Stop calling Brexiteers racist

The refrain of ‘Brexiteers are racist’ continues. The London Evening Standard continued its anti-Brexit crusade last week with the claim that ‘over a third of Brexit voters hold “racially prejudiced” views’.

A report produced by the National Centre for Social Research revealed that 34 per cent of the Leavers within its 2,200 sample admitted to racial prejudice, compared with 18 per cent of Remain voters.

We should always take stats like this with a pinch of salt (2,200 people is too low a sample to reflect the country’s views). Also, digging deeper into the report, it became clear there were some nuances the anti-Brexit press missed. There’s a wonderful section in the report called ‘Is this all just liberal handwringing?’, which states:

‘As we noted above, it is likely that a decrease in the social acceptability of racial prejudice has been accompanied by an increase in sensitivity to prejudice – including in ourselves. Put simply, it is possible that we have become far more likely to categorise our own and others’ views as prejudiced.’

This is an important caveat: in an age when we’re told racism is often ‘unthinking’ and ‘implicit’ there is a heightened sensitivity towards race. What’s more, it is worth bearing in mind that the headline figure lumps together those who consider themselves ‘a bit prejudiced’ and ‘very prejudiced’. In the overall figures, only one per cent of respondents considered themselves ‘very prejudiced’.

Claims like this latest one always come with a heap of caveats that are overlooked in the pursuit of the anti-Brexit agenda. The issue of prejudice clearly transcends the referendum debate. And the talking up of Leave voters’ racism, the way in which studies like this are leapt upon and selectively reported, tells us a fair bit about prejudice towards Brexiteers.

This is dangerous for everyone. Smearing Brexiteers, in an increasingly race-sensitive society, will only feed suspicion and expand the gulf between communities and voters. It closes down reasoned conversation at precisely a time when we should be openly discussing what sort of nation we want to be.

Lucy Harris is founder of Leavers of London. @LondonLeavers

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