Why the UK Voted for Brexit: David Cameron’s Great Miscalculation
By Andrew Glencross
Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, 82 pp.
Glencross has been a prolific commentator on the Brexit issue, and this slim volume compiles some of his best writing. Although it might have benefited from more quantitative analysis, this is an insightful account of the referendum and its paradoxical consequences. A British government committed to leaving the EU is now trying to preserve almost all the policies the United Kingdom enjoys under the union, except in a somewhat less advantageous form. A vote largely against globalization has empowered the government to propose extreme deregulation and trade liberalization. Labour voters have helped ensure a seemingly permanent Conservative majority. Even deeper contradictions result from a new style of politics characterized by disillusion with established parties and the naive popular belief that referendums are the most directly “democratic” of political institutions. In fact, direct voting promotes British nationalism in a way entirely at odds with the United Kingdom’s distinctive tradition of parliamentary representative democracy. Government by referendum undermines genuine popular control wherever the public proves itself both ignorant and manipulable. And now, politicians will be able to duck responsibility for the negative effects of the choice to leave the EU and blame the public instead.