Racial prejudice in Britain rises with unemployment

When I was a relatively junior academic, one of the things I was interested in was how labour market prejudice is influenced by the state of the economic cycle. This was a period when Australia was undergoing a deep recession (early 1990s) and it was clear that hostility to immigrants had risen during this period. I was interested to see whether this was related. The interest goes back to my postgraduate days when I was studying labour economics and we considered labour market discrimination in some detail. Then, it was clear from the literature, that employers who used racial profiling to screen job candidates would lose out if the labour market was strong, but could indulge their negative views about different racial groups without loss in times of recession. But we didn’t do much work on supply-side attitudes – that is, what do other workers think? In more recent times, I have done detailed research projects with mental health professionals studying the best way to provide job opportunities for young people with episodic illnesses. The research revealed that one of the problems in placing these workers in conventional workplaces is the prejudice that other workers displayed towards them. We worked on ways to attenuate that resistance. So I have had a long record of studying and being interested in these matters. In this blog post, I consider whether prejudice is counter-cyclical. In the UK, for example, the British Social Attitudes survey found that in 2014, around a third of British people were racially prejudiced and this ratio spiked during the GFC. Clearly, there are many factors contributing to this rather distasteful result, but if austerity is exacerbating the underlying factors, then we have another reason to oppose it. This research also bears on the Brexit debate.

Language seems to go to more extreme lengths in this social media world.

I saw a Tweet from a sitting Labour Party MEP on June 14, 2019 where she claimed that the decision taken by the majority of British voters to leave the European Union was, in fact, a “right wing fascist coup”.

The Labour MEP represented North-West England where the Leave vote was strong. So who was she in fact representing?

That seemed to be where the Remain gang had gone as they sensed their own campaign to reverse the majority decision was faltering.

And who can forget the claim by writer Ian McEwan, who told a conference of Remainers in London in May 2017, that the Brexit vote was a reflection of (Source):

A gang of angry old men, irritable even in victory, are shaping the future of the country against the inclinations of its youth … By 2019 the country could be in a receptive mood: 2.5 million over-18-year-olds, freshly franchised and mostly remainers; 1.5 million oldsters, mostly Brexiters, freshly in their graves …

He had a few months earlier told a Spanish audience that “the decision to hold a referendum on Brexit as reminiscent of Nazi Germany” (Source).

Not the sort of language that endears one to older voters, especially those who chose, freely, under the rules that all political parties in Britain said they agreed with, which would produce an outcome that they would honour.

Remember Nick Cohen, another UK Guardian propagandist, wrote in his article (June 18, 2016) – Take you country back from those who seek to destroy it – on the eve of the Referendum, that:

It is as if the sewers have burst. The Leave campaign has captured the worst of England and channelled it into a know-nothing movement of loud mouths and closed minds.

He didn’t mention all the lying economic forecasts that the Remain campaign use in their attempt to win the Referendum.

But think about that language.

And then wonder why Labour lost so many seats in the Leave majority constituencies.

In the 1838 Charles Dicken’s novel – Nicholas Nickleby – we meet a politican named Mr Gregsbury (p.184):

The time had been, when this burst of enthusiasm would have been cheered to the very echo; but now, the deputation received it with chilling coldness. The general impression seemed to be, that as an explanation of Mr. Gregsbury’s political conduct, it did not enter quite enough into detail; and one gentleman in the rear did not scruple to remark aloud, that, for his purpose, it savoured rather too much of a ‘gammon’ tendency.

The meaning of that term-gammon,’ said Mr. Gregsbury, ‘is unknown to me. If it means that I grow a little too fervid, or perhaps even hyperbolical, in extolling my native land, I admit the full justice of the remark. I am proud of this free and happy country. My form dilates, my eye glistens, my breast heaves, my heart swells, my bosom burns, when I call to mind her greatness and her glory.

The term – Gammon – resurfaced in the UK more recently to describe “to describe middle-aged or older men on the political right or who supported Brexit, who are usually, but not exclusively, white.”

These men are ignorance and have ‘flushed faces’.

The Urban Dictionary entry – says the term refers to:

… Brexit-voting, europhobic, middle-aged white male, whose meat-faced complexion suggests they are perilously close to a stroke.

And “Brexit is a gammonite phenomenon born out of europhobia and an overconsumption of tabloid induced euromyths.”

The UK Guardian (May 14, 2018) decided to introduce humour – Is it offensive to call ruddy-faced middle-aged Tories ‘gammons’? – as part of its relentless and failed campaign to stop the majority vote from occurring.

So that becomes the way the Remain Left dismisses the people who voted to Leave.

That’s right – they are right-wing, fascist males who are fat. Make fun of their “porcine fingers” etc

We are not like them are we? We are progressives. Phew.

