Nick Clegg went to Ebbw Vale for Newsnight and came away with the comforting conclusion that the vote against Brexit was driven by a nostalgia for the full-employment steel-and-coal past among the old, and found comfort from interviewing the young who were not obsessed by immigration. No wonder vote remain lost.
Here is a question for Ebbw Vale, and maybe even Clegg. Leave voters wanted ‘to take back control’: what did they want to take back control of, and from whom?
On the face of it, control of borders, and control from Brussels. But is control really about borders and Brussels? Take the water that comes out of your tap. In Ebbw Vale it is supplied by Glas Cymru, a not-for-profit company that paid £1 for a failed privatised water business but in much of the UK water is in the hands of financial consortia, many of them foreign owned. A Canadian pension fund is lead owner of water in Anglia, a Hong Kong based consortium in the North East, JP Morgan and the Americans lead in Southern Water, and Australian money dominates on the Thames. What happened to borders and control?
Before you conclude that the dimwits from Ebbw Vale to the Thames can’t see their hands in front of their faces consider this. Public opinion almost certainly thinks utilities like water should be in public hands, but in the end these are decisions to do with the ‘economy’, with ‘business’, with economic efficiency and not democracy, the control that people should have over their lives.
Until democracy encompasses economy/business a gulf will remain between the arguments of remainers fretting about access to the single market and leavers celebrating their new found sovereignty.