Adam Curtis made a similar point in an interview recently. He compared the EU referendum and Trump to giant “f*ck off” buttons presented to disgruntled voters. The thing the buttons ostensibly were for wouldn’t really do people any good, but the very act of pressing them would send that message, and that’s what was attractive.
I fear that we have been insufficiently careful to distinguish “neoliberal global establishment” from “amoral robber barons who will use outright fascists as shock troops if it furthers their interests.” Murdoch, who, along with Richard Desmond, is as responsible for this result as anyone, has now come out saying how pleased he is with Brexit.
This is our Waldo Moment. (It’s no mistake that Waldo himself is a bluish purple: an animated Farage.) We may be about to discover that there are plenty worse political arrangements than neoliberalism. My fear is that, in five or ten years’ time, we’ll find ourselves looking back on the pre-June 23 world with the bitter pang of nostalgia and regret.
The Blairite conspiracists, meanwhile, remind me of nothing so much as United Future. A bunch of clueless non-entities representing a mythical “centrist” electorate that doesn’t actually exist.
I don't think Corbyn is anywhere nearly as incompetent as he's being portrayed. Just as I think Miliband would've been a really quite good Prime Minister. The issue here is media framing. The Tories have just presided over the greatest disaster in the country's history since WWII and we're talking about Corbyn?
Nick Clegg in the Financial Times on Cameron's unforgiveable complacency:
David Cameron and George Osborne ... alone are responsible for bringing our great country to this sorry pass.
This need never have happened. When we were in coalition with the Conservatives I was repeatedly asked by them to agree to a referendum on their terms.
I refused point blank because elevating internal party rows to a national plebiscite is not good enough — especially since we had already enshrined into law in 2011 a referendum trigger to ratify future EU Treaties.
I remember asking the prime minister whether he was sure he could win a referendum designed to settle an internal Tory feud. I was breezily told that all would be well, of course it would be won.
... as the campaign wore on, it became clear that the prime minister and his chancellor were prisoners of their past: having spent so many years denigrating the EU, it was impossible for them to make a positive case.
They were condemned to make a negative case — the EU is not great, but leaving would be worse — which lacked any emotional impact, culminating in the dismal “punishment budget” proposed by Mr Osborne last week.
Many in the PLP seem to despise Corbyn more than they do the Conservatives. They appear to have little in common with the constituencies they represent, no understanding of working peoples’ lives or opinions, and something approaching contempt for the membership of the party. Chris Bryant, former Shadow Leader of the House, who accuses Corbyn of being the man who will “break” the Labour Party if he stays on, is a case in point. An Oxford-educated former Conservative student politician who supported the Iraq War, was embarrassingly implicated in the MPs’ expenses scandal, and whose own freaking constituency voted “leave” by a healthy margin: how is he not part of the problem he blames Corbyn for failing to solve? I love how, as a final flourish to the rambling, unpolished interview he gave to BBC Breakfast this morning, he failed to be drawn on who the “strong leader” he wanted Labour to have might be. I genuinely think these MPs would rather lose an election to the Conservatives than win one under Corbyn. Dawn Foster is scathing in her assessment of what throwing the party membership under the bus will mean for Labour:
The fear for the resignees is that even if they do manage to force a leadership election, Corbyn will win again: his mandate was staggering, and from members who were in the party for years as well as new members. After his election, many people, myself included, flocked back to a party they’d completely written off. Speaking to friends who joined after the general election, mostly members of no party, but occasional Green and SNP defectors, they said if a leadership election were forced, with no left candidate, they’d leave the party again. For many people, this would be the final straw in their relationship with a party that had destroyed their trust over the Iraq war, tuition fees, identity cards and a lack of opposition to austerity. Revealing their open contempt for party members will have a long-lasting effect that could condemn the Labour party to complete irrelevancy for a generation.
Of course they’re not “fabricating quotes,” Craig. They’re reporting (legitimately) on emails leaked to them by someone within Labour as part of a wider campaign to unseat Corbyn.
