Already Vote Leave has betrayed its core base, and will reap a whirlwind for it.
Despite its claims to represent the working classes, Vote Leave was always an elitist institution.
As a socialist, I have made no secret of my problems with the EU, as have figures like Owen Jones and Paul Mason. The EU has a crippling lack of democracy and transparency, whatever the Remain camp may have argued over the last three months. The way the EU leadership has maintained an almost fanatical devotion to austerity and neoliberal economics, in the face of increasing economic disaster in places like Greece, Italy and Spain has been frankly scandalous and should be rightly criticized. My biggest problem however, out of all the lies, was with the audacity of privately educated, upper class conservatives, fully paid up members of the establishment, to present themselves as enemies of the establishment and defenders of the working class.
Over the last three months people like Daniel Hannan, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage have presented themselves as Men of the People to the most angry and marginalized sections of our society, promising them both stricter controls on immigration and a preposterous program of dedicating an extra £350m to the NHS. And now, of course, with the grim realization of responsibility descending upon them, they have ruled out both promises.
This sums up what was always going to happen with a Vote Leave campaign based on appealing to genuine and ferocious anger, without any real interest in actually doing anything about it. If the Vote Leave campaigners had had any real interest in helping or representing the working classes, they would have spoken about the economic catastrophes across Europe caused by rampant austerity. But they didn’t. They could have talked about the threat of TTIP. But they didn’t, because most of them agree with it. At the end of the day, what clinched the EU result was the economic degradation of working class communities, the immense social changes created by immigration, and the whipping up of anger by this campaign, and its further galvanization through impossible promises.
In barely three days the Leave campaign has betrayed its core group. It has used the anger and concerns of a marginalized group to achieve their own pet, self-serving and fundamentally elitist aims. The mask has slipped. They have been revealed to be far from the great working class, anti-establishment heroes they claimed to be, but simply a more eccentric strand of the neoliberal hegemony. The only possible outcome is a whirlwind of even greater anger. What will come of that is anyone’s guess.
Labour’s job is to point out this betrayal. Not to parrot the hatred-ciphering politics of UKIP and Vote Leave, but to demonstrate exactly what the problem is, who has caused it and what can and should be done about it. Its too late to battle against Brexit (unless we want riots on the street) but there is plenty of time to shape it into a socially just and progressive development. But Labour must be ready.