And the social media heroes who are quick to virtue signal whenever they can and freely accuse people, they do not even know and who are using their skills to further the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) education process, of being variously, fascist, ignorant, racist and transphobic, with some of them thinking it is clever to #MMT to their Tweets as if that carries weight.

By falsely accusing people of these crimes they actually demean the genuine issue they claim to care about.

This lot also think it is racist to think a nation should have a population policy.

Well think about Australia. We might seem like a big land mass but only small areas are really capable of supporting population due to the extreme (and worsening) aridity of the landscape.

The terrible bushfires are a reflection of that state. Several towns in regional Australia have run out of water.

Our major cities are choking with people and traffic.

A policy where anyone could come here anytime and settle would be an ecological disaster, which would not help the new arrivals nor the existing population.

Yet the social media gang are out there one minute typing forth about GND and then, as if they had forgotten that narrative, accusing others who think about the population impacts on ecology as being racist.

Lost the plot comes to mind.

Which brings me to the racist allegations, which were rife after the 2016 Referendum.

It is very easy to consider any discussion about immigration is racially motivated. And in many cases it undoubtedly is.

But there are many valid issues that have to be addressed, which are not based on any concepts of racial superiority.

Are progressives really happy if capital exploits wage differentials between nations to bring in a whole new workforce that undermines wage levels and employment quality in their nations?

More on that another day.

But the Remain position was particularly poisonous in this regard.

Remember that Marxist guru Paul Mason claiming in his UK Guardian article (June 12, 2017) – Jeremy Corbyn has won the first battle in a long way against the ruling elite – that the Leave areas that supported (before the latest election) Labour MPs were places:

… where working class xenophobia is entrenched, indicate this will be a long, cultural war.

And again, in his May 27, 2019 article – Corbynism is now in crisis: the only way forward is to oppose Brexit – he told his readers that:

To renew Labour’s electoral alliance with progressive young voters, the salaried working class of the big cities and progressive working-class voters in the ex-industrial towns, the party needs to unite around the strategy of remain and reform in Europe. It needs to tell voters honestly: it’s time to scrap Brexit and rebuild Britain instead …

Labour’s narrative has to be built around resistance to Brexit as a project of the racist and xenophobic right, and a story of communities revived by hope and solidarity.


The Leave voters were dumb, racist idiots and the “salaried” workers in the “big cities” are the true progressives, so the dumb idiots have to rally around, listen to the progressives and join in the solidarity movement.

That is, abandon their xenophobia and be like us – enlightened, cosmopolitan (at least up to the EU borders and then we don’t care if people drown on beaches) etc.

What a way to approach an election strategy.

If the Brexit process became dominated by the Tories and won the election for them, it was because the Labour Party reneged on its promise and abandoned the Leave constituencies.

And never forget that the majority of Labour MPs came from Leave constituencies.

Racism and the economic cycle

All of that was in the back of my mind when I started a statistical exploration of the British Social Attitudes Survey which goes back to 1983.

It provides a very detailed dataset and I will report more about it when I have crunched some numbers and run some regressions.

What I am exploring is the impact of the economic cycle on attitudes of the British people towards each other, which allows us to examine the racial issues in a statistical sense.

When asked the question: “How would you describe yourself … prejudiced OR not prejudiced against people of other races?” the following graph shows the responses:

This graph is taken from the Report published by the National Centre Social Research – Racial prejudice in Britain today (published September 2017).

The Report says that:

In the 30 years between 1983 when BSA was founded and 2013 when we last asked this question on BSA, the proportion of the public who described themselves as either ‘very’ or ‘a little’ racially prejudiced varied between a quarter and over a third of the population. It has never fallen below 25%.

Given that racial prejudice is not generally perceived as a positive characteristic, there is good reason to assume that the actual proportion of the British public who are racially prejudiced may be higher.

Most significantly, when it comes to racial prejudice, we are not seeing the clear trend towards social ‘liberalisation’ that is so marked in other areas, particularly attitudes to same sex relationships.

Okay, so we have a problem.

Does that proportion vary with the economic cycle?

In other words, when times are good, is that venal sentiment moderated?

You get a clue by seeing the spike in 2010 in the lower series and the decline in the upper series of the graph.

The proportion who were prejudiced went up sharply in 2010 as the economy descended into recession and unemployment rose.

The next graph which I compiled from the data and combined it with Labour Force data on unemployment rates gives a hint of this effect. The sample is from 1983 to 2013.

The red dotted line is a simple linear regression, which (simplistically) supports the view that the proportion of those exhibiting racial prejudice rises when the unemployment rate increases.

Now as an econometrician, I certainly don’t draw conclusions based on a cross-plot of 20 observations. But the graphs are suggestive that there might be counter-cyclicality in the prejudice data.

