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Since 23 June Our Politicians Have Focused Exclusively On Leave Voters - They Ignore The Other 48% At Their Own Peril

09/10/2016 08:00
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

A summer which began with the Remain campaign warning voters of looming economic calamity has now ended with the sight of politicians of all parties preparing to abandon the benefits of Europe so long as they can be seen to "do something" about immigration.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the sheer upheaval of the Brexit vote would lead politicians to focus almost exclusively on those who backed Leave. Millions of Leave voters, after all, have previously been left out of politics and left behind by the economy. And it took their votes in the Referendum to make their point.

But the pendulum has now surely swung too far.

Some of the speeches at this year's party conferences have been marked by a desperate fear of anything foreign. Others have suggested cities could erupt into violence unless there are curbs on immigration. Still more have seen have accepted as inevitable that we abandon freedom of movement - whether or not it does anyone any good.

It seems that no one has been interested in the views of Remain voters. Despite those voters accounting for almost half the electorate.

Today, the New Economics Foundation is publishing the findings of a new poll of this forgotten 48%. And it shows that anyone seeking to bring change to this country who turns their back on them, does so at their peril.

Those who voted Remain are far from being the self-satisfied defenders of the status quo that they have been characterised.

Almost two thirds of them say that the world today is run by a small group of powerful people.

A majority of them say the economy is heading in the wrong direction. The same number say that big business and corporate elites have too much power in Britain today.

And, crucially, those who voted Remain also believe in internationalist and multi-lateral solutions to solve the global problems.

They don't think that Britain can stand on its own and cure climate change, or tackle our security threats, or make our world a fairer place. And, by an overwhelming margin, they fear for a future in which Britain turns inwards or retreats from such relationships.

These are the "citizens of the world". They are motivated more by their attachment to international institutions like the EU and UN than even the economic costs of Brexit.

And that matters.

These voters know Britain's future success will not be built either by turning away from the world nor seeking to divide our communities between migrants and non-migrants.

They know, instead, that we need to develop solutions that work for both Leave and Remain voters. Solutions that show that there is no trade-off to be made by remaining proudly internationalist and pursuing socially-inclusive solutions that make a real difference to people's lives.

This coming Tuesday, the New Economics Foundation will launch its new agenda for building a progressive and sustainable economic future.

It is an agenda which confronts the challenges of Brexit and addresses the concerns of those who voted Leave. But it is also an agenda that puts internationalist values - and the ideas of tolerance, openness and generosity of spirit which underpins them -- front and centre.

To give just some examples:

We desperately need a new understanding of how places like Greater Manchester can thrive in this new era when inner city districts voted strongly for Remain and those outside the city centre voted to Leave.

We also need new plans for our coastal towns where people feel abandoned by the political elite, which is why we're developing a plan for clean marine that can bring together people who care about the environment and those who need decent jobs in an initiative to them look outwards to a unique common resource on their doorstep - the sea.

And, at the same time, we need also to campaign relentlessly to correct a national debate increasingly turning away from the world so that leading figures from different political parties, businesses, communities and campaigns, can come together over issues ranging from tax evasion and climate change to protecting aid budgets and access to markets.

These are the kinds of project that can offer real solutions to the hardest-pressed communities while also ensuring that Britain remains an outward-looking country of which we can all be proud; a country that tackles inequality but also remains at the heart of the on-going struggle against racism and xenophobia.

They are part of a bigger agenda for a new economy that can tackle global problems and address the needs of voters who have been left behind.

It is an agenda needed now more than ever if we are to offer something better than the snake oil solutions being hawked across our streets by a new generation of narrow-minded nationalists today.

Marc Stears is the chief executive of the New Economics Foundation

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