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Brexit which in many ways put British politics on the international map for the first time since the 1960s, was not supposed to happen. The establishment of all the major parties, the business sector, academia, the mainstream media, the arts and science community (which still hold some influence in Britain) were all opposed to it.
Likewise, the polling data was so set against Brexit that on the night of the vote, a sober Nigel Farage all but conceded defeat. Several hours and several drinks later he emerged to give a victory speech.
The people who voted for Brexit voted for a number of reasons and even more crucially in a key number of geographical places.
Many people voted for Brexit because they were seething with anger over those who opposed it. The elite were unpopular and the elite did not want Brexit, this meant that ordinary people in middle and northern England as well as most of Wales voted for Brexit. Other issues ranging from European border policy, to trade and nostalgia for empire played far less of a factor than many pundits think. Brexit was a visceral vote, not a calculated vote.
The EU is an elitist institution and Britain’s own local elite loved it. For most people that was enough to make them support it.
While the dishonest and discredited elites ran the pro-EU campaign Brexit was spearheaded from the right by Nigel Farage while its most prominent left wing advocate was George Galloway. Both Farage and Galloway are figures one either loves or hates, but few people can legitimately question their sincerity. After all, neither have embraced causes that were guaranteed to get them invited to Buckingham Palace.
Many thought that if two straight-forward men who are on different sides of the political divide both embraced Brexit, it can’t be all that bad for honest, ordinary people and furthermore, contrary to what the neo-liberal mainstream media says, Farage’s supporters are not all racist obscurantists and Galloways’ supporters are not ‘only Muslims’. Such remarks slander both men and their supporters who on the whole are ordinary, decent, normal people of all backgrounds who for various reasons are tired of a broken status-quo.
Jeremy Corbyn may well be on the verge of achieving something similar to Brexit, only more. Corbyn, like Brexit is anti-establishment and like Brexit the entire establishment are against him…with this notable exception: small, medium and even some big businesses.
Jeremy Corbyn will certainly appeal to working class Brexit voters in England’s north and midlands as well as Wales (aka Brexit country) who have longed for a Labour leader that puts bread and butter issues first. Corbyn is all about jobs, funding essential services and putting hospitals before banks, schools before hedge funds, wages for real people over tax-loop holes for foreign companies. This is music to the ears of a Labour base who became alienated from Labour after years of neo-liberal policies first instigated by the war criminal Tony Blair.
But what about business, will they vote for a socialist Labour leader? Many interestingly will. Most businesses of all sizes have generally benefited from some aspects of EU membership, most crucially from the Single Market which non-EU countries Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are a happy part of.
Corbyn has said he is committed to getting Britain a deal that involves retaining the benefits of the Single Market and this has made many in the business community silently sympathetic to a Labour leader who has taken a stand on the Single Market whereas Conservative leader Theresa May has a policy which amounts to little more than ‘frankly I don’t give a damn’.
So this means Corbyn has the working class and wider Midlands, Northern England and Welsh Brexit vote, the anti-establishment Brexit vote and ironically also the business minded pro-Single Market Vote.
And then there is Scotland. Scotland voted in favour of retaining EU membership and what’s more is that when Scotland held a referendum on independence from the UK in 2014, one of the biggest selling points on the ‘remain part of the UK’ side was that membership of the UK guaranteed membership of the EU. My how times have changed!
Because of this, Scottish Nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Parliament want a new independence referendum. Theresa May has responded to this call with disdain and contempt. Her refusal to engage in a dialogue with Scotland smacks of a colonial attitude when Scotland is a democratic part of the United Kingdom. It’s unreal that someone like May can think this way in the year 2017.
By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn said that he will listen to Scotland, engage positively with the Scottish people and will in any case respect their exercise of democratic self-determination if that is what they ultimately seek. This means that if the vote in England is a dead-heat, the Scottish Nationalists who will almost certainly win every major seat in Scotland will have the ability to form a coalition with Corbyn and make him the British Prime Minister.
Under this scenario one sees that Corbyn has retained much of the ‘Brexit coalition’ with the added bonus of almost all of Scotland’s backing if he eventually needs it, plus more members of the business community than many think. Even those in the business community who might not like Corbyn’s tax policies, realise that leaving the Single Market is a far bigger problem and one that could take much longer to reverse.
In the wealthy parts of Southern England, the Conservatives might be in for another unexpected shock. Most people in England’s wealthiest areas voted to remain in the EU and many are privately shocked that the once pro-EU Conservative party is taking such an undiplomatic and frankly unknowing approach to Brexit.
Many such affluent voters may end up voting for the unambiguously pro-EU Liberal Democratic party who in most other policy areas are little different than mainstream moderate Conservatives.
The polls which got Brexit and Trump totally wrong are still saying that the Conservatives will win, but only by a small margin. The reality could be very different. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour might capture most of middle and northern England, all of Wales and find allies in Scotland. Theresa May’s Conservatives may end up losing some seats in their own affluent backyard, among those who still cherish the EU as much as they did when they voted against Brexit alongside former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.
We could be looking at the most unlikely political revolution in British history….since last year, anyway.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of a would be Corbyn victory is that he managed to quietly build an unlikely coalition without sacrificing his principles. Perhaps this is the real lesson of the campaign.