Party of protest or party of power?

David Sweet

I want to start with the proposition that Labour is unelectable, but this has nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn.

The EU Referendum result has radically altered the political landscape disturbing a relatively romantic view many on the Left have of the British electorate. On June 23rd this electorate became the Elect. All of us now live under its rule, and its vision of a future Britain.

This might not be too much of a problem except for one thing: though the Referendum question was a straight choice between out and in, it was universally interpreted, or refracted, as a massive vote against immigration.

It is possible to have misgivings about immigration, maybe because it drives down pay and creates pressures on local public services. If this is the case enforcing the minimum wage and devoting more funding to areas with a high immigrant population can meet such problems. However, it wasn’t a vote against ‘real’ but rather imagined or virtual immigration, which cannot be countered by taking practical measures.

Evidence for the impact of the myth of immigration can be found in the analysis of the large Leave vote in the Home Counties and the North East. Both areas have very low numbers of foreign-born individuals, 2% in the case of the North East. They can’t experience immigration at first hand, yet they are convinced it has a negative effect on their daily lives, and that immigrant numbers must be reduced.

The favoured line is that we must not use terms like racist or xenophobic to describe the motivation of the Leavers who are ‘ordinary people’. As progressives, we like to believe that levels of racism and xenophobia in British society have declined in past years. On the other hand, we would admit that there is perhaps a hardcore group who continue to display these prejudices. Members of this group would have definitely voted out in order to reduce immigration, but they are a minority, we might hope. The rest of the Leave voters insist that they are ordinary people, and are not racist or xenophobic. The problem is that they voted ‘out’ for exactly the same reasons as the bigots and ultra nationalists. Whatever their supposedly reasonable beliefs, their actions are the same as those of racists and xenophobes, even though they might claim that they are not.

When casting their votes on June 23rd they may have done so convinced, like Boris Johnson, they would be on the losing side. But they won; they are the majority. Continue reading “PARTY OF PROTEST OR PARTY OF POWER”