Contrary to the often touted view, Leave voters can be seen as Intelligent, Experienced, Independent, Strong Minded, Democratic, Forward Thinking, Committed, Anti Discrimination and Globally Open!
A little over two months ago the United Kingdom held a tremendous exercise in democracy. The Peoples of these isles responded better than ever before and cast approximately thirty-four million votes in answer to a simple question:
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
Over 17 million people voted to leave the European Union. The turnout, of those eligible to vote, was in excess of 70% overall and every area was close this. By any measure it was a huge statement confirming very strong feelings and active engagement in one of only three UK wide referenda ever held.
Sadly, an additional issue was highlighted in the hours and days after the vote was announced. It is certainly not a new concept but one that has grown in volume and aggression in recent times. The polarising nature of some political debate has led to many passionate people, leaving their usual reasonable views behind and, poring out bile, spite and bitterness toward those who voted and or believe in different priorities to themselves.
The advent & proliferation of social media has provided an amplifier to this habit and the mass media, never far behind, have spotted an attention grabbing trend. This seemed to reach alarming levels following the 2015 general election. The bile and hatred passed toward Conservative voters was stronger than ever and more intensely personal than I had ever seen. Even within parties, or movements, the usual broad church approach is being eroded by extremely expressed views. The T Shirt worn by a Jeremy Corbyn supporter suggesting “the Blairite Vermin should be exterminated” was one of the worst examples.
In the aftermath of the EU referendum voter hatred was seen instantly. Emotive language about people’s motives, intelligence, age and many other things were thrown around as if it was acceptable to berate, those who held different views, or insult simply because of a democratically expressed wish.
In the case of those who voted remain such behaviour seemed even worse. It was not coming from a few extremists, or a very vocal minority, who were disappointed but would re group and continue their struggle. No this time the disdain being poured on leave voters was coming from official party leaders, former leaders, highly experienced press spokesman, MP’s and many others who had taken part in democracy and our system of government for many years. The saddest thing about this is many ways is that Leavers, as shy Tories before them, had seen it coming. Many who voted leave did so discreetly and did not declare this to family friends and especially not pollsters!
Vote Leave Co-Chair Gisela Stuart spoke of people coming up to her and whispering that they were voting leave and “even worse” that they were Labour members and voting to leave. Do not mistake this for fear, or embarrassment, it is simply knowing what you are in for if you declare such a view. It is any wonder that voters have been referred to as shy Tories or shy Leavers?
Leave voters have been openly and vehemently described as racist, thick, gullible, moronic, selfish, bigoted, little Englanders, backward, close minded and more. The old have been singled out, the northern have been condemned, those without a degree have been belittled and other groups simply dismissed as irrelevant.
The truth is completely the opposite of what has been thrown out since June 23rd. Leave voters are varied and widespread. Just as remainers, they have many and complex reasons for voting the way they chose. They also exhibit and share many features and qualities that should not go unseen and unvoiced.
Voting Leave was not the easy choice. Any vote to overturn a forty-year old policy that is loudly championed by the government, the opposition, and almost every other political party and most respected institutions involves risk. Many leave voters accepted that some negative results could come for them, their families and the country in general. Some were even warned by their own employers that their own job or company was at stake. In addition many also knew the likely response of the, remain favouring, establishment. Both personal and general derision together with vitriolic abuse were expected and in some cases feared.
Yet, even under such egregious threats, they reached their own decision and carried it out fully. Those who voted leave did not seem to suffer from last-minute doubt and revert to the safe option. The return to the status quo did not materialise and it is possible that many became more determined, and even more convinced, that they were doing the right thing.
Independent and Strong Minded.
Education, at the post 16-18 age level, in the UK allegedly involves equipping students with an ability to think independently and not to take reports or evidence at face value. Critical, independent thinking is encouraged in a wide variety of subjects. Leave supporters and voters listened to many sources but seemed to treat many of them with a critical eye. Everything from the government leaflet, and press conferences, through to social media comment and graphics, were seen processed and evaluated. After many months of a mini campaign, and weeks of a full-blown version, Leave voters listened to different views, opinions and reasoned arguments than the remain camp would have liked. Despite the fact that many Leave advocates, including Patrick Milford and Gerard Lyons were portrayed as eccentric or not reliable, many voters liked what they saw or heard. John Longworth being effectively sacked for daring to advocate leaving and other incidents, such as Gisela Stuart being attacked for her German ancestry, showed the remain camp to be bullying and hypocritical.
