Monday, 24 April 2017

A renegade English literature lecturer secretly voted leave

This blog post by Dr. Martin Robb (a lecturer at the Open University and all round good egg) is fascinating evidence of how academics are startling politically undiverse. What happened to the great High Tory dons at Cambridge like Cowling and Casey or Edward Norman?

It has taken him nine months to admit in his blog that he voted Leave and I am sure it is because of the stigma that attaches to Leave among academics (and not only academics). 

Just as people used to keep very quiet about being homosexual now they often feel they must not tell anyone they voted Leave.

I'd like to understand much more about the reasons why Remainers are often so very emotional. 

It's not about economics. It's about the idea that internationalism is good and therefore nation states are suspect. Ethnic states, which European countries still are, are much more suspect still. And as Martin says it's about their identity a core belief, but what that belief is I don't understand.

I suppose, at the risk of being completely unoriginal, which is not a fault of mine usually, it goes back to what Orwell said all those years ago.
“In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanised. 
They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the 
general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident 
thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals 
are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always 
felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman 
and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse 
racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably 
true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of 
standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a 
poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping 
away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes 
squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always 
Quoting from Martin:
"Firstly, I’d suggest that the intense emotionality of many Remainers’ reaction to the result, is because, on the Left at least, membership of the EU is no longer a matter of rational argument but one of identity. I’ve written before about the ways in which the Left has become increasingly homogenous and predictable in recent years, so that if you know what a liberal-leftish person thinks on one issue, you can usually guess their views on a range of others. Certain opinions have become unquestionable totems, so that if you are ‘progressive’ then of course you share the same view as other progressives on, for example, climate change, abortion, immigration, gay marriage – and membership of the EU."But what about the question of democratic accountability, which I would argue, against the dismissive views of many Remainers, was actually the key reason why a majority of British people turned against the EU? How can liberals and left wingers, for whom democracy is surely another core belief, square their unswerving support for the EU with its obvious democratic deficit? Well, I have a sneaking feeling that many Remainers are only too aware of this – and may even have a guilty conscience about it. I might even go out on a limb here and suggest that one reason many on the liberal-left love the EU is that it has made it possible to smuggle on to the UK statute book ‘progressive’ measures that would have a hard time getting a hearing in the UK domestic context. So leaving the EU will remove a key means of imposing their agenda on a recalcitrant British electorate. I often wonder if the EU would be so popular with liberals and leftists, and whether they would be so tolerant of its lack of democratic accountability, if it sought to impose a conservative social agenda on its member states?
"If many Remainers seem to care little for democracy, they also appear to have scant regard – especially if they are on the liberal-left – for questions of national sovereignty, another issue that I would guess weighed heavily with Leave voters. To quote Polly Billington:
"The reality is that large swathes of Labour’s members and supporters don’t identify as patriotic. […] There is a section of the left which has a distinct discomfort with the idea of pride in country. "


  1. Conservatives and their overtly rationalised pop-pyschology theories about liberals and the ridiculous.

    1. Martin is a lifelong Labour supporter.

    2. David in Moscow25 April 2017 at 16:52

      Touche! :D

  2. Thanks for this, Paul. However, a couple of minor corrections. Although I started off studying English (at Cambridge and Manchester), I don't teach it at the OU, where I'm based in the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, and draw on more recent studies in social psychology. And yes, at one time it would have been true to say I was a 'lifelong Labour supporter', but I left the party a couple of years ago, and haven't voted for them since Corbyn became leader.

    1. I shall correct it. I assumed you had given up on Labour but thought you might want to keep that secret from the milieu in which you move. I remember you told me that even liking Tony Blair meant being regarded as unacceptably right-wing.

    2. This, hot off the press five minutes ago, is about historians, but perhaps it applies to dons in all arts subjects.