England does not want to be just another member of the team
January 18, 2017 1:49 AM   Subscribe

 
> Hag-ridden by their unassimilated imperial past, by their failure of Vergangenheitsbewältigung

That’s easy for him to say! Vergangenheitsbewältigung, I see, has its own wikipedia page.

As a Welshman, it galls me somewhat to read “England, with its Welsh appendage” and “(Wales, much earlier and more completely subjugated by England, and never a kingdom in its own right, has always ultimately been willing to accept the role of the afterthought that follows the conjunction in ‘England-and-Wales’.)” But, in relation to the Brexit vote at least, he’s not wrong.

His overall point is debatable. Many outside England were invested in the Empire too: it was nominally the British Empire after all. I think that misplaced English exceptionalism is only one lesser ingredient among many that have contributed to the whole sorry fiasco.
posted by misteraitch at 2:12 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


It's odd he talks about geographical differences but doesn't address that London and several other English cities voted for remain. The bulk of the leave votes came from small town tiny-minded arseholes.
posted by grahamparks at 2:17 AM on January 18 [18 favorites]


I was surprised by "lack of identity". Unmarked identity, or default identity, or identity as rulers seem more explanatory than missing identity. Is an inaccurate identity a missing one?
posted by clew at 2:20 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


It’s totally fair to criticise the UK (and more specifically England) for refusing to integrate the manifold sins of empire alongside it’s achievements, but it seems something of a reach to blame Brexit solely on this idea of anger at our loss of status. I’m sure some kind of hankering for lost greatness of yore motivated some voters, but for the vast majority of people in the UK the British Empire is something that exists only in the history books - they were born long after it was dead and buried.

Brexit has many reasons & this might be one of them amongst the crowd, but it’s hardly the only one.
posted by pharm at 2:38 AM on January 18 [7 favorites]


I don't believe Scotland has a distinct national take on this question; it's more that Scots on balance thought they probably had more to gain from the EU in the way of regional subsidies and the like. It's true though, I'm afraid, that English voters gave no thought at all to Ireland.

Yes, real nice about the Welsh, there.

Just to mention that there are plenty of reasons to dislike the EU other than national delusion. The democratic deficit; the mad German devotion to austerity (for others); and the fact that the whole project is essentially devoted to the proposition that white Europeans should trade with each other and deny a level playing field to Africa and others, for example. These factors don't add up to a case for Brexit, but they do mean it's not necessary to assume people on the other side are all psychotic xenophobes.
posted by Segundus at 2:41 AM on January 18 [15 favorites]


for the vast majority of people in the UK the British Empire is something that exists only in the history books

Well, both David Davis and Boris Johnson has talked about the relation to EU in terms of WW2 today, so I'm not so sure about the "only" bit...

it's not necessary to assume people on the other side are all psychotic xenophobes.

How about "grotesquely misinformed (in addition to most of them being massively xenophobic, as is clear from the polls, the tabloids, and the twitteriat, to just name a few sources)"?
posted by effbot at 2:46 AM on January 18 [12 favorites]


vast majority of people in the UK the British Empire is something that exists only in the history books

That is exactly what he said, but like how post-colonial countries in Africa maintain a Victorian attitude to homosexuality, Englishness in a post-empire Britain remains an undefined quality. Is it warm beer and cricket? Scones and jam? An attitude of 'fair play'? Englishness is a remembered virtue that does not exactly exist today in the same form; there is an England, and there will be a Brexit. What happens next will redefine the notion of Englishness.
posted by The River Ivel at 2:47 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


as once summarised by Flanders and Swann

"There'll always be a North Pole -- if some dangerous clown doesn't go and melt it."
posted by pracowity at 2:50 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


Exactly, the author seems to be using two separate intellectual thrusts—first, the comparison with Germany and the social historical issues there (apparently this is his research background?) and how the people feel and process that as collective trauma and renegotiating a sense of identity, and second, a kind of privilege analysis of exceptionalist attitudes attributed as a legacy of imperialism. I.e., he might reply that the narrative such as "the British Empire is dead history which doesn't resonate with voters therefore, not salient" is exactly an example of the rationalization and internalization of status and privilege that he's criticizing/warning them about. Like, the psychosis he keeps talking about has something to do with people avoiding this historical past, and in turn contemporary reality.

All this said, I'm not sure I agree with the approach he's taking. It's plausible but seems kind of easy. And there's a paragraph buried in there that sounds really bitter, did anyone else see that?
posted by polymodus at 2:54 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


There are some decent reasons for Brexit, true.
Certainly, all the ones mentioned by Segundus, but also the EU acts as an impediment to a strong nationalisation programme (due to supporting through law policies of market liberalism) and things like that. Of course, it also acts as the impediment to instituting policies from the other end of the spectrum.
But the left side has never made these arguments. They've made a bunch of strange arguments with little basis in reality. Then, when they got what they wanted they moved their arguments further (see for example, "No one is suggesting we leave the single market").

Anyway.
It seems there is a natural human drive for fairness. People look around and they see others doing better, or they see that they can't buy a house when their parents could, or they see people on benefits when they work hard.
There is a real sense that there is an unfairness in the system. Someone is taking all the cream. So then people read the newspapers and they are told in loud screaming headlines that YES, Someone is taking what you deserve! Your feeling is right! Unfortunately, the newspapers are run by the people doing the taking, and they're desperately trying to find someone else to blame it on.
Spin the roulette wheel of otherness, immigrants, foreigners, people who are not like "Us". Hey, everyone, it's "Us" vs "Them" let's get "Them". But the people doing the shouting aren't "Us" and they never were.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:57 AM on January 18 [33 favorites]


It would be super nice if people would stop talking about "England" as if it was one homogeneous lump. This so-called England is not me, it is not my family, it is not my friends, it is not my associates, it is not my colleagues and it is not the large majority of people who live with 20 miles of me.

It is those other arseholes
posted by fatfrank at 2:58 AM on January 18 [17 favorites]


Is an inaccurate identity a missing one?
The United Kingdom government is seeking to exit the EU under a banner that starts with a "Br" for "Britain" - a nation that does not exit. If you find out that you are not who you thought you were then the question of who you really are follows close behind pretty immediately and urgently.
posted by rongorongo at 3:00 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


National identity in Britain is really complicated, though. (And I say this as someone who's entire family is Scottish, but was born in Wales, educated in Cornwall and Lives in London).
I'm not English, at all. But it's easier to fall into that group because Scotland and Wales have a distinct national identity that I don't feel that I can lay claim to. (although I do have a haggis burrito for lunch today, and I can correctly pronounce LL).
My brother, (to complicate things) moved to Yorkshire 20 years ago and has developed some degree of affection for the place, counting himself as a Yorkshireman.
All these places have people within who have a strong sense of themselves as Welsh, Scots, Cornish, Londoners, Yorkshiremen, maybe as English too?
But I don't have that. I bet many people don't. There is a common question on surveys along the lines of "Do you consider yourself English, Then British or British, Then English" I wonder about the people who are vehement "English" above all other identities (I mean I wonder about people who care so much about their national identity generally, but that might just be due to not having one).
Given the increase of global communication, how meaningful is a national identity? It used to convey to some degree a sense of shared values, but value wise might I better define my identity as "Mefite, Then British".
Perhaps cultural tribes that can exist now have more meaning than a divided national identity.
Might you learn more by the Survey question "Do you consider yourself to be {Brexit/Remain}, Then British" tell you more about shared identity?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:13 AM on January 18 [10 favorites]


polymodus: And there's a paragraph buried in there that sounds really bitter, did anyone else see that?

Did you mean this bit?

"Like resentful ruffians uprooting the new trees in the park and trashing the new play area, 17 million English, the lager louts of Europe, voted for Brexit in an act of geopolitical vandalism."

When I read that sentence my eyebrows shot up so far that I'm still looking for them in my hair.
posted by Kattullus at 3:35 AM on January 18 [7 favorites]


The bulk of the leave votes came from small town tiny-minded arseholes.

A root-cause analysis would come down to tiny-minded arseholes in newsrooms across London at least as much as it would the victims of their propaganda outside the M25.
posted by ambrosen at 3:38 AM on January 18 [16 favorites]


"Given the increase of global communication, how meaningful is a national identity? It used to convey to some degree a sense of shared values, but value wise might I better define my identity as "Mefite, Then British". "

Cannot agree with this more. National identity is a trick of the ruling elites to make us pay taxes and fight in their wars and should have been allowed to die a quiet, unmourned death after the end of second world war.
posted by fatfrank at 3:55 AM on January 18 [19 favorites]


I don't believe Scotland has a distinct national take on this question; it's more that Scots on balance thought they probably had more to gain from the EU in the way of regional subsidies and the like.

I think it has more to do with Scotland having hashed out the question of EU membership once already during the indyref campaign, plus the political forces pushing hardest in favour of Leave being the ones that didn't have much of a foothold in Scotland already (UKIP, the hard right of the Conservatives). But still, national identity played some part in the way the campaigns were received - there's a reason that messages of "take back control" and "restore sovereignty" went down better in England than in Scotland. I don't know exactly what that reason is, or what its connection is to the lingering effects of empire on our national psyches, but there's something going on that's more than a pragmatic calculation about subsidies.

