Dejected, disgruntled and divided: Britain’s EU referendum

As the UK continues to reel in shock at the outcome of the EU referendum, Nathan Manning shares his thoughts on what it has revealed about the state of the country and the implications for democracy…

Nathan Manning

Nathan Manning

Britain’s referendum on EU membership has been an ugly affair. Jo Cox MP was brutally murdered in the street en route to her constituency surgery. Both sides of the campaign routinely reduced public debate to sloganeering and sustained misinformation, half-truths and flat-out lies.

Once again, political elites tended to ignore young people and were patronising when they did address them. It did get people talking, but public debate was a long way from the inclusive and public-spirited conversations we needed to help open up the political possibilities of the decision before us.

The Leave campaign offered no clear indication of what Brexit might practically mean and Remain rarely offered more than the status quo or the abject fear of the alternative. There was precious little space in which citizens could ask new questions, create new meanings or inspire one another.

Elite control

Mark Twain told us that ‘if voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.’ The contemporary rendition of this has been that voting doesn’t matter because there’s no genuine difference between the major parties. And in recent decades many established democracies have seen declines in electoral turnout. But Britain’s EU referendum dramatically showed that elite control of politics isn’t quite so water-tight.

It seems extraordinary that a campaign led by key parts of government, supported by high profile international leaders, organizations and powerful corporate interests could come a cropper, but that’s precisely what’s happened.

“The referendum…has revealed a number of seething wounds in the body politic”

This probably reflects some hubris on the part of Cameron and Co, but it highlights just how disconnected these political representatives are from many ‘ordinary’ citizens – they seemingly had no idea that such dejected voters could be harnessed so successfully in the cause of Brexit.

The referendum may have provided a rare platform to chunks of the citizenry who feel flouted by mainstream politics, but the process has revealed a number of seething wounds in the body politic.

That so many were willing to step into the figurative dark in support of Leave is but a symptom of the gross social and economic inequalities that characterise contemporary Britain; and it’s becoming clear that a Britain free of the EU will not reverse recent cuts in public spending. It’s also clear that turning our backs on modernity and seeking refuge in the primal shelter of a ‘sovereign’ nation is simply not a genuine option in our globalised, interconnected world.

The referendum has left Britain deeply divided and vulnerable. Whatever form Brexit ultimately assumes, we will need to begin to repair the rifts. At stake is more than access to the single market or perceived control of levels of immigration, but our civility and the very fabric of our democratic political culture.

#EUreferendum #PostBrexit

Nathan Manning is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of York. His PhD research explored the ways in which young adults understand and practice politics and has featured in: Journal of Youth Studies, Journal of Sociology and Sociological Research Online. Recently his interests have turned to adult political dissatisfaction and the role emotions may play in political (dis)engagement with work published in The Sociological Review, Citizenship Studies and Sociology. He is currently using the Mass Observation Archive to explore political (dis)engagement and feelings of dissatisfaction longitudinally. You can follow Nathan on Twitter @natemanning79

He is editor of a the volume Political (Dis)Engagement: The Changing Nature of the ‘Political’ which can be purchased from the Policy Press website here at a 20% discount price of £56.00.

Remember that Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – if you’re not a member of our community why not sign up here today?

If you feel that democracy has not been served by this referendum you can add your name to these petitions:

And finally…if you liked this blog you might like these too:

David Cameron’s `Welfare’ Legacy. Thatcher’s Son or Macmillan’s Heir?

Do YOU know how the EU really shapes British public policy?

10 things you should know about foodbanks

FACT: We can’t afford the rich

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

David Cameron’s `Welfare’ Legacy. Thatcher’s Son or Macmillan’s Heir?

As voters go to the polls today to decide whether Britain should #remain in Europe or #brexit, today’s guest blogger Robert M Page considers Prime Minister Cameron’s legacy in terms of social policy…

Robert Page

Robert Page

Provided David Cameron is able to secure majority support for `Remain’ in the European Union Referendum vote on Thursday June 23rd, and can then swiftly reunite his party, he may finally be able to turn his attention to his political legacy.

In terms of social policy will he be seen as someone who steered the party in an avowedly One Nation direction or, rather, as someone who proved to be a loyal `son’ of Margaret Thatcher?

Toxic social legacy

Although sympathetic with Thatcher’s neo‐liberal economic agenda, Cameron has sought to distance himself from her more toxic social legacy since becoming party leader in 2005, not least because he recognised the importance of neutralising New Labour’s reputation as being the only party committed to social justice. Continue reading ‘David Cameron’s `Welfare’ Legacy. Thatcher’s Son or Macmillan’s Heir?’

Policy Press 20th anniversary – interview with the original ‘dream team’

The original Policy Press 'dream team' (left to right) Ann Moore, Head of Sales (retired), Ali Shaw, Director, Dave Worth, Production Manager, Julia Mortimer, Assistant director

The original Policy Press ‘dream team’ (left to right) Ann Moore, Sales Manager (retired), Ali Shaw, Director, Dave Worth, Production Manager, Julia Mortimer, Assistant Director

Tonight we’ll be celebrating 20 years of Policy Press at our party with many people from the past, present and future of Policy Press.

