of a perfect storm. One which has been created in no small part by many years of neoliberalism in its ascendancy, and the evolution of a political and governmental culture of self-interest. A self-contained entity which has seen decisions and policy making made within bubbles of understanding about the life experience of others and a narrative of the world outside which in relative terms operates no differently to the insular online realities that so many disenfranchised people feel falsely empowered by, and as such enjoy.
Many voters do not themselves understand the true complexity of the issues at hand, such as the role of Globalisation in freedom of movement, nor the impact that new and improving technology is having on the decimation of well-paid jobs which are disappearing rather than being awarded to some foreigner who is always guaranteed to do the job for less. They certainly do not consider the unrecognisable role of the taxpayer in subsidising low paid jobs through the benefits systems for the corporate businesses that could afford to pay more along with the impact on small ones whose owners would genuinely like to do so.
It is correct that we should all be able to expect those who have been elected to represent us would properly do so. Not only should they understand fully the issues before them, we also have the right to expect that they would legislate with balance, fairness and the full reach of consequence in mind.
Regrettably there is scant evidence that they do, and with the secret now open that political parties work only towards the delivery of a beneficial result in the next election, Westminster should be in no way surprised by the fact that continuing to do things the same way that they always have, will continue to yield results which beat to a different drum.
No. Many people voted ‘No’ through the feelings of isolation which our political establishment has dealt us over many years and Governments, and it is the frustration building up inside which in one way or another to each of us said ‘No, I can no longer go with what I see as this hollow and populist status quo’.