Brexit: Inspiring New Polling Analysis Shows Majority of Constituencies Now Support Remaining in the EU

13.8.18

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There was some rare good news in the Observer on Sunday, when, two years and two months since 37.47% of the eligible electorate voted to leave the EU (17.4m people, compared to the 16.1m who voted to remain), the impossibility of this proposal, and the realisation that the government tasked with implementing it is spectacularly, almost inconceivably incompetent, has finally led to a situation in which support has swung back significantly for staying in the EU. 

Just to be clear before I proceed with explaining why this is good news, I’m no enthusiast for the EU’s neo-liberal tendencies, or for the way the Euro project was used to strangle Greece, but pragmatically we are tied to the EU through 43 years of laws and treaties, and our economic health depends on our involvement in the single market and the customs union, which allow the frictionless trade with the EU that makes up by far and away our biggest trading market. In addition, the free movement of people across the EU is, in general, a positive development, and not the righteous target of the misplaced fears of those with a tendency to insularity, racism and xenophobia. We are all nations of immigrants, and immigrants have an overwhelming tendency to assimilate.  

Focaldata's analysis of the constituency shift from Leave to Remain since the EU referendum in June 2016 (via the Observer).The Observer’s headline that encouraged a surge of optimism on my part, and on the part of so many other Remain voters, was “More than 100 seats that backed Brexit now want to remain in EU”, and its tagline explained, “Major new analysis shows most constituencies now have majority who want to Remain.” Further spelling out the change, the text of the article confirmed the study’s conclusion that “most seats in Britain now contain a majority of voters who want to stay in the EU.”

The research was undertaken by the Focaldata, a consumer analytics company, which “compiled the breakdown by modelling two YouGov polls of more than 15,000 people in total, conducted before and after Theresa May published her proposed Brexit deal on 6 July”, itself an unworkable “soft Brexit” proposal, which nevertheless enraged the evangelical Brexiteers on the right of the Tory Party, whose arrogance and capacity for self-delusion apparently knows no bounds.

As the Observer explained, the research “combined the polling with detailed census information and data from the Office for National Statistics”, and “was jointly commissioned by Best for Britain, which is campaigning against Brexit, and the anti-racist Hope Not Hate group.”

The Observer proceeded to explain that the analysis, which was “one of the most comprehensive assessments of Brexit sentiment since the referendum”, indicates a shift driven mainly “by doubts among Labour voters who backed Leave”, and that, as a result, “the trend is starkest in the north of England and Wales – Labour heartlands in which Brexit sentiment appears to be changing.” 

Pointedly, the article added that the analysis “will heap further pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to soften the party’s opposition to reconsidering Britain’s EU departure.” By any measure, Corbyn, an old left Labourite who shares the old left’s suspicions regarding the corporate aims of the EU project, has been a disappointment on the EU referendum, although by respecting the Labour Party’s democratic structure, and handing over leadership on Brexit to the very capable Keir Starmer, barrister and Remainer, who has set six tests that must be passed before we leave the EU, tests that require no damage to the economy and therefore seem to be unworkable, he appears to have ceded control over Brexit. 

In addition, on a pragmatic basis, the Labour Party has spent two years sitting on the fence, content to watch the Tories implode, without confronting the difficulty of challenging their own Leave voters, who made up about a third of their voters. 

Focaldata's analysis of the biggest constituency swings from Leave to Remain since the EU referendum in 2016 (via the Observer).As the results from Focaldata show, however, it now appears to be time for Labour to stop sitting on the fence and actively encourage its voters to oppose Brexit and either to support a second referendum, or to endorse the right of Parliament to refuse to support our departure from the EU. 

The former is better, in that it gives the people a right to change their mind, but I fear that the disgusting pro-Leave right-wing media would do all they can to encourage some of the estimated 12.9 million people who didn’t vote in the EU referendum, and have probably never voted, to repeat the 2016 result by voting for the first time ever, and voting Leave. In addition, as the EU referendum was a vote to return sovereignty to the UK, and sovereignty resides in Parliament, and not with the Prime Minister or the Queen, it would be fitting for MPs, who generally supported remaining in the EU by a 2:1 majority, to be responsible themselves for the final refusal to leave the EU.

