• Brexiteers Should Be Treated with Respect

    I have been a devoted reader of the Guardian for more than fifty years, and an occasional contributor to its pages over the same period.  It has been my preferred guide to understanding the complexities of the modern world and has helped to shape my view of how solutions to some of those complexities can best be arrived at.

    But – even as the pleas to readers to help the paper overcome its own current problems become more pressing – I am in despair.  I can hardly bear to look at each new edition because I know what I will find there – a front page largely taken up with more accounts of how disastrous Brexit is and will be, how disreputable are the motives of those who brought it about, how essential it is that the Brexit decision is reversed.

    Even the merest scintilla of an anti-Brexit opinion – and often from the merest nonentity – is given headline treatment.  The slightest suggestion of a development that can be given an anti-Brexit twist is leaped upon.  The thinnest causal connection between Brexit and some undesirable outcome is magnified.  I expect to see any day now a headline along the lines of “My ingrowing toenails have got worse since Brexit”.

    Any attempt at balanced coverage seems to have been abandoned – and all this, it seems, in pursuit of the paper’s self-appointed role as the scourge of Brexiteers and as the St. George who will slay the Brexit dragon.

    Well, some will say, “thank heavens for the Guardian – someone has to counter the pro-Brexit propaganda sedulously peddled by the right-wing press.”  But I don’t usually read the Sun or the Daily Mail.  It is to the Guardian that I turn for a reasonably objective and thoughtful account of the great issues of the day.  But when I do, I simply do not recognise the kind of debate in which I have been engaged for decades about Britain’s role in Europe.

    Instead, I am told that those who voted for Brexit are ignoramuses and malcontents, motivated by racism and bigotry, and that those who claim to act for more worthy reasons are nevertheless ready to peddle falsehoods in order to bolster their cause.

    Most woundingly, the parallel between the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump is enthusiastically drawn.  Like the Americans, it seems, we have become the victims of fellow-citizens who are easily conned and are all too ready to blame their troubles on scapegoats conveniently and unscrupulously offered to them by dishonest and manipulative politicians.

    There is no recognition that there is a range of perfectly legitimate considerations that might have weighed with Brexit voters.  I have spoken to ma y Brexit voters who voted because they wanted to restore the self-government they have always valued and the democracy which is self-government’s most important manifestation and instrument.

    They voted to protect their jobs and the country’s dwindling manufacturing against a tidal wave of manufactured goods that has contributed mightily to our perennial trade deficit, and our non-existent net investment in new productive capacity.  And they voted for the power to moderate at least, if not actually turn off, a tap that is open at full bore, that at present cannot be turned off, and that brings into their local economies and communities a never-ending flow of cheap labour from Eastern Europe.

    These reasons might not be seen as being of any account by those who approach such issues with a quasi-religious certainty that the “European ideal” must prevail at all costs.  The unstoppable inflow of cheap labour means for ma y of them, after all, no more than improved service in shops and restaurants, and affordable home helps and gardeners.

    These co-religionists bewail the loss of access to European food, art, architecture, music.  Yet the EU is not Europe, but a particular trade arrangement – and more than that, is an arrangement constructed so that the practitioners of a “free market” economy can deal exclusively with unelected bureaucrats and no longer have to bother with the requirements imposed by elected governments.

    And, members or not, we cannot be debarred by those bureaucrats from our European heritage, earned by many centuries of European involvement – an involvement usually welcomed by our Continental friends.

    The oddity of all this is that the Guardian and all those of similar persuasion, having lambasted pro-Brexit voters as the equivalent of Trump’s supporters, then conclude sententiously that these benighted souls in both cases have fallen into error because “no one listened to them”.  If we are to avoid other Trumps springing up, they opine, we must ensure that those who feel “left behind” should share in the success of the better-off and of those who “know better”.

    It is not immediately apparent to me that trashing their views, refusing to take seriously the serious concerns they have, labelling them as hopelessly ignorant and bigoted, is the best way of doing just that.

    Bryan Gould

    1 December 2016

     

8 Comments

  1. Tony says: December 1, 2016 at 12:11 pmReply

    great piece and resonates with myself and many on the left who voted and support brexit.

  2. Patricia says: December 2, 2016 at 7:17 amReply

    Me too Bryan. After a lifetime of respecting the Guardian I have given up. First of all I thought it must be me becoming even more left wing but I now don’t think that is the reason. I want a paper that doesn’t just peddle the establishment version of the news, which the Guardian now does, but a paper that questions the establishment views. For example a paper that tells me why we are in the Middle East, why are we killing all those people, what are the views of those we are fighting, how do they see us. These days there is talk of fake news and I am sorry, but in my view that is what the MSM peddles.

  3. Bryan Gould says: December 2, 2016 at 6:40 pmReply

    Patricia, sadly, I can but agree. I don’t know whether it’s the new(ish) editor but the Guardian now seems to be campaigning – and not just reporting or commenting – (on some issues at least) on the wrong side. Kind regards, Bryan

  4. KJT says: December 3, 2016 at 10:37 pmReply

    There are plenty of good left wing reasons for Brexit.
    Local democracy is just one.

    In the meantime countries such as Italy, France and Spain have been told not to have referenda on exiting the EU, as most people would vote to leave.

    • Bryan Gould says: December 4, 2016 at 3:13 amReply

      Yes, democracy is the missing element in the EU – but apparently doesn’t matter to the Eurofanatics. Kind regards, Bryan

  5. Austin Mitchell says: December 4, 2016 at 9:53 pmReply

    You’ re right about the Groaniad. Same’s true of the Staggers and Prospect. See my last two blogs. Austin

  6. Tony McArdle says: April 12, 2017 at 12:31 pmReply

    The Guardian & even more sadly The Economist have become propagandists
    for the anti-Brexit movement.
    They cannot belive that the people dismised their “Leadership” in the refendum & they decry Brexiteer lies [they did tell lies] & fail to comment on “Remain” lies [who also told lies].
    The people have refused to go along with the new priesthood that journalists assumed themselves to be, & that, as we all know, is a criminal offence in such quarters [sorry Bryan I know you are sometimes a journalist].
    The rage of this priesthood is well known & has to be treated with contempt.
    I cancelled my subscription to The Economist after many years.
    Shame on them.

    • Bryan Gould says: April 12, 2017 at 8:23 pmReply

      Sadly, Tony, all too true. Kind regards, Bryan