(possibly also something about national attitudes to immigration - Scotland is slightly more favourable on immigration than England-and-Wales [sorry, Wales - I don't think anyone's bothered asking you separately], and sees it as a slightly less important issue for the country as a whole. But again, what's underneath that?)

I grew up in England and have all spent my adult life in Scotland. It does feel like there's a very distinct difference in terms of how the two countries think about our identities, and particularly about our identities within the broader UK. Scotland's sense of who it is as a country is stronger than England's separately to questions of independence. That isn't necessarily always a positive, or even an accurate, thing; there is a tendency to sidestep Scotland's role in the Empire in that national narrative as if the Empire was just England, for one. But it is there, and it is noticeable, and feels increasingly so now.

I still find it surprising that there isn't a greater push within England for an English parliament. It doesn't seem like something people are really interested in, either in wanting or even in discussing. From here, it feels like the past twenty years of devolution within the UK have resulted in significant changes in how three out of the four UK nations view the greater union and their role within it, while England is sort of... vaguely aware that those other places have some sort of elected something they didn't used to have, possibly. I don't know what the future of the United Kingdom is (federalisation? collapse? simmering powderkeg?), but I feel like whatever it is it will be a) different and b) come as a surprise to most of England, who weren't aware anyone else even thought about it.
posted by Catseye at 4:06 AM on January 18 [9 favorites]


There is a common question on surveys along the lines of "Do you consider yourself English, Then British or British, Then English" I wonder about the people who are vehement "English" above all other identities (I mean I wonder about people who care so much about their national identity generally, but that might just be due to not having one).

There was something May said months ago, about remainers' response to losing EU citizenship, along the lines "a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere". That struck me as a really powerful sentiment, as the only interpretation I can come up with is that she can't conceive of an identity without an out-group to define oneself against. For some, identity/choice of in-group is as much about who you're against as who you're for, and May's long-standing obsession with immigration makes a lot of sense in this context.

(As someone who was born and raised in Wales but doesn't speak Welsh and always sounded pretty English, studied and worked in various parts of England for over a decade, and now lives in Scotland for the foreseeable future, calling myself anything more specific than "British" seems misleading, and even that feels off given how far I am from most of the population on many issues of politics and worldview. Many of my friends and colleagues consider themselves European first, for much the same reason. A strong sense of national/regional identity has always struck me as a sign that someone just hasn't moved outside their starting place much.

I still find it surprising that there isn't a greater push within England for an English parliament.

My impression has always been that a lot of English people regard the UK as "England, plus the bits that dangle off it". As such, the UK parliament already is the English parliament in their eyes. So the response to increasing influence of other nations in the UK parliament isn't "we need our own", it's "they need to stop messing with ours".
posted by metaBugs at 4:21 AM on January 18 [24 favorites]


There is a common question on surveys along the lines of "Do you consider yourself English, Then British or British, Then English" I wonder about the people who are vehement "English" above all other identities (I mean I wonder about people who care so much about their national identity generally, but that might just be due to not having one).

During my seven years living in England (Birmingham) I always delighted in selected White(other) on university payment forms. It is rare that as white male I get the chance to be othered.
posted by srboisvert at 4:37 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


My impression has always been that a lot of English people regard the UK as "England, plus the bits that dangle off it".

Yeah, this. I come from the very boring bit of the UK, and this is straight-up what the man in the street thinks. It's why Scottish tenners are changed at the bank before going to the shops, and how Wales still manages to be the butt of jokes. Northern Ireland doesn't even get to dangle, so it's hardly considered.
posted by The River Ivel at 4:50 AM on January 18 [5 favorites]


Related to Brexit: the Vote Leave campaign manager Dominic Cummings has a very long, often infuriating blog post on How the Brexit referendum was won:
Instead of spending a fortune on an expensive agency... and putting up posters to be 'part of the national conversation' weeks or months before the vote, we decided to 1) hire extremely smart physicists to consider everything from first principles, 2) put almost all our money into digital (~98%), 3) hold the vast majority of our budget back and drop it all right at the end with money spent on those adverts that experiments had shown were most effective.
...
About 80% of the country including almost all swing voters agreed with UKIP that immigration was out of control... This was true across party lines.

This was brought home to me very starkly one day. I was conducting focus groups of Conservative voters. I talked with them about immigration for 20 minutes (all focus groups now start with immigration and tend to revert to it within two minutes unless you stop them). We then moved onto the economy. After two minutes of listening I was puzzled and said – who did you vote for? Labour they all said. An admin error by the company meant that I had been talking to core Labour voters, not core Tory voters. On the subject of immigration, these working class / lower middle class people were practically indistinguishable from all the Tories and UKIP people I had been talking to.
...
There are already myths about some of these events. The press conference of 24 June is now written up as [Boris Johnson and Michael Gove] 'terrified of what they had done' but this is completely wrong. They were subdued partly because they were genuinely sad about Cameron and partly because they did not want to be seen as dancing on his grave. Some of the media created the psychologically compelling story that they were regretful / frightened about victory but this was not at all their mood in HQ on the morning of 24 June. Boris came in punching the air like Maradona after a great goal, hugging staff and clearly euphoric. It is completely wrong to portray him as regretful.
...
Roland Rudd and others have attacked them for their basic strategy of focus on the economy and argue there should have been 'a positive campaign for the EU'. WRONG. Cameron and Osborne were right about this big call. There was not enough time or money to change basic attitudes. As the campaign developed and there were signs of pressure from Rudd and others I crossed my fingers and hoped they would shift strategy. No10 were right to ignore him.
...
Since losing many inside the IN campaign now talk dejectedly as if they could never have won and tell rationalising fairy tales. They are wrong. They almost did win. Some have latched onto the idea that they were overwhelmed by an epic, global force of 'right-wing populism'. Mandelson defends himself by saying 48% looks 'like a miracle' given the populist tide. Most have latched onto the idea that their 'complex truth' was overwhelmed by 'simple lies' and they are happy with their comforting 'post-truth' sobriquet – a delusion that leaves them very vulnerable to being shocked again. Many have even argued that they lost because they could not persuade Corbyn to make more speeches.

These stories are psychologically preferable to the idea that their own errors caused defeat (just as it is for some of those in Hilary's campaign) but should not be taken seriously.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:01 AM on January 18 [20 favorites]


It would be super nice if people would stop talking about "England" as if it was one homogeneous lump.

Exactly. Is Birmingham full of small town twats because it voted 50.4 Leave? Is Monmouthshire (part of the "appendage" insert roll-eyes here) full of Big City Elites because it went 50.4 the other way?
posted by threetwentytwo at 5:07 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


I talked with them about immigration for 20 minutes (all focus groups now start with immigration and tend to revert to it within two minutes unless you stop them).

Nice to see that we're dropping the old "can't talk about immigration" lie, finally.
posted by threetwentytwo at 5:11 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


A Midland's boys grammar school, 1965. Lower VIth form. Tonight's homework. Essay.
"Great Britain has lost an Empire and has not yet found a role.". (Dean Acheson, 1962).

Discuss.
Fifty years on, the discussion continues.
posted by Mister Bijou at 5:23 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Having sailed on the QM2 shortly after the vote, and having met many "well-heeled" elderly Brits in the process, I can lend much anecdotal credence to the author's hypothesis. One woman even told us that the Empire would rise again as a result of Brexit.
posted by hwyengr at 5:31 AM on January 18 [8 favorites]


This was an episode of Yes Minister from 1980.
Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it's worked so well?

Hacker: That's all ancient history, surely?

Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We 'had' to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn't work. Now that we're inside we can make a complete pig's breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch... The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it's just like old times.

Hacker: But surely we're all committed to the European ideal?

Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister.

Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?

Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It's just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes.
Hacker: What appalling cynicism.

Sir Humphrey: Yes... We call it diplomacy, Minister.
Never has it been so prescient.
posted by Talez at 5:32 AM on January 18 [58 favorites]


People should read Dominic Cummings blog: he lifts the lid on the art of being a political operator par excellence.
posted by pharm at 5:45 AM on January 18


But still, national identity played some part in the way the campaigns were received - there's a reason that messages of "take back control" and "restore sovereignty" went down better in England than in Scotland. I don't know exactly what that reason is

I would have thought that was obvious? "[Westminster will] take back control" can't be a winning message north of the border, can it?
posted by Leon at 5:46 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


No evidence is provided for this kind of sweeping historical analysis that the loss of englishness/britishness is what drove Brexit. If all you have is a post-colonial hammer, everything looks like a post-colonial nail.
--

I actually thought this was the best bit

"Like resentful ruffians uprooting the new trees in the park and trashing the new play area, 17 million English, the lager louts of Europe, voted for Brexit in an act of geopolitical vandalism."

I would replace "new trees in the park/play area" with "hospital" but still.....

---

There was something May said months ago, about remainers' response to losing EU citizenship, along the lines "a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere".


Relevant
posted by lalochezia at 5:51 AM on January 18 [5 favorites]


The author doesn't mention the Commonwealth at all which is a weird misstep in an article about loss of Empire.

