The ignorance of elite Remainers
A year and a half after the Brexit vote, a cloud of smugness still hangs over Britain’s elite Remainers. Responding to Tory whip Chris Heaton-Harris’s infamous Brexit letter to universities, demanding the details of academics who lecture on Brexit, Labour MP Barry Sheerman quipped that Remainers were ‘better educated’, adding that ‘nearly all the university towns voted Remain’.
You don’t need a degree to spot the snobbish subtext of Sheerman’s remarks: that Brexit voters are supposedly ill-educated and unintelligent. Nor would even a PhD have accorded Sheerman the common sense not to talk down to the 54 per cent of his own constituents in Huddersfield who voted Leave.
Meanwhile, Peter Kellner, formerly of YouGov, defended Sheerman, saying the ‘facts are broadly on his side’, with graduates voting two-to-one to Remain last June. But we all know this goes beyond a statement of the facts.
The implication is that Remain was the ‘right’ answer because the ‘right’ kind of people voted for it, whereas the wrong kind of people voted for Brexit. Self-declared ‘so-called comedian’ Mitch Benn summed up this anti-democratic assumption when he tweeted, ‘if all the clever people disagree with you… It COULD just be that you’re *wrong*’.
Brexit-bashing elitists who equate holding qualifications with having the ‘correct’ politics seem nostalgic for the days of plural voting. Back in 1603, when James IV inherited the English throne, Oxbridge graduates became entitled to two votes each in parliament – one for their place of residence and one for their university seat. University constituencies and plural voting were abolished by Labour in 1948, but clearly the belief that some voters are more qualified to participate in democracy than others lingers on to this day.
For democrats like myself, what was so inspiring about the EU referendum was that it was a genuinely democratic moment of mass participation. The magnitude of the question put before us engaged everyone from all walks of life, whether banker or bricklayer, politician or prison guard, professor or hairdresser. Each brought their political outlook, life experience and aspirations to the table.
No matter how many degrees they held between them, members of Britain’s pro-Remain establishment were unable to persuade the majority of their position. And they responded to their loss by insisting that the masses are too gullible, too racist or too ill-educated for democracy. Given elite Remainers’ poor understanding of the meaning of democracy, voters might reasonably ask what makes Remain MPs like Sheerman qualified to represent their views, interests and aspirations.
Fraser Myers is a producer at WORLDbytes.