What made the difference? Probably, the emergence into the democratic process of the hopeless, of those who felt alienated from politics and who had – in many instances – felt that way for many years. They didn’t have their voices heard, partly because they were deemed ‘inappropriate’ in modern Britain, partly because they gave up speaking out.
There wasn’t a massive turnout, as some had predicted – it was merely back to the kind of level we used to see in general elections in the late twentieth century. It was the return to the polls of those who’d been excluded since New Labour appeared to turn its back on the working class. And, frankly, I didn’t expect them to turn out this time. Happily, they did.
Unhappily, they didn’t vote in the same way as me. Which is perhaps not surprising: I live in North London, where the vote was three-to-one in favour of Remain.
But even if my prediction was entirely useless, I would, in my defence, point out that I’d have done better if I listened to myself occasionally. For years I’ve been arguing that there was a massive shift in politics coming, that the gulf between the cultural and the political moods of the country was too great to be sustainable.
And last year, in a piece that was again completely wrong on the outcome of the Labour Party leadership election, I suggested that this referendum might be the crunch moment. ‘At some point in the next two years,’ I wrote, ‘the political class is going to have to put itself up for approval by the population of the country. The ostensible issue is our membership of the European Union, but it’ll be surprising if that’s the sole item on the agenda.’ That, at least, was a good call. But clearly I wasn’t paying attention.