The point is that, while it is impossible to really disentangle factors in any clear way, it is plausible that the rising proportion of those exhibiting racist views is really just a manifestation of the uncertainty brought on by unemployment and it is that insecurity that is the driver.

And while education can address the former, dealing with unemployment is much easier for governments.

The problem is that the British government dealt with it in the wrong way by imposing austerity and making it worse, therefore, creating a heightened sense of insecurity in affected communities, which the rising prejudice proportion was picking up.

I will have more to say about this when I have examined the data more scientifically.

But I can report some work has already been done in this regard by David W. Johnston (a health economist at Monash University) and Grace Lordan (a behavioural economist at the LSE) – Racial prejudice and labour market penalties during economic downturns (published in the European Economic Review, Vol. 84, May 2016, pp. 57-75).

The article is behind a library paywall but they summarised the results in an LSE blog post – Prejudice during economic downturns: recessions can disproportionately penalise minority individuals.

They found that:

1. “prejudice among native-born whites increases with the unemployment rate. The effect is mainly driven by large increases in prejudice expressed by highly educated, middle-aged men in full-time employment.”

This is very interesting and I will seek to verify it.

It casts doubt on the claims made by the Remainers that the Leave vote in the Labour constituencies was some uneducated expression of racism among the communities that had been left behind by globalisation.

Here we have the beneficiaries of globalisation exhibiting these trends.

2. “For women, racial prejudice is also most strongly countercyclical for the highly educated that are in full-time employment and aged between 35 and 64.”

Again, highly educated in full-time employment.

3. “these individuals are more likely to be managers and bosses and to have political power within organisations, this may translate into worse labour market outcomes for non-whites during periods of high unemployment.”

4. “while all groups are worse off, non-whites suffer more than whites during recessionary periods in terms of both earnings and employment.”

5. “black workers suffer larger recession wage penalties than other non-white workers.”

Their overall conclusion is that:

… during recessions there are relatively more white workers who report being racially prejudiced, and that existing racial inequalities in the labour market widen. Given that non-whites continue to experience significant inequalities in health, housing and schooling quality, we conclude that policy-makers must be mindful of how recessions can disproportionately penalise minority individuals, and should develop policies to avoid these harmful effects.


While these conclusions are not definitive and cannot tell us very much about the Brexit vote, they do dispel some of the more acrid allegations about uneducated racists falling for a right-wing fascist plot by voting Leave.

More on this topic when I know more.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2020 BIll Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. The development of policies to minimize the racial inequalities discussed, although addressing the inequalities, can also serve to exacerbate the ‘racial prejudice’ (I personally regard it as racially based resentment). This tweet is typical of such racial prejudice/resentment

    Black privilege is a thing in 2020 Britain, not white privilege.

    I’m sorry but someone has to say it.

    People of ethnic minorities now get jobs over white people simply to fill certain “quotas”.

    White people are actively discriminated against, and it needs to change.

  2. I think the association of Brexit with a ‘fascistic’ tendency is not entirely unfounded as this movement was largely associated with Farage, posing as a ‘pint and fag’ man whilst his background was one of the establishment having worked in financial industries and been very much part of the financialisation process whilst offering no critique of it. In that respect, I would say there ARE fascistic tendencies in the political inclinations of Brexit. One could also add the work of Cummings and Cambridge Analytica which used sophisticated, focused social media channelled manipulations to influence opinion and spread misinformation and disinformation, we saw this in the Tory campaign where some 88% of the material was deemed misleading.

    I think we should distinguish between those that fell for the ‘Farage, fag and pint’ B.S and those that were Lexiters, a term that was hardly mentioned over the last four years so appropriated by the Right was the Leave movement.

    Regarding the loss of seats in the North of England, there seems to be evidence that some of this was due to the drain of younger people from those areas, leaving a higher proportion of older voters, For example, Andy Becket, in the Guardian, points out the following long term demographics in one of the Norther, so-called, heartlands:

    ‘Between 1981 and 2011, all of them experienced huge decreases in the proportion of their young residents, and similar increases in the proportion of retired people. In County Durham, Bishop Auckland’s 18- to 24-year-olds went down by 25%, and its over-65s went up by almost 35%. Last month, it was taken by the Tories after more than 80 years of Labour control.’

    So it’s arguable that these areas weren’t really heartlands at all, due to the changes that had taken place. The notion that these areas were a ‘salt-of-the-earth’ protest against austerity by voting for the Party that applied austerity needs questioning.

    Anecdotally, in my mother’s constituency, which would be seen as a largely ‘working class’ low income part of North Manchester the Labour vote share was 62%, so held out well given national trends (albeit down from 70% in 2017 before the remain/Leave divide exploded).

