Brexit: whose referendum was it anyway?

Parochial. Narrow-minded. Bigoted. Racist. Backward. These, and many other equally insulting epithets have been hurled at the Leaves, but not necessarily by the Stays, since the shock outcome of the Brexit referendum.

The extent of bile and vitriol that emerged when the realisation dawned that the Leaves had it, despite the pundits saying that the Stays would win, was jaw-dropping. And we’re not talking British citizens here, who are directly affected by the outcome of the referendum.

No, we’re talking about people who don’t actually live there, but who feel they have the right to criticise British voters for exercising their democratic right, to exit the European Union. It’s called sunshine democracy and it works something like this: “I fully support the democratic process, unless the outcome is something that I do not like, or do not want.”

Yes, the Brexit decision will hurt the United Kingdom, and yes it will hurt the EU, and yes it will hurt the rest of the world, but probably not to the extent that was predicted, but it was the will of 52% of the 72% of voters who made their mark.

We also know that David Cameron used the Brexit referendum as a blunt instrument to address divisions in his own party, but to suggest that there were no underlying reasons for the Leave vote is at least, disingenuous.

Had he not called the referendum, the electorate would have retaliated in some other fashion, and although the outcome may have been less immediately injurious to the country, it would have been devastating to the ruling party.

The Brexit vote was pure anti-establishment, a proxy for the anger of the British middle class, a rebellion against the political elite that has disregarded the concerns of the British people for three successive governments.

The pundits who so smugly predicted a Stay vote were largely, it seems, pinning their hopes on social anthropologist Kate Fox’s book Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, in which she predicts that the vote would go to the Stays, on the grounds that the English are deeply uncomfortable with radical and sweeping change. She was dead wrong.

The average British middle class family has suffered under the yoke of flat salary increases since the global financial crisis of 2008. The cash injected into the world economy as a result of quantitative easing, benefited those who didn’t need it – the wealthy – while the middle class, has borne the brunt of the austerity measures induced by an out of control and greedy global financial sector.

This is the first middle class generation likely to have a less better life than their parents.

Take house prices in London for example, where a typical middle class family can no longer afford to buy a house in the likes of Kensington, Knightsbridge or Belgravia, because property values have soared, because of the astronomical prices paid by the wealthy – many of them foreigners- in recent years.

They have to move ever further afield from their capital city, and commute, which costs time and money.

“…Anger among the middle class has mounted. In the UK, Westminster and its politicians are put in the same bracket as big business and super-rich executives. They are part of the Establishment that has to be rocked. Their centrist, moderate policies have led to extremely uneven, immoderate consequences.

“Brussels and the European Parliament, backed up by an array of well-heeled bureaucrats, inspire similar negative thoughts. It is leading to some interesting election results with political parties, which until a few years ago were on the fringe, now on centre stage.”

These words were penned by Clem Sunter in his his latest book Flagwatching: How a fox de-codes the future, published in November last year.

Just as he and Chantell Ilbury predicted 9/11 (a terrorist strike on American soil) in their book The Mind of a Fox published in June 2001, so too does Mr Sunter decode what he calls the anti-establishment flag for what it is: fury of the middle class for their plight, brought on by the political elite and big business. And Brexit is the price which that political elite and big business must now pay for its disregard of the rising tide of middle class anger.

But that wasn’t the first sign. When Greece teetered on the brink of sovereign debt default, and the EU Central Bank desperately crafted a bailout, it did so to avoid a Grexit, which would have had the same outcome as will Brexit: a gradual unravelling of the EU.

The anger of the Greek people (justified or not) at the dictatorial austerity measures imposed by the EU Central Bank was a harbinger of what was already under way in the UK: incendiary anger over the austerity-induced burden which the middle class must bear.

The signs were clearly there, if as Mr Sunter says, you view the world as a fox, rather than as a hedgehog, invoking Isaiah Ber-lin’s parable The Hedgehog and the Fox, based on a poetry fragment attributed to ancient Greek poet Archilochus: “a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing.”

All the hedgehogs, including the pundits who predicted a Stay vote along with Kate Fox (pity she didn’t live up to her name), knew only “one important thing”, that the British people would vote Stay.

Unlike the foxes who in their minority predicted a Leave vote, the hedgehogs rejected any information that came along to challenge their world view.

If, like the hedgehog, you wander around gazing at your own navel, instead of like the fox, watching for and interpreting the signs of what is to come, is it any wonder that you end up being dead wrong?