John Harris

Journalist & Author

Britain is facing a stark choice. So why are so many people tuning out? | John Harris

Away from Brexit and the Tory melodrama, I’ve found a mood of weariness and disconnection. Yet its causes explain where we are

As parliament tumbled through last week’s drama, I was in the north-west of England, trying to divine the public mood. (What we found is about to appear in the Guardian’s Anywhere But Westminster video series.) I spent a lot of time in Bury, the large town 12 miles to the north of Manchester whose two constituencies recently returned Labour MPs, although Bury North was held by the Tories between 2010-17. The previous year, 54% of voters in the wider metropolitan borough had supported Brexit.

Though it was not hard to find people whose belief in leaving the EU remains undimmed, the prevailing mood seemed to mix weariness with disconnection, and a sense that Westminster’s convulsions were just one more story of crisis and chaos. “I’m just confused,” one woman told me. “I’ve stopped watching any of it.” One man folded both the Brexit mess and the loss of his job as a refuse collector into a much wider story – of cuts to the borough council (which, since 2010, has lost 61% of its annual budget) and the collapse of Bury football club, a woeful example of a beloved local institution ruined by financial mismanagement and mountains of debt.

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