    I think Bill might be over idealising the nature of the ‘working class’ (if that really exists in precariat/zerohours/platform work UK). The idea that the Brexit vote was a ‘pure’ working class protest against austerity untainted by racism, prejudice against benefit claimants and entirely a resistance against the ‘elite’ (given that Farage and co were the financialised elite) is certainly questionable. Anecdotally again, my experience during the campaign was that there was very limited sympathy for welfare claimants, the ill and vulnerable from these groups and although many were not really racist there was frequent expression of belief that the number of immigrants since the Blair period was massively higher than it actually was (one builder I spoke to insisted 20 million had come in in recent years)-this can only be the result of Farage and co applying misinformation and manipulation. Farage had certainly tried to explain the housing crisis as a result of supply and demand exacerbated by immigration, hiding the fact that he would have benefited from the housing bubble himself.

    Not leaving but ‘Brexit’ is clearly associated with a Right Wing brand, the term Lexit barely being used. Whenever I used it people did not know what I was talking about! A Left leave had virtually no air time.

    I agree with Bill entirely, though, that mason et al were coming out with utter nonsense and can certainly be seen to be out of touch with reality in some sort of metropolitan bubble but the notion that ‘the workers up North’ somehow had a firmer grasp of reality is also questionable give the initial referendum in 2016 was the product of misinformation and non-debate on BOTH sides. with grievances entirely channeled in directions useful to maintaining the present vested interests and power nexus.

  3. @ Simon Cohen

    I’m not sure Bishop Auckland has seen a notable influx of pensioners recently, so the change in proportions of different age groups is not sufficient to explain changes in voting patterns. Those who voted Conservative in the most recent elections were Labour voters in previous elections. Was this just due to the well-attested tendency of people to become more conservative with age, or were some other factors at work?

  4. @DNM

    Don’t know the figures for Bishop Auckland as a constituency but the issue wan’t one of ‘influx’ of pensioners but ‘eflux’ of young people which then leaves a greater ratio of older people. Figures clearly show that the Labour support rapidly declines after age > 45.

    The Labour vote in constituencies like B. Aukland has been falling for some years, here’s the vote share since 1997:

    63.9 (1997)
    58.8 (2001)
    50 (2005)
    39 (2010)
    35 (2019)

    So you can see a clear decline with a pick up in 2017 (first Corbyn election). So the idea that this was a Labour ‘heartland’ is clearly misplaced. Already, in 2010 with a 39% share it can hardly be -called a ‘Red Wall.’

  5. I agree with Simon that the Lexit case was barely heard during the Referendum campaign (and not much since, either), although it was being made. Mostly by people outside the Labour Party, such as Tariq Ali, or George Galloway (an ex-Labour MP, unfairly expelled), although there was a Labour Leave campaign as well, not given any air-time.

    Simon and I have discussed this offline, and where we possibly disagree (in a friendly way, I hasten to add), is whether Corbyn could have done anything about this. I would maintain that he should have stuck to his own Lexit-oriented beliefs from the outset, and campaigned with the Labour Leavers, during the Referendum campaign. His fatal mistake, probably, was in trying to accommodate the right wing of his party, primarily in the Parliamentary Labour Party (the Labour MPs), who are Blairite or sub-Blairite, and Remainers.

    Frankly, those people were out to get Corbyn because he did not represent their interests (which are not those of the working class of the UK). The electoral defeat of Corbyn was actually a victory for the Blairite tendency, since it guaranteed that Corbyn would have to go. Since they had failed in two coup attempts against him, they knew they would have to wait, since in any ballot of the membership, Corbyn would win. They were prepared to pay the price of an election defeat in order to get rid of Corbyn, which they now (almost) have done. One of the present leadership candidates was seen laughing on TV on the night of the election, as the “bad news” of the defeat was coming in, laughing no doubt because they knew what it would mean, and sure enough, they have popped up as a candidate, professing socialism, and claiming to represent the interests of the working class (which they do not).

    As for the “well-attested tendency of people to become more conservative with age”, I think this is a cliché that needs demolishing, or at least testing. I myself have moved steadily leftwards as I’ve grown older, and I know I’m not the only one. As I’ve said before on this forum, by and large, in Labour Leave areas, ex-Labour voters did not vote Tory: they stayed at home or spoiled their ballot paper.

  6. ‘As for the “well-attested tendency of people to become more conservative with age”, I think this is a cliché that needs demolishing, or at least testing.’

    Mike, hasn’t it been tested? The statistics on this seem fairly convincing (small sample): https://www.statista.com/statistics/1067740/uk-general-election-poll-by-age/

    And here where a much larger sample size (42,000) reveals it more dramatically: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/12/17/how-britain-voted-2019-general-election

    Notwithstanding the fact that both of us buck these trends!

