Thursday, 28 July 2016

Hey pleb, are you voting the right way?

There has been a whole pile of stuff written about how the poor deluded and misinformed - even ignorant - voters make the wrong choices. Much of this relates to the rather splendid decision of the British electorate to ignore the views of the great and good in voting to leave the European Union.

I was quite taken by Brendan O'Neill talking about the NME in a Spectator blog:

The rebels have become the squares, the youths have become the authoritarians, and the spirit of rock’n’roll no longer lives in the middle-class music scene or leftish activist circles, but in the hearts and minds of the little people.

The very location of this blog - given its subject - shows a world upside down. A former Marxist writing in the establishment's political journal about how the New Musical Express, the edgiest of music magazines from my youth, has sold out on the spirit of punk. But it's worse than this - we're in a world where the errors of voters need correcting, where the choices of plebs need nudging, directing, managing in order that they concur with the opinions of a self-appointed clique of educated, metropolitan sophisticates.

Here's O'Neill again:

What we have here is ordinary people, including vast swathes of the working class, saying ‘No’ to the status quo, sticking two fingers up at an aloof elite, channelling Rotten and Vicious to say screw you (or something rather tastier) to that illiberal, risk-averse layer of bureaucracy in Brussels.

Today I went to a meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority where we received and discussed a report on the implications of Brexit. The report wasn't very good (it described 'long term' in its response to Brexit plan as January 2017-January 2018 - seriously) but it wasn't this that made my eyes widen. Rather it was the idea that, had we only communicated better - EU flags on pens were mentioned - then it would have all been different. Talk was of how we could, in the future, 'communicate' the poor, ignorant voters into voting the right way.

Bear in mind that these were, in all but one case, senior Labour councillors talking - the tribunes of the people spoke and told us that the people, bless 'em, didn't know what they were doing. The poor dears simply weren't aware of all the wonders that the EU had brought them (as they struggled to pay for the mortgage, find a reliable job, get the children off to a decent start, build up a nest egg for retirement).

It seems that everywhere people like this think democracy is rubbish. At least when people make decisions you don't like. I remember one of those same Labour leaders sternly suggesting that a balanced representation on votes cast meant 'they'd have representation, you know" - she meant UKIP but, like Voldemort, couldn't quite name the evil thing.

And this snobbish, 'voters should be shown how to vote properly' view isn't limited to the UK. Here's Tyler Cowan from Marginal Revolution:

It might have been a better situation when the elites, acting with some joint collective force, directed more of their energies to shaming the less elite voters than to shaming each other.

You've got this haven't you, darlings? This undoubtedly elite commenter writing on a blog with tens of thousands of readers thinks we should try to make ordinary working class voters ashamed of not voting the same way as their betters. It's little better than the squire visiting his workers to make sure they understood why they should vote for his son as the MP.

Instead of bribing, shaming or nudging perhaps the answer lies in actually sitting down and listening to these voters. Finding out what bothers them, understanding why they think government is run for the elites and that it is too far away, too complicated and too secretive for them to stand a chance of liking what is does - or, more importantly, what it represents.

If you start with the premise that the plebs have voted the wrong way, then you've already lost the argument. It you think attacking them, embarrassing them or shaming them is the way forward, you've lost that argument. And if you think the answer is for the great and good to decide everything then you're no democrat but a nannying authoritarian.

Two-thirds of Wakefield's voters chose to leave the EU. They didn't do this because they're 'left behind', 'excluded', 'ignorant', 'racist' or any of those other interpretations of "plebs, you voted the wrong way". They voted to leave because the EU was - and still is - an elite project run by and for the elite. A means - somewhat like too much international aid - of channelling cash from the productive in successful places to an unproductive elite in less successful places. A system where posh students get subsidised gap years paid for with the taxes of low paid workers and where grand European-funded offices filled with patronising middle-class development workers fail to make any difference to the communities they're supposed to be helping.

No-one voted the wrong way and the great and good need to get this into their thick skulls. People had a choice - a contested choice - and opted, in sufficient numbers to win, for the one that said Leave. To understand this you don't need to insult those voters or pretend that poor communication was the problem. What you need to do is realise that the EU is the biggest of all the elite projects - patronising, self-serving, suited, shiny-officed, out of touch, nannying, hectoring, bossy.

The problem is that all those people who benefited from the EU - and their friends, fellow travellers and useful idiots - think the answer to the problem is more bossiness, more nudging, more lectures and a mission to make anyone voting ashamed of voting their conscience, their feelings and their thoughts. It seems the elite still think the plebs are voting the wrong way and that this should be stopped.



Anonymous said...

And what is the 'West Yorkshire Combined Authority' but a mini-me EU by another name, seeking to create a role for itself and its sinecurists, to grab powers, to spend other people's money without care, like they all do.

Unless you're at the meetings performing the 'Farage In Brussels' role as noisily as he so successfully did, then you should not be participating in this additional layer of institutionalised fraud. At every meeting, you should stand up and announce what a useless bunch of fat-cat gravy-trainers they all are.

Anonymous said...

Nail. On. The. Head.

And as countless Brexit voters, other than myself, realised: get rid of Brussels and our ELECTED representatives have nowhere to hide. You'd better start listening, guys, or you'll be out of a job because the vacuum left by the guys who don't listen will be filled by others who promise that they do; it may take some time but it will have to happen.


Anonymous said...

Like the people of Wakefield, most of my friends voted to leave. I have yet to meet one who either regrets that vote or failed to understand that the true nature of the EU is against freedom and democracy. Most of us are old and voted very much with our children's and our grandchildren's futures at the forefront of our decision.
Those I know who voted to remain were just worried about losing goodies or handouts.

In summary the vote was about, either:
Freedom and Democracy or
Goodies and handouts.

Anonymous said...

OpenID alfredtheo said...
"Those I know who voted to remain were just worried about losing goodies or handouts."

I'm sure that's true in many cases but in many others, especially among the young, I think it was a naive fuzzy, happy-clappy belief that the EU was all about togetherness and friendliness with Europe. Therefore anyone against the EU had to be a nasty person who hated co-operation, Europe and foreigners in general.

There was/is also an erroneous belief that anything and everything they thought was good sprang from the EU.
I saw a video on youtube where a young woman, after the vote, was marching with a placard demanding that the result be overturned. She was certainly passionate and you might imagine that she had looked at the subject more than most.
The interviewer, not being from the mainstream media, asked her what her three favourite things were about the EU were. Number One, and her only concrete example... the NHS!

Michael Houlding said...

I'm Preston born, but Kiwi since 1956. The Brexit decision delighted me, It was a thrill for all the obvious reasons, British autonomy etc, but also because it was a rebuff to the self appointed commissars of the media. Their anguish, and their convoluted spin over the decision has been fun to watch - even from afar. With the media power base shrinking as they wriggle and restructure, the politically correct among them are facing lean times. The hacks who claim to be investigative journalists, whose investigations only cover their own agendas, need to do some intense navel gazing. Perhaps an upshot of it all may be a new respect for the reading and viewing/listening public they despise; the racist, sexist, Islamophobic, climate change deniers that ultimately pay their salaries.