EU v. Brexit = Class War

Deutsche Bank’s Jim Reid notes:

In terms of socio-economic groups, 57% of ABs (upper/middle class – professional/managers etc) voted remain, 49% of C1s (lower middle class – supervisory/clerical or junior management/administrative), 36% of C2s (skilled working class) and 36% of DEs (Ds – semi & unskilled manual workers. Es – casual/lowest grade worker or state pensioner). So there’s no escaping the fact that this is a class war. Whether its globalisation, immigration, inequality, poor economic growth or a combination of all of them it’s quite clear from this and other anti-establishment movements that the status quo can’t last in a democracy. Eventually you’ll have a reaction.

Business Insider points out:

Simply put, poorer voters voted for Leave. This is not to say that one can argue that voting Leave is a decision made on sound economic grounds – i.e., an argument that the UK is better off, economically, separated from Europe than more integrated with it. It was not!

But it seems that poorer voters chose something different over more of the same.

Bell writes (emphasis added):

“So it’s not the unequal impact of the recent recession driving voting patterns – or indeed as some argue the impact of migration driving down wages in some areas. Instead, in so far as economics drove voters’ behaviour [on Thursday night], it is areas that are, and have been for some time, poorer. Or to put it another way, it’s the shape of our long lasting and deeply entrenched national geographical inequality that drove differences in voting patterns.”

This is the key chart from Bell, which shows that areas with lower incomes were more likely to vote to leave while a chart of income changes from 2002-15 revealed no correlation between an increase in votes for or against a Brexit.

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Resolution Foundation

Politico reports:

voting patterns give full expression to deeper divides that have been bubbling away under the surface of British politics for decades, and which are also visible in other Western democracies.


Filled with disadvantaged, working-class Britons who do not feel as though they have been winning from European integration, immigration, and globalization, life in Boston [the poor UK town with the highest percentage of pro-Brexit voters] contrasts sharply with that in the area that returned the strongest vote for Remain, the London borough of Lambeth. Here, where 79 percent voted to remain in the EU, life is remarkably different. Compared to Boston, there are more than twice as many professionals, nearly twice as many 18-30-year-olds and fewer than half as many working-class voters, pensioners and people with no qualifications. The average voter in Lambeth earns nearly £10,000 more each year than the average voter in Boston.


Most economically disaffected voters who were tempted by Brexit were already resigned to believing that their future would be worse than the past. And they were clear about who was to blame.


Support for Brexit was unquestionably strongest in a more economically marginal and left-behind Britain.

Glenn Greenwald writes:

Western establishment … institutions have spawned pervasive misery and inequality, only to spew condescending scorn at their victims when they object.

The Los Angeles Times’s Vincent Bevins, in an outstanding and concise analysis, wrote that “both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for 30 years”; in particular, “since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt.” The British journalist Tom Ewing, in a comprehensive Brexit explanation, said the same dynamic driving the U.K. vote prevails in Europe and North America as well: “the arrogance of neoliberal elites in constructing a politics designed to sideline and work around democracy while leaving democracy formally intact.”

In an interview with the New Statesman, the political philosopher Michael Sandel also said that the dynamics driving the pro-Brexit sentiment were now dominant throughout the West generally: “A large constituency of working-class voters feel that not only has the economy left them behind, but so has the culture, that the sources of their dignity, the dignity of labor, have been eroded and mocked by developments with globalization, the rise of finance, the attention that is lavished by parties across the political spectrum on economic and financial elites, the technocratic emphasis of the established political parties.” After the market-venerating radicalism of Reagan and Thatcher, he said, “the center left” — Blair and Clinton and various European parties — “managed to regain political office but failed to reimagine the mission and purpose of social democracy, which ­became empty and obsolete.”

Three Guardian writers sounded similar themes about elite media ignorance stemming from homogeneity and detachment from the citizenry. John Harris quoted a Manchester voter as explaining, “If you’ve got money, you vote in. If you haven’t got money, you vote out.” Harris added: “Most of the media … failed to see this coming. … The alienation of the people charged with documenting the national mood from the people who actually define it is one of the ruptures that has led to this moment.” Gary Younge similarly denounced “a section of the London-based commentariat [that] anthropologized the British working class as though they were a lesser evolved breed from distant parts, all too often portraying them as bigots who did not know what was good for them.” Ian Jack’s article was headlined “In this Brexit vote, the poor turned on an elite who ignored them,” and he described how “gradually the sight of empty towns and shuttered shops became normalized or forgotten.” Headlines like this one from The Guardian in 2014 were prescient but largely ignored:

In 2008, their economic worldview and unrestrained corruption precipitated a global economic crisis that literally caused, and is still causing, billions of people to suffer — in response, they quickly protected the plutocrats who caused the crisis while leaving the victimized masses to cope with the generational fallout. Even now, Western elites continue to proselytize markets and impose free trade and globalization without the slightest concern for the vast inequality and destruction of economic security those policies generate.

Even the Financial Times has an explanation headlined “City of London elite blame inequality for Brexit”, which includes the following quotes:

Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal & General, said the electorate was “fed up of the rich and the elite shouting at them, telling them how to vote”.

Sir Richard Lambert, former FT editor and now chairman of the Fair Education Alliance, said: “This vote represents in part the frustration of those who have not benefited from economic growth in recent decades.”


Among the most impassioned contributions to the debate was the submission from David Roberts, chairman of Nationwide Building Society, who said his contact with “ordinary folk” around the country revealed “they see no prospect of improved standards of living.

He said demands for more austerity while bankers in the City still received “massive bonuses” meant it was not surprising they did not worry when they heard banks, politicians and the City saying “out of Europe is a disaster”.

And see this.

Remember, the billionaires themselves say that they’re the ones who launched the class war.

Sadly – as we’ve explained for years – runaway inequality leads to social unrest … and perhaps even revolution.

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