Leave supporters seemed to see the combination of heavy-handed bullying and interference from Obama, Osbourne and others, and rank hypocrisy from Cameron, regards the vote itself and Turkey, as nothing more than confirmation of what they believed. Remain was based on a status quo that was not working and the EU that had shown itself incapable of changing. Surely we could do better ourselves? Thus they were prepared to listen to the cases of those who disagreed with the current situation and weigh up what they had to say with their own instincts.
The very opposite of gullible. Leavers included those who had thought long and hard and made great efforts to inform themselves. Even those less well-informed could claim to have simply chosen from two sets of competing claims each of which were using figures and individuals to re-enforce the basic elements of their position.
Much has been made of the generational divide in the referendum vote. The extremes of this have been quite shocking. Yet the older voter was the one with the most direct experience of the EU. Many have spent much of the last forty years watching the results of their previous decision to join the common market. The decision of older groups of society to, both vote in the first place and, vote to reverse the decision which many of them and or their parents took, could be seen as the most significant of all.
Hidden within this demographic may also be the answer to question of the intelligence/education level of Leavers. It should be remembered that many of the older generations were not able to gain degree’s. Either due to war and it’s aftermath or the fact that until the 1990’s a much lower percentage of the population were able to pursue a degree. Implying that people from these circumstances are less intelligent or less capable is very low indeed. Do we really believe that at least as higher percentage of these groups would not have gained degrees or higher degrees had they had they opportunity. Instead they have been educated through work, training, vocational qualifications, adult education and even self-education.
Surely these generations have at least as valid a claim on the educated vote as any 18-30 year old with a recently gained degree and little or no broad-based life experience?
A large number of the arguments and reasons offered, by leave voting persons, involved their views on the future. Whether it was the need to ensure democracy for future generations or to protect ,what they see as, British culture from being eroded rather than developed. In addition many also viewed the positive side of future trade relations with current global friends, historical allies and those we cannot currently foresee.
Even the most optimistic Leave voter does not expect all this to be concluded in a matter of weeks and for there to be no reverse side of the coin. Indeed most accept that there are likely to be short-term downsides in terms of both economic and political complications. Most, simply believe that a self-governed UK will do better in the longer run and thus their future, and that of their children and grandchildren, will be stronger than if the EU & UK had been allowed to continue down a path that many saw as worsening.
Even the jaundiced documentaries, from the BBC and SKY, whose lazy stereotypes of Leave voters have to be seen to be believed, attempting to define “why we voted leave?”, have given coverage to many whose primary interest was their belief in a better future rather than any short-term loss or gain. Their own jobs, being under threat, or the reduction in GDP that was threatened seemed to be a “price worth paying” for the protection of what they believed in.
Democratic & Committed
The 32 million or so, voters on June 23rd, took part in the biggest democratic exercise in UK history. The majority gained by Leave was clear, if not massive. Most reports state that many voters were new to the voting booth or longtime abstainers.
The single biggest reason given by leave voters was that the UK should be able to make its own decisions and laws and that its parliament would be sovereign. In addition many felt that the EU had acted in an extremely undemocratic in its attitude to previous referendums and no votes from France, Holland and Ireland. In addition the treatment of Greece and Italy set dangerous precedents in terms of the election and accountability of national governments.
The attitude of many remain friendly folk, following the referendum, in regards to both the result and those who voted for it, has shocked many. The idea that because you don’t like a result it should be re voted on, and that people who voted the other way are lesser or should be prevented from voting, shows very scant regard for a historic demonstration of pure democracy.
The commitment of Leave voters cannot be doubted. Turnout has already been shown to be highest in strong leave area’s and will, in future analysis, be seen to be so in almost every demographic. Many anecdotal tales of people who had great difficulty voting, through age, health or other factors beyond their control, end with a punchline about voting to Leave being a matter of utter conviction that could not be distracted.
The worst of the “voter hate” has come in the form of accusation that leave voters are racists and bigots. An often heard remain phrase is that “not all Leavers are racists but that all racists are Leavers.” This is a gross simplification of facts and is deeply offensive. Are we are supposed to believe , for example, that the large number of anti Semites who reside within the Labour movement, and without, all voted to leave?
