We all live in a bubble. We complain about the Westminster bubble, the rich in their gated communities, the 1% with their Panama billions and their private jets, but our bubbles have consequences, too.
I don’t know anyone who plans to vote “Leave” in this referendum. I kind of know a few fringe political types who turn up at meetings, who might be ‘Lexit’, but I am inferring their position; I don’t know it. I do sometimes overhear conversations on buses where mainly elderly people say they plan to vote to leave the EU, but they aren’t people in my own circle.
LBC commissioned a poll by YouGov which has found that 46% ‘leave’ voters believe that the government will rig the referendum. If the polls really are neck-and-neck, that’s perhaps a quarter of the electorate (around the proportion that voted for the Tories in 2015 – not that they’re the same individuals!) thinks that the Electoral Commission, local government, Returning Officers, and all the rest of the bureaucracy required to run a vote and count the results, are engaged in a conspiracy of corruption.
Elections aren’t perfect. We still vote using pencils and bits of paper which we count in hastily requisitioned leisure centres surrounded by TV crew and members of political parties who scrutinise the counters. It’s all very old school, but it is far less manipulable than computer software, or the voting machines of “hanging chads” fame.
Even so, there have been scandals. There have been worries about postal votes requested in bulk for residents of care homes. At the general election, a van full of blank ballot papers was stolen. The Electoral Commission is pursuing allegations of fraudulent expenses returns against the Conservative Party, with other parties not yet out of their sights, either.
This is serious, and worrying. But it’s a very long way from state control of election outcomes.
So why are there apparently millions of people who buy these conspiracy theories? And who are they?
I’d say, they are us. Us in our bubbles.
The financial-commercial-entertainment-complex has an interest in keeping us segregated into mutually uncomprehending segments, fearful and suspicious of those not like us. Especially when ‘those not like us’ are actually pretty similar.
Those who hate people on benefits, migrant workers, social workers, do gooders, are fixated on those who in lifestyle and income and level of security are most like themselves. They hate me, a poncy lefty, sitting behind them on the bus, more than they hate the guy in the back of the limo.
And we poncy lefties, we sneer at Sun readers, and Mail readers who aren’t so different from us, but rarely do we give a thought to the people who can buy a luxury super yacht with less consideration than we might give to purchasing a bicycle.
We are all trapped in our bubbles, snarling away, losing faith in democracy, and political parties, and collective action, and social solidarity.
This hateful referendum campaign has exposed the divisive, poisonous politics of the present in a way no general election campaign can do, and perhaps that is a good thing. Forced to look at the swamp of nastiness in which we live, perhaps enough of us will recoil, and try to reach out to do things a better way?