I think it’s agreed by most political commentators that 2016 has seen more than its fair share of historic events and will potentially be regarded as a defining year where those who felt ignored by a perceived out of touch political elite decided to make their voices heard.
Two events either side of the Atlantic are the embodiment of this. Brexit on our side and the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States on the other.
People who thought they didn’t have a voice were given platform to make their feelings known to the so called elite who in a desperate attempt to disparage them named them as “populists”.
Looking at the Brexit vote, people’s reasons for voting “leave” clearly show two dominant concerns: immigration and sovereignty.
With immigration, it was clear that the Government could not control the numbers coming to the UK whilst we remained members of the EU. It was also unfair and discriminatory against non-EU Countries, many of whom are our Commonwealth cousins.
The motto of the Vote Leave campaign was “taking back control” and that is something that resonated with the majority of British people and my constituents who were tired of being told there is nothing that can be done on issues that directly affect their lives because it was under the control of a vast unelected, unaccountable body based not in the UK but in Brussels.
2016 was the year of the revolt against political elites taking power away from the people.
In the USA, there was a revolt against a political establishment and a brand of media and celebrity telling people what to think. I believe there is a widespread feeling that people are fed up being talked at and want to be talked to. They have seen their concerns about immigration dismissed as racism and their concerns about sovereignty as being a little nationalist. To casually dismiss these concerns as populism is a grave mistake by those seeking to impose their own will upon the majority.
I believe what we have seen this year is the start rather than the end of the process. The French elections next year look set to be fought out by candidates on the right, Angela Merkel is now reduced to “ban the burka” rhetoric to cover her loss of control over migration and parties such as the Freedom Party is Holland are on course to take a significant share of the vote.
As the EU has shown itself to be completely incapable of reform, I believe the desire of those who live in nation states that want to exert their right to democracy will grow throughout the year ahead. 2017 could well be an equally interesting year.
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