On the 24th of May, the Henry Jackson Society welcomed David Goodhart: journalist, author and think tanker. David is currently head of the demography unit at the Policy Exchange think tank. He is also the founder and former editor of Prospect magazine and the former director of the centre-left think tank Demos. He was here to present and discuss the thesis of his newly released book – ‘The Road to Somewhere’.
In an attempt to address the issues of the divisions in British society in regards to Brexit, ‘The Road to Somewhere’ offers a straightforward explanation of why the views and wishes of the liberal urban elite were pushed aside, and the more populist, patriotic, and rural wave won through.
According to Goodhart, the societal division in regards to Brexit was split into two main camps: the so-called ‘anywheres’ and the ‘somewheres’. Somewhat akin to a parlour game, Goodhart allows readers the opportunity to decide which category they belong to. The former group is well educated, mobile and dominate culture and society. They cherish fluidity, openness, and movement. The latter ‘tribe’, as Goodhart refers to them, are usually more well-rooted, generally less well-educated, and prefer group attachments and security. While the elite, liberal tribe sees the world from ‘anywhere’, the other only sees it from ‘somewhere’.
With this in mind, Goodhart opened up the discussion by claiming these assumptions to be representative of the fact that there exists an important distinction between the ‘anywheres’ and ‘somewheres’. Goodhart went on to further separate the population of voters as ‘achievers’ and ‘ascribers’. ‘Achievers’ were those who had achieved success through exams, therefore successful and not discomfited by change. ‘Ascribers’, on the other hand, tend to be more discomfited by change and connected to familiarity. Alongside, there also exists a segment of ‘inbetweeners’: those who are plainly xenophobic or zealously pro-European.
Goodhart then put out two examples of how the theory of social class to determine someone’s voting pattern in the referendum to explain how such assumptions are a little flawed or misguided. An academic and economist, for instance, could both be middle class. Yet, one could be left wing and thus vote Remain; the other could be more tilted to the right, therefore voting to Leave. Alternatively, an affluent Devon farmer and pensioner from Sunderland could indeed be voting with exactly the same intentions. This therefore dispels the theory that two different individuals, each part of a different social class and geographical location, cannot possibly desire the same outcome in the Referendum.
Goodhart proceeded in telling the audience that the number of ‘anywheres’ has doubled since the 80s, due to the increasing number of those able to attend university: such institutions being ‘mass machines of producing ‘anywheres’, Goodhart argued. This subsequently leads to an ‘anywheres’ network of sorts, a network unattainable to ‘somewheres’. This ‘great instability’ means that certain gulfs in British society are not recognised as much as they should have been done.
Goodhart then addressed one of the most interesting distinctions between the EU Referendum and any other vote in British history: that of ‘somewheres’ voting for the first time in their lives. With the air of every General Election dominated by ‘anywheres’, ‘somewheres’ had lost faith, until the emergence of the EU Referendum.
After the result, ‘anywheres’ went even further to admonish ‘somewheres’: AC Grayling’s jaundiced remarks, for example. Treating ‘somewheres’ with constant disdain further widens the chasm between these two groups. Goodhart pointed out a slight contemptuousness with the way ‘somewheres’ were advised on how to socially mobilise hereafter: Justine Greening, for instance, addressing her old hometown of Rotherham, used the classic ‘council state, Oxbridge, Cabinet’ model to coax ‘somewheres’ into pursuing lives previously only reserved for ‘anywheres’. This, Goodhart explained, is ‘logically impossible’.
Arriving at a concluding point, Goodhart stated that ‘somewheres’ are not anti-immigration, but rather anti-mass-immigration. The Labour government’s decision to allow a surplus of Eastern European workers in 2004 arguably ignited the defiance of the ‘somewheres’, along with Labour’s recent political endeavours ungrounding them from their traditional past. On a lasting note, Goodhart claimed that this dichotomy between ‘anywheres’ and ‘somewheres’ was very much the stimulus accounting for the overwhelming result of Brexit.