My older relatives certainly feel "closer" to Australia, Canada etc then they do to France or Sweden. We have cousins/distant relatives in Australia, New Zealand and Canada (relatively common for farming types, I think). There was definitely talk around the election about being able to increase Commonwealth immigration if we had less EU migration.
posted by threetwentytwo at 5:56 AM on January 18 [5 favorites]


I would have thought that was obvious? "[Westminster will] take back control" can't be a winning message north of the border, can it?

Ah, but only if that's what you put in those square brackets. You could as easily stick in [Edinburgh/Cardiff/Belfast] for devolved issues, and indeed that was something the Vote Leave campaign did up here - leave the EU and Scotland gets more control over fisheries, immigration, etc etc.*

But there's a reason the key messaging itself was the general "take back control", over and over and over again. It resonates with enough people as a broad, emotive sentiment that the matter of who is taking back control isn't as important, because once you've already signed up to the idea, once it feels right, you'll just insert whatever you want in there. As we've already seen, it's secondary to the general sentiment: "Yay, now our courts and parliament can take back control! Wait, the courts are ruling on whether Parliament gets a vote on Article 50? ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE!".

There's a lot of will in Scotland for having more control of more political issues, but for some reason, the generic "take back control" didn't resonate as much - people weren't as willing to read into it what they wanted. There actually was a correlation between voting Yes to independence in 2014, and voting to leave the EU in 2016, especially in poorer areas, so there is something there, but not enough of a something to swing the vote.

(*not all of which were actually devolved areas but gosh, I'm sure that was just a series of genuine misunderstandings.)
posted by Catseye at 6:42 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


My older relatives certainly feel "closer" to Australia, Canada etc then they do to France or Sweden. We have cousins/distant relatives in Australia, New Zealand and Canada (relatively common for farming types, I think). There was definitely talk around the election about being able to increase Commonwealth immigration if we had less EU migration.

The only reason we wanted to come was to schlepp around Europe. If you lose that why would we bother coming? It's like finding out your awesome cousins got rid of their awesome pool and replaced it with a gold tailings pond.
posted by Talez at 6:53 AM on January 18 [27 favorites]


You could as easily stick in [Edinburgh/Cardiff/Belfast] for devolved issues, and indeed that was something the Vote Leave campaign did up here


You can try and sell it, but I suspect bitter experience means its a tough sell when the main sellers at the UK level are Tory wankers or their further right brethren, all based in London.
posted by biffa at 6:58 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Worked in Wales, though...

I wonder how different the Scotland vote would have been if the Scottish Conservatives had gone all-in for Leave. Suspect they probably couldn't have got much traction with it after the "stay in the UK to protect Scotland's EU membership!" element of the indyref campaigning, but it's interesting that none of the Scottish parties actually in Parliament backed Leave. Maybe it would have got more votes here if it was seen to be something that had mainstream political support?
posted by Catseye at 7:04 AM on January 18


Nthing this is something difficult to write about, because writing involves a modicum of rational analysis that, in and of itself, defangs the emotions underlying how "national identity" is being used by right-wing groups to influence people. In other words, if you're writing about it, it's very likely you're already someone who's not so much influenced by it, and so you'll have a hard time understanding it.

May's "If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere" gets right to the emotive part of it. This is where I'm going to project a bit because I only know England from a distance, but this "national identity" thing is also big in France: England means something to people. Not just the English. To say "England" means something to people outside of England, which is part of why people emotively hold to it. We get this in France too, and it's a huge reason I wish people would do a lot less "France is X, the French are Y" because it totally plays into the emotive hold of "French identity."

And make no mistake about it, "French identity" is understood to be white. The way people see and talk about France from the outside is just as white. I've said it before, I'll say it again: when books about "French parents" or "French women" or "French eating" come out, who are they talking about? Are they talking about French people whose great-grandparents immigrated from Algeria? French people who have Lebanese parents? No. And THAT unquestioned exclusion is the "French identity" that white supremacists want to preserve. The "French identity" that says "the French" are civilized (white colonists), educated (that immigrants' children shouldn't have the right to free public school is an actual proposed policy by right-wing parties), and their women are naturally beautiful (white).

Now... England suffers from that too. I seriously doubt an American would hear "typical Englishman" and imagine a grandchild of Indian immigrants, just as one possible example. People know that. They wouldn't say it, because it's the shadow of the thing: "we want to be separate and different [so other people will respect us]"... if they acknowledge that others' differences have weight with them, well, yeah, they would have to look at things differently.

If it could be rationalized or explained, it wouldn't be so influential. It's linked to a sense of superiority. Boyle touches on it:
The end of empire meant the end of all this. And because England has been unable to acknowledge that loss, it has also been unable to acknowledge the end of English exceptionalism, the end of the characterlessness the English had enjoyed as rulers of the world – with no need of distinct features to mark them off from their equals since they had no equals, embodying, as they did, the decency, reasonableness and good sense by which they assumed the rest of the world privately measured its lesser achievements and to which they assumed it aspired.
France too suffers from this. Don't mean to derail, just it's a huge part of the discourse here surrounding our upcoming presidential elections, and I really wish the media would pay more attention to it because gone unchallenged, it is toxic. Glad to see it being addressed re: England, even if, yes, it is not the sole explanation for Brexit.
posted by fraula at 7:07 AM on January 18 [28 favorites]


Also from the Dominic Cummings blog:
When I started to research opinion in 2014-15 and compared it to my experience of the euro campaign (1999-2002), it was clear three forces had changed opinion on the EU.

1) The immigration crisis. 15 years of immigration and, recently, a few years of the migration crisis from the East and Africa, dramatically portrayed on TV and social media, had a big effect. In 2000, focus groups were already unhappy with immigration but did not regard it as a problem caused by the EU. By 2015, the EU was blamed substantially for the immigration/asylum crisis and this was entangled with years of news stories about ‘European courts’ limiting action against terrorists and criminals. Actually often these stories concerned the Strasbourg court of the ECHR (not the ECJ)...

2) The 2008 financial crisis. This undermined confidence in Government, politicians, big business, banks, and almost any entity thought to be speaking for those with power and money. Contra many pundits, Miliband was right that the centre of gravity has swung against free markets. Even among the world of Thatcherite small businesses and entrepreneurs opinion is deeply hostile to the way in which banks and public company executive pay work. Over and over again outside London people would rant about how they had not/barely recovered from this recession ‘while the politicians and bankers and businessmen in London all keep raking in the money and us mugs on PAYE are paying for the bailouts, now they’re saying we’ve just got to put up with the EU being crap or else we’ll be unemployed, I don’t buy it, they’ve been wrong about everything else…’ All those amazed at why so little attention was paid to ‘the experts’ did not, and still do not, appreciate that these ‘experts’ are seen by most people of all political views as having botched financial regulation, made a load of rubbish predictions, then forced everybody else outside London to pay for the mess while they got richer and dodged responsibility...

3) The euro crisis. Britain joined the EEC because it was a basket case in the 1970s and ‘Europe’ was seen as a modernising force that could help us recover and improve the economy and living standards. As the euro crisis hit, millions saw Greece in chaos, even flames, for month after month. This undermined confidence in the EU as a modern successful force – ‘it’s so bad even Germany’s in trouble now because of the euro’, ‘not even Germany can afford to sort this out’, people would say.

Together these three big forces undermined confidence in the EU project as a modern force for progress that brings prosperity and solves problems and pushed it into about 30-35% of the population (younger, richer, better educated) which increasingly saw the EU in terms of ‘are you racist / supporter of Farage?’
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:08 AM on January 18 [6 favorites]


Day by day your world fades away
Waiting to feel all the dreams that say
"Golden rain will bring you riches
All the good things you deserve"
Climbing, forever trying
Find your way out of the wild, wild wood

posted by hawthorne at 7:16 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


The outcome was voted upon by a majority of voters. If majority rule is to be disregarded of scorned or readily dismissed, then say so.
posted by Postroad at 7:17 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Brexit has many reasons & this might be one of them amongst the crowd, but it’s hardly the only one.

This is the usual arrogant shaming tactic people use when someone has different life requirements and realities than they do, and you would think in this alleged enlightened day and age, we'd be more grown up about it.

It is always about the Benjamins. If people aren't getting anything out of an arrangement, they see no reason to keep it and will opt for something else, given a choice. People who were reaping the benefits of the same arrangement opted to stay because they don't want to rock their boat. Both sides are logical and neither were wrong, but had an impasse that was never properly addressed. If you want an arrangement to work, make sure as many people benefit as possible.

Not everyone is going to just go away to crawl into a hole and die so you can have your fairytale narrative of being superior to them and keep a status quo going. Life is not a bedtime story where the end is the end where people who you don't like are vanquished and the world applauds you and throw a parade in your honour. It would far more constructive if people stopped stooping to personal attacks, looking down on others, engaging in willful blindness, and faced reality. We live in a world of billionaires and homeless -- most people know they will never be a billionaire, but if they sense they are going to face the other extreme because it is far more likely to happen to them, they will do what it takes to stop it, and that usually means removing an obstacle or rig.

