Don’t let Brexit divide us more than it already has

By Jonnie Bevan

It will come as no surprise that I am angry and disappointed with the result- but I am not angry and disappointed with those who voted to leave. Instead, I am angry at the mainstream media, who regularly misled voters and sometimes spread outright lies, prioritising lining their own pockets over informing the public. I am angry at politicians, who sought to further their own careers, leaving behind the working class and destroying public services that those in poor areas relied heavily on.

We need to rally together and realise that politicians have let the working class down. Since the Thatcher era (though this is not limited to the Conservatives), the working classes have been routinely lied to; they have seen public services and vital help cut and been left voiceless as a result. Why is anyone surprised that they did exactly what politicians warned them against doing?

The liberal left have themselves an opportunity. They can take the initiative, embrace Leave voters who are disillusioned, listen to their stories and fight for them. Sadly, it appears that many are choosing to demonise those who voted to leave. Instead of trying to understand why people felt so disaffected that they voted for this change – despite a wealth of expert analysis pointing in the other direction – Remain voters turn to accusations of racism, fascism, or downright stupidity in Leave voters. These attitudes are certainly present in a minority of Leave voters. A sickening uptick in racist attacks is hardly a coincidence. Believing themselves to be mandated, racists are free to publicly victimise those that they are so afraid of. Hateful words have repercussions when used in the way they were by the Leave campaign.

However, suggesting that 52% of the country is actively racist is absurd. Many Leave voters did so because they fell for the slick, blokey facade of the (privately educated) Nigel Farage and the calculated bumble of Boris Johnson. The Brexit vote was not won and lost on trade deals and alliances. It was a protest vote, from people tired of stuffy, tedious politicians in Westminster. Many experts claimed voting Leave was a bad idea – but many of these experts, it seems, are from a different world than ‘normal’ people, particularly the working class. No one predicted the 2007 global crisis, or any other number of recessions, so how could anyone know what would happen if Britain left the EU?

This sentiment is echoed in the United States. Those on the liberal left shout down Donald Trump supporters as ignorant, slack-jawed yokels with outdated beliefs. In reality, many live in small towns and have seen the infrastructure crumble around them due to globalisation, lack of funding and middle class suburbanisation. Detroit is a prime example. Impoverished, let down and led on by mainstream politicians, it is no wonder that Trump’s not-very-PC rhetoric hits home. While a Trump presidency may well be catastrophic for his homeland and the world at large, it would have the effect that many across the US desire – stirring up mainstream career politicians, a seemingly alien world which they feel (with fair reason) has done nothing to represent them.

Sadly, these politicians seek to do nothing but divide. It is a tactic employed by the power-hungry. Divide the population; spread fear of certain minorities and promise safety to the majorities who are afraid. The left needs to stand up to this, rather than falling for their tactics and lowering themselves down, as it feels many have been drawn into.

As things stand, this country is only going to become more divided. It seems inevitable that Scotland will now vote for independence once a new referendum rolls around. And who can blame them? Thus the country is divided further; and it looks like Northern Ireland could soon follow. Suddenly, the idea of a “once-again-Great Britain”, pushed so relentlessly by the Leave campaign, seems less and less likely.

This is not the time to be self-righteous. Talk of being “the 48%” helps no one. It is time for the left to accept responsibility for their failures. It is time to reject the divisive politics of both the Leave and Remain campaigns. It is time to offer solutions rather than throwing accusations at those who disagree. It is time to have conversations with people about the Britain, and the Europe, and the world which we wish to live in. It is time for a radical change in the way politics works – a politics based on growth, vision and collaboration, which represents everyone – over a politics of division, infighting and alienation of the working class.