Stagnant real wages – exploding inequality – poverty and hunger – collapsing public services – social atomisation – environmental destruction – the dashboard warning lights on Britain’s economy have been blinking for long enough.
And yet only with Brexit did political elites sit up and pay attention.
The vote to leave the European Union – accomplished in the teeth of an overwhelming establishment consensus favouring the status quo – was a true Peasants’ Revolt – a gigantic act of political retribution against a system increasingly regarded as rotten to its core.
Across huge swathes of Britain the chickens of decades of top-down economic class warfare finally came home to roost.
Outside London every region of England and Wales voted Leave (Scotland and Northern Ireland are separate cases) – but the scales of the referendum were firmly tipped by what were once the country’s manufacturing heartlands.
Here community after community has been destabilised by successive waves of deindustrialisation – whole cities thrown away at tremendous capital – carbon, and human cost.
Before 1979 – 6.8 million British workers were employed in manufacturing – accounting for 30 per cent of national income.
By 2010 this had fallen to 2.5 million and 11 per cent.
Boiling anger and an abiding sense of economic disempowerment meant that something had to give.