The polling also provided details of some of the MPs at risk because of shifts in their constituencies, with the Observer noting that, “Among the constituencies to switch from Leave to Remain is that of Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary and face of the Leave campaign. Support for Remain in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency has risen from 43.6% to 51.4%, according to the new model.” 

The Observer added, “Surrey Heath, the constituency of the other Leave figurehead, Michael Gove, also emerged as having a pro-Remain majority. Support for Remain increased from 48% in 2016 to 50.2%.” The paper also noted, “The seats of three pro-Leave Labour MPs switched to Remain. Birkenhead, Frank Field’s constituency, now has a 58.4% majority in favour of Remain. Graham Stringer’s Blackley and Broughton constituency now has a 59% in favour of Remain. Kelvin Hopkins’s Luton North seat now has 53.1% backing Remain.”

From Leave to Remain in Swansea

In an accompanying article, the Observer travelled to Swansea to see how the shift assessed by Focaldata played out on the ground. Tom Wall interviewed John, a cleaner in Swansea’s celebrated indoor market, who “ponder[ed] his momentous decision to vote Leave in the EU referendum.” 

“If I had the chance, I’d change my vote,” he said. “There has been talk of a lot of job losses and I’m not happy with that. It’s just a mess. I don’t think they know what they are doing.”

Geraint Davies, the pro-EU Labour MP for Swansea West, told the Observer that the dramatic swing was because of “voters’ frustrations with the tortuous negotiations, and a growing realisation that the tempting promises about inward investment and jobs will come to little in the end.” As he said, “People voted to leave the EU on the promise of more money for the NHS from the membership fee, access to markets and more trading opportunities, and taking back control of our borders. People are now realising that a lot of those promises won’t be delivered.”

He also pointed to “a growing feeling that Swansea is losing out rather than benefiting from Brexit”, explaining, as the paper described it, that “[r]ecent plans for a £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay to generate renewable power and proposals to electrify the rail line between Cardiff and Swansea have both been dropped by the government.” As he said, “The overall amount of capital expenditure is being constrained because we have to pay a €40bn divorce bill for leaving the EU. People are beginning to see that some of the big promises about investment are evaporating, and that is feeding into this feeling that we are being left out in the cold again.”

Also in the market, Tom Wall spoke to Rachel Jones, a sweet-seller working at a family stall. She said, “I think it was a wasted vote, 110%. If I knew that it was going to be like this, I probably wouldn’t have turned up to vote. You understand it is going to take time, but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.” She added that she “wanted to register a protest vote by putting her cross in the Leave box”, explaining, “Swansea is having a really hard time at the moment. If you walk around you just see boarded-up businesses and charity shops.” But now, she said, “uncertainty around Brexit risks the very future of the market.” As she put it, “People are frightened to spend money. Things have gone up in price but wages haven’t gone up. None of us knows what is going to happen.”

At a food bank on Swansea’s post-industrial eastern fringe, Chris Lewis, a Swansea-born and bred Baptist minister who runs the food bank, told the Observer that Swansea had “never fully recovered from the decline of heavy industry in the 20th century.” As he put it, “It is a significantly deprived area. Regeneration hasn’t really replaced the industrial base that employed people in this area.” He added that “many Leave voters were angry about the state of their community, which had been further impoverished by benefit cuts and austerity.” As he stated, “Some of it was a protest vote. They felt alienated by sort of every elitist, privileged government. There was a degree of racism too – some people felt threatened by immigration.” However, “he believes Leavers are now switching sides as the reality of a Tory Brexit dawns on them”, in the Observer’s words. As he put it, “Some of the people who voted as a protest have flipped. They think these posh idiots are leading us to disaster in a charge of the light brigade.”

While this is all — finally — very positive, it remains to be seen how this polling can be turned into a strategic advantage, rather than just a morale booster, however welcome that may be after 26 months of existential torment. On a brighter note, it has been somehow apt — a sense of poetic justice comes to mind — to see the Tories destroying themselves over Brexit, led by the most incompetent leader ever, with chief Brexit cheerleader David Davis finally acknowledging the impossibility of his task, and with every pro-Brexit enthusiast revealing the extent of their mental deficiency every time they try to make out that Brexit will be anything other than a disaster for our economy, our standing in the world, and our necessary place as a country that relies on and welcomes immigrants in a world that only works because, across borders, immigrants are welcomed for the contributions they make to all our economies.

