Populism, Brexit and progressive opinion
Sir, – In conflating the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election, Fintan O’Toole (“Progressives must be the first to call out treachery”, March 21st) touches on the sense of alienation felt by key sections of what must, in a well-ordered world, constitute progressive opinion. His argument would be more compelling if he were able to suggest what policies might be followed that could detach voters from such populism.
In my country, Brexit voters do not constitute an homogenous reactionary bloc. The most important issue for half of all Leave supporters was British sovereignty. Only a third put control over immigration first, although both sovereignty and immigration as well as the economy were important to the majority of anti-EU voters. A third of black and ethnic minority voters opposed EU membership, including a majority of Sikhs and Jews.
The political outlook of Leave voters was equally mixed. More than a third of Labour and SNP and a majority of Plaid Cymru supporters opted to leave the EU, along with a quarter of Greens and almost a third of Lib Dems. Just under half of voters described either capitalism, globalisation or both as a force for ill in society, and the majority of them voted Leave. In fact, they comprised around a third of anti-EU voters.
As part of the Lexit (Left exit from the EU) speaking tour currently in Ireland and talking to audiences in Cork, Dublin and Newry, it struck me that there are two kinds of unionists on this island – UK unionists and EU unionists – and I am surprised to find people who stood against the Lisbon Treaty as an outrage against Irish sovereignty now find it expedient to suggest that, because a majority of people in the Northern Irish statelet voted to remain in the EU, that this should trump the expressed will of people in another country. – Yours, etc,