How We Got to Brexit

27/06/2016 08:58
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It's been something of a whirlwind this few days, but here is where we are now and how we got here.

On Thursday, the UK voted to leave the EU. The political elite did not intend this and now everyone is panicking.

In the Conservative manifesto in 2015, David Cameron promised to hold a referendum on EU membership. He could do this safe in the knowledge that he wasn't going to have a majority government. This was an attempt to appease Ukip supporters and gain votes. The Conservatives then gained an accidental majority at Westminster and Cameron had to follow through on this pledge.

Legislation was laid before parliament and in February it was announced that the referendum would be held in June. This, again, was Cameron's call because he felt that the sooner the referendum was held, the more likely that Remain would win.

Enter Boris Johnson. Johnson had previously ruled out heading the Out campaign. However, increasingly he saw a vacuum at the top. It's no secret that Boris is ambitious. He saw this as a way to further his own interests. Another bluff. Boris could safely lead the leave campaign, further increase his profile and firmly set himself up as an anti-establishment voice, increasing his likelihood of gaining power and wealth in the future. He knew that the campaign would lose but saw how he could gain personally.

Next happened the part of our story that needs to be most scrutinised because it shows neatly where Westminster has gone wrong in the last few decades. The people of the UK voted to leave the EU. If you look at the demographics who voted leave: the poorer you are, the more likely to vote leave. The class divide is pretty easy to explain. The major UK parties have supported an economy based on low wage jobs; they have decimated the social housing stock and destroyed the Trade Unions. People at the bottom of the pile have nothing to lose. Pretty much anything is better than what they have now.

People have rightly become angry at the political system. It's not well-serving the masses, only the educated elite. The Labour party are just as culpable as the Tories. They have not created nor promised an economic system that will help raise people out of poverty. They have moved to the right, trying to appeal to the middle classes. It's a vicious cycle - no party supports working class people, working class people don't vote because there's nobody speaking to them, then the parties stop even trying to appeal to them because they don't vote anyway.

The Leave campaign exploited fear and pointed fingers at the political classes. (Pretty ironic that the Etonian former Mayor of London led an uprising of the working classes against the political system to further his own career, no?) They also whipped up quiet xenophobes into rabid racists. If you're earning next to nothing, it's pretty easy to imagine that this is because an immigrant has stolen the job you should have had, rather than blaming the economic model of the country you live in.

So Britain voted Leave. They stuck two fingers up at politicians and politics and voted to be rid of Brussels faceless bureaucrats.

Nobody expected this to happen. For all their "I'm one of the lads" bluster, neither Nigel Farage nor Boris Johnson had any idea quite what fertile ground they were sowing. They have no idea what it's like to live from pay cheque to pay cheque, to constantly be servicing debt, to be working in a low wage job with eventual retirement the only light at the end of the tunnel.

The last decades have created a perfect storm and, in a further ironic twist, those people who voted for Brexit in the hope of a better life for their families, will be hardest hit by the Tories' now inevitable lurch to the right.

Kirsty Blackman is the SNP MP for Aberdeen North