Just finished my workday and the talk centered around the way this country voted in the referendum. “Dumb” was the gentlest of terms used to describe the electorate that voted in this direction. It was a surprising result and one that will reverberate for a long time to come and have long lasting consequences.
As can be seen from the reaction to the vote in the markets it isn’t news that was welcomed. As much as there is to celebrate for those that are happy to “take their country back” they will have to deal with the backlash as well. People in other parts of the world and Europe in particular do not welcome this news at all.
There is a problem with leaving things to a pure democratic vote. As much as it is supposedly the fairest way to decide it is not above manipulation especially when timing is considered. It can be prone to inflammatory rhetoric that stirs emotion and suppresses rational thought. All the major democracies had this in mind when they set up their voting systems. It’s how one can win the popular vote but still lose the election because of electoral rules and regulations. We saw this in the states almost sixteen years ago.
There is a danger to this process and this was played out in textbook fashion here in the UK. First there was a stirring of nationalistic pride. Great Britain was at one point a dominant world power that is responsible for a great deal both good and bad in this world. Secondly, it was pointed out time and time again that migrants from the rest of Europe are taking jobs away from the British population by undercutting their wages. People are complaining that there aren’t enough labour jobs for them. Then there is the threat to the British culture itself as the country is overrun by immigrants.
Much has been made of the amount of money that is sent to the EU in order to find its operations. This money would be better spent on things here in the country. The figure of £350 million per week was the headline number. That figure was widely discredited but during the course of the campaign it remained on the bus and was widely quoted throughout. The response to that figure set up a continual cage. It was a stinging jab and it set up the knock out punch.
Much of this referendum also focused on the issue of immigration. This issue exposed the divide within this country at regarding their view of foreigners and the perceived number of them emigrating into the UK. Prosperity is not distributed very evenly within this country. London is booming. The amount of money it costs to live there and the amounts that can be made make it into a very attractive place. It relies on attracting money into the country. Currently I live in a smallish town somewhere in the Midlands. There isn’t the kind of prosperity and exuberant energy here as found in London.
At work the local paper said that Stoke voted to leave in some of the highest proportions in the country. In the papers even some headlines alluded to anxiety some feel being here knowing that the locals don’t want you here. No one will say it to your face. The accent gives it all away. I’m not from around here. Mind you I’ve been told by patients that they are “lucky to have me here” after an interactive process between us during their study. Many have thanked me and lots more have shaken my hand. Maybe they knew how it was going to go and they didn’t like it but wanted to show a different side to things.