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Bremain redux a lesson for our political class

By Graham Young - posted Monday, 27 June 2016

Brittania has voted to divorce Europa, and whatever you think of the result, there are lessons for our political class.

One is the strength of the coalition between the liberal middle class and the conservative working class. If you put the Tory party back together again, yet retain the themes of the Brexit campaign under a leader who can enunciate them – independence, self-reliance, local governance, broad democracy, less regulation and free enterprise – then the Corbyn Labor Party will be obliterated at the next election.

Another is the failure of progressivism against progress. Brussels represents the sort of polite future that our own elites would like to usher us into – lots of regulations; one-size fits all, except for minorities who often earn extra entitlements; an edureaucracy; and lots of political correctness and self-censorship.


Britain, if not the inventor of progress, has been one of the main practitioners. It is impossible to imagine the current world without the Magna Carta or the Industrial and Free Enterprise Revolution; or a reluctant King John signing one, and Adam Smith authoring the other.

While the beneficiary of British and Scottish intellectual entrepreneurialism, the European Union also bears as heavily the ancient weight and ancestral bureaucracy of the Roman Empire and the Roman Church. It can hold an empire together, but can it make it live?

The UK has chosen life, even though that may be less secure than the embrace of the continent.

Suddenly Bill Shorten, and to a lesser extent, Malcolm Turnbull, are on the wrong side of the tide. For how long, no one knows, but it should not only affect the outcome of the next election, but the way the parties conduct it.

Turnbull was elected on the presupposition that you win elections from the middle. While this is standard dogma in the departments of politics and peace and conflict studies, it is wrong. And the UK repeats the lesson it is wrong yet again.

You can pick up votes across the spectrum, and right and left are only rough descriptors for what is a much more messy reality.


Shorten is scrambling to protect his progressive left flank against the Greens, forgetting the solid, skeptical, working class voters somewhere on his right.

He could win from the centre, because he has the left flank secured, and a large slab of the comfortable middle class as well.

Turnbull can’t win from the centre because the segment of the middle-class loosely and inaccurately characterised as “doctor’s wives”, has deserted him because he has not changed Liberal Party policy on issues like climate change or refugees.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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