The Brexit vote was the way those people took out the rig that they felt held them back. They could be wrong, but they feel as if they have nothing to lose. You don't have to like the outcome, but keeping grudges, throwing tantrums, and distorting the truth is not helpful. There are real problems that brought this on, and had those problems been adequately addressed, it would have been a different outcome, but when we have leaders who pander to the haves as they ignore the have-nots, eventually, the group with the largest numbers will make themselves be heard. David Cameron miscalculated and failed at his job.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:18 AM on January 18 [10 favorites]


I hate to say this, but Cummings' analysis feels closer to the truth than Boyle's.

I also resent Boyle's sweeping generalisations about a group who only marginally opted to vote leave. It smacks of the same attitude that, immediately after the vote, portrayed it as London-versus-the-rest, conflating every leave vote with knuckleheaded racism.
posted by mushhushshu at 7:19 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


I think he's right that England has never fully dealt culturally with the loss of empire, and that those feelings impact Brexit. The US is having similar issues with the loss of utter dominance, for example. But I don't think it is completely responsible in the way he suggests.
posted by corb at 7:24 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Alexandra Kitty: was all that bile aimed at me? Because, to be honest, I’m struggling to reconcile your response with what I wrote if so.
posted by pharm at 7:26 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


I was also about to question that response to pharm, it doesn't seem to stem from any logical interpretation. pharm basically acknowledges someone's comment that England's/Britain's history of lost empire may inform some voter's decision to vote leave but suggests that there may be other reasons and somehow that's shaming someone? Who is it that's being shamed? How are they being shamed? The rest of your comment makes sense to me, but why the invective and why directed to what seems like a fairly neutral comment?
posted by biffa at 7:35 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


And make no mistake about it, "French identity" is understood to be white. The way people see and talk about France from the outside is just as white. I've said it before, I'll say it again: when books about "French parents" or "French women" or "French eating" come out, who are they talking about? Are they talking about French people whose great-grandparents immigrated from Algeria? French people who have Lebanese parents? No. And THAT unquestioned exclusion is the "French identity" that white supremacists want to preserve.

This is a bit of a hornet's nest, but I want to make two comments. First, if what you say is true, if there is a "whiteness criterion" which is close to people's hearts and that it is exclusionary, and therefore on that basis needs to be suppressed, then it is to be expected that people will feel suppressed and respond in kind. Second, while immigration from the Maghreb etc. is significant, the vast majority of the population in France is in fact white and historically even more so. If ethnicity is an important aspect of identity, which we readily accept for minority groups, then it is hard to see why it would not also be important for a majority group, notwithstanding the entirely different structure of power relations. That's a different issue, the protection of minority rights against majority rule, which I think is a critical tenet in a just society, but firmly based in the observation that, indeed, we are not all brothers. Perhaps one day.
posted by dmh at 7:49 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Both sides are logical and neither were wrong, but had an impasse that was never properly addressed. ..... people stopped stooping to personal attacks, looking down on others, engaging in willful blindness, and faced reality. We live in a world of billionaires and homeless -- most people know they will never be a billionaire, but if they sense they are going to face the other extreme because it is far more likely to happen to them, they will do what it takes to stop it, and that usually means removing an obstacle or rig.....The Brexit vote was the way those people took out the rig that they felt held them back.

The world is unfair as you state it re billionaires/homeless.........but 'these people' (your words!) have been lied to and used as pawns for destroying a-on-the-whole-good 'rig' - the EU has VERY little to do with their woes and we don't have to put up with their lies in some attempt to appease those who have been inflamed into being insulted by internationalism.

My response is not a "personal attack" - it's an attack on imbecilic nationalism (something that has killed tens of millions of people in europe!) - and its enablers - that if not stopped will drive us to war and environmental ruin.

As for the rest of your comment attacking those who suggested otherwise:

What does membership of the EU have to do with " everyone is going to just go away to crawl into a hole and die so you can have your fairytale narrative of being superior to them and keep a status quo going".

Also: I'm sorry but the inane equivocation "Both sides are logical and neither were wrong" is DEMONSTRABLY FALSE and an immense abdication of your duties as a citizen and a rational human being........
posted by lalochezia at 8:07 AM on January 18 [6 favorites]


The outcome was voted upon by a majority of voters. If majority rule is to be disregarded of scorned or readily dismissed, then say so.

Hi there! So where I live we voted in the majority to stay so you know majority rule apparently depends where you live. But fuck us anyway I guess.
posted by billiebee at 8:08 AM on January 18 [14 favorites]


'but they feel as if they have nothing to lose'

Because they were/are misinformed and wrong about that. They have had their feelings about injustice abused and exploited.
Domonic Cummings - About 80% of the country including almost all swing voters agreed with UKIP that immigration was out of control... This was true across party lines.

To quote myself:
I think that the slim voting result in favour of leaving can be seen as a result of hypernormalisation. People know something is wrong, distrust authority, but are complicit in creating the narrative that somehow immigration is to blame. The leave vote allows them to protest vote against authority, 'do something' about immigration and has no perceived down side for them, unappraised of the facts as they are.
I heard an interesting interview (November 18th 2016) with Rob Ford (no relation) of Manchester University who has studied UK opinion poll results on immigration dating back 50 years.
Immigration has been a consistent 'concern' for the population, therefore a reliable political football. A YouGov poll after the referendum showed a marked reluctance to pay anything to 'solve' the EU immigration 'problem'. When asked what they would pay to reduce immigration 62% of respondents said they were happy with the level of EU immigration and would rather have that than suffer any depletion to their economic well-being!
The idea of bringing back the 'g(l)ory days' of empire is definitely one of the tenants of English nationalism.
posted by asok at 8:08 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


The outcome was voted upon by a majority of voters. If majority rule is to be disregarded of scorned or readily dismissed, then say so.

If a majority of voters decided that all people with brown skin should have no civil rights, I would hope that the rest of us would disregard, scorn, and readily dismiss that, and fight back against those voters with all of our might. If a majority of voters decided that all people with white skin should have no civil rights, I would hope the same.

You probably agreed with at least one of those sentences (hopefully both). If so, you already agree that there are some issues on which a voting majority should not be allowed to rule. Even if you don't agree with that, surely you can agree that the majority can vote in a way that is detrimental for them, which is absolutely something that needs to be discussed and examined, because we need to learn how to avoid allowing manipulators to trick people into voting against their own interests.


It is always about the Benjamins. If people aren't getting anything out of an arrangement, they see no reason to keep it and will opt for something else, given a choice. People who were reaping the benefits of the same arrangement opted to stay because they don't want to rock their boat. Both sides are logical and neither were wrong....

Most people who voted Leave will not benefit in any way from Britain leaving the UK, and in fact their economic circumstances are going to get worse; if they were approaching the problem logically they'd have voted to Stay. If we're going to approach the situation from a purely logical economic perspective, most people who voted Leave *were* wrong. They voted directly FOR an arrangement that they won't get anything out of. (Also, it's a little ridiculous to accuse people of stooping to personal attacks only to immediately attack them for throwing temper tantrums, when nobody here has done anything of the kind except for you.)
Your objection is based on a falsehood. These people were not, in fact, voting in their own best interests, in a logical and sensible way regardless of whether or not we agree with them; they were voting AGAINST themselves, out of either ignorance (not understanding that Leave would hurt them more than help, possibly because they'd been lied to about it) or hate (anger at others that they see as more successful but illegitimately so, or the racist and nationalist quests for "purity" and "identity" which actually just mean "only people like me should be allowed to live here"). Yes, we should judge people who are willing to vote out of hate and ignorance. That is a pattern of behavior that should be shamed, just as we shame people who act out of hate and ignorance in many other ways (racially-motivated violence being just one example).
posted by IAmUnaware at 8:11 AM on January 18 [18 favorites]


dmh: Second, while immigration from the Maghreb etc. is significant, the vast majority of the population in France is in fact white and historically even more so.

Wouldn't everything you just said also have applied to the Jews in 1940? It seems a bit late in history for it "to be expected that people will feel suppressed" because they have to embrace a broader national identity than just their own.
posted by XMLicious at 8:14 AM on January 18


The outcome was voted upon by a majority of voters. If majority rule is to be disregarded of scorned or readily dismissed, then say so.

I disregard, scorn, and dismiss it because direct democracy, and especially direct democracy by bare majority or plurality of those voting, is stupid and bad.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:15 AM on January 18 [7 favorites]


At least one person's doing well out of Brexit. The civil servant answering FOI requests at the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy about Nissan's sweetheart deal appears to have been on holiday since about mid-December.
posted by threetwentytwo at 8:32 AM on January 18 [10 favorites]


IAmUnaware is right on and reinforces why an issue so complex should never have been put to a vote.

Personally, I'm considering my long-term options for departure and watching the pound like a hawk. This is not the country I immigrated to anymore.
posted by wingless_angel at 8:39 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


I work for a UK company in Canada but get paid in pounds lolololololoolol
posted by Damienmce at 8:48 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


Most people who voted Leave will not benefit in any way from Britain leaving the UK
Most people who voted leave or remain wouldn't have benefited whatever the result.
They're already fucked so they voted for new lies instead of old ones.