To get the spirit of nostalgia just right for the day we interviewed three Policy Pressers who’ve been part of the organisation from its basement beginnings – Ann Moore, Sales Manager (now retired), Dave Worth, Production Manager and Julia Mortimer, Assistant Director – to find out what they remember from way back when and how times have changed…

1) What was your first day at Policy Press like?

Dave Worth

Dave Worth

Dave: I never really had a first day at PP as I kind of was always around before it formed. And I can’t remember anyway!

Ann: I had been working at the School for Advanced Urban Studies (SAUS) on a part-time basis before becoming the Policy Press Publishing Assistant, so on my first day the staff were familiar but the work wasn’t. We processed and dispatched book, journal and report orders direct from the basement office – so I was the first contact for our customers and authors – from day one!

Julia: I started work at Policy Press’ predecessor SAUS publications on the day that everyone else had left to go on holiday so it was rather a baptism of fire! It was all fine though! Continue reading ‘Policy Press 20th anniversary – interview with the original ‘dream team’’

Do you challenge everyday misogyny and ‘rape culture’?

In today’s guest blog post Miriam David explains why the need to challenge every day misogyny and ‘rape culture’ is more relevant and necessary than ever…

Miriam David’s book Reclaiming feminism: challenging everyday misogyny publishes today! For more details and to get your copy click here.

Miriam David

Miriam David

Unexpectedly driving down Park Lane, London the other day, I witnessed a most horrifying larger‐than‐life sculpture – the white marble nude body of a young woman draped over a muscular man’s bronze hand and arm.

What better evidence of ‘everyday misogyny’ and the objectification of women’s bodies and its violent treatment?

I was astonished to note its location behind Buckingham Palace Gardens and not half a mile away from Parliament and Trafalgar Square.

But on reflection, this area of real estate is prime for neo‐liberal international property developers, not known for their critiques of gender relations but currently raping London’s properties.

Call girls and escort agencies

Continue reading ‘Do you challenge everyday misogyny and ‘rape culture’?’

10 things you should know about foodbanks

“It happened so quickly…. Within two months I had gone from a full-time, salaried job in Essex County Fire and Rescue Service to sobbing on the phone to the energy company, begging them not to turn off the heating in a flat with cold laminate flooring and large windows, occupied by a baby boy who was not yet two years old.” Jack Monroe, Writer, journalist and campaigner, Foreword to Hunger Pains

kayleigh-garthwaiteThink you know about foodbanks and the people who use them? Think again.

Kayleigh Garthwaite’s new book which publishes today, Hunger Pains, challenges some of the biggest foodbank myths.

Here are the top 10…

1. Anyone can turn up and get a food parcel

You need a red voucher to get food, given to you by a frontline care professional who has identified you as being in need. It is likely that many people in food poverty who are outside of the ‘system’ aren’t getting help.

If somebody does come in and say “Can I have some food?” you can say “Have you got a voucher?” as that’s the rules.” Foodbank volunteer

Continue reading ’10 things you should know about foodbanks’

Do YOU know how the EU really shapes British public policy?

With the EU Referendum just over a week away we turned to author and academic Janice Morphet to educate ourselves on how the EU really shapes British public policy…

Janice Morphet photo 2016.1Since the UK EU referendum debate was announced, there have been many claims and counter claims by those on both sides of the argument to remain or leave.

For many of the electorate, there has been a continuing call for ‘facts’ or some independent source of comparative information on the role and influence of membership of the EU on life in the UK.

Embarrassing ignorance

However, the fact that cannot be denied is how little the UK population understands about the way in which the EU works and how any member state operates within it. This is evidenced daily, particularly but not exclusively in broadcast media, when respected journalists and commentators display an embarrassing ignorance of the EU’s institutions, policies and persona.

Why is this? Since the UK joined the European Community in 1972, there has been reluctance by UK civil servants to acknowledge and engage with the many processes of its internal decision making(1). Continue reading ‘Do YOU know how the EU really shapes British public policy?’

Why England won’t make it past the Euro 2016 (health) quarter finals

As a nation prepares to feel the glory and despair of England vs Russia in their first match of #euro2016, author and academic Clare Bambra explains why, if it were down to health stats, we wouldn’t make it past the quarter finals. (On the bright side, we would certainly beat Russia and win our group…)

Clare Bambra

Clare Bambra

England would get knocked out in the quarter finals of Euro 2016 if the tournament was based on how healthy each nation is. Based on health statistics, Switzerland would walk away as European Champions for the first time in the competition’s history, narrowly beating Iceland on penalties in the final.

Our analysis of differences in life expectancy for men in the 24 countries taking part in the forthcoming football tournament shows huge health divides across Europe and highlights the links between where you live and how long you live.

The European Health Championship is an accessible way to shed light on these stark differences. It scores each nation’s football team based on the country’s male life expectancy at birth for 2013. From these scores, the winners and losers of each group are decided as well as the results of the games in the knock out stages.

Groups A-F_cropped


England, with a male life expectancy of 79 years, would be winners of their group by beating Russia (63 years), Slovakia (72 years) and Wales (78 years). England would then beat Czech Republic (75 years) in the round of 16 knockout stage but would lose to Iceland (81 years) in the quarter-finals. Continue reading ‘Why England won’t make it past the Euro 2016 (health) quarter finals’

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