On June 23rd two years ago, millions of forgotten people voted for change. Since that day, many in the establishment such as Tony Blair, peers in the unelected House of Lords, City bankers and career politicians have relentlessly fought to deny the legitimacy of that vote.
At the very heart of their movement to stop Brexit is a belief that people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves. They don’t believe that ordinary citizens outside of their elitist circles have the capacity to make informed judgements about the future of the country.
They want to live in an oligarchy, where only those in the corridors of Whitehall and professors at EU-funded institutions can make decisions on matters of state. They believe that builders, small business owners, shopkeepers, hairdressers, mothers, fathers – ordinary Brits – should keep their heads down, pay their taxes, and not demand any transparency in how that money is spent, nor expect any real say in the rules and laws that will affect their lives.
I don’t think the British people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves. Indeed, as someone who moved here from another country several years ago, I have come to love and admire the people who live here. They have a quiet confidence, a sense of community, respect for tradition and fairness, a witty sense of humour and a common sense approach to life. They are resilient. They always have been.
During the Napoleonic war, France imposed a blockade against Britain which had the potential to cause huge economic harm. However, people and businesses adapted and survived by trading with the rest of the world. For a period of time, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, and the Blitz spirit prevailed. When the trade unions tried to grind this country to a halt, leaving families without power and rubbish piling up on the streets, people kept calm and carried on.
Politicians, bankers and university professors, however highly they regard themselves, are not the sole custodians of Britain’s future. The future belongs to all citizens, powerful and powerless, who for generations have seen this country through its best and worst moments.
Robert Menzies, the founder of the Liberal Party of Australia, made it his life’s mission to represent the “forgotten people”. The salary-earners, shopkeepers, farmers, mothers, fathers; ordinary citizens, who are not wealthy enough to have significant power to influence politics, and are for the most part not politically organised. There are communities in Britain who fit this description. People who work hard; aren’t particularly ideological; want to keep a reasonable amount of the money they earn; and have their taxes spent on police, soldiers, hospitals, schools, roads, but not much else.
There are many who argue that these ordinary people – who may read the Sun, Daily Mail or no newspaper at all – are not intellectually capable of weighing up the pros and cons of EU membership. But I would wager that a small business owner in Birmingham with a small family has more common sense than a graduate journalist in London who still lives with mum and dad.
The 23rd of June was a wake-up call to the political establishment. No, you cannot hand over billions of taxpayers money each year to the EU instead of investing in public services. You cannot surrender Britain’s sovereignty and decision-making powers to unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in a foreign country. You cannot expect the British people to work like serfs, hand over nearly half of their income to the state, and stay quiet.
Brexit is an opportunity to repair this broken relationship between the citizen and the state. The forgotten people should be forgotten no more. Their voices should be respected and the result of the referendum should be implemented. They should be allowed to keep more of the money they earn, and their taxes should be spent less recklessly. They should be thanked for their contribution to society and not excluded from decision making. And politicians should no longer see themselves as masters, but as public servants who serve at the pleasure of the British people.
Chloe Westley is Campaign Manager at the Taxpayers’ Alliance.