June 16, 2016 by Paul Goldsmith
“Inside Labour’s London HQ, I joined young volunteers manning the “Labour In” phones with every fact at the ready. We had sheets of Labour-supporting names to call in Nottinghamshire – and the results were grim. “Out”, “Out” and “Out” in call after call, only a couple for remain. “I’ve been Labour all my life, but I’m for leave,” they said. Why? Always the same – immigrants first; that mythical £350m saving on money sent to Brussels second; “I want my country back” third. And then there is, “I don’t know ANYONE voting in.”
The chickens are coming home to roost for the Labour Party’s hopes that their voters will keep Britain in Europe. It doesn’t matter how many times Polly Toynbee (the writer of the article I’ve just quoted) pointed out that the problems these Labour-supporters were bringing up were caused by Tory austerity cuts not immigrants, that the recession that would follow Brexit would dwarf the £350m which is an untrue figure anyway, and that the country they want back simply doesn’t exist anymore, she got nowhere. The chart above shows why.
This chart, created by the Economist Branko Milanovic and brought to my attention by Matt O’Brien of the Washington Post, is for me one of the most important pieces of data that exists for explaining the current geopolitical trends in the USA and Britain.
The chart is read like this. Imagine everyone in the world lined up according to how much income they make, adjusted for the cost of living in their countries. The richest 1% are over on the right of the chart, the poorest 5% are over on the left. The key group is those between about 77% and 85%.
These are the working class, lower-skilled people in developed countries. Yes, around 80% of the world have an income below them. But just look at what has happened to them over the course of the past 30 years. Their inflation-adjusted income has fallen. They are the ONLY people in the world this has happened too. The middle-class in middle income countries have done very well (China accounts for that bump in the middle at around 50%). As for the richest 1%? Well the line for them is almost vertical.
Our key group of the working class in developing countries have seen their jobs outsourced to other countries AND they see immigrants coming to their countries, which they feel increases the supply of labour without an increase in demand, also pushing down their wages (note, I am not saying this is true – and there is research that states the opposite, but if this group feels this, it needs to be addressed).
All this creates a political problem, and is the cause of Vote Leave’s surge. These people need help, and they are looking for answers. The answer being presented to them is that globalisation is the problem. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the advance of global communication and transport of goods, services and people have exposed the working class in developed countries to billions of alternative workers who their jobs can be outsourced to or who can come to their countries and take their jobs.
UKIP, Donald Trump and the Vote Leave campaign argue that the elite have bought into globalisation so far that mainstream, ‘respectable’ parties of the centre-left and centre-right, who tend to win general elections, cannot and will not do anything about globalisation’s negative effects. This leaves those left behind by globalisation to feel like nobody represents their interests. Well, now someone does (it seems).
Then there is the elephant in the room. Race. Those left behind also have been seen to speak or respond to the language of racial or ethnic backlash. So ‘respectable’, mainstream political parties have stayed away from them.
Think about that. The left, or liberals in the USA, speak to the dispossessed working class economically but they don’t speak to them culturally (in fact they actively dismissed them as racists for years). Meanwhile, the right, or conservatives in the USA, speak to the dispossessed working class culturally but don’t speak to them economically.
Vote Leave’s campaign has been incredibly disciplined. It’s messages have got through. They are telling a large mass of people who are unhappy with their lives and who want change that leaving the EU will help control immigrants, will give the government more money to spend on them, and will ‘get their country back’. Whether or not any of them are true is not the point.
The mainstream respectable centrist politicians of all major British political parties are reaping the whirlwind that happens when you ignore the needs of a significant group of people. They are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.
That’s why I think that Britain is about to vote leave.