It’s not as simple as Ignorance and Racism

There have been a lot of things said about leave voters in the North of England, but also all over the UK, who voted to leave the EU last Thursday. But it is not as simple as just saying that they are simple, ignorant, and racist (although some may be), don’t understand the arguments etc. It just isn’t that simple.

There is no excusing any racism or the verbal and physical attacks that have taken place, mainly down south but everywhere to varying degrees against other EU citizens and people from overseas, even other UK citizens have been subject to some abuse in England. Those found to be guilty of that crap need to be hammered by the courts, and I mean really hammered, I also don’t except the excuse that because some in the leave campaign, like Farage, are right-wing nutters they were baited to violence and abuse.

But as I blogged before, when people have nothing they have nothing to lose. Globalisation and neoliberal economics being pursued in the UK since Thatcher, and increasingly becoming the mantra of the EU, has resulted in many people feeling left behind. I remember growing up in the 1980’s, we had little or nothing as Thatcher’s de industrialisation policies, social security cuts and cuts to public services, rendered many parts of my City Dundee to waste but also huge parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern England. At its peak nearly 4 million people were unemployed, the coal mines were decimated after a bloody strike and never replaced, and national assets such as BT, British Gas and the Railways were sold off along with the fabric of a decent society, social housing, while the ever-increasing rise in-house prices have taken most out of the housing market since that period.

Thatcher chose to gamble the future of the United Kingdom on the financial sector, telling us that there would be trickle-down economics but what in reality became trickle-up economics, making the rich richer, bringing about a culture of greed and of the individual, continued under Major, Blair and Cameron and resulting in the worst financial crisis since the great depression in 2008. Thatcher said “there is no such thing as society “and “that it is our job to look after ourselves “. This for me was the start of the situation we find ourselves in today.

This drive to neoliberal economics in the UK resulted in a further reliance on the financial sector, greater privatisation of public assets and austerity; in response the EU brought in ever closer political union and the disaster that has been the euro resulting in austerity and high unemployment, esp amongst the youth. What this has done is to continue to lay bare working class areas all over the UK and the EU resulting in resentment of poor people, and to those affected by the disastrous foreign policy of western democracies in the Middle East.

This ideology has also led to ever-increasing dis-satisfaction with the EU as commented on in the Guardian which found that in Britain, 48% said they had an unfavourable view of the EU and 44% said they had a favourable view. In France, the anti-EU sentiment was much more pronounced at 61% and 38% in favour, while in Germany there had been an eight-point drop in support for the EU in the past year, leaving those in favour only narrowly ahead at 50% against 48% . I would also argue that the abandonment of the Labour Party of its founding principles has left many in working class areas all across the UK feeling unrepresented and undefended against this neoliberal economic attack against those with the least resulting in a drift to the right and parties such as UKIP, and the disillusionment of Westminster and for many the European Union. As Larry Elliot of the Guardian says “Bad economics leads to bad politics”.

Now some will argue that poor people are only hurting themselves by punishing Westminster and the EU by actually supporting those who would erode our rights even further and bringing about increasing support for the far right with their leave vote. That is a valid argument and one that has a lot of traction but that is again the failure of the systems we allowed to govern us and the political parties who have failed to protect us, in the North of England and Scotland for many years that would be the Labour Party. I also believe that sometimes you have to take a step back to take two forward.

The result of the EU vote has certainly concentrated minds; it has resulted in a virtual civil war within the Labour Party, the shambles that is the UK Government, the question of Scottish Independence and the reassessment of the European Union. How it all ends up no one knows, and we do have to take a breath, but to say that leave voters are simpletons, racists, ignorant and have gone mad is just a refusal to accept that those with the most, those in power, the political parties being filled with entitlement and careerists has brought about a situation where many people who voted leave had no option, because no change was not an option for them.



  1. tris

    I can’t help but wish that both sides, particularity in England, had been a little more honest in their claims. Whichever way.

    Cameron and his third world war, Boris and his boost for the NHS, hastily withdrawn on Friday Idiots.

    Thank heavens for Patrick Harvie and Nicola and the more measured campaign waged in Scotland.

    It’s not all, but by god it helped stoke all this hatred. It certainly , in the eyes of very stupid bigoted people legitimised racism.

    That people are afraid to go out in England, is surely somewhere near the very bottom of the pond.

    • Anonymous


      The campaign certainly gave a voice to the more racist and unsavoury minority in England and the result of that has been awful. I totally accept that but by focusing on that ignores why people voted leave, 4 out of 10 in Scotland. If we are to win the independence argument that will surely come we need to understand the reasons. I have been very clear in mine but others had different reasons. For some it was sovereignty others immigration, for some like myself it was neo liberal economics and the failure of the system to change. There are many yes voters who see yes and joining the EU as not independence at all so great care needs to be taken.

      I actually believe that NS has our best interests at heart but painting the EU as a utopia like some did in the idea of an independent Scotland is dangerous. The campaign we just had and indy1 were beset by lies and by ignoring certain facts that were uncomfortable, we can’t do that again.

      The result of the EU ref has brought forth some real dick heads but we still need to understand the reasons for the leave vote in the millions who are neither stupid or racist.

      Thanks for commenting.


  2. Gary F


    A nice summation of what is wrong with global economics from a UK/EU slant. Racism is just a form of division at the end of the day. If you create blatantly skewed systems that clearly benefit only small sections of society and then tell the rest of society it is the fault of others that they don’t see the benefits of that blatantly skewed system then it is easy to see why division occurs.

    It is immigrants today. The new stars of poverty porn. OK a few will be doing very well for themselves but the vast majority will be here working their asses off for poverty pay. Don’t worry, tomorrow it will be back to blaming the feckless and the disabled as to why the average person is not seeing the benefit of our glorious austerity driven economic boom.

    The point is unless you change the systems in play you can’t end the division caused by them. As with you, I had the opportunity to get rid of one of the major institutions pushing neoliberal economic policies on us and others so I voted to get rid as well.

    Don’t know about you but I get more and more annoyed each day when I constantly read pish about those who voted leave only did so on the basis of immigration and even if they didn’t then they need to take a good look at themselves for aligning with racists, fascists, etc. With the greatest of respect I don’t try and align those who voted remain with a man who shagged a dead pig.

    What is worrying is that there are clearly a massive number of people in the UK who have not the slightest clue about economics. They believe the narrative that there is no money left, we should run a budget surplus, blah, pish, blah, more economic pish.

    With debt to GDP of over 200% after the second world war the UK was able to build the NHS, create the welfare state and build millions of council houses. We invested massively at the time and the end result was a massive improvement in living standards and debt to GDP falling to under 50% by the mid 1970’s. Why on earth when we can borrow at historically low rates are we not massively investing in state infrastructure projects that will pay themselves back within years. Instead we want to build everything via private finance costing an absolute bloody fortune over the life of the scheme. But of course it goes off balance sheet at this point and the government can pretend to be building infrastructure without incurring the debt. Absolute fucking economic lunacy. Who benefits – those who hold capital or can access the capital via primary market makers at next to 0% (the elite).

    I see the ‘Hotel California’ is snubbing our FM. Remind me again, why on earth do we want to part of this bullshit setup.

    I agree that Nicola has the best intentions in mind but I do not share her view on the EU. What I do find very worrying however is the feeling I get within many forums that whatever proclamation NS makes then it must be somehow infallible and to disagree you must be some kind of raving loony. Personally I find it a bit sinister. It certainly makes you think about posting to these sites and that cannot be healthy.

    • YESGUY

      and i find it funny when so far NS has done really well commanded the biggest majority in European Govt and has in effect done most of what she has said she would do. We have little control of the real levers so considering that she is the best by a long way.

      I find those that constantly harp on that we never question a word she says as sour grapes. Libs are liars and cannot be trusted . the rest are a shambles and u find time to criticise voters and NS.

      WE voted to stay in the EU get over it many NO voters see this a the game changer check the tweets and we now have polls showing a lead for Indi. federalism is a hail Mary with no chance of ever happening . Most Scots are against it now so pointless waste.

