Sam Edwards writes: Donald Trump and the politicians who propelled Britain’s campaign to leave the European Union share many characteristics: a loose attachment to the truth, an ability to speak to those who feel disenfranchised by mainstream politics, and a willingness to row back on promises made just days or hours previously.
But while Trump is keen to paint Brexit as a mirror image of America’s disgust for the establishment, the Leave campaign was different from Trumpsim. The Leave campaign was not a personality cult — the fact that Michael Gove is even a contender for leadership is proof alone of that — but rather the direct beneficiary of regional and class disparities that have been brewing for decades.
Further, while Brexit was fought and won on immigration, the majority of those who voted to leave the E.U. are a long way from employing the openly racist language of Trump. The Leave camp is a ragtag coalition of libertarians, sovereigntists, and the far right, but it is the traditional Labour voters that swung the vote. Increasingly, they share Trump supporters’ antipathy for the political class, certainly, but the anti-immigrant sentiment of these Leave voters is in a comparatively embryonic stage, still largely a stand-in for the wider, less-tangible anger at decades of unemployment and social decay in parts of Britain that have never recovered from deindustrialization under Margaret Thatcher and have seen little benefit from globalization. The success of the right has been to lay the blame of six years of cuts to public services, wage stagnation, and soaring house prices squarely at the feet of immigrants and the E.U. [Continue reading…]