They're still fucked, but now they might have company.
posted by fullerine at 8:48 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


A few thoughts from a Scot: I do think England in particular has not separated itself from its imperial history. Fetishism of the Union Jack (outside of the Olympics) and rousing renditions of 'Rule Britannia' and the like are definitely an English phenomenon and I don't think the English are reconciled to their shrinking role in World affairs. I also agree that 'English' has as yet not been as distinct from 'British' as 'Scottish', 'Welsh' or 'from Northern Ireland/ Northern Irish' are. People in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland never refer to themselves as English, but English people will routinely use 'English' and 'British' interchangeably. It's sort of a national sport in Scotland to spot and harangue the BBC presenter who calls a Scot 'English'.
However, one point the article doesn't address at all is who the 'left-behind' might blame. In Scotland, for historical reasons, simple scapegoating, and because our voting results tend to have little impact on overall UK results, we tend to blame England. We therefore have no reason to think that leaving the EU would allow us to 'take control'. If anything, we'd be less protected. For English voters left-behind, however, it is conceivable that they they would blame the pro-EU city or the EU itself.
posted by genuinely curious at 9:05 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


England means something to people

Yeah, narrow minded provincialism. The English national identity is correctly represented by a NEET wearing the St George's flag drinking cider in front of an off license whinging about immigrants who will happily go on at length about why their dying post industrial town is vastly superior to the dying post industrial town down the way.

Britain is OK, but England as a national idea is
crap.
(London ceased being English a while ago, it's firmly British.)
posted by PMdixon at 9:10 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


The outcome was voted upon by a majority of voters.

A majority of people voted in agreement with the words 'Leave the European Union'. That's it. No one defined what that meant going in. The debate around what it meant suggested a lot of people thought that the UK would be able to enter into a different kind of link with the EU, for example, something similar to Norway or something similar to Switzerland. Some people seemed to think we could renegotiate the nature of the treaty in the UK's favour to a greater extent. Since the referendum, we have had people try to define it. Some have suggested the population want a hard brexit NOW. Some have suggested people want an end to immigration, or want some limits on it. The Prime Minster yesterday seemed to suggest that it will mean leaving the single market. A poll in November suggested 90% of the population wanted to stay in the single market but 70% said they wanted more limits on immigration. A poll for Sky yesterday said 51% want to leave the Single Market. A poll for the independent two days ago said 39% want a hard brexit with the other options ranging from stay in to soft brexit.

The majority voted for 4 words. But how those words can be interpreted varies wildly and it has certainly changed since the referendum took place in June. The country didn't vote for a very specific policy and the raft of different ideas that have been floated since as to what Brexit means can not be shown to be the will of the majority. Since there are a raft of differing opinions even the people who want Brexit are dismissing the perspectives of others who voted for and want brexit, just not in their flavour.
posted by biffa at 9:11 AM on January 18 [10 favorites]


Second, while immigration from the Maghreb etc. is significant, the vast majority of the population in France is in fact white and historically even more so.

I want to unpack this statement a bit, because it involves a couple of misunderstandings about France. To take your second point first, it is actually unclear to what degree "the vast majority of the population in France is in fact white," as racial and ethnic data is not collected by any national census body in France. In fact, there are strict rules against this. So while, in 2010 for example, 13.3% of French newborns had only one parent born in France, and 6.6% had neither parent born in France, it is not clear to what degree the newborns with one or more parents born in France are descended from European or other populations. There is really no way to know with any certainty to what degree children born in France are descended from European parents, non-European parents, or mixed parentage.

This brings me to your first point- in fact, many of the people in France who trace their origins back to the Maghreb (or to West Africa, for that matter), are not only descendants of French citizens, but their ancestors have always been French citizens. As colonial subjects of France, they ostensibly had the same rights as citizens (French citizenship does not recognize race or religion), and many came to metropolitan France before their own countries' independence. Nevertheless, the descendants of these people are still often perceived as, and frequently described as "immigrants" or "foreign," even if they may be 3rd-generation French citizens. This is what is meant by French identity being tied up with ideas of whiteness- it is the unmarked category. Anything else is perceived as a modified kind of Frenchness, or often not French at all (not to mention the people with last names like Griezmann or Sarkozy who are considered perfectly French).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:30 AM on January 18 [13 favorites]


The constitutional issues that get packed into the end of the piece are slowing moving major issues in their own right.
Two pillars of the unwritten British constitution collapsed on June 23. The sovereignty of the Westminster parliament was seriously challenged, and possibly overturned, by a referendum that should never have been called. And the attempt of the Unions of 1707 and 1800 to create a single British nation to rule a global empire was finally shown up as a self-deceptive device by the English to deny the Scots and the Irish a will of their own.
If the UK can have a simple referendum (50%+1) to leave then why can't Scotland do the same to the UK? Just ask Canada about the constitutional issues for it's Westminster style of government precipitated by the Quebec sovereignty.
posted by zenon at 9:53 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Reminder that some of us here on Metafilter are EU citizens residing in the UK.
posted by kariebookish at 9:55 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


If the UK can have a simple referendum (50%+1) to leave then why can't Scotland do the same to the UK?

The problem is that when Scotland had an independence referendum in 2014 – with 55.3% voting to remain part of the UK – Alec Salmond (then Scotland's First Minister) described it as a 'once in a generation opportunity'. Nicola Sturgeon (who succeeded Salmond) has been trying to unpick this particular knot since the EU referendum result.

IMO the closer we get to a hard Brexit, the more likelihood there is of a second referendum, with all the attendant political headaches that will entail.
posted by mushhushshu at 10:09 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


In the first phase, in the eighteenth century, the English gave up their Englishness in order to become British, the rulers of the British Empire; in the second phase, in the middle of the twentieth century, they lost even that surrogate for identity and have been wandering ever since through the imperial debris that litters their homeland, unable to say who they are.

I think that the professor, and an awful lot of professional commenters, need to understand that English and British are not the same thing. In short, British is the elite identity, English the common identity. Britishness was cultivated by the elite long before the 1700s in order to justify the conquest of Wales and reconquest of Ireland. Despite continued cultural imperialism it was only vaguely adopted by the majority of English people even at the height of the British Empire. Most English people were seemingly confused and more or less treated Irish, Scottish, and Welsh people as semi-foreigners.

The reason why English people have not come to terms with the loss of empire is because it was never our empire. The home natives never had the kind of stake in it which the elites did, simply being either workers or poverty-settlers. For all the condemnable atrocities of the British Empire, most English men did not have the vote until 1884, and I find it hard to condemn them personally. Our rulers didn't even provide basic education until 1870. Were we ignorant and disenfranchised. I've said before: English people are the last colonized people of the British Empire.

I voted Leave partly because I understood that this British/English problem was a core split in my society, and that Leave would generate the dynamics needed to finally resolve it. The breakdown of the UK will take a few years, and the period of relearning even longer, but it will come. I hope one day Peterloo will be more important than Waterloo, and I mean that quite sincerely: one of these is English history, the other is British history.
posted by Emma May Smith at 10:11 AM on January 18 [9 favorites]


Let's remember that the "empire" was, indeed nationalist, but rested on a larger shared international colonial paradigm rooted in racism. The margin of victory for Brexit -- not all the leave voters, but enough of them to swing the result -- relied on people (often unconsciously) holding racist views of Africans, Middle Easterners, and even Southern and Eastern Europeans. Those views are the institutionalized legacy of the empire. Britain's wealth would not exist without that history of racism used to justify extraction of indigenous wealth and labor for the imperial power.

"Nationalism" abstracts away from this shared legacy of all postcolonial and settler-colonial states. It's "Ethno-nationalism," specifically. I doubt the average leave voter would have objected to new immigration nearly as much if the immigrants were Swedes or Australians.

/This is me not calling all brexit voters racist, but saying the election took place under conditions overdetermined by a long history of structural racism in which no one in a turban could possibly ever *be* "English" enough.
posted by spitbull at 10:26 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


I have to say that the thesis of this article is almost ridiculously generalised and sweeping. It's worth bearing in mind that only about 27% of the total British population voted for this. I'm not sure what the breakdowns are for England and Wales, but they aren't by any means majorities there either. You can't generalise about whole populations on the basis of figures like that. Boyle is effectively attributing Brexit ideology to the entire population of England and Wales when only a minority of English and Welsh people voted for it.

