A recent article by Pagel and Cooper: People’s Vote analysis: 40% of the public up for grabs by either side is very interesting in that it groups voters by the ordering of the questions on Table 1. The article then groups voters into 8 categories as shown in Fig. 1.
Grouping or clustering is always quite difficult, but this is an interesting approach. The 40% of people who might change their mind are unsurprisingly the 4 groups in the middle.
In my own case there are some of the questions that I think are extremely important and others which are of little importance at all. Ranking is an interesting exercise and I would love to set up a survey so that the Progressive Pulse readers can make their own choices, but all the ones I have found have been tick box exercises.
I thought it might be instructive to set out my own ranking with reasons.
1. Reducing the Gap between richest and poorest people in the UK
Given the corrosive effect of inequality, not least that money buys power, influence and apparently even referendums, this has to be number one. Sadly wealth inequality seems to be getting greater rather than less and Brexit is likely to make this even worse. The UK is one of the most unequal societies in Europe. The Equality Trust is a good source of information and The Spirit Level a good book on the subject.
2. Reducing the Gap between Poorest and Richest Regions of the UK
The UK is the most unequal society regionally in Europe. This has been discussed in detail here on PP by Charles Adams in his The UK: A divided country post. It is vital this is reduced. Again Brexit is likely to make matters worse in that it will hit the poorest regions hardest. This also has been a persistent theme on PP see also: Is London and the SE a Boon to the Rest of the UK or a Parasite?
3. Making sure there are enough jobs for everyone and that workers are paid fairly
Fair pay and good jobs are obviously very important. What is worrying in the UK is that whereas there is near full employment, much of this is in low skilled areas such as retail, call centres, distribution – not to mention zero hours contracts. The UK is poor at adding high skilled, high value added jobs and productivity is very low in the UK as compared to our nearest neighbours – more like Spain and Italy than Germany, France, the Netherlands and Ireland.
4. Ensuring everyone can afford decent housing
Again this is an absolute must. There are interesting debates to be had as to why the UK has done so poorly and possibly not just on the supply side, though headlines such as UK facing its biggest housing shortfall on record with backlog of 4m homes, research shows are more frequent. There is significant regional inequality with many of the northern cities in decline. A better regional policy would help here but the situation is complex as Peter May discussed in the recent PP article Another dysfunctional market – housing.
5. Reducing the pressure on public services
I found this a very leading question. The pressure on public services has been caused by the austerity agenda and has been a political choice caused by a lack of supply rather than increased demand. There is a commonly held, but erroneous belief, that the pressure has been caused by immigration.
6. Ensuring Strong Economic Growth
The UK is supposedly already the 5th largest economy in the world (though may be 6th or 7th as both France and India have near identical GDPs). Economic growth can well have implications for the environment and climate change. The right sort of growth is very good and there is no doubt that large sectors are completely undervalued – in the care sector for example. Expanding the Green economy should also have a very high priority as championed by the Green New Deal group.
7. Ensuring State Benefits are treated Fairly
This is another ambiguous question – probably deliberately. I am very worried about the slashing of state benefits, particularly to the disabled and the potential damage Universal Credit is likely to have. How a society treats its poor and vulnerable is an acid test of a fair society. A PP guest post and book by Mo Stewart sets out the problem very well.
Some right wing respondents may be more motivated by Benefit Fraud particularly from benefit tourists. This is of course an extremely minor problem, amplified beyond any reason by some of the right-wing media.
8. Preserving Traditional British Culture
For me this is very important. Preservation of Scots Gaelic and the Welsh language for example would be high on my list of priorities. Traditions and folklore are wonderful things as I have set out in an earlier PP article Disgust with the Guardian. It is vitally important however that a country like the UK embraces ethnic and cultural diversity and realises it is much enhanced by immigration. Culture evolves all the time.
The right wing closed mind may see this as British/English culture being under threat and being swamped by outsiders – particularly Muslims.
9. Reducing the total number of people immigrating to the UK
Foreign workers are vitally needed for the British economy and it is extremely difficult to reduce immigration without damaging the UK. That said the number of EU migrants under freedom of movement has fallen dramatically and it seems that non Europeans are taking up the slack. The number of net migrants from the A8 countries (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) for example has actually turned negative. Non EU immigration is now three times that those from the EU.
10. Ensuring Britain has Control over its own Laws and Regulations
Britain has remained sovereign during its time in the EU and has control over its own laws in vast areas. Regulations of course are different. There has been griping about light-bulbs and vacuum cleaners for example – as a Green I am totally in favour of these measures as Climate Change is the most significant threat in the 21st century. Unfortunately in the modern world regulations need to be pan-national. This is discussed in Anthony Barnett’s excellent article Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty which is well worth reading in full. The UK will have to choose between EU and US regulations.
11. Limiting immigration to high-skilled workers or sectors with significant shortages
This again appeals to a certain type of person. In particular the £50,000 salary figure for a high-skilled worker is ridiculous. Very large sectors of skilled people from nurses, teachers, university lecturers and junior doctors are below this threshold. There will have to be so many exemptions made that this badly thought out populist idea will be unworkable.
12. Allowing Britain to make its own trade deals
I have seen no evidence that the UK has the heft or capacity to do this better outside the EU than inside the EU. The EU has decades of experience and almost certainly the best trade negotiating team in the world. The whole concept I think is completely crazy but appeals to a certain type of Brexiter who imagines the world to still be like the 1880’s. In the modern world, the EU, the US and China are the only three countries/blocks which can set all important regulations. The UK will effectively have to choose most likely between the EU and US and there are significant forces within the Tory party which very much want to move the UK into the orbit of the US, with Liam Fox possibly being the most prominent supporter.
13. Maintaining the Union of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.
It is no secret that I am an Irish Nationalist and believe NI would have a much better and more prosperous future within a United Ireland – though this would have to be done slowly and carefully over say a 15 year timescale.
Up till recently I had hoped Scotland would remain part of the UK. This was for selfish reasons, because I thought without the Scots the likelihood of England becoming a right-wing dystopia would be very much enhanced. I have changed my mind and think Scotland has a much better chance of a brighter and prosperous future outside the UK. England is responsible for Brexit and will need to come to terms with it in its own way (although I still hope Brexit does not happen).
Not surprisingly perhaps, I am firmly in the Left Wing camp as defined by the original article. These are an interesting set of questions however and are good at exposing the fault lines that have appeared in our society. It is an thought provoking exercise and I would welcome any suggestion as to how to set this up online – though our previous experience was that the right wing trolls seem to appear en-mass when we set up a poll.