In addition many who voted leave consider that the treatment of potential immigrants from non EU countries, with special reference to our historical friends within the commonwealth, is discrimination in action. Voting for leave may well result in at least a re balancing, of immigration opportunity, from all nations on an equal basis. It is not hard to imagine that this may lead to an increase in non white skilled immigrants and a decrease in white eastern European unskilled immigration. Not many racists would be too happy with this outcome!
In addition the EU’s protectionist trading rules and tariffs mean that we actively discriminate against farmers and other producers in many Africans nations. The artificial prices and tariffs on finished goods, that we have to apply, hold back economic development of smaller nations in favour of EU producers. Many of these nations, that we will now be free to trade with without restrictions, are African or other predominantly non white nations or areas. Again I am sure the racists would be delighted to know that they are aiding such development!
At least the abhorrent racist element that may have voted leave are now vocal and obvious and can be challenged and defeated on their views. Those of greater craft and cunning are the ones to be truly feared. Apparently, due to their greater intelligence, they voted remain!
Globally Open & Modern
Perhaps the most laughable vision of leave voters is the little Englander tag. Those who use this label imply that those who wanted to remain are broad-minded, modern, cosmopolitan etc. Yet the EU was a block of 28 countries who club together and attempt to act in their own interests. Often at the direct expense and disadvantage of another group or individual nation. Far from being little Englanders, many leave voters wish the UK to return to global attitudes to trade and participation. With the whole world shrinking through instant global communication, many trades and services can be carried out without the need for any physical transfer. The digital revolution promotes global interactions and cooperation.
Even on a national political level the little Englander label does not stand much scrutiny. The UK has devolved significant power, away from the centre of government, steadily for over twenty years. Each nation of the UK has its own parliament or assembly. Spending and or raising tax powers have been devolved along with huge amounts of public policy making decisions. A number of cities have elected mayors with varying degrees of power. London’s mayor has one of the biggest personal electoral mandates in Europe. Thus the idea that the former London mayor Boris Johnson (he of the family tree that looks like the United Nations) is a little Englander is simply laughable and everyone knew it. The UK is not content to rest on its devolved laurels, even more powers are going to the regions and more mayors and regional powers are planned.
Meanwhile the EU centralised more and more. All of the EU institutions, especially the European Court of Justice, have increased their competencies over the last 20 years and no powers have been returned to nation states or regions within them, Almost every piece of evidence, or statement of ambition that erupts from Brussels, speaks of more centralisation, more powers and more new ventures from the central body of the EU.
This seems directly opposed to the rest of the world where trade and cooperation are more becoming freer and less border bound. Thus remainers were actually advocating an out of date, backward looking, protectionist monolith. Leavers however are advocating that the UK runs itself in the way that the modern world is dictating that things be run. Global interaction, freedom of trade and cooperation on bi or multinational level. Whilst ensuring that devolving national power, and assisting citizens to use that power, in order that they and their neighbours can maximise their opportunity to thrive.
Even in the campaigns it could be clearly seen that those backing leave were strategically sharper, more direct, willing able to make better use of modern electoral methods including computer database use, social media, graphic design and marketing. The combination of Elliot & Cummings working the more liberal Conservative case and Aaron Banks’ team at Leave.EU motivating and expanding the core vote of UKiP, with many from the traditional Labour sectors, proved a dynamic, modern, political pincer movement that could not be resisted.
Post Referendum Myths, Legends & Horrors.
Due to its profound shock, much of the pro EU camp and the establishment in general promulgated and encouraged a number of myths and horror stories about the referendum and its results. Due to the sheer noise created, and the level of insulting nastiness that was used by many, Leavers have been mainly stunned into quietly allowing the remainers to vent their grief and disappointment.
It is time however for that to stop. We will soon be getting down to the meat of exiting the EU and Leavers must ensure that the post referendum narrative is not dominated, twisted or trodden down by those who ultimately lost the debate, the campaign and the argument.
Be Loud & Proud!
So when someone asked you which way you voted or asks for comment on FB, Twitter and other echo chambers of confirmation bias. State clearly that you voted, leave, you are proud of it and that the vast majority of leavers are one or more of the superb qualities above. You may also add a magnanimous comment regarding Remainers possessing as many of those qualities and attributes as Leavers. However, there were simply less of them.