Even applied more narrowly to those who did vote for Brexit, the argument has major problems. He is effectively arguing that everyone in England and Wales (but not Northern Ireland or Scotland) who voted to leave the EU did so on the basis of a narrowly ethno-nationalist ideology, as though they were all fully-paid-up members of the English Democrats. This completely ignores any economic or community-based logic for Brexit. I guess Boyle, as an Emeritus Professor at Cambridge, is comfortable enough to ignore economics and concentrate on ideology, but the majority of Brits aren't. Their lived experience, I would wager, differs quite markedly from Boyle's. They have to compete in an increasingly grim job market. They see wages falling or stagnating and fewer jobs in the regions. The institutions that loom large in working-class life in Britain—the NHS, local councils, social housing, schools—are demonstrably falling over right now. Both the broadcast media and the comms departments of those institutions themselves say that's because of "rising demand." Sure, the Guardian and the Mirror might say that the real reason for the rapid deterioration in services and infrastructure in this country is due to the post-2010 Tory cuts (and I'd agree with that analysis), but most people aren't reading the Guardian or the Mirror. Their own lived experience, plus almost the entire media as well as most people in their social networks would be telling them that the reason for this rising demand for services and apparent scarcity of good jobs is due to immigration. They'd have economists to back them up on this. Here's Wolfgang Streeck on the issue: "International flows of people, money and goods: Streeck accepts the need for all these – 'but in some sort of directed, governable way. It has to be, otherwise societies dissolve' ... 'It is impossible to protect wages against an unlimited labour supply.'"

Instead of Boyle, I'd be paying more attention to someone like Andrew Cumbers:
In a world of zero-hour contracts, Uber, Deliveroo and the gig economy, access to decent work and a sustainable family income remains the main fault line between the winners and losers from globalisation. Drill into the voter data behind Brexit and Trump and they have much to do with economically marginalised voters in old industrial areas, from South Wales to Nord-Pas-de-Calais, from Tyneside to Ohio and Michigan.

These voters’ economic concerns about industrial closures, immigrants and businesses decamping to low-wage countries seemed ignored by a liberal elite espousing free trade, flexible labour and deregulation. They turned instead to populist “outsiders” with simplistic yet ultimately flawed political and economic narratives.

Much has been said about the crisis of liberal political democracy, but these trends look inextricably linked with what is sometimes referred to as economic democracy. This is about how well dispersed economic decision-making power is and how much control and financial security people have over their lives.
Andrew Cumbers, New index of economic marginalisation helps explain Trump, Brexit and alt.right, The Conversation (12 January 2017).

As a (non-EU) migrant to the UK myself, all of these developments worry me sick. But if we're to actually defend liberal pluralism we have to understand people's motives and concerns as they arise from everyday lived experience and not assume their actions are simply determined by some form of pathological ideology.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:34 AM on January 18 [8 favorites]


Their own lived experience... would be telling them that the reason for this rising demand for services and apparent scarcity of good jobs is due to immigration.

Bullshit. 'Leave' fraction is negatively correlated with fraction of foreign born population. I believe this is true even if you omit London.
posted by PMdixon at 10:45 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


"Lived experience" includes consuming information as well as encountering people in the physical world. Reading a newspaper and watching TV are physically embodied acts and very much part of people's day to day lives. And believe me, those newspapers are very clear about how they want their readers to see immigrants and the EU.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:52 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


Having to rely on a frighteningly dysfunctional NHS, seeing long waiting lists for social housing, and watching council services crumble are also part of "lived experience."
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:57 AM on January 18


Britishness was cultivated by the elite long before the 1700s in order to justify the conquest of Wales and reconquest of Ireland.

Carrying around that feeling that the Irish ought to see sense and join the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland pronto is part and parcel of Britishness. Of course, the same applies to the United States too. Join uusss...
posted by pharm at 11:02 AM on January 18


Bullshit. 'Leave' fraction is negatively correlated with fraction of foreign born population. I believe this is true even if you omit London.

What are you asserting here? Predominantly rural areas with a 93%+ UK-born population (e.g. South Lakeland and Ceredigion) voted to remain, whereas areas with a significant foreign-born population (e.g. Bradford) voted to leave. Multiple factors were at play.
posted by mushhushshu at 11:22 AM on January 18


Bullshit. 'Leave' fraction is negatively correlated with fraction of foreign born population. I believe this is true even if you omit London.

But it positively correlates with those areas that have seen recent influxes. It's not absolute magnitude that matters, it's the changes people have seen around them in the last decade. Lived experience again.
posted by Leon at 11:30 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Thought this in the New Statesman was good: Since we clearly don’t understand sovereignty, I wish we’d shut up about it.
posted by glhaynes at 11:32 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]




The Cummings article is interesting.

I agree with him that the result was in no way inevitable, and that Remain could plausibly have won, just as Clinton could have. It's easy to imagine some broad sweep of world affairs when actually what you are seeing is random outcomes. Having said that, neither Brexit or President Trump would have been possible without the populace being in a mood that was primed for them. So I guess I'm saying that Trump/Brexit were conditional on the popular mood being as it is, but were not necessary consequences of it.

He's dodges responsibility for Leave's two big lies (£350 million a week for the NHS and 'Turkey is about to join the EU and they're all going to come here') by saying that Remain lied too. Were all of the claims made by our leadership perfect? No (see: emergency budget). However, were they cornerstones of our message the way that those two big Leave claims were? Also no.

I disagree with him about Jeremy Corbyn's level of responsibility for Remain's loss. He dismisses the idea that Corbyn's lack of contribution to the campaign hurt us on the grounds that Corbyn's natural message was a poor match for swing voters anyway. Well, ok, but shouldn't speaking effectively to swing voters be one of a politician's core skills? I can certainly imagine a Labour leader who could have done a far better job for Remain than Corbyn did. Many natural Labour supporters reached polling day without finding out what their party's official position was.

I'm surprised at his level of cynicism about public discourse. None of his reasons for getting involved on the Leave side match up to the claims made in the campaign, and he doesn't seem to have any respect for almost anyone's ability (on either side) to understand the real issues at stake. Well, ok, but if nobody understands the issues and all our political choices are driven by emotion, what is the point of having a referendum, or indeed a democratic government? I'm interested in how he squares this with working in politics.

(I was a foot soldier on the Remain side)
posted by Urtylug at 12:08 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


"Lived experience" includes consuming information as well as encountering people in the physical world.

If you're using "lived experience" this broadly, I hardly see how you can distinguish it from "pathological ideology." Yes, people have reasons for doing things that are grounded in the totality of their history. And?

Having to rely on a frighteningly dysfunctional NHS, seeing long waiting lists for social housing, and watching council services crumble are also part of "lived experience."

All of which started well before the current rates of immigration began.

But it positively correlates with those areas that have seen recent influxes.

Well, I would say that pair of relationships is much more evidence in favor of the linked essay's thesis than anything advanced against it.
posted by PMdixon at 12:10 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


I've been really surprised that there hasn't been a call to re-think the whole concept of the "Majority". I've looked through the news websites and the blogs for as long as I can possible stand pictures of Trump and Farage, and haven't seen anyone mention this. 52% is the "winning" result, and it's all good and correct if you're basing your whole democratic system on what you learned in a schoolyard, but it's hardly fair.

100 people voting on what restaurant to go to for dinner. 52 people vote for Bob's House of Meat. 48 people don't eat meat due to vegetarianism, medical conditions, diets, it's the wrong type of meat, etc. 100 people are now in Bob's House of Meat and 48 of them are REALLY not happy, as bread and some coleslaw isn't dinner.

It's democratically sound, but not fair. In what is basically a 50/50 split shouldn't the "loser" have an option? After all, only slightly less of the whole population is unhappy and there's far greater chances for anger, disagreements, and future back-getting. Were the "winning" line set to 66%, then that could be seen as being more fair for all involved, and hopefully that would also help the "winner" to be more magnanimous towards the "loser". The close results in both the Brexit vote and the US election results just look like they're going to end up with 1/2 of the extremely resentful population causing a pendulum swing in the opposite direction the second they get a chance, probably resulting in civil and financial instability... again. And no one's tried to stop it and no one's tried to point out what could go wrong, and no one's talking about a fairer solution.

(Winner and Loser are in quotes as it seems that politics is basically "sports" these days, and that view is completely and utterly wrong.)
posted by Zack_Replica at 12:11 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


no one in a turban could possibly ever *be* "English" enough

That's an ugly synecdoche, and actually inaccurate enough in the context of the state of British multiculturalism that it undermines the rest of your comment.
posted by ambrosen at 12:19 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]




People naturally concluded – these guys in London don’t grasp the seriousness of the problems, they haven’t a clue what to do, and are treating us like idiots.

Thanks to the poster of that Dominic Cummings article, that'd be worthy of an FPP on its own. Lots of parallels with the Trump campaign here, in particular that quote above. I think that sums up the real difficulty Democrats and the domestic Left have getting their message across. They perceive government not working and rather than fight back with examples or even obvious efforts to improve things, the Democrats just sigh and go "well the problem is we don't have enough power. If you'd just give us more..." and then wonder why they lose. Granted Hillary outright saying "yeah a lot of you dipshits are dipshits" didn't help with that perception.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:24 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Talking about dipshits, here's The Sun: "Our reply to the Germans."
posted by effbot at 1:29 PM on January 18


As a (non-EU) migrant to the UK myself, all of these developments worry me sick. But if we're to actually defend liberal pluralism we have to understand people's motives and concerns as they arise from everyday lived experience and not assume their actions are simply determined by some form of pathological ideology.

