I don’t really care if the NHS gets an extra £350 million a week to be honest but for some reason continuity remain are fixated about the slogan on a side of a bus. Both the start and end point for all their arguments about the referendum somehow being invalidated, the bus has assumed a cultural significance that far outweighed its actual contribution to the result. Take these recent examples:
Who knew? No deal Brexit means no food Brexit and no medicines Brexit? Didn’t see that on the side of a fucking red bus did we?
— Alastair Campbell (@campbellclaret) July 24, 2018
Something I don’t get is where are all the angry Leave voters? They voted -sincerely – for “£350 million extra a week for the NHS”; what they’ve GOT is “you probably won’t starve to death immediately”. If I’d been sold a bait & switch deal like that I’d be APOPLECTIC.
— Mitch Benn (@MitchBenn) July 25, 2018
Observing these conversations take place in the online bubble where these beliefs appear to be fermented is enlightening. The logic appears to run in a circular form, starting with a highly prejudiced belief about why people voted leave – and ending with and even deeper set of prejudices that verge on out and out bigotry.
It goes a little something like this. People voted for the NHS money. But they were lied to. Russians. In a referendum weighted towards Leave. Who cheated. And people believed them. Because they’re thick. Thick enough to vote for a slogan on the side of the bus.
You can exchange the starting point for one about immigration as well and it still works. In this vein they continue indefinitely, never quite getting the closure that they signed up to this, now never-ending, group therapy session for.
And this is kind of the point. Virtually nobody in the country was pro-EU until we voted to leave. That’s one of the reasons the remain campaign didn’t even attempt to go positive. They just couldn’t sell the idea of ceding more and more control over our lives to Commissioners and Presidents we wouldn’t know if we passed them in the street. However, the belief that we were better off out was long and deeply held by a substantial portion of the population.
Suddenly touched by the long reach of reality remainers needed a safety net. They’ve got an echo chamber. They needed to articulate their beliefs and find a voice. It just turns out that their voice is particularly contemptuous.
The message on the bus was really about sovereignty and to this extent it was perfect. It tapped into the frustration of those who had watched the trading bloc they voted to remain in in the 1970s become a political empire. It framed the choice between the status quo and decisions about the UK being taken in the UK.
It resonated. A poll by Lord Ashcroft of over 12,000 people taken on the day of the referendum confirmed this. Almost half of leave voters ranked sovereignty as their top reason for voting the way they did. Conversely, the top reason for voting remain was that “the risks of voting to leave the EU looked too great when it came to things like the economy, jobs and prices”. The second top reason was “having access to the EU single market without Schengen or the euro”. Basically, 74% of remain voters voted with money on their mind. The fact that ABs were the only social grade to have voted, in the majority, for remain speaks for that.
That remainers perceive that the £350 million itself is the reason why many people voted leave is understandable when you view the world through their prism. They’re assuming that self-interest is the primary motivation behind everybody’s actions, as it is theirs. In the bubble the referendum was about two answers to the same question when it was actually about competing questions.
A neighbour actually knocked on my door during the campaign to pledge his support, stating that he didn’t actually care if leaving made him a bit poorer because the principle of independence was overriding. Aside from a few acquaintances who have directly benefited from EU funding for projects they’ve been working on or Strasbourg junkets, most of those I know who voted remain were at great pains to say that it wasn’t for any great love of the EU. My experiences could be written off as anecdotal if they weren’t echoed on the thousand or so doors I personally knocked on or in the exit polls.
All the sneering, back-patting and constant retweeting of Carole Cadwally’s latest error-strewn nonsense may provide reassurance for lost souls. But that’s about it.