It may be that, come next March, when we are supposed to leave the EU, there will be some sort of fudge that prolongs the agony, perhaps for many years, but it may also be that it will signal the definitive implosion of, and self-willed destruction of the Tory Party. However, while very little in life would please me more, it remains even more important that, whatever it takes, the deranged business of leaving the EU is stopped, definitively.

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Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

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33 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, looking at some rare good news about Brexit in the Observer yesterday, with data analysts Focaldata demonstrating a significant swing from Leave to Remain in over a hundred constituencies, so that a majority of the British people now appear to support staying in the EU.
    Over the last year or so, when I’ve not been suffering from a corrosive existential angst about the whole thing, it’s actually been quite satisfying to watch the Tories destroying themselves, as they deserve, having foisted this whole unnecessary disaster on us in the first place, but Brexit still needs to be stopped, and, although this analysis provides some necessary cheer, it’s still not clear how our idiotic self-destruction can actually be prevented.
    I fear a second referendum, because 12.9m people who didn’t vote last time could become a wrecking crew a second time around, inspired by our disgraceful tabloid media, and I tend to believe that, fundamentally, it is the job of our MPs to come together to stop Brexit because of the damage it will do, and because they are the sovereign power that Brexiteers wanted returned to the UK, but at the very least, I think, the Labour Party needs to use this data, which particularly showed Labour Leave voters changing their minds, to get off the convenient fence they’ve been sitting on since the referendum, and to make the case for scrapping Brexit once and for all.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    And here’s Rafael Behr on Labour “edging towards ditching Brexit”: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/13/labour-reversal-brexit-jeremy-corbyn

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Marion Heads wrote:

    Perfectly put Mr Worthington

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Marion. Great to hear from you!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Colin Bodiam wrote:

    Absolutely, SO disappointed in the reluctant remainer Jeremy Corbyn sitting on that fence.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Colin. The fence-sitting I can understand from the point of view of not alienating Labour Leave voters for no strategic purpose, but it’s Corbyn’s personal lack of conviction about the benefits of EU membership that has long troubled me.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thalia Campbell wrote:

    he’s been very wise letting them destroy themselves

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Absolutely, Thalia, although you can’t sit on a fence forever. It’s why I hope this polling analysis will indicate that the time is approaching for the Labour Party to officially accept that Brexit cannot go through.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    He’s reversed himself twice already … what could a third time hurt?

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s not rocket science, is it, David, really? Whatever the problems with the EU, leaving would be a self-inflicted disaster on an unparalleled scale, and no amount of wishful thinking – either from right-wing isolationists, or the Lexit contingent that Corbyn leads towards – should be allowed to cloud that stark truth. Politicians who fail to insist on clarity rather than any kind of wishful thinking will pay in the end, but only after they have plunged us into avoidable disaster, and they all need to have that at the forefront of the minds.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil Goodwin wrote:

    Recent research shows that places like Swansea, who voted overwhelmingly to Leave, have now flipped to the Remain camp. So, Jeremy Corbyn would be alienating less and less if he did the decent and brave thing of speaking out on what can only be described as a coup. This is why you can never really trust a politician.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Neil, he was against it, then he campaigned for it and then he was against it. If he’s now for it again that’ll be more flips than Henry Eighth.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, well said, Neil.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil Goodwin wrote:

    not very wise to play politics, while the country heads towards the cliff edge of a no deal Brexit breakdown. This is not leadership.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Brigid Mary Oates wrote:

    I think this vote was the nastiest and vilest vote ever… dishonest is a kind way of putting it ….

