What the British people just did in the Brexit vote, regardless of whether or not it was wise, is extraordinary as an act of a free people. A majority of the people, after a lengthy and vigorous public campaign in which the entire political, cultural, and commercial establishment told everyone that remaining was the only sensible option, 52% voted to leave the EU. If you remove Scotland from the equation where people had good reason to remain, and discount the youth vote which I suspect was moved inordinately by celebrities like David Beckham and Keira Knightley, the remaining vote was even more decisive. Consider also that Greater London which, understandably, would want to leave the business environment unruffled also voted strongly in favor of remaining. Yet Leave won.
Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, puts it this way in today's Wall Street Journal:
Never has there been a greater coalition of the establishment than that assembled by Prime Minister David Cameron for his referendum campaign to keep the U.K. in the European Union. There was almost every Westminster party leader, most of their troops and almost every trade union and employers’ federation. There were retired spy chiefs, historians, football clubs, national treasures like Stephen Hawking and divinities like Keira Knightley. And some global glamour too: President Barack Obama flew to London to do his bit, and Goldman Sachs opened its checkbook.
And none of it worked. The opinion polls barely moved over the course of the campaign, and 52% of Britons voted to leave the EU. That slender majority was probably the biggest slap in the face ever delivered to the British establishment in the history of universal suffrage.
This is all the more reason for those who are in charge to take seriously what the people have just said. By the same measure, they should take just as seriously what Scotland has said with one clear voice.