I agree, but I would caution that the explanation of economic anxiety is itself a compellingly oversimplified narrative. I feel like there are an awful lot of columnists and journalists and so on telling people off for this at the moment, in good old liberal self-flagellation style. "Ah, we privileged folk of the cities, we don't understand what it's like for those on the losing end of our economy! We just don't see what people are experiencing, out there in the post-industrial towns, a world away from our Ocado deliveries and ski weekends!" And they're not totally wrong - God knows that "the privileged should take more time to shut up and listen to what the less privileged are saying" is a sentiment that needs to be heard - but they're also missing some big things it's important to be right about.

Here is a big one that always seems to get glossed over when we're talking about the losers of globalisation, etc.: One of the biggest divisions in the Brexit vote split was between the young and the old. If you're mapping economic instability onto those two groups, it's the young who are much more likely to experience it: precarious employment on fixed-term and zero-hours contracts, priced out of the housing market and paying a fortune in rent, worse pensions and no firm idea about when they'll be able to retire on them. But that's not the way the vote went. The older you were, the more likely you were to vote Leave. So. What's going on there?

Another: that our lived experiences don't matter any less because we're part of 'the Liberal Elite', whatever that means these days. I know plenty of Leave voters. I'm not going to call them hideous racists, because in general they're not, but in general they're not the barely-coping precariat either. One of the biggest Leave voices among my Facebook friends has a huge detached house in the home counties and three horses. I don't think she represents all Leave voters by any means, but weirdly I never see think-pieces trying to analyse the voting motives of people like her.

So I don't think economic status is irrelevant. But I do not think it is the only relevant thing, not by a long long way. I think we are too unthinkingly buying into the narrative that we just don't know how the 'real people' live, and not asking enough questions about who is defining 'real people' and how they're defining it.

And speaking just as myself, it gets a bit fucking frustrating to be told that despite my own years slogging away as part of the precariat, despite my own experience of going from shitty damp rental flat to shitty damp rental flat for years on end, despite having seen up close and very personal the kind of human wreckage that the decline of the manufacturing sector has caused, when my dad and my brother and a lot of the people we all knew lost their jobs because the industry all moved to India and China, despite having been on JSA, despite having to decide whether to feed the electricity meter or buy food more times than I would care to remember during one depressingly tight time in my life - despite all of this, hey I have a university degree and live in a city and voted Remain, so what do I know. Clearly I need the rich privately-educated former investment banker Nigel fucking Farage to explain to me how economic instability has affected the real people.

(This sounds like I'm ranting at you personally, Sonny Jim. I'm not, honestly. It is just a subject rather close to my heart at the moment, as you can probably gather.)
posted by Catseye at 1:38 PM on January 18 [19 favorites]


The English, like Romans, were slavers, but the long lasting feeling for many is that they defined civilization.
posted by pfh at 2:15 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


My older relatives certainly feel "closer" to Australia, Canada etc then they do to France or Sweden. We have cousins/distant relatives in Australia, New Zealand and Canada (relatively common for farming types, I think). There was definitely talk around the election about being able to increase Commonwealth immigration if we had less EU migration.

I'm not so sure other Commonwealth citizens are just waiting for the moment they can pack up and move to England. The article is pretty spot-on in that regard: the Brexiters jusy assume they can have any immigrants they choose, as if boatloads of long lost relatives are all going to turn up and run the local produce shops like in the old days.
posted by romanb at 3:20 PM on January 18 [6 favorites]


I guess it's always easy to believe that "the best we ever had it" is "the least that we deserve"; and as soon as two separate groups believe it it's grudges forever.

Was there actually a reduction in the feeling post-WWII, or just enough of a peace and oil dividend that a lot of people had it as good as ever?
posted by clew at 3:58 PM on January 18


it's the young who are much more likely to experience it: precarious employment on fixed-term and zero-hours contracts, priced out of the housing market and paying a fortune in rent, worse pensions and no firm idea about when they'll be able to retire on them. But that's not the way the vote went. The older you were, the more likely you were to vote Leave. So. What's going on there?

So recently, in an endeavour to find some comfort in a rapidly shifting world, I've been re-reading my Agatha Christies, and what I've been noticing about really all of them is the economic aspect of things, which I don't think she's known for at all. But the time she is documenting is a time of shift, where aristocrats are slowly downsizing and people are starting not to be able to afford servants as regularly, and the wealthy are beginning to react to that, and badly. It's a really fascinating slice of life.

And I think there's something there that relates to now, where people who thought they would always have stability are seeing their quality of life decrease, while people who expected instability are simply having it remain constant in its inconstance.

So it's not about just plain economic fear, so much as the feeling of loss, and that something good could be gotten back to.
posted by corb at 4:12 PM on January 18 [6 favorites]


Aristocrats are famously sulky when the economy is growing and they have to put up with unfamiliar rich people, too. (I just checked the index to Piketty and it has neither Christie nor Sayers. Wimsey is successful both as a capitalist and an aristocrat, and therefore not sulky?)
posted by clew at 4:35 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Zenon If the UK can have a simple referendum (50%+1) to leave then why can't Scotland do the same to the UK? Just ask Canada about the constitutional issues for it's Westminster style of government precipitated by the Quebec sovereignty.

An interesting complication, on the matter of sovereignty, is that it works differently under Scottish law than it does English (see "weekend sovereignty for Dummies" as one primer on the issue). It is a complex topic - but basically in England sovereignty resides with the queen - who delegates it to parliament in Westminster. In Scotland it resides with the people - who then delegate their monarch to look after it.

Most of the time, this is all of theoretical interest only. But when there is a situation where the clear wish of the Scottish people, as manifested by a referendum, is "we want to remain in the EU" then it threatens to become more relevant in a legal challenge to Brexit.
posted by rongorongo at 1:05 AM on January 19 [4 favorites]


I'm not so sure other Commonwealth citizens are just waiting for the moment they can pack up and move to England.

Australians have a lot more options these days, most people doing a year abroad go to New York these days (on the E3 visa), or elsewhere in Europe. The community is far smaller and more fragmented in London than when I arrived here nearly a decade ago. England is no longer a destination of choice for most young people - the days of coming here for a couple of years to earn a good wage and build up savings before going home again are long gone.
posted by wingless_angel at 1:29 AM on January 19 [3 favorites]


Sonny Jim - 'Their own lived experience, plus almost the entire media as well as most people in their social networks would be telling them that the reason for this rising demand for services and apparent scarcity of good jobs is due to immigration. They'd have economists to back them up on this. '

Not economists who have done research in that area, though.
...we can calculate that the new paper implies that the impact of migration on the wages of the UK-born in this sector since 2004 has been about 1 percent, over a period of 8 years. With average wages in this sector of about £8 an hour, that amounts to a reduction in annual pay rises of about a penny an hour.

Now 1 percent, even over 8 years, is not nothing, especially to relatively low paid workers. But it stretches credulity to suggest that other things – the level of the minimum wage, the decline in trade union power, technological and industrial change – have not had far bigger impacts on pay in these sectors.
---
The available research further shows that any adverse wage effects of immigration are likely to be greatest for resident workers who are themselves migrants. This is because the skills of new migrants are likely to be closer substitutes for the skills of migrants already employed in the UK than for those of UK-born workers. Manacorda, Manning and Wadsworth (2012) analyse data from 1975-2005 and conclude that the main impact of increased immigration is on the wages of migrants already in the UK.
posted by asok at 2:31 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


fatfrank:" It would be super nice if people would stop talking about "England" as if it was one homogeneous lump. This so-called England is not me, it is not my family, it is not my friends, it is not my associates, it is not my colleagues and it is not the large majority of people who live with 20 miles of me. "

Oddly, I think it is this attitude - in many ways an admirable one - that is the leading indicator of whether an inhabitant of the British Isles is English. Here in Scotland, for example, there is an overwhelming sense (whether we view them as arseholes, saints or with indifference) that everybody who makes their home here somehow belongs to the same lump as we do.
posted by rongorongo at 4:04 AM on January 19 [4 favorites]


England is no longer a destination of choice for most young [Australians] - the days of coming here for a couple of years to earn a good wage and build up savings before going home again are long gone.

You don't have to look far to see why. Sterling-AUD exchange rate on this day in 2007: £1 = A$2.48. In 2011: A$1.60. In 2016, after clawing back from the credit crunch: A$2.07. Today: A$1.63.

For family reasons I was looking into selling up and moving back a year ago after 15 years in the UK, but it wasn't and still isn't that easy for a family of four. I consoled myself that at least I could do my bit in the referendum. More fool me. Tell me again, o Leavers and media, how the result has had no economic impact. (And I wish everyone would stop saying that Brexit has had no impact. Brexit still hasn't happened yet. Heaven help us if it does.)

Since I'm here, here's something I wrote in October, which remains (ha) bitterly relevant.

Apparently, Brexit means Brexit:
For Prime Minister May, Britain’s exit
From Europe is certain.
May May end up hurtin'
Our future? I reckon this wrecks it.
posted by rory at 5:02 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Corbyn to impose three-line whip on Labour MPs to trigger article 50.

Never mind that Brexit will be a done deal if May does go ahead and pull the trigger, thanks to Tory control of the Commons - it doesn't mean you have to help them do it.

