As the voter demographics, as long as they

As discussed in the introduction, there is no concrete definition on
what populism really is. However we are able to deduct a number of tendencies
which apply to parties and ideas which are considered populist. The movement
leans towards strategy instead of a clear manifesto, which means that populists
are somewhat flexible on their ideology depending on the voter demographics, as
long as they get their political strategies across. However, within these
ideologies, there are some common features. Charismatic leaders often with
authoritarian tendencies encourage the anti-elitist, anti-establishment
sentiment by presenting himself/herself as a ‘common citizen’. They tend to
exploit fear, mostly xenophobia or islamophobia today, promoting
anti-globalisation strategies. Populist parties and campaigning has become
popular especially in Europe (UK inclusive) especially after the financial
crisis in 2008 which caused high unemployment rates throughout Europe. This led
to a high dissatisfaction in living standards, which resulted in strong Euroscepticism.
As statistics according to the Standard Eurobarometer show, the trend for the
public opinion who have a positive image of the EU have fallen dramatically
since Autumn 2009 marking 48% to 30% by Autumn 2012. Furthermore, negative
image of the EU have increased during this time, as it has risen from 15% to
29% between autumn 2009 and autumn 2012. (Standard Eurobarometer, 2015) In
times like these it is often analysed by populists that globalisation, a
strategy made possible by bureaucratic elites such as the EU, was the reason to
blame. The anti-globalisation sentiment is common in populist parties and
campaigns, as one of the most prominent reasons for Brexit was the fear of
immigrants ‘taking away jobs’ especially those from former colonies, and
Eastern Europe who are willing to work for less wage.

 

In what
ways can we identify the Leave campaign/vote as populist?

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In the Brexit campaign, we are able to observe common characteristics of
populist strategy. One of the key figures in leading Brexit leave campaign was
UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage. He and his party are
considered populist. First, Farage describes himself as “middle-class boy from
Kent”, who has a deep mistrust in elite establishments such as the British
government, describing them as “an incredibly snobby, ghastly bunch of people”.
(Shuster and Stewart, 2016). There was also a famous campaign bus which stated
the government “sending the EU £350 million a week”, as shown in Appendix 1.
Although Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK
Statistics Authority has proven it is “misleading” (Sparrow, 2016), it clearly
demonstrates the typical character of populism: blaming an establishment for
the decrease in social spending such as the NHS in this case, shown in Appendix
1. Furthermore, despite the media casting light on UKIP as a populist party,
there is also Boris Johnson, former mayor of London and the leader of the Leave
campaign, who could be considered populist. He also, was a charismatic politician,
who not only sympathised with the ‘common people’, but also to the voters in
higher classes. He was the one who rode the ‘£350 million a week’ bus
and campaigned for the Independence Day.

 

Other
causes of Brexit 1: Britain was never truly European

Compared to the rest of the EU member countries, the British were not
often considered truly European. Former French
President De Gaulle admits that “the very situation that are England’s differ
profoundly from those of the Continentals” (Bogdanor, 2013), and by “the very
situation”, he means “the nature” and “the structure” of the UK both
geographically, and socially. It is clear from De Gaulle’s words that the
general view of the UK was “insular and maritime, and fundamentally not
European.” Furthermore, in Bogdanor’s perspective, although Britain
participated in WWII, it has never “succumbed to Fascism or Nazism” unlike the
six EU founding countries, and did not have to be “ashamed of our Britain’s
wartime history.” The British lack of consciousness of trying to combat the
“supranational struggle” against Hitler during the war was one of the main
reasons to why there was a gap between the European and the British strength of
unity. The biggest difference was that even after the huge damage after the
War, the British way of thought remained, or somewhat strengthened to “how
powerful British patriotism was and how it should be preserved.”  It is
more than obvious that this would not have been the way a defeated, damaged
country such as Germany especially after the end of Nazism would have perceived
the War.

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