Assignment 5: draft Statement of Intent

This follows on from my recent summary of preparatory work so far on Assignment 5.

This is my draft Statement of Intent. It is not an explanation of my planned methodology but simply the text I plan to use to accompany the final work. It is, of course, very much subject to change, bearing in mind I haven’t taken a single photo yet. But I’m finding it useful to write a version of this upfront, to help frame my ongoing work on this project.

I Woke Up And Everything Was Fine

The EU Referendum was defined by a ruthless simplicity: a yes/no question that sorted people into binary categories, with none of the nuance and diversity of opinion of a general election. It’s all too easy to fall for the promise that such a blunt instrument can either cement your comfortable existence or drastically change your miserable one; that this one magic bullet will fix everything.

After the initial jolt of the Leave result, the second shock on 24th June was that so many of the most socially and economically deprived parts of the country – including places I’d grown up in, lived in, worked in – had voted decisively to Leave the EU, even though many of these places had been the recipients of significant EU funding. It may have been expected that the Conservatives in the home counties would opt to Leave, but the extent of the out vote in the ‘traditional Labour heartlands’ was unsettling.

To a lot of disenfranchised working class voters, the referendum wasn’t specifically about EU membership; it wasn’t even really about immigration, or at least immigration was a symptom rather than the root cause. It was a rejection of globalisation, corporatism, inequality – and it’s been brewing for decades. The New Statesman summed it up: “This was never a referendum on the EU. It was a referendum on the modern world.” – it was status quo vs change, the haves vs the have-nots. For many voters it was a last throw of the dice: ‘It can’t get much worse, can it?’

This is not a post-mortem of the campaigns themselves, or arguments for and against either option. It is simply about how these two constituencies – the Remainers and the Leavers, the haves and the have-nots, the globalisation winners and losers of the last four decades – coexist in the same towns and cities. They always have done, but the referendum brought the previously ignored fault lines in society into plain view by asking an over-simplified yes/no question.

This is an unapologetically personal look at the situation and not a comprehensive nationwide analysis. My interest is in northern English towns that voted heavily to Leave. They are the places I know, or thought I knew.

More to follow…

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