  7. Simon Cohen wrote:-
    “…the initial referendum in 2016 was the product of misinformation and non-debate …”
    – In your humble opinion
    ” on BOTH sides …
    – true, but immediately retracted – alas – by –
    “… with grievances entirely channeled in directions useful to maintaining the present vested interests and power nexus”.
    – Belied by the actual history, which was that the voice of industry and finance (BoE, City, Treasury, CBI, various industry associations, etc, etc) plus most of the then-government aided by elements of the Civil Service was with only a few exceptions solidly predicting doom as the result of leaving: If that didn’t constitute “channeling” by the “(then-) present … power nexus” I don’t know what else could be said-to.

    “I think the association of Brexit with a ‘fascistic’ tendency is not entirely unfounded as this movement was largely associated with Farage”
    – As a classic non-sequitur that, in my own humble opinion, takes some beating.

    Moreover, I happen to think that using the epithet “fascist” at every turn is a sure sign that the user has run out of any cogent arguments – why otherwise resort to meaningless – pejorative – epithets? I’m reminded of Russian apologists from Putin downwards habitually characterising any resistance to Russian (previously Stalinist-Soviet) aggression or expansionism as *automatically and by definition* “fascist”. The fact that irreproachably-democratic, neutral, Finland had the temerity to actually defend itself in 1939 with its tiny armed forces against Stalin’s unprovoked invasion with armies overwhelmingly outnumbering its own meant according to Soviet propaganda – and in Russian historiography continues to this day to mean – that the Finns were “fascists”. The true fascists – insofar as the word has any meaning – were Stalin and his henchmen (who – doublespeak upon doublespeak – were at that very time very active allies of and collaborators with Hitler’s Germany).

    You will perhaps – though I doubt it – begin to understand why I feel so strongly about the use (actually misuse) of that word. It’s a very serious word which IMO ought not to be trivialised by being thrown around heedlessly like some unimportant brickbat for the purpose of muddying the waters but used only very sparingly and – above all – when it really fits. Your own (and Julie Ward’s, and kindred others’) use of it doesn’t even begin-to and is, in my opinion, bearing in mind fascism’s *real* nature gratuitously offensive to anyone who voted for Brexit – except Lexiters who alone, of course, remained pure and unsullied.

    (And one further correction BTW:- it was the Labour Party which ditched the Lexiters, many (or most?) of whom were Labour Party members).

  8. @ Mike Ellwood,

    “I would maintain that he should have stuck to his own Lexit-oriented beliefs from the outset, and campaigned with the Labour Leavers, during the Referendum campaign. His fatal mistake, probably, was in trying to accommodate the right wing of his party, primarily in the Parliamentary Labour Party (the Labour MPs), who are Blairite or sub-Blairite, and Remainers.”

    Jeremy Corbyn – bless his cotton socks – was the victim of so much projection on the part of his multifarious supporters, whose hopes and dreams were utterly vested uniquely in him, that he was elevated effectively to the position of Messiah. This was an impossible role for anyone to fulfil, let alone a mild-mannered, unassuming fellow, whose heart was in the right place, but of, to be honest, rather limited intelligence, charm, or wit.

    The sad reality was that, being the reluctant “Buggin’s Turn” candidate that he initially was, he fell very far short, as leader, of the qualities that he absolutely needed to have held in order to not only adequately defend himself, and the aspirations of his supporters, from the inevitable and unceasing onslaughts by parliamentary colleagues, establishment media and zionist interests, but constantly and ferociously to go on the attack against them.

    He iss a well-meaning fellow, but lacked the necessary aggression for battle on the scale that will be essential if the ambitions of his admirably left-wing policies are ever to be achieved.

    Like the Terminator, the enemy will not give up, ever. Tony Benn told us that the same battle (“La Lucha/Lotta Continua”) must be fought by each generation, and that needs a leader of Corbyn’s commitment but with fire in their bellies, and not one who will roll over or play nice every time they are faced with opposition, no matter how concocted or false the basis for that oppostion is, or compromise long-held positions in the interests of expediency, as Corbyn decided to do, both before the EU Referendum and then at GE 2019, with regard to Brexit.

    Although not a Labour member, I paid to vote for him as leader, and voted for the party whilst he led it, but I was always aware of those shortcomings, which, funnily enough, were not those of which he was so regularly accused by the mainstream, but are so much more mundane and human.

    Not many could have carried out the job required, and the conspicuous lack of a better, or even a half-decent, replacement from the cast of the current PLP is a pitiful reminder.

    The moment cameth alright, but, despairingly, not the man.

  9. Robert H,

    If you are going to offer criticism then please at least quote the object of criticism accurately. And while you are at it please do not impute things in order to solidify what are clear personal prejudices.

    I’ll list your mistakes:

    1. The word ‘fascist’ was used in inverted commas and if you had been paying attention properly you would have realised that those inverted commas emphasised a reference in Bill’s text to an overheated use of the word by a Remainer MEP. Instead you attributed to the bald use of the word which is clearly not the case. lack of observational skills-must improve!
    2. Even if I had not used the word as in 1. above it was still used as an adjective to the noun ‘tendency’ which implies something in the direction of fascism rather than the fully fledged historic cases. So there is even less of a case for your knee jerk reaction. But you chose to ignore this as you fired off.
    3. The idea that ‘fascist tendency’ followed by ‘Farage’ is a non sequitur seems utterly bizarre given that:
    a) Farage was Part of the corporate and financialised establishment (very much the root of the problems we face).
    b) He had used highly emotive imagery around immigration which was part and parcel of a rise in violent attacks (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/brexit-david-cameron-nigel-farage-council-of-europe-report-racist-violence-intolerance-hate-speech-a7345166.html)
    c). He pulled the wool over peoples’ eyes in relation to the housing crisis implying it was all supply and demand (it wasn’t) and connecting pressure on housing with immigration fuelling that area of tension. (https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-are-eastern-europeans-to-blame-for-social-housing-shortages)

    He never criticised, or tried to explain these phenomena in terms of the financialised world he was part of, or the effects of excessive bank lending to support house price speculation as well as the effects of Tory policies such as Help to Buy, or for that matter the disastrous Blair years where house lending increased by 370%.

    It is this combination of corporate and financial interests being shielded by false narratives that use emotionalism and flag waiving that, in my mind, can certainly be considered a ‘fascistic tendency’ (both in quotation marks now, you will observe!). As Corbyn said in his last conference speech: the establishment pretending to be anti establishment. Combine this with what the Media Reform Coalition have called the MSM’s ‘mis-and dis-information paradigm’ then you have something going on that has a very Right leaning tendency. That might conform to your views but not to mine which means we take different ideological stands-no problem in that!

    Another point:

    Your own.clearly pejorative and personalised remarks about imputing to me a purist notion of Lexit is utterly risible. Where did I imply that? It is pure projection on your part. I simply mentioned Lexit to show that the Right had largely appropriated the Leave campaign and that Lexit was barely mentioned. I made no reference to the Lexit phenomenon being purist. I think you are indulging in a bit of projection of your own prejudices despite a number of posts enjoining people against such things in relation to Johnson, a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do?’

    Thanks for the lecture on Fascism by the way. I have some acquaintance with the history including the references to Finnish nationalism which probably increases my sensitivity to the trash that Farage peddled and the way the Tories bought into it, desperate for the UKIP votes they eventually got.

    So please read texts properly before you knee-jerk react and try not to impute things that are projections (although I accept this can be difficult!) whilst positing yourself as an arbiter of truth.

  10. This discussion reminds me of the American debate that arose in the late 1960s, and continues to date, over the issue of affirmative action. I think that the only possible resolution of such an incendiary issue lies in a philosophical approach, as opposed to an historical one. Although I consider myself a socialist, am well aware of the ongoing “badges of slavery” in the U.S. and elsewhere, and was accordingly eager to hire a black employee in my tiny law firm when the opportunity arose, I have always been philosophically opposed to affirmative action as mandatory public policy. My reasons were and are at least threefold: (1) the fear that mandatory affirmative action would create additional resentment in the majority population; (2) the fear that such a policy would demean minority pride and achievement; and (3) the conviction that establishing justice, meaning equality from a given point forward, is as far as any society can get in redressing past injustices of almost inconceivable magnitude. If the goal is to finally establish justice and equality and to continue them in perpetuity, how can that goal be furthered, rather than undermined, by establishing injustice–favoritism, group preference, etc.–in a reverse manner to purportedly make up for prior injustice? How much money, how many perks, how much reverse-privilege would be necessary to evenly remotely redress slavery and its badges, the dispossession and genocide of Native Americans, etc? Justice and equality are unifying values, rooted in the best of human nature, which help to bring people and society together. But futile, inherently impossible efforts to provide present compensation for incommensurable wrongs committed in the past–and at the current expense of people not even born at the time these injustices occurred–can bring only additional animosity and division. I submit that the accuracy of these observations is borne out by the quickness of so many today to label the foregoing views as racist, somewhat similar to the knee-jerk, promiscuous accusation that Bill addresses in this post: the blanket labeling of Brexit Leavers as racist or fascist.

  11. Great article. That ageism and racism is vile. People respond well to divisiveness!

    @Newton Finn,
    I agree with much of what you wrote, though I think attempts at redressing the legacy of slavery must be done. No, we can never have redemption, but we must make some attempts (JG would be a start).

    Not to beat a dead horse, but MMT allows us to make those attempts. I think a lot of people do not ask for much than a dignified life with meaningful work. People like to work and contribute and have some social standing.

    I think your analysis points to how important it is to have a multi-prong approach to make sure people of every color at least have some sort of minimum dignified standard of living.

    I think nowadays a lot of cultural resentment thanks to cheap Hollywood diversity virtue-signaling in their movies. I personally do find movies in general to be propaganda/opium for the masses, but that’s what I see in people’s reaction to these movies.

    Lately, I have been thinking about diversity promotion nowadays. It seems to me that having a diverse workforce allows a firm to see different needs in their customers. But in the end, what motivates diversity is profit. All these people promoting diversity are saying, “your firm should be more diverse, so your bottom line is better.” Which really means, hey stop being racist and maybe you earn more money. You don’t see firms giving jobs to minorities who need work. If you are good at your job AND you give us access to more market THEN we will hire you, otherwise p*ss off.

    We accept all gender identities, but if you are poor or unskilled, then p*ss off.

    Promoting diversity is simply not enough.

  12. It depends on what is considered ‘racial’ and what is in effect ‘immigrant’ prejudice. Before the accession of the 8 East European states there was probably no distinction. Then white citizens from the poorer EU states were hardly noticed because they were not considered to be in competition for jobs. It all changed in 2004 when the UK alone allowed immediate access to a flux of, mostly, better educated, higher skilled, higher motivated workers into non-unionised workplaces.

  13. I should learn to keep my opinions to myself. Anyway, to explain my meaning more clearly…

    @ Simon Cohen.

    This is my reasoning. We are agreed that voting changes are due to residents within the constituency. So the puzzle is to explain changes in voting patterns. Why would older voters to be to blame, when they were also present when Bishop Auckland was solidly for Labour? Either there is one particular cohort that was unusually right-wing, that suddenly became more relatively numerous in the last election (but where is the evidence?), or there was a shift of opinion within cohorts. Which brings me on to…

    @Mike Ellwood

    See, for example, this piece in the Guardian, based on survey data. The graph is quite hard to read in terms of within-cohort effects, but crunching the numbers, and making a few approximations, every cohort showed an increase in the proportion of voters who identified with the Conservative party between one general election and the next (11 observations), with the exception of the 1997 election, in which every cohort showed a big swing to Labour (4 observations). The authors of the article say “[…] our estimate of ageing effects precisely explains the 19-point difference between the percentage of 20 and 80-year-olds who voted Conservative in the 1997 election”.

    So to sum up, I don’t see compelling evidence of ascendant fascism in the voting shifts you highlighted, just the unexceptional effect of an aging population, and compositional changes due to the drain of working-age people.

  14. i think a common refrain with more than a hint of hitting the nail on the head was
    not all breixters were racist but all racists were brexiters.
    I would not say all racists but probably 98%.
    Perhaps politically the worse cognitive dissonance is the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
    Seen copiously amongst remainers whose enemy was the populist right ,liberal with the truth,
    xenophobic button pushing ,self serving anti-establishment establishment and even among
    the left wing inclined this turned the EU into a friend.
    This type of cognitive dissonance was rife amongst revolutionary 60s/70s trot maoist types
    who i was sadly drawn to in youth where seemingly any murdering torturing ‘left’ autocrat
    was preferred to western imperialism .
    Sadly Bill seems to haves his own shades of this dissonance seeing brexiters as enemies of
    neo liberalism , austerity and friends of mmt.
    By the way I think demographic changes in many of the old labour heartlands is very real.
    Concentration of the young in metropolitan areas in post large scale industrial times has
    happened , evidence by the brexit vote 52-48 per capita yet two thirds of constituencies voted leave.
    A brexit election with that spread of support only ever had one outcome.
    Statistics have always shown a move to voting tory in older age (obviously not anecdotally)
    I wonder if this has increased ironically as the post war settlement succeeded in giving many
    babyboomers something (an inflated value house) to conserve.
    Any way the very sad reality is 9 wasted tory years is not enough for us in the uk probably
    just as many to come.

  15. kevin harding wrote:-
    “i think a common refrain with more than a hint of hitting the nail on the head was not all breixters were racist but all racists were brexiters”.

    I still can’t get my head around the idea that resentment directed at incomers from other European countries is a form of racism (ie grounded in racial prejudice, rather than being associated only or mostly with their being “unfair” competitors for jobs because willing to accept lower wages and/or worse conditions). But accepting that label for the sake of argument, I suppose that the proposition “all racists” (in that sense of the label) “were brexiters” might well have some credibility – even if a bit sweeping.

    However, its complement “not all brexiters were racist” (talk about a grudging concession!) strikes me as strongly tainted with its own kind of prejudice – not racial of course but prejudice nonetheless. Although – for once – not being automatically ranked on a par with something the cat brought in for having the effrontery to express anti-EU-membership opinions would come as some small relief.

