A political realignment is taking place across British society, with Brexit fuelling an anti-politics surge and political distrust.
The emerging tensions are fuelling a growing ‘culture war’ between those who celebrate diversity and those who perceive it as a challenge to their position in the world, according to polling unveiled today in a major new report from HOPE not hate Charitable Trust.
One of the most comprehensive reports of its kind looking into the changing nature of British identity and attitudes to race, faith and belonging – Fear & HOPE 2019 – shows how Brexit has changed Britain.
The strength of our Brexit identities means we are not just ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’, but as the Brexit process has gone on, deteriorating political trust, it has also altered our cultural identities.
Dividing the population into seven new ‘identity tribes’, the report shows how the strength of our Brexit identities is creating a new, emotionally-charged political structure through which we filter information and perceive the world around us.
Although we have seen a continuation of an incremental liberal shift in social attitudes over the last few years, disconnection and growing resentment towards ‘the establishment’ is driving us apart.
While many are channeling their frustration through hardening their stance on Brexit, these broken relationships, and broken promises over what Brexit will deliver, are also becoming manifest through growing antagonism to progressive values which are dismissed as ‘P.C. culture’.
No consensus over Brexit
The report, based on polling of 6,118 adults by YouGov reveals – among other things – that there is no consensus over Brexit, with a staggering three out of every four people saying no party speaks for them, as well as disagreements over national identity, changing worries over extremism (with the far right for the first time being seen as more of a threat than Islamist extremism), our priority issues changing (with the environment rising to third place as a national concern) and anti-Muslim prejudice well and truly past the dinner table test and ensconced in about a third of the population.
Report co-author Nick Lowles, chief executive of HOPE not hate, said: “Brexit offered a black and white choice of ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’, which exposed a lot of pre-existing divisions, but it was never that simple, and the impacts of the Brexit process are fracturing us even more.
“As time has gone on, the Brexit process has degraded political trust, with pessimism and anti-establishment anger rising, which for many is distilling into hatred in a backlash against an ‘elite’, veiled in narratives about suppression by ‘P.C. culture’.
“These narratives are particularly potent as many people do feel suppressed and voiceless. There are a lot of people in this country who feel disconnected from the political system, frustrated and disappointed with the direction of their own lives.
“As the threat of a no-deal Brexit looms closer, the disastrous economic consequences will only widen these cracks and divide us further.”
Worryingly rigid tribes
Report co-author, Rosie Carter, senior policy officer at HOPE not hate, said:
“Brexit has already changed Britain. People are retreating into disparate and worryingly rigid tribes, with little overlap of views, and with less and less empathy for one another’s views. This political polarisation is also forcing people out of the process entirely – whole swathes of the country and walking away from the democratic process because they are angry and disillusioned.
“The sheer level of insecurity and anger that people feel is making our politics more insecure than ever, and it’s driving some quite hateful social cultural attitudes on Islamophobia, misogyny and racism.
“Acknowledging the problem is step one. All sides are treating Brexit and other issues as zero-sum fights where only one side can win or lose, and the other side is operating from a position of bad faith. That must end. We need to start bringing people together, working through consensus-building processes to find outcomes that can work for more people.”