      We have an outstanding stateswomen running the country the best she can , sure we can all pick bones but leave the slagging off the voters . WE trust her u dont big deal u minority we are not


      • Gary F


        A stunningly quick vitriolic diatribe to prove my point. So you choose to avoid the whole point of my post and then launch into an unintelligible rant about what exactly.

        I made no criticism of NS at all in my post. I said I didn’t agree with her on this point and that I find posting an alternative view on any pro-indy site unpleasant because you get ignorant responses from people like you.

        I am not a liberal voter you idiot I have voted SNP all my life and voted Yes in the independence referendum. I think Sturgeon is a phenomenal politician and in the main has done a pretty decent job in the circumstances she is governing in.

        I have major concerns about the EU as detailed in my post above and in previous posts (the points you clearly are unable to refute or debate) and am every bit as entitled to my view as you.

        You think the EU referendum vote in Scotland is a game changer, I don’t. The UK leaving the EU changes everything and people will need to get their heads around it all it certainly is not as binary as you try to make it.

        Who gives a toss what is being said on Twitter or any form of social media. If you purposely put yourself in an echo chamber you will only hear the echo.

      • Anonymous


        I think Nicola S has done really well, she will get heard in the EU but whether that will be enough to get any sort of indication that Scotland, should it chose, be allowed to join the EU I am not so sure. I think it is OK to criticize the SNP and Nicola S if you don’t agree with them. I think the SNP have been the best government we have had at Holyrood but I don’t agree with them on everything. I also agree that the opposition at this time are a waste of time, but we do need decent opposition but where we get it I am not so sure to be honest. As I have said my YES vote is a non negotiable but I will have to be convinced about the EU. There are also a lot of elections in the EU coming up with leave parties leading in a few of them like Spain, Sweden and Holland. If they win and have referendums then I think we can expect to see the EU revert back to a Common Market agreement with political union well and truly off the agenda.

        Thanks for commenting as always.


    • Anonymous


      I don’t pretend to have any great knowledge of economics, you appear to have a greater understanding than myself. I just think that from my own experience it all goes back to Thatcher, people keep talking about 2008 but all the privatisation and e-regulation started under Thatcher and was just added to by everyone who came after her. I totally agree with you on the idea of fixing this country by investing in our infrastructure. Things are falling apart all over the place so lets employ people on a living wage to fix the roads, the paths, the parks etc. Why not, rather than keep throwing money at bankers and the rich where it heads off to the Cayman islands and keep it here and give it to people who will spend it local shops, pay tax, pay rent and surely most of the money then comes back, or certainly a lot of it.

      It does annoy me the rubbish that is spouted about leave voters, my leave vote was and is just as valid as any remain vote. My reasons I have documented on this blog, none of them were about immigration and while anyone can disagree with them they are as equally as valid as any remain reasons. I am not a huge fan of the EU, simple. It has failed like Westminster has failed and that is the main reason I voted leave, I’m not so sure it will survive anyway.

      I think Nicola S will do her best and is doing what she feels is correct. I would urge the SNP to take it slow though and remember that 4 out of 10 voters voted leave and will have to be convinced to vote to join the EU in a referendum. I will vote YES to an independent Scotland even though you just know that it will be very tough at the start as England won’t make divorce easy but I still believe it is the right choice. I do think that Westminster will try to bring forward federalism though in the longer term, how it would work I don’t know but I think they will try to balance it out while shafting Scotland at the same time.

      Thanks for commenting.


  3. I Clark

    Good article Bruce.

    I also liked Gary F’s comment and his reply to Yesguy’s response. In Gary’s comment, he said ‘What is worrying is that there are clearly a massive number of people in the UK who have not the slightest clue about economics’. Unfortunately, it is not just economics. Complex and nuanced arguments are beyond certain people. It is worrying, but what do we do? I remember coming across John Stuart Mill’s idea about plural voting. Very occasionally I am attracted to the idea. But then empathy, embarrassment and counter arguments kick in! While on the subject of some people’s votes counting more than others, some people are suggesting that our MPs should not give effect to the democratic will of over 33 million people. How contemptuous of Leave voters is that?

