Monday, 23 September 2019

Don't blame the English

There are two aspects of yesterday’s report that English people living in Wales tilted the vote towards ‘leave’ in the 2016 referendum which cause me concern.
The first is mathematical.  It is probably true that English-born residents of Wales, especially those in the older age groups, voted more strongly for leave than did those born in Wales.  It is also probably true that, if only those born in Wales had been allowed to vote, then the outcome would have been different.  With a majority as small (in overall terms) as 82,000, it is easy enough to identify a particular demographic and say that, ‘but for them, the result would have been different’.  But a mathematical majority whose size just happens to coincide with the number of people in one group doesn’t make that group ‘responsible’ – and it isn’t the only group that could be identified in this way.  English in-migration doesn’t account for the results in places like Blaenau Gwent – indeed, the majority for leave was at its highest in some of the counties where the proportion of English-born residents is at its lowest.  Whilst the votes cast by English-born residents might have been sufficient to sway the overall national result, those votes cannot explain some of the more localised majorities.
And that brings me to my second concern.  There will be those who choose to interpret results like this in a way which blames ‘the English’ for the outcome, and which leads to complacency about the fact that so many native Welsh voters also supported leave.  The Anglo-British nationalism which drove the Brexit vote is not an alien philosophy here in Wales, no matter how much some of us might wish that it were so.  Welsh people are not somehow immune to the curse of xenophobia, the desire to blame ‘others’ for our relative poverty, or the propaganda of the tabloids.  Concentrating attention on those who have moved in would be a diversion and a cop-out.


Anonymous said...

Further to the discussion of national identity and Brexit vote. These are the percentages of people who did NOT record a Welsh only identity on the 2011 census and the UKIP vote in the Euro election 2014. Correlation does not equal causation, but I found this fascinating.
Rhondda: 26.7 and 26.1
Torfaen: 33.8 and 32.5
NeathPT: 28.2 and 26.4
Caerphil: 28.8 and 30.7
BlaenGwent: 27.6 and 30.2
Merthyr 26.8 and 33.8

John Dixon said...

It would be no surprise to find that not identifying as Welsh is correlated with identifying as British and supporting UKIP/Brexit. But most of the people you are referring to here are Welsh by birth; my point is that this strand of opinion isn't a result of in-migration, it's native.

Spirit of BME said...

One has to ask, does any of this matter, as Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal anti- Democratic Party are all ignoring the outcome as if never occurred?
The feeling of the elite is that the problem was that the great unwashed came out and voted and they should have stayed in their hovels and left to those who are better educated than they are look after their interests – the total ingrates.

John Dixon said...

"...are all ignoring the outcome as if never occurred" I'm not sure that's entirely fair, Spirit. The problem is more that there is a lack of clarity over what the outcome actually was. And that's not just a difference of opinion betweeen the 'winners' and the 'losers'; it seems to me that the 'winners' can't even agree amongst themselves what the outcome meant. After all, the people who really stopped Brexit from happening back in March weren't Labour, Plaid or Fib Dem MPs, were they? The ones who eventually presented the greatest obstacle were the most fervent Brexit supporters who chose to define their 'victory' in such narrow terms that they couldn't carry the other Brexiteers with them...