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Round and round we go

Last night I watched a report by Adrian Chiles for the BBC1 current affairs programme Panorama on the subject of those who had voted for Brexit in the EU Referendum. For some people Chiles is a ‘Marmite’ broadcaster, but personally I quite like his often perceptive questioning coming, as it seems (courtesy of his Birmingham accent) from a ‘ordinary man of the street’. On this occasion he had journeyed back to the area where he was born and brought up because (he understood) this was representative of the type of region that had voted solidly for Brexit.

Based upon the evidence of this programme, most of those who had voted to Leave had done so because of immigration and their sense of resentment that the ‘ruling elite’ never listened to their concerns – thus the Referendum had been an opportunity to register a protest.

Apparently the problem with immigration (as perceived by those who took part) was the sheer scale of the ongoing influx into Britain.

There was a widespread belief that it was putting huge and increasing strains upon the NHS, GP surgeries, school places and housing that were just not being addressed, let alone sorted, by the politicians. This had been the case for years and – in circumstances where it was now difficult to impossible to get a GP appointment because of the preponderance of immigrants queuing up for them –  frankly, enough was enough.

They felt that voting Brexit would force the Establishment to do something, presumably a combination of reducing the rate of immigration and investing enough into infrastructure and public services in order to ensure that both those native to the UK – and those arriving – were provided with decent places to live and decent schools to send their kids to, for starters.

There was an additional separate theme running, i.e. that workers from poorer EU countries like Poland and Romania were flooding into the UK and, being prepared to work for less money, were causing native UK residents to lose out in the jobs market. They were also only here for the money, they made little or no attempt to join or embrace British culture – they kept to themselves and sent money back home to their native countries.

One interviewee, a former soldier, had gone onto benefits because – thanks (he said) to immigrant workers – the rate for his job had gone down sufficiently that his current rent (£200 per week) alone would have taken all his monthly pay – this in a context where he had a wife and five kids to feed. So what else could he have done?

Older residents seemed most concerned about the lack of ‘joining in’ displayed by immigrants. In saying this, they stressed they did not regard themselves as anti-immigrant or racist and certainly weren’t harking back to a perceived (albeit questionable) ‘good old days’ at all. However, in the ‘old days’ (presumably the 1950s to 1980s) those arriving from e.g. the West Indies, India and Kenya, who had come to better themselves, had fully embraced British culture and tried to join in. These days it was more a case of nationalities sticking each to their own – and thereby what they described as the ‘inherent native British culture’ was being pushed out.

It was all very well for those in the wealthy metropolitan elite to be ‘talking up’ the multi-cultural benefits of immigration when, for them, all it meant was a weekly trip downtown to their local Polish delicatessen and then back again up to their mansions upon the hill.

What these disaffected Brexit-voters wanted was ‘to get our country back’, i.e. to restore a situation in which British people were looked after and given opportunities first … and then, once (assuming) they were ‘sorted’ … maybe allow such immigration-flows as could be coped with by whatever house-building programme and other supporting infrastructure projects were being put in place. But no more than that.

As a ‘window’ on this aspect of the EU Referendum crisis, I though the programme was worthwhile.

However, I’m not saying it is necessarily going to take the various crises unfolding in the wake of the Referendum result forward.

The latest yesterday, of course, was the news that UKIP leader Nigel Farage was apparently resigning and heading off into the sunset and Theresa May was being blasted from all sides for refusing to guarantee that all EU citizens currently living in the UK could stay.

I’ve got nothing to say on Mr Farage but have some sympathy for Mrs May (of whom I am not a supporter by the way), at least in terms of logic.

What would be the point of giving EU citizens living in the UK a guarantee they can stay before any Brexit negotiations have even begun, let alone reached this subject on the list?

Supposing that you had given relevant EU citizens a guarantee that they can stay … and then, as and when the Brexit negotiations begin, the EU announces a policy that all Brits currently living in EU countries now have to leave and go home? Hopefully, at that point you’d feel a bit of a prat.

Lastly, on this general subject, I thought I’d link any interested Rust readers to these two articles I spotted in The Independent this morning:

Firstly, Satyajit Das on the subject of the ‘disconnect’ between the UK’s ruling elite and real life as it is lived by others – THE INDEPENDENT

Secondly, Andrew Griffin files a report on the scientist that thinks we’re all living in a zoo run by aliens, or at least I think that’s what he believes – THE INDEPENDENT



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About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts