Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A note on "bregret"

After the referendum result was announced, there were many stories of brexiteers regretting their choice, not really thinking that their vote would count. Maybe this category of voter isn’t numerically significant, maybe it is, but to my mind there is also something symptomatic here. Isn’t there often, in the act of voting, this kind of disavowal – it’s the others who are voting, I’m simply protesting. Because the burden of decision resides with the others, I can afford to use my vote to make a statement, to express disenchantment, not really mindful of the consequences. It’s a shock to discover the ‘Others’ were just me and people like me. But in order to behave like this people must first of all feel disenfranchised, that Politics is something controlled by others. And this feeling is perhaps precisely why many voted Brexit.


One problem with the referendum is that Brexit wasn't a political party with a program, but behaved and was sometimes treated as if it was. Because it wasn't a party, there are no mechanisms for holding it to account. If the government doesn't spend greater sums of money on the NHS or curtail immigration, it can legitimately say "We never promised we would". The claims aren't localised in an accountable party or body.

Brexit voters by and large voted not simply for disengaging from the EU, a legal and political process which was never really spelled out in detail, but for the claims or "extrapolations" [IDS's weasel phrase] as to future policy - spending and border control. Of course, these claims have pretty much evaporated into thin air and the voters left empty handed without any real means of holding anyone to account.

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