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, well said, Neil and Brigid. It has opened such a horrible can of worms, though, hasn’t it? There’s now an intellectual civil war in our country between those who want to stay in the EU and those who want to leave.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote, in response to 11, above:

    Andy, I think that sums it up pretty well. The treasury stockpiling Euros ready for the run on the pound in effect spending our taxes to protect against its own policies is pretty rich, together with Redwood, Mogg and others betting against the UK in their own private portfolios … the most blatant case of insider trading and professional conflicts of interest since Lord Browne connived to deliver a report to rubber stamp fracking. They really need to be held to account and how.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Cathy Teesdale wrote:

    Economic treason would be a good charge to start with!

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, David and Cathy. Yes, in my article I concentrated on the political way out of Brexit, but of course there’s a whole problem with the entire legitimacy of the referendum, as Carole Cadwalladr has been exposing for the Observer, and as you mention, David. Economic treason sounds about right, Cathy: https://www.theguardian.com/profile/carolecadwalladr

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Colin Bodiam wrote:

    A Labour spokesman said: “A second referendum is not our policy and we are not calling for one.” Hardly flexible, a bit too rigid in my thinking.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Again, they could still be resolutely fence-sitting, Colin, but at some point they’re going to have to get down and take a stand.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil Goodwin wrote:

    Andy, the Green Party did a talk about the Bad Boys of Brexit at the Green Gathering which really laid bare all the myths and the connections and backgrounds of all the key players – many of whom we barely know, and some of whom made tens of millions on the fall of the pound after the result. This shows that it was / is a coup.. https://badboysofbrexit.com/

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    That looks to be significant, Neil, and, again, as I mentioned above, the rigging of the referendum ought to be more significant than the politics of how to get out of Brexit.
    Of course, we have two dominant media forces opposed to democracy and transparency – the Daily Mail and the Sun – and to that, unfortunately, I think we have to add the BBC, which has taken little to no interest in the story of how democracy was subverted in the Brexit vote.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    A very instructive list here. I’ll be delving into it myself, and encourage others to do so: https://badboysofbrexit.com/the-complete-list-of-bad-boys/

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil Goodwin wrote:

    Andy, yes, it blew me away. The guy running the talk used string to connect all the ‘bad boys’ to known meetings, and by the end had created a very complex web across the space. Most of it seemed to be about regulations, either the closing of tax havens or wider environmental and human rights safe guards and the Russians were again heavily involved throughout.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil Goodwin wrote:

    One of the things that really irritates me is Jeremy Corbyn’s complete silence on this matter. He talks about the will of the people, when it has become increasingly obvious that the referendum was A, not binding but advisory, B, not totally convincing but a narrow result, and C, a completely rigged and manipulated process anyway. Even now, when Labour strongholds like Swansea have switched from Leave to Remain, he doesn’t speak out. Even now when he must know that Brexit will make austerity far worse for ordinary people, he doesn’t speak out. I can’t fully trust such a man.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Liesel Wilkes wrote:

    Neil, why not write to JC or your local labour rep asking about A-C? See how either responds?

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Good point, Liesel. As for Corbyn, I’m absolutely with you about not being able to “fully trust” him, Neil, but he’s the Labour leader not a solo operator, and Labour’s position remains an infuriatingly difficult one to read, because of the general refusal to engage, and to stand back and allow the Tories to continue destroying themselves. Given the fraught situation we’re in (with a divided Britain on the ground, and an insanely hostile right-wing, pro-Brexit media), this may be the wisest way of operating, but it’s deeply unsatisfying.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Alan Holmes wrote:

    Big swing here in Ynys Môn 49% – 53% remain.

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the info, Alan!

  32. Tom says...

    How many members are in the EU? 24? Question. How is having 24 seperate trade agreements better than having 1 by being in the EU? The Brexiters love to complain about those EU officials who are lazy and only care about their lavish salaries and perks. If Farage thinks they’re so worthless, why is he still in the EU Parliament? His response? I’m not bloody stupid. I just love to manipulate.

    Corbyn’s problem is that he feels that he has to satisfy two sides at the same time. He was against Brexit, but now has to appear to not be completely out of touch w/the Brexiters. How does he do that without completely selling out on his principles?

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s a mess that is a topic of discussion on a persistent basis, Tom, and no one can work out what’s going to happen, although I very profoundly hope that there’s some way of bringing us back from the brink of disaster.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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