17,410,742 people voted for the UK to leave the EU.
Do you honestly think it’s possible that all of them voted to leave the EU for the same reason? If so, do you honestly believe that reason was racism? Yes? Then you seriously need to take a long, hard look at yourself and question your core beliefs. I mean really examine where those beliefs come from and what continues to power them.
Here are a few stats. The Sun is the most widely read newspaper in the country and while you may be keen to believe that right there is the reason for the referendum result, it has a readership of fewer than 2 million people. Other papers supported Brexit and maybe you blame their readers as well. There’s The Telegraph, Express and we can’t forget that champion of intolerance the Daily Mail. We are still talking about fewer than 5 million people in total.
Obviously, there is an overlap between Ukip supporters and the readers of the Brexit-supporting press. However, let’s say for a moment that there isn’t; that the number of people who read those papers and the people who voted Ukip at the last election are two separate groups. That is still fewer than 9 million people IN TOTAL.
In truth of course, there is a huge overlap of Ukip supporters and the readership of The Sun, Mail etc. The real number of people who fall into your stereotypical view of a Leave voter is likely to be much closer to 5 million than it is to 9 million.
So, why did 17,410,742 people vote for the UK to leave the EU?
The Remain camp began the EU Referendum debate by attempting to appeal to the public’s love of money. The claims were repeated over and over again about house prices, interest rates, the cost of goods and services and the prospects of recession.
When it became clear that people had concerns other than the impact on their wallet, the Remain camp decided on a relaunch that took a far more sinister turn. The campaign then became all about what it meant to vote Leave. Essentially, if you were thinking about doing so you should consider yourself old, racist and thick.
That is not the way to market anything successfully. I have worked in marketing for a number of years and the first rule is to sell a product (service/offer) on its benefits. You have probably seen examples of this acted out on The Apprentice. One candidate is asked to sell a pen and describes it as made of plastic and cheap; the next says it won’t leak and you can take it anywhere without worrying if it gets lost. (The second candidate wins).
At no stage in the campaign did anyone explain the benefits of staying in the EU. Unless of course you count the fact that voting Remain would mean not being likened to Alf Garnett or (worse) Donald Trump.
17,410,742 people were not afraid of the derision aimed their way. That was because, without being shown the benefits of remaining in the EU, 17,410,742 people quite literally had 17,410,742 reasons to want out.
I cannot speak for anyone else but for me there were two main issues that led me to vote Leave.
The first is how freedom of movement across the EU is driving down wages. The Bank of England itself has concluded that this is happening, that there is a ¬genuine link between the flow of unskilled and semi-skilled people entering country and the level of wages paid for the work they do. This link can be both defined and measured, with every 10% increase in the proportion of immigrants working in semi/unskilled services, the wages paid in those services fall by around 2%.
My second concern is the erosion of our own democracy, coupled with the loss of our own sovereignty.
There is legislation in this country called The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, DRIPA for short. It has been brought in to help tackle terrorism and improve our security. As a law, it is contentious to say the very least. This law basically lets the government snoop on all electronic communication, whether it has reason to suspect any wrongdoing or not. Some people say that in the digital age, and given the recent terrorist atrocities in Europe, this law is essential. Others complain that it tramples over basic civil liberties and erodes human rights.
The passage of the DRIPA Bill through to legislation is well documented, with both Houses of Parliament having to agree its content before it received Royal Assent on July 17th 2014.
That should have been an end to the matter, at least until the next general election. We choose our government using a democratic process copied all over the world. We wrote the blueprint for democracy and we should be allowed to decide for ourselves whether the laws brought into being by those we appoint are good enough to warrant them serving us for another five years, or bad enough for them to deserve to get replaced.
DRIPA is (was) due to be reviewed by the European Court of Justice. If they decide the law is not, in their opinion, a just law, they can quash it. The European Court of Justice is able to decide whether a law put forward by elected MPs in this country; read, amended and agreed by both houses and then signed off by the Queen, can remain a law in this country.
Those are the two issues that drove me to vote Leave. Nothing about racism. Nothing about my lack of education or my hankering for a sepia-toned past that never really existed. I don’t read any of the pro-Brexit papers and I am certainly not a Ukip supporter.
Not that it is any of your business, but in the interest of making sure you do see that I am an individual, not simple a ‘brexiteer’ about whom you can assume you know everything, my wife was born and raised half way around the world from here, I have a degree in international politics and I am a director in a small business.
My 88 year old father on the other hand, left school at 14 and was a thatcher most of his working life in rural Oxfordshire. He voted Remain.
One last thought, if I may.
If I were to post something on social media stating that every woman shared some unpleasant trait, or that all people of a certain colour or religion were in some way less intelligent or forward thinking or enlightened than the rest of ‘us’, you would be outraged, and rightly so. I would deserve to be shouted down for holding terribly intolerant and downright disgusting views. Why then, would you place everyone who voted leave into one group and insult them as a whole?
I implore anyone who’s copied and shared that repulsive line about old people hating foreigners more than they love their grandchildren, to delete it. You know that putting your name to hate-filled bile like that is the wrong thing to do.
So, 17,410,742 votes cast by 17,410,742 people for 17,410,742 different reasons. I don’t speak for everyone who voted Leave and I don’t pretend to know everything¬ about those who voted Remain.
Hopefully after reading this you can agree that we are all still the same human beings that we were before the referendum. We are still neighbours, colleagues and friends. While we may not have agreed on one political decision, we do not need to let that difference of opinion turn into prejudice or drive us apart.