The way Britons voted in their EU referendum on Thursday confirms there is a deep “blue-red” divide in the United Kingdom.
I argued in February that the question of whether to leave the European Union or stay was splitting the country along the lines Andrew Sullivan described as Europe’s “blue-red culture war over modernity.”
“Blue Europe,” according Sullivan, is internationalist, metrosexual, multicultural and secular. It is concentrated in the major cities. Hence London’s overwhelming support for “remain”.
“Red Europe” is patriotic, more traditional, more comfortable in a homogenous society, more sympathetic to faith. In England, these are the postindustrial heartlands and small towns.
Transcends party politics
What the referendum has made abundantly clear is that this blue-red divide transcends party politics.
Support for EU membership came from Conservative-voting businesspeople and professionals, the Labour-voting middle class as well as Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party.
The leave side brought together the Labour working class and rural Tories.
The two sides account for roughly half the voting population each.
The split in the Conservative Party has claimed the most attention, given that it’s in power and the divisions go all the way to the top.
But Labour is divided as well. Stephen Bush warns in the New Statesman that “blue” Labour resentment must not curdle into contempt toward the bastions of Brexitism. “That contempt threatens the commodity on which Labour has always relied to get Hull and Hampstead to vote and work together,” he writes: “solidarity.”
Adam Lent thinks it’s too late for that. He argues at his Medium blog that “blue” Britain must close ranks regardless of party.
“Those who value free trade, welcome other cultures and believe in international cooperation must join together no matter what party they are from to fight this new political menace,” writes. “Tribalism must be put aside.”