‘We don’t exist for them, do we?’: why working-class individuals voted for Brexit

Estimated reading time: ten full minutes

Lisa Mckenzie

Estimated reading time: ten minutes

Working-class individuals were very likely to vote for Brexit. Lisa Mckenzie (Middlesex University) takes problem using the idea why these individuals were ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’. They saw Brexit, with all the current uncertainties it could bring, instead of the status quo. Austerity and de-industrialisation has had a heavy toll on working-class communities – one which the middle-class usually doesn’t grasp.

It’s 22 June 2016. I’m sat in a cafГ© within the East End of London with two neighborhood females, ‘Sally’ – who’s 23, has two young children, and contains been in the council household waiting list for four years, along side over 19,000 other folks – and Anne, who’s inside her sixties and calls herself a ‘proper Eastender’. Her kids and grandchildren had recently relocated from the area and into Essex because of the not enough a home that is affordable. It’s the afternoon prior to the EU referendum, and then we are speaking about all of the politics associated with time, including footballer David Beckham’s present intervention into the debate: he’s got recently announced their support for the stay campaign. The ladies aren’t delighted. The discussion goes:

‘What has that **** Beckham got to state concerning this?’

‘He hasn’t ever surely got to concern yourself with where he could be likely to live, unless it’s which house.’

‘Well him and Posh can get and live where they need once they want, it is not similar for people, I’ve been homeless now for just two years.’

‘We don’t exist for them, do we?’

‘Well most of us ******* who don’t occur are voting out tomorrow’.

Prior to the referendum, I experienced been dealing with band of neighborhood working-class people in London’s East End as an element of ‘The Great British Class Survey’ in the LSE. We have gathered a huge selection of tales about working-class life within the last four years within the East End, and thousands during the last 12 years. These stories that are small frequently appear unrelated towards the big governmental debates of this day, in the event that you don’t comprehend the context in their mind. Being a woman that is working-class we appreciate the skill of storytelling: i am aware that a tale is not simply an account. It really is utilized by working-class visitors to explain who they really are, where they show up from, and where they belong. These little tales are way too usually missed in wider analysis that is political favour of macro styles, that has usually meant that the poorest individuals in the united kingdom get unrepresented.

Waxwork David and Victoria Beckham at Madame Tussauds. Picture: Cesar Pics via a CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence

Fortunately – as an ethnographer, a working-class educational, the child of a Nottinghamshire striking miner, and hosiery factory worker (and I also have actually resided in council housing for many of my entire life) – we rarely concentrate on the macro. My entire life and might work is rooted within working-class communities; my focus and my politics are about exposing those inequalities which are invisible to numerous, but stay in simple sight.

Having gathered these narratives since 2005, we knew different things had been taking place round the referendum. The debates in bars, cafes, nail pubs, while the hairdressers in working-class communities seemed infectious. Individuals were interested, and argued in regards to the finer points regarding the EU, but additionally made wider points about where energy rested in the UK, making links between the 2. Nonetheless, for some class that is working like ‘Sally’ plus the other ladies, the debates were centred upon the constant challenge of one’s own everyday lives, and so they connected those battles for their moms’ and grandmothers’ hardships, but additionally with their children’s future. They saw hope that is little life would be fairer for them. The referendum ended up being a point that is turning the ladies in eastern London. They’d maybe maybe maybe not voted into the 2015 General Election: that they had small interest or faith in a governmental system seated just three kilometers away whenever their day-to-day and instant situation required constant attention. When ‘Sally’ told me she would definitely utilize her vote for the first-time to go out of, I inquired her if she thought things would mortgage loan alter for the greater whenever we had been to Brexit. She stated she didn’t understand, and didn’t care. She simply couldn’t stay things being the exact same.

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