    Bruce, you said that Leave voters are being vilified as being simpletons, racists, ignorant or having gone mad. Like you I am concerned about this (and irritated enough to have posted about it elsewhere). I want to link what you said to what Gary said, including what he said about Nicola Sturgeon.

    He described her as a phenomenal politician. I am not an SNP member, but think she is very impressive. I watched her on Friday morning give a great speech. I felt a degree of pride that she represented Scotland or at least the sentiments of a lot of us (even though I am against the EU). And yet in her speech she said that the result was ‘democratically unacceptable’. This was wrong. It was a UK wide vote and it was acceptable. But it was also ‘a material change in circumstances’ and thus it is ‘democratically acceptable’ for the SNP to push for another independence referendum should the polling be favourable.

    So, despite praising Nicola Sturgeon I am also criticising what she – and others SNP leaders – have said. Like Gary I am concerned about how some people have responded to criticisms of her (or the SNP). There is no doubt that voting in a particular way or criticising certain people will bring wrath, scorn or dismissive comments upon you. This can be corrosive to political discourse.

    People’s attention needs to be drawn to the idea of constantly questioning their own views. We can take pride in and be impressed by what individuals, parties and movements say and do. If we feel strongly about something it’s fine to assertively (but respectfully) promote our views. We should defend our views and our ‘leaders’ where appropriate. However, there’s a line between supporting your party or movement (or certain individuals therein) and the beginnings of unquestioning acceptance that your party, movement or leader knows best. It’s very easy to cross that line unawares and it’s a dangerous place to go.

    In an ideal world we could rely on a free press and political opponents to question those in power. But it isn’t an ideal world. We are rightly sceptical of the motives and integrity of both, thus we generally ignore them. So, from within the Independence movement (and SNP) we need people like you (and Gary) to stop people crossing that line. Keep speaking out even if criticised. We will not move to a better society if we take adulation or even deference to authority with us.

    • grumpyscottishman


      I must admit I don’t really understand the economics of the problems we are going to face and have faced since Thatcher, Gary certainly seems to have a better understanding than myself that’s for sure. I agree with you on the vote being a democratic UK wide vote, and it should be respected, in fact that vote might just be the thing that brings about Scottish independence, and I know that I will certainly vote for that at every opportunity, but democracy is important, as is, respecting the vote. The Liberals are talking about ignoring the vote completely, that is unacceptable and totally hypocritical given the rants they go on about the referendum in 2014, while technically correct in respecting the vote they are incorrect in that want YES to go away. The blog I posted this afternoon about Labour is in a way about democracy also.

      I agree with you about the dangers of just accepting what any political party says, even the SNP, and not thinking about, and finding out about, what they are saying. If there is anything that I have learned by blogging, when I have the time, it is that I have learned, I have had to research, and by people like yourself, lanark, Gary and YESGUY commenting, I continue to learn and seek out more information. I wish I had done it years ago to be honest as we have got to hold politicians to account, whichever way can and the ballot box isn’t always enough. They have to know that some of us are switched on and watching, that they are not the new democratic Prince and Princesses, although the way that too many act you would think that they were.

      Nicola S has done really well and continues to be head and shoulders above all others in the UK. I have been impressed by the way she has went about representing Scotland and suspect that she thought a leave vote was on the cards and prepared accordingly. She does have to be careful though as 4 out of 10 Scottish voters voted leave and will have to be convinced to back an independent Scotland joining the EU, I will certainly need convincing of that fact.

      We are certainly living in interesting times.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.


        • grumpyscottishman


          I was actually thinking about many in Labour when I said that but all the parties are guilty of it to varying degrees, I really can’t take to Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh in the SNP at all. She comes across as an opportunist and fake to me. When I watch parliament she is always trying to stand out, now they have to to be heard or given the chance to speak, but with Tasmina it feels different, it feels like ambition and personal advancement.



          • I Clark

            Agreed, though we may be doing her an injustice. It could be worse though. She might take on board the following observation: “Sincerity is a wonderful thing and once you’ve learned to fake it, you’ve got it made.” Better that ambition and opportunism – if such are the case – are visible to us!

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