Well, the unthinkable just happened in the UK: they’ve voted to leave the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron is set to resign. Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon is calling for a second Scottish Independence Referendum. Sinn Féin is drumming up support for Irish reunification (unlikely, guys, sorry). Worldwide markets are in turmoil. It’s chaos in the streets.
Much of the punditry will begin to point fingers. They’ll point them at David Cameron who allowed this referendum to take place only to run a feckless campaign of fear to drum up tepid support for a vote for “Remain”.
They’ll point them at Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Already Twitter is having a field day retweeting video footage of him backtracking on his promise that funds previously devoted to EU membership fees would now be invested in the NHS. Twitter loves to mock the people that beat them in elections.
They’ll point them at Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn. If only he campaigned harder! Sturgeon. Why not? Scottish turnout wasn’t high enough! If more of you Scots turned out then we could’ve overcome this stupid mess.
The fact of the matter is that there is plenty of blame to go around. Cameron will depart a laughing-stock. Farage is a demagogue. Those criticizing Corbyn and Sturgeon are grasping at straws. Jeremy Corbyn isn’t pulling the strings on the policies that have left Britain’s poor disenfranchised. Sturgeon can’t do a whole lot more than get Scots to unanimously vote “Remain” at 62%.
Yes, make no mistake, the “Leave” vote is an endorsement of xenophobia, but what the punditry will try its damnedest to explain away is that this is also a vote against the elite. That it’s a vote against them: the politicians, the banks, the media personalities that continued to tell them to just wait their turn and eventually the economic success that the few have enjoyed would eventually trickle down to them.
The proles got tired of taking orders only to be sent to the front lines as cannon fodder. All those with “good judgment” told them to be sensible and get this referendum right and vote to remain part of the EU. The proles not-so-kindly told all those talking down to them to fuck off.
The hard truth, and this will be the narrative, is that this mass-scale protest vote will not help the British citizenry that voted to leave. The EU has no reason to be kind to British trade prerogatives after being soundly rejected by the lonely isle. If the result holds, the British youth that resoundingly voted to remain in the EU will not be able to work and study in other EU member countries all that easily. It’ll certainly now be far more expensive to do so.
But what the EU also provided was a check on Tory rule in Britain. The EU is hardly a perfect entity, everyone admits this, but any austerity imposed by the EU that may have made its way to Britain in spite of the differing currencies is and will continue to be far less severe than what the Tories have been adopting throughout the UK. Now the British right, with its majority, is quite free to wreak havoc on Britain’s poor. Of course, they have already been doing that, but now they don’t even have to worry about consternation coming from the EU’s left-leaning members.
So what this result does, practically speaking, is ramp up austerity until a Tory-majority rule is over. The time for the “protest against the establishment” vote was in 2014 in the Scottish Independence Referendum (they came around a year later when they ousted Labour in the 2015 general) or in the 2015 UK General (some protests on the right and left but all in all Tories got the majority).
That may be the saddest aspect of all of this. Protest votes are noble. They tell the establishment as emphatically as possible that the people won’t just sit back and let the elites have their way with them. But in the UK, the protest votes have lately come a year after it would’ve been advantageous for them to come about. In the case of Scotland, it didn’t save them from Tory rule, and in yesterday’s case everyone, and the working class in particular, loses.
So what’s the game-plan from here? If you’re Scotland, you probably try to get out as quickly as possible. It’s hard to imagine support for independence being any higher than it will be in the coming months.
It gets more interesting for Labour, the Tories, and the far right. If you’re Labour, you’ve had a really tough go of it of late. Blue collar voters are abandoning you for greener pastures on the left and the perception of greener pastures on the right. It’s probably about time to promote a platform that serves their interests. Corbyn’s been trying, but the rest of his party needs to come around to the idea of fighting for the working class and discontinuing the ridiculous center-left tactic of talking down to those whom they wish to be their base. Overall, they need to reverse-course and fast.
The Tories are in a pretty precarious place as well. I’d say they should start promoting some populist initiatives as well, but lacking those hasn’t stopped them securing majority rule and stoking the flames of nativism for years that brought us to this EU debacle. If they listen to the voters, English voters in particular, they might just keep moving to the right until they’re told its too far. It appears that they can win on an anti-migrant, anti-scrounger agenda, and the fact that they’re in bed with the very elites despised by rightwing voters either goes undetected or is deemed a slight drawback to the more important cause of championing British nationalism.
It’s a weird time. People from all walks of life are angry, and in many respects justifiably so. There are clear parallels to draw to the American election, its disgust with elites and its migrant scapegoats, but that can be left for another time. Today, Britain rules the day. It’s as cloudy as its ever been.