    Up until the 2016 referendum campaign I was oblivious of any correlation at all between “racism” (however defined) and opposition to continued UK membership of the EU. I personally hadn’t come across any evidence for that: UKIP supporters (dubbed “kippers”) in forums i took part in were certainly vehement or even angry, often – I thought – unjustifiably so – about the EU’s shortcomings but not connected with an explicitly racist positioning.

    It came as a considerable shock to be made aware for the first time of how much resentment there was in some parts of the UK against East European incomers. But I have yet to see any evidence that that has anything to do with what I would term racial prejudice.

  16. RobertH writes:

    “But I have yet to see any evidence that that has anything to do with what I would term racial prejudice”.

    In Australia, I agree with the Right that we can’t have uncontrolled immigration, because the main river system is already dying and the government is not prepared to ‘spend the money’ to develop the necessary infrastructure (eg, google the “New Bradfield scheme”). OTOH I don’t agree with the Right’s mantra of continuous growth, in the mistaken belief this will raise living standards (apart from extra profits for some companies).

    But it’s probably difficult to say any one side of politics has a monopoly on racism – or economic illiteracy…

    In the US, is Trump (and his Mexican wall) racist? I think Trump will gladly take the brightest Asians and M.E.’eners…

  17. As Simon Cohen indicated there is surely a difference between the con sold to many working-class Leave voters – namely: that leaving under a Tory leadership would deliver a meaningful alternative to neo-liberal globalisation; some kind of national economic renaissance – and the additional accusation of racial prejudice or xenophobia.
    I don’t believe the accusation that there are inordinate numbers of racists among the Brexiteers or that racism itself drove that vote, but I’m willing to entertain the view that the majority of racists voted for Brexit and that Brexit provided an extra rationalisation for the view that immigration and ‘foreigners’ are at the root of national economic decline.

  18. Robert h ,
    In Bills blog he provides graphs showing those who self identify with having some racial prejudice
    fluctuating with the economic cycle at around about one third of those taking part.
    Would you agree that that one third of the population probably voted brexit ?
    That would still leave another 20% of the population who do not believe they have racial prejudice
    who did vote brexit as well.I count myself as one of those.
    Bill has blogged before about how much of political preference is instinctual ,a gut feeling.
    I think why the vast majority of the population who self identify as progressive or anti austerity
    gut instincts was to side with the undoubtably neo liberal EU was they were victim of the fallacy
    that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
    Their dislike of the xenophobic right made up their guts.

  19. @ kevin harding

    Quite honestly, I personally have no firm opinions as to why people voted as they did, and least of all as to whether they divide into neat categories – although I strongly doubt that that can ever be the case a priori.

    What seems to me deplorable is the correlation Remainers ever since they lost the vote purport to have detected between voting against continued EU membership and some sort of axiomatic, hard-wired, connection of that with being racist, “fascist” (whatever that may or may not mean), or even just being “right-wing”. In my opinion all assertions to that effect are no more than speculation, yet to be supported by any solid evidence.

    I don’t recall anything remotely resembling that behaviour on the part of the losing side in the 1975 referendum, which produced a majority (of which I was one) in favour of staying in the “Common Market” as it was then usually called. It would have been seen as more than mildly deranged to have made any analogous claim then alleging a correlation between being opposed to remaining and holding right-wing views considering that (for instance) Tony Benn and David Davies campaigned on the same anti-membership platform.

    I don’t know and frankly don’t care why so many Remainers this time can’t summon-up the dignity to emulate the behaviour of the losers of the 1975 vote. But if they can’t bring themselves to do that so much the worse for them IMHO.

  20. RobertH says:
    “Quite honestly, I personally have no firm opinions as to why people voted as they did, and least of all as to whether they divide into neat categories – although I strongly doubt that that can ever be the case a priori.”

    I know of one case were it is demonstrably true: the people who insist on the existence of the veto in the UNSC (ie, insist on absolute political national sovereignty) are more likely to be on the Right
    ….and it is these same people who then insist: “the UN is useless…”

  21. “Brexit is a gammonite phenomenon born out of europhobia and an overconsumption of tabloid induced euromyths.”

    I think by slating this quote you’ve massively underestimated the impact of the drip of righty wing tabloid fictions about “bureaucrats in Brussels” towards the spread British hostility to the EU. It’s funny how you can recognise that same hostility has altered the media landscape to make policies aimed at the working class harder to achieve, but can’t recognise that Murdoch, Dacre and Desmond, who together have a grip on working class tabloids, vividly opposed the concept of regional integration and would be even more opposed to any developments to boost working class protections via these efforts – see their hostility to the EU social chapter in the 90’s, human rights from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the working time directive and directives that ensured safety for workers and general consumers.

    The lexit case was always week because they failed to recognise that Brexit was overwhelmingly being driven by the right for the right.

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