Brexit: The total rejection of the elite

The UK has just voted to leave the EU. This is not just a rejection of Brussels, it is a wholesale rejection of elite influence.

The Remain campaign assembled an unprecedented phalanx of experts and leaders to warn against leaving and make the rational case for EU membership on trade, investment, employment and security. But no-one was listening to them.

The Leave campaign understood this.

Gove was ridiculed for suggesting that the British public had had enough of experts and the Leave team was attacked for warning supporters that the votes of Londoners and Scots might overwhelm the votes of the real ‘heartlands’ of Britain. But both moves were clear articulations of how voters felt.

Facts and expert projections were dismissed on the basis that ‘no-one was telling the truth’ and that the quality of information provided to the public was poor. Neither of these charges was fair — there was a mountain of information and fact-checking provided by impartial sources — but it was a way to post-rationalise an emotional decision that was fomented in echo-chambers.

From the start, it was clear that the Remain campaign didn’t get it. The launch was in London — the elite mothership. The spokespeople were ostensibly diverse, but only in a preppy, London-centric sense — ‘insiders’, who didn’t resonate with Leave voters. The advocates they mobilised were elites — CEOs, politicians, scientists, academics and wonks.

When the Premier League came out in favour of Remain, it did so as a corporate entity, not as a community of millions of fans. When businesses backed Remain, they did so via letters to employees, rather than by giving them a platform to show their support.

Each image and photocall from the Remainers reinforced the key narrative — elites were arguing in their own self-interest and failed to understand what was happening to the rest of the country. Yesterday’s vote was a victory for those who see globalisation as a threat over those who see it as an opportunity.

Brexit is not just a rejection of Brussels, it is a rejection of London, starkly illustrated by the voting patterns.

This humiliation of the elite is a startling expression of what Edelman’s Trust data has been telling us for years. The inversion of influence has arrived. And its impact is only just being felt.