Michael Deacon was right: Brexit is killing Labour.
posted by rory at 8:03 AM on January 19


  In short, British is the elite identity, English the common identity

Thank you for that. Even in my mid-late forties and after multiple readings of George Mikes' How to be an Alien, I hadn't realised it was an in-group/out-group thing.

Claiming common identity, however, in order to absolve oneself of the guilt of the elite group does seem somewhat disingenuous. It's a little like trying to dismiss the horrific actions of the British Empire through crying ‘A fiendish Brit dun it an' run away …’. We're all complicit: ardent Scot I may be, but I can't forget that my alma mater was created to turn out the engineers of empire, building railways to force trade and quell insurrection. My family has a smattering of colonial planters in its background, and one must remember that folks just like me once considered that a slave overseer was a fit profession.

In this bucket, we're all crabs.
posted by scruss at 8:06 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Corbyn to impose three-line whip on Labour MPs to trigger article 50.

JFC. So the entire English political establishment is all-in on nationalism. (sorry Lib-Dems Clegg got you kicked out of the establishment)
posted by PMdixon at 9:18 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that three line whip thing from Labour … so long, it's been good to know ya.

I'm taking very very very minor comfort that, after Axa, the Scottish Parliament may have to be consulted, at least for Scotland's inclusion in the debacle. This might cause breakup of the UK without another indyref.
posted by scruss at 10:11 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Never mind folks, Paul Nuttall standing in Stoke, so that should be an interesting by-election.
posted by threetwentytwo at 10:21 AM on January 19


>> Corbyn to impose three-line whip on Labour MPs to trigger article 50.
> JFC.

Actually, his middle name's Bernard.

*wanders off to bang head against wall*.
posted by Leon at 11:46 AM on January 19


The reason why English people have not come to terms with the loss of empire is because it was never our empire. The home natives never had the kind of stake in it which the elites did, simply being either workers or poverty-settlers. For all the condemnable atrocities of the British Empire, most English men did not have the vote until 1884, and I find it hard to condemn them personally. Our rulers didn't even provide basic education until 1870. Were we ignorant and disenfranchised. I've said before: English people are the last colonized people of the British Empire.

This seems like an attempt to whitewash the very real connection between popular culture and the empire, and how being part of an empire affected the common folks. See these two books on the impact of the empire:

John MacKenzie, Propaganda and Empire: The manipulation of British public opinion, 1880–1960:

It has been said that the British Empire, on which the sun never set, meant little to the man in the street. Apart from the jingoist eruptions at the death of Gordon or the relief of Mafeking he remained stonily indifferent to the imperial destiny that beckoned his rulers so alluringly. Strange, then that for three-quarters of a century it was scarcely possible to buy a bar of soap or a tin of biscuits without being reminded of the idea of Empire. Packaging, postcards, music hall, cinema, boy's stories and school books, exhibitions and parades, all conveyed the message that Empire was an adventure and an ennobling responsibility.

Robert MacDonald, The Language of Empire: Myths and Metaphors of Popular Imperialism, 1880-1918:

During the last 30 years of the 19th century the British Empire increased enormously and by 1900 the Empire covered a fifth of the world's land surface. In Britain itself, the growth of Empire came to the centre of the political debate and was applauded by a large sympathetic press. Two sides of imperialism had emerged - the acquisition of territory and a campaign of propaganda to make imperialism "popular". Both are the subject of this book. "The Language of Empire" decribes how the Empire was constructed, given shape and meaning, for its contemporaries. The author explores how the imperial "story" was imagined and how the day to day activities of its participants were understood. He focuses on both the face of Empire as it was presented to the public, and on the lives of individual imperial soldiers or adventurers, exploring how the idea of Empire gave meaning to the actions of its participants. The author defines the role of discourse in determining this perception of reality - looking at the construction of Empire through the high body of popular texts ranging from fiction, poetry and children's stories to history and biography.

At any rate, I fail to see how drastically crippling the economic and social prospects of a bunch of English people through Brexit will help them "unentangle" themselves from Britishness.
posted by dhens at 12:35 PM on January 19 [7 favorites]


At any rate, I fail to see how drastically crippling the economic and social prospects of a bunch of English people through Brexit will help them "unentangle" themselves from Britishness.

Much like many similar leftist plans, it goes:

1. Heighten the contradictions.
2. ???
3. Profit Class consciousness
posted by PMdixon at 1:03 PM on January 19 [5 favorites]


My older relatives certainly feel "closer" to Australia, Canada etc then they do to France or Sweden. We have cousins/distant relatives in Australia, New Zealand and Canada (relatively common for farming types, I think). There was definitely talk around the election about being able to increase Commonwealth immigration if we had less EU migration.


Do 'they' know there are more than just predominately white countries in the Commonwealth?
posted by srboisvert at 2:43 PM on January 19 [6 favorites]


"Living in the Past" - Derek Bateman has written an interesting post from a Scottish viewpoint - mainly in response to Boyle's article.

Meanwhile the New European themselves have asked "What happened to Frexit, Grexit, Nexit and Irexit?"
posted by rongorongo at 2:27 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


WSJ: Britain’s Pound Depreciation Isn’t Working. "Manufacturing has proved immune to currency stimulus. But imports keep going up, up, up."
posted by rory at 4:32 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


The irony of guffawing at the Tories regularly falling out over "Europe" only for Brexit to be the thing that finally finishes the Labour party is not lost on me.

A three line whip though.
Oh Jeremy, you fucking idiot.
posted by fullerine at 1:38 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]




"British Jews seek German citizenship"—4½ minutes, Deutsche Welle's Focus on Europe
For a family who suffered at the hands of the Nazis it's been hard to watch the growing popularity of Germany's far-right but they've noticed the same tendency in Britain with an increase in racist attacks.
I very rarely venture into Youtube itself, normally just grabbing the video directly via youtube-dl, but when I brought the page up to copy the fragment of the transcript above I was dismayed to see even the recommended videos sidebar full of horrifyingly anti-Semitic titles about Jews "infesting the Trump administration" and all sorts of other trash.
posted by XMLicious at 2:08 PM on February 3


Never mind folks, Paul Nuttall standing in Stoke, so that should be an interesting by-election.

Not without its moments of hilarity, at least. "Hang on for a moment", which immediately resulted in "English heritage" and of course a report of an allegation of election fraud.
posted by effbot at 4:54 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


Pollster Anthony Wells:
After asking what people’s ideal policy was, we then asked how they would respond to four possible positions. We asked respondents to measure their reaction on a five-point scale – seeing whether the policy would leave them delighted, pleased, not really minding, disappointed, or downright angry...

The most viable compromise to keep the Labour family together appears to going ahead with Brexit but then seeking a close relationship with the rest of the EU – a “soft Brexit” of some sort. This doesn’t particularly delight either side of the divide (8% of Labour remain voters would be delighted, 7% of Labour leave voters), but it doesn’t drive many to anger either (6% of Labour remain voters would be angry, 10% of Labour leave voters)...

Labour’s current position of accepting Brexit but pushing for single-market membership afterwards appears to be the one likely to win the widest (if not the most enthusiastic) support... for once it appears [Corbyn] has picked the position that is most likely to keep the party together and alienate the fewest voters.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:18 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


England does not want to be just another member of the team

Someone who doesn't want to be in the team but still feels the need to participate will end up running up and down the sidelines, dressed in a totally unrelated strip, wondering why no one ever passes the ball to them.

Also: Real fight starts now.
posted by Grangousier at 10:26 AM on February 9


Yeah that tweet... that did not go well.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:18 AM on February 10


More Nutall shenanigans: Ukip leader Paul Nuttall denies lying about being at Hillsborough disaster. Article also mentions a bunch of other things that he denies lying about.
posted by effbot at 1:05 PM on February 10


So what's Corbyn's motivation for the three line whip? Sure, it's clear at this point that he was pro-Brexit from the start, but it's not like it wouldn't pass without Labour help, and whipping it just means that Labour shares all the fallout without gaining any advantage. Is he just trying to make sure that no one gets away clean? I.e. there's no potential Labour rivals that can say amid economic wreckage that they voted to avoid it?
posted by tavella at 1:17 PM on February 10


> So what's Corbyn's motivation for the three line whip?

[All IMO, obviously]

Labour has two hearts. "Working class" and "metropolitan elite" don't quite cut it, but they're the labels we have. One heart (still) wants Remain, the other wants Leave. Which should the party follow?

As Leave is going to happen anyway and opposition to the A50 bill is just window dressing (as you said), obviously the one that has best chance of gaining votes at the next General.

Problem is, individual MPs are more interested in their personal re-election than the best interests of the party as a whole, and those in pro-Remain seats will vote against the A50 bill given half a chance (doubly so because it's a stupid bloody idea).

Hence, three line whip followed up by a limp "you're been a very naughty boy" for those who rebelled.

Diane Abbott's answer was most creative - she represents a pro-Remain constituency, but she's also one of Jeremy's staunchest allies. Her solution was to have a migraine the night of the bill, and avoid voting altogether. I do wonder what she'll come up with if the Lords kick the bill back for another reading in the lower house.
posted by Leon at 5:06 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


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