Much has been made of the Brexit Party’s insurgency amongst people in Leave-voting communities, who have been subject to disparaging and patronising establishment contempt ever since they dared to vote the ‘wrong’ way in the EU referendum. But far less attention is given to the minority of Leave voters who work and live in the professions and other areas where support for Remain is the default position.
One woman who approached the Brexit Party stall in Chester last week told me his:
“I am a solicitor; my friend here is a physiotherapist and we are both fed up of being shunned by colleagues because we voted Leave. I just don’t tell people anymore.”
She speaks for millions. Maybe it is because I am part of the media/ policy intelligentsia circle (or, at least, I was until I became an apostate and decided to stand as an MEP), but over the past three years I have come across a wide range of Secret Brexiteers who dare not admit they voted Leave.
This is how it goes: when I speak at universities, literary festivals, science festivals and arts gigs on a wide variety of topics, and mention in passing I support Brexit, one or two people always sidle up at the end and whisper – yes, whisper – “I agree with you, but I am not ‘out’ at work”. I have no intention of outing anyone here, but here are a few examples of the phenomenon.
Jane Robins and Julie Burchill wrote a fictionalised take on the topic in their witty and insightful play People Like Us. It is the story of a fall-out in a book group once the literary set discover that some lovers of literature didn’t love the EU and voted Leave. I attended the play with a friend from the world of publishing who explained her colleagues could never conceive that anyone educated would vote Leave, so have assumed – wrongly – she was part of their Remain gang. She admitted she now hates her job because she can’t divulge an important principle she believes in and is always on her guard about what she says about politics.
An artist mate confessed it was easier to come out as gay to his Christian family than coming out as a Brexiteer in the Federation of Creative Arts.