Brexit vote five years on: ‘The sheer disbelief’


wo weeks before the Brexit referendum, on June 23, 2016, elections guru Lord Hayward stunned the establishment when he predicted Britain would vote to leave the EU.

The Conservative peer declared the polls had “got it wrong” because working-class Labour supporters across the North and the Midlands were backing Brexit.

“My biggest memory of the whole process is the sheer disbelief, or misunderstanding, of where the nation was,” the election expert told the Standard.

“Throughout that period I was being told by people that I was wrong – and it was all the Metropolitan elite who kept saying I was wrong.

“They’d lost touch with the nation. Whether they ever had touch with the nation is another matter, but they certainly didn’t have it at that point. Being a Remainer it didn’t give me any pleasure saying that it was going to be Leave.”

To say he was in a minority with his forecast is an understatement.

Even stony-faced Ukip leader Nigel Farage initially appeared to think he had lost the referendum on the night.

Conservative Party co-chair Amanda Milling added: “I remember being at the count and you could see the Leave team being really quite buoyed that night because they could see what was happening around the country.

“It was a massive moment in our politics in recent years.”

Tumultuous years follow

The country was plunged into political chaos that scalped two Tory Prime Ministers before producing a remarkable election victory under former Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

“There was a point where everyone just got so frustrated, they’d had enough. I think what happened with that 2019 election was the country going: ‘Look, this drama that you’ve got going – I should call it a political soap opera called Westenders because it really was like that at the time – they said we’ve had enough of this. We’ve spoken once, we spoke in the referendum, now just get on with it.”


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