In most newspaper comment sections, there are those who want a new referendum, claiming that since the old people who wanted Brexit are dying off, and young people who are reaching voting age will, of course, vote to remain in the EU, it’s only fair that we start the whole process over again. And another thing, they say, lots of Leavers have changed their minds and now wish to join the Remain voters who, of course, are still steadfast in their intention to cling to the cuddly, safe and democratic EU.
It ain’t necessarily so.
For the last few years, I’ve been standing in markets with a UKIP stall, not a lot, just a few times a year, but often enough to get some sort of feel for how people in local communities think. In particular, we did stalls before the referendum, so now we’ve been out and about with a Brexit message we can compare the before and after situation.
First was Brandon, an East Anglian town with a high population of immigrant workers. The market is moribund, so the response was not high, but we got a friendly enough reception. I didn’t speak with anyone who had changed their minds, Leave or Remain they would still vote the same way. There was only one ‘walk past and insult UKIP while not listening to any reply’, a young woman. Guardian reader someone grunted, and I was forced to agree. It was an inadequate sounding, but it looked to me that Brandon would still vote Leave.
Next, Newmarket. We had a ball polling gizmo, one of those ‘put a ball in one of two slots to indicate support’ so the impression was a bit more objective. This is another town with a large immigrant population, many of the workers on the big stud farms coming from abroad. I’ve been there a couple of times, and in the past, it has surprised me how little support there was for Leave. This time however the Leave vote won by more than a head – opinion had definitely hardened for Leave, and the primary mood was impatience. Just do it, just leave, stop faffing about is what the people of Newmarket want. Yes, there are those who would still vote Remain, but it’s a smaller percentage than before the referendum.
Then Bury St Edmunds, a joint effort from Cambs & SE Cambs, West Suffolk, Bury St Edmunds, Central Suffolk & North Ipswich, and Ipswich branches. My word, Remainers are so cross! Many stalked up to the stall, slammed a ball into the Remain bucket and stalked off, often without saying a word. Those EUphiles who engaged were less angry which meant they would actually argue their case, with the lies told by Leave coming up a lot – apparently spending £9,000,000 on a mendacious document posted through every letterbox in the land did not count. I’d prepared a list of how the EU is changing, how the swing to the Right in Austria, Hungary, Italy, and even Germany could mean we end up tied to a Right-dominated EU with no way out. Some listened, most had blinkers so tightly bound to their eyes that even that possibility or the way the nascent EU Army is frightening Russia into a new arms race didn’t alter their position one jot. Russia doesn’t see an EU army, it sees a re-arming Germany that must be resisted, and that of all the problems we will face in the future is the danger I personally most fear, but for the dedicated Remainers it has no impact: all will be well, peace in our time, the wise philosopher kings in Brussels will see to that. I kept my temper, just, but a couple of visitors to the stall ended up having a ding-dong argument at full volume.
Bury and its surrounding villages haven’t changed. They are still 60+:40- Leave.
The big surprise was how the younger people voted. Quite a few actually bothered to vote, and most of them voted Leave, more in proportion than the older voters. Be careful what you ask for, Mrs Toynbee, the next generation is not as easily fooled as you think, nor will they be browbeaten into groupthink by those whose need for gardeners, au pairs and cheap labour trumps the needs of the UK born.
The result? If there were to be a second referendum, then based on our actual observations Leave would win by a bigger margin. I was surprised and delighted by the number of people who told me they’d voted Remain, but if there were to be another vote, they would vote Leave as that was the democratic choice, and trying to subvert the vote would be against all the principles that democracy must abide by.
I’d love to see Remainers running a few stalls on a freezing January day. They might learn something. Come on Polly, let’s be ‘avin’ yer!