Anthony Barnett, founder of Open Democracy and author of The Lure of Greatness: England’s Brexit and America’s Trump, recently gave a powerful lecture on the causes of Brexit.
Brexit, he said, was a “rejection of the sense of powerlessness foisted onto us by globalisation,” but it was particularly the lack of a confident English identity, English institutions and representation that caused England-outside-London to vote to take us out of the European Union.
He illustrated this point by comparing Wigan in England and Paisley in Scotalnd. Both are very similar constituencies economically and both are represented by popular, talented, female MPs, but they delivered the mirror opposite result when it came to Brexit; Wigan voted 64% Leave, Paisley voted 64% Remain.
Author, teacher and former Labour parliamentary candidate Rowenna Davis responded to Barnett. Rowenna agreed that we must “rewire our economy so that is more inclusive” and “embrace English identity and rebuild a stronger sense of community in the country”, but she rejected Barnett’s calls for a People’s Vote on the grounds that “I don’t think you can start healing the country from the position of saying ‘you’re wrong’.”
The lecture was delivered following the ‘Past and Future Labour England’ conference at Kings College London on 19 September, organised by the English Labour Network in partnership with Renewal and King’s College Contemporary British History.