BREXIT: HOUR OF DECISION – WILL HATE AND FEAR OR HOPE AND UNITY SURVIVE THE BRITISH VOTE ON ITS FUTURE?
By: Harry C Blaney III
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Nationalism is on the march across the Western World, feeding upon the terrors it seeks to inflame. Every nationalist will tell you that their nationalism is different, a natural benign response to their country’s needs, yet every study of nationalism has revealed the same features…….We should be proud of our enduring desire to join together, seeking better, safer, firer lives, for ourselves and for millions of others.”
— J. K. Rowling (The Independent, June 21, 2016)
CAMPAIGN STATUS ON EVE OF VOTE:
Tuesday saw again the struggle between Leave’s fear and anger and Remain’s hope and unity with, according to the polls, each side is about equal in strength. The division here is generational – the younger generation mostly favors Remain while older citizens are more pro-Leave. Londoners, including the “City” – the British equivalent of our Wall Street – are also likely to be strongly on the remain side because of economic issues. Many rural and poorer areas of the country, mostly in the north, seem to be leaning towards Leave.
The papers are now full with articles advocating for both sides. On Tuesday evening, there was a major debate hosted by the BBC that featured multiple speakers from both sides and even included representatives of the same party taking opposing positions. The debate included the former mayor of London, Tory Boris Johnson (who is against staying), and the new Labour Party mayor Sadiq Khan. Boris Johnson repeated his line about taking back control, and he even urged others in Europe to “rise up.” Against all evidence, Johnson said Germany would not impose tariffs against British goods if UK left. Johnson has raised a flood of anti-EU sentiment, but in reality, and as one debater said, most of the complaints about EU laws and regulations are in fact those of the UK Parliament. The key issues that the audience and speakers focused on were jobs and employment, immigration, and perceived losses in control and sovereignty. Most commentators have viewed the debate as very evenly matched.
Jeremy Corbyn gave a speech at the People’s History Museum in Manchester that was much stronger and finally had more passion than his previous comments on the matter. J. K. Rowling wrote an article on why she supported the Remain, highlighting the hate-filed worlds of the Leave campaign. Sir Richard Branson took out a full-page ad in the Independent titled “Better Off In.”
Absent from the Tuesday debate was Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party – one of the extreme right-wing groups, like the British National Party and others, seen by some as racist and quasi-fascist groups. It was revealed in the debate one of BNP’s strongest backers was said to help bankroll the Leave Campaign. Farage has continued to make more outrageous statements and inflame the debate to create fear.
While the larger fundamental issues at stake are being raised, the emotional issues such as immigration, the NHS, and sovereignty, seem to move people more on an electoral level, especially on the Leave side. The anger also comes from the harsh austerity program of the Tory government led by David Cameron. Some of the pro-Leave votes are clearly a protest against what the voters see as an uncaring government. The Leave campaign has played on these sentiments by blaming the EU for Britain’s perceived poverty and has gained some traction with this.
One important issue that has come up is the need for unity among EU members in a time of severe crisis and the need to work together to solve economic, immigration, and security problems. The Secretary General of NATO even said that Europe would be much more dangerous if it fractured in the face of its challenges. But this may not sway those that feel they are losing their jobs and their family’s economic security.
Not all the people that will vote to Leave are racists or filled with hate, but those that lead the effort are using racist and hateful words and images to push their right-wing and xenophobic views. Many voters have indeed suffered from austerity policies by the Tory government. This anger of so many poor and marginal voters will not change due to the result of the referendum, unless the parties recognize that they have to address the need for good jobs and greater opportunity, as well as better health service and housing. In short, they must feel that the government respects their needs. Scapegoating is not going to get anyone to that point.
More reports and analysis to come as Britain heads to the polls tomorrow and an after-vote post on the result’s implications for Britain and beyond.
See our Brexit page for more coverage.
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