That this is now all being blamed on Labour, despite the demonstrable fact that disaffected Tories made up a much more substantial portion of the “leave” vote than Labour supporters is predictable, I guess. But it doesn’t hide the fact that it was the Conservatives’ inability to persuade their own voters that precipitated this. Only 42% of 2015 Tory voters went “remain,” after all. The Tory “remain” campaign was much more disastrous than Labour’s and had a much more direct bearing on the final result. Why isn’t anyone talking about that?
You have to bear in mind the recent trauma of losing Scotland to the SNP in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum. The lesson that the Labour leadership seems to have taken from that turn of events is that coordinating too closely with the Tories toxifies the Labour brand and reinforces the “they’re all the same” strain of cynicism that has been eroding the Labour vote since Blair. Also, as others have already pointed out on this thread, exit polling suggests that the Labour vote did go to “remain” by a large margin: between 63% and 70% of those who voted Labour in 2015 cast a ballot for “remain” in this referendum. This (according to the Ashcroft polling data) compares with corresponding figures of just 42% for the Tories, 64% for the SNP, and 70% for the avowedly Europhile Lib Dems. Claims that Labour’s campaign was singularly inept simply don’t hold up in the light of those figures. The fact that Freedland and his Guardian colleagues aren’t laying into Sturgeon and Farron for failing to mobilise their bases indicates that there’s a certain degree of bad faith in this reporting, as there is with most Guardian coverage of Corbyn and his faction.
I’d also point out that disproportionate support for “leave” in Labour strongholds isn’t the same thing as Labour supporters voting leave. By and large, these voters probably weren’t Labour. Instead, they were largely habitual non-voters or what used to be called the “Tory working class,” largely invisible under First Past the Post and used to their votes not counting in national elections.
Their is no evidence here of any rebellion against the capitalist system: rather, voters seem entirely neutral about that. Looks like the rebellion derives from a cultural divide: a massive chasm, more like.
I’d still argue that the divide is basically economic. That exit poll indicates that “leave” voters were disproportionately likely to be on state benefits or pensions and to live on council estates. This section of the “leave” constituency doesn’t participate in markets as fully as the rest of Britain does. They haven’t followed market signals and moved to where there is work. They haven’t engaged with the education system. They’re not mobile, upwardly or otherwise. Instead, the forms of identity and association that make sense to them are localized and non-market-based: the identity claims of family, street, town, region, race, or nation. To the extent to which they belong to an “imagined community” outside their own lived experience, it’s one defined by the information bubbles of The Sun and The Express: hardly a “marketplace of ideas.” This set of allegiances explains why they’re intrinsically hostile not only to economic migrants (those who follow market logic) but also to competing global forms of identity like the internet or the green movement. And pointing out that deprived regions of the UK benefit from (indeed, to a large extent, actually rely on) EU structural funds isn’t likely to cut much ice with them either. As Will Davies point out in Thoughts on the Sociology of Brexit, “handouts don’t produce gratitude.” The economics of top-down social curation combined with an attitude of metropolitan-elite condescension produce local cultures of abiding resentment.
For erstwhile liberal leftists like me who are appalled by this result, meanwhile, it’s a reminder of how embedded we ourselves are within global neoliberal capitalism, and how much we’ve assimilated that logic into our own identities. We’re a mobile bunch; we’ll happily migrate to follow a job or a career path or shift towns to attend university. Local ties and allegiances might not mean much to us, but that’s a function of our relative privilege. I’m qualified; I’m mobile; I’m open to market signals. But millions of Britons aren’t and the implications of that worldview were made clear to the rest of us on Thursday.
Judging by the BBC coverage, we are well into “this is fine” territory. Osborne insists the economy is basically strong and that he is working with EU and IMF colleagues; Merkel’s statement that there is no need to rush is being widely reported; the key message seems to be: “don’t panic; we got this.” The markets are up so far.