On last week’s episode of Question Time, we all watched in horror as a quite clearly unhinged woman went on a rant where she called for all of the UK’s borders to be completely closed. She went through bits of the far right playbook; a population figure 122% of the actual number, people speaking foreign in hospitals, and health tourism all got a mention.
Of course, many people were horrified. At this point, the suspension of belief has disappeared; it’s now been almost four years since the European Union referendum when most people realised that a good number of people think like her, and in those four years that woman and people like her have got pretty much everything they voted for.
That fact being known, twitter, commercial radio, and upmarket newspapers were awash with middle class liberals asking “why is she still angry?” in a slightly condescending tone. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of middle class liberals and admire the strength which they fought to remain in the EU and on the whole agreed with the cause at the time, but the “why are they still angry” line is a shining example of the tone-deafness that cost us our place in the EU.
You see, the millions of people who for half a decade have been voting for and supporting both brexit and hard right governments aren’t doing so for a laugh, or out of boredom. These are ordinary people who are crying out for change. They recognise that life in the fifth richest country on Earth should be much better than this, and in that they are right.
They are not stupid, simply misguided. When they cried out for change, the hard right offered the simplest and most tangible solutions, and said it with the loudest voices. The left stood by, parts of it enthralled by its own vision of brexit (which was never going to happen, was it?) and the rest of it bereft of a way of communicating its ideas to normal people.
The substance of what she said was not wrong
There are various reasons for this, which I will speak about in depth at some point or another, but my point is that there are clear reasons the country has ended up looking the way it is. What rams that point home is listening carefully to the Question Time woman, or almost any brexit/tory voter.
In the substance of the problems the woman described, in spite of the fact that she was clearly unhinged, she was not wrong. British schools are underfunded and overcrowded, our infrastructure is decades behind where it should be, and the NHS is on its knees. She, and possibly millions of people like her, are simply pointing their fingers in the wrong direction.
While getting at least some of these people pulling in the right direction might not be the easiest thing, I don’t believe it is complicated. Simply put, we need to start speaking the same language as ordinary people, addressing their concerns and offering uncomplicated solutions to the things they care about.
If you take a second to think about it, the answer to the question “why are they still angry” is staring us in the face. We all care about the same issues in the end, because we all suffer the same consequences when things aren’t going well in this country. They’re still angry because things still haven’t got better. Our job is to show them, on their terms, how they can.