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More than most industries, the leather industry is impacted by global economic and political events; goodness knows we have enough of these going on right now with the weakening Chinese economy, sanctions against Russia, wars in the Middle East and terrorism penetrating into the heart of our cities. So it seems rather careless for the UK to drop a shock referendum result into our lap just at the moment when everything is so fragile.
It is well recognised around the world that many people in what we define as the developed world have been left behind by globalisation. Their jobs in industry have gone and been replaced by lower paid work in service industries and society has been unable to offer them an alternate; indeed, with the arrival of robots their situation is likely to worsen.
So that group has always been an easy target for what we are now calling “populism” and the politicians always knew this segment of the C2DE (blue collar) demographic would form a key part of a negative protest vote in the referendum. What seems to have caught the UK out was the high turnout from this group, and that their numbers were swollen by a large majority of elderly, ABC1 (well off), rural voters with a nostalgic view of how they would like society to look. Remember those managers who were refusing to adopt email back in the 1990's? Well, they are retired now and ignored the pleas of their children and grandchildren and voted "Brexit". They were queuing up to vote in our little village.
Those who know me well are aware that I have always been very interested in politics and that, as an undergraduate, I was more than willing to sacrifice grades for involvement in student and national affairs. What perhaps is less well known, was that I was a keen supporter of our Prime Minister Edward Heath when took the UK into the EEC and have supported European involvement since.
So given that I hold strong opinions, not likely to be matched throughout the industry and have always avoided political writing, I will say only two things. First, having watched how a “populist” campaign works - trashing important institutions, denigrating experts and trust in authority, trying to win on charisma - I find I am deeply opposed to that sort of politics and, second, that if for some this was just a move to help exporters by weakening the GB Pound, then, risking pushing the UK and the EU into recession does not seem a very clever way to do it.
As well as splitting society by class, but also by geography and sex, a single day’s work by the British people has created a global event which will increase uncertainty for quite a while to come.
29th June 2016
Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood
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