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Immigration and that referendum December 16, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Interesting, and depressing, to read this. I can’t help but feel that five years of Tory rule did nothing to make people feel, let alone actually be, in a better position in relation to their circumstance, but the Rowntree Foundation survey does point to immigration driving the vote for Brexit in the UK particularly for those on lower incomes.

The vote for Brexit was fuelled by poorer voters feeling they had very little control over immigration, coupled with a more general mistrust of politicians and officials, according to new research into attitudes before the referendum.


When people were asked how in control they felt over political issues such as crime, housing and health, the proportion who said “I can make no difference” ranged from 10% to 28%.

However, with immigration this shot up to 72% saying they had no control, with an even higher 76% of those on lower incomes saying this. Only 6% of people felt they had any real control over immigration.

This feeling came to the fore during the EU referendum, Kelley argued: “You’re presented with a binary choice that is framed as a choice between less and more immigration – at that point that feeling of total inability to control becomes relevant.”

And here’s some more particularly troubling aspects:

Other factors tied closely to voting leave included people’s belief they had lost out economically compared with others – 76% of those who believed this supported Brexit – and thinking Britain had changed significantly for the worse, 73% of whom opted for leave.

And one can see in the following how a toxic media discourse impacted on perceptions – particularly of those in more problematic economic circumstances.

The new research also included in-depth, qualitative studies of the views of low-income voters in one outer London borough.

Here, the study said, people “talked about migrants, refugees and asylum seekers interchangeably”, and felt that immigration created pressure on public services, in which they and their family were likely to lose out.

Of course the contradictions abound. Who are the personal in many public services? Who picks food crops, etc, etc. And what means are there of combatting misperceptions? Got to say the quoted remarks at the release of the report aren’t exactly heartening with a sort of musing like the following:

Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics at Kent University and an expert on populist parties, said this new narrative left the Labour party at risk of “getting hammered” if it continued to advocate free movement of people post-Brexit.

Politicians on the centre-left were still discussing immigration in “a very transactional, rational language”, Goodwin said.


“Everything we know from 20 years of research on social science suggests that issues of culture and identity are just as important, if not more important, than questions of economic scarcity and perceived economic threat.

“Unless mainstream politicians, society, elites – whatever you want to call them – start to look beyond questions of economic distribution, the populist right will always be able to outflank those parties,” he told the event.

I’ve got to be honest. I’m not entirely convinced. It seems to me, and this is actually although linked to the Brexit result something that is separate in itself – that part of the problem is that toxic media and political narrative. That a populist politics that has hinged on immigration – using it very deliberately through the media initially to speed the way to Brexit, is more to blame. And perhaps, just perhaps, when the actual impacts of Brexit become clear demonstrating that immigration and other supposed woes aren’t the problem (including membership of the EU) perhaps there’ll be some space for a progressive message to make some headway. But that’s an argument of despair in a sense, given the strength of those currently in power in the UK. I don’t know if this latest Evening Standard Ipsos MORI poll would give some hope or not. Not a lot I suppose as it suggests that one way or another, and particularly if there is a snap election, the Tories are cruising back to another overall majority.


1. oconnorlysaght - December 16, 2016

For nearly forty years, successive governments and media have been bombarding us with the lies that the Magic Market will resolve problems and, more increasingly as the MM fails to do so, that interference with it will make matters worse and, of course, that nothing should be done to prevent the apparachiki of that market (the entrepreneurs) from manipulating it to their benefit and ours. Brainwashed like this, is it any wonder that people turn to blame what seems the most easy solution when things go wrong: the extreme form of cultural difference, immigration.


2. Ed - December 16, 2016

Goodwin is a pretty odious character. Him and another academic called Rob Ford specialize in UKIP, the populist right etc.; they spend a lot of time hyping it up to get their names in the media, palpably willing them on because the more UKIP/the far right grows, the more ‘relevance’ their work has. Their advice to Labour is always slightly nebulous but the subtext is clear: ‘Be more racist!’ Academic outriders for John ‘Legitimate Concerns’ Harris, basically. I think this guy had them down well:

Liked by 2 people

3. George Carty - December 16, 2016

Given that most of the big cities with strong economies voted Remain, and that most of the heaviest Leave votes came from places with few immigrants, how much mileage would you place in David Timoney’s theory that the vote for Brexit was driven by small-town boomers fearing a lonely old age as their offspring moved away in search of big-city opportunities?


WorldbyStorm - December 16, 2016

I hope it’s not the case – though I’ve often wondered whether in Ireland there was a dynamic bound up in small c social conservatism that had the old puritan aspect i.e. ‘the very idea someone else is having a better time than me is an affront’. Just on votes and otherwise, I think it was EamonnCork who said that the map of Leave/Remain was while not identical, not massively different to the map of Tory election victories of the Thatcher period. Labour retreating to its larger urban fastnesses, etc. A lot has changed in the intervening period, and the sections of the working class left behind by deindustrialisation is broader etc, but it’s not entirely awry.


4. Phil - December 16, 2016

How much control do you, personally, as an individual, have over anything in the wider economy & society? It’s a weird question. I guess it tells us something that so many more people feel unable to control immigration specifically, but I’m not sure what that is.


WorldbyStorm - December 16, 2016

Yes, very true.
What’s depressing is that it is the thing people seem to fix on above all else. Not the Tories, not broader socio economic processes, but the other. On the other hand, perhaps that’s not so surprising in the context of the media, and this provides food for thought too, doesn’t it? And these dynamics are far from UK only.



5. sonofstan - December 17, 2016

I’ve just read Burnham’s piece in the Guardian and need to be sick. Labour have an MP shot in cold blood by a fascist and the response of the likes of Burnham is to legitimise exactly the kind of crap that feeds such actions.


FergusD - December 17, 2016

Saw Burnham on Newsnight recently. Mealy mouthed apology for anti-immigration policies.

The interview was preceded by a film about Burnley, which voted heavily for Leave (except for the Asian population). They interviewed one white woman (only one, no white males) who voted Leave. She came across as OK (by my lights). Working class, struggling, multiple jobs but doing something to help the jobless it seems “doing what job centres used to do” she said. Voted Leave because “something needed to change”. She rejected charges of racism made to her by an asian friend (which surprised her) and actually didn’t mention immigration as a concern, rather job losses, decay, feeling forgotten etc. She said she was looking for change but didn’t know where to look – an indictment of Labour. Used to vote Labour as the party of the working class, as she saw it, but was pissed off by Brown’s govt (not Blair’s?). Of course the interview left it at that, there were loads of questions I would have liked to ask her. If she is typical (Is she?) then Labour could win the likes of her with a radical programme, it doesn’t have to go UKIP lite. Burnham’s response was hopeless. These Labour types (and he is seen as soft left I suppose) seem to have no appetite for a political struggle, fight for your ideas! They can be won! Unless of course he believes the anti-immigration narrative.

All to be won or lost I would say. UKIP’s new leader is attempting to appeal to people like her, if Labour can’t come across with a strong radical message they may go UKIP.


Alibaba - December 17, 2016

Your last paragraph sums it up succinctly.


6. oconnorlysaght - December 17, 2016

Immigration controls are being sold as a pragmatic way to end unemployment and low wages. This is particularly so, since the conventional wisdom (that is the wisdom of Andy (‘Cap int’ Ring’) Burnham and all to the right of him) is that doing anything that might thwart capitalist desires to maximise profits will make matters worse. It is pointless to sit and wait for the failure of this assumption to be exposed; the ruling class media will raise the ante even to race riot conditions. It is time to prepare a socialist economic programme. I suspect agreement will be easier than it seems now.


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