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Brighton Fringe 2019

Danny Dorling: Rule Britannia, Brexit and the End of Empire

Danny Dorling

Genre: Political, Talk

Venue: Komedia Studio


Low Down

Danny Dorling, a leading thinker on inequality in Britain argues that sorting ourselves out post-Brexit is going to require a great deal of introspection, that what we see may not be pleasant. And that Brexit – however it comes – may be part of the cure.


Danny Dorling is a Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, and a large part of his exploration of Brexit focused on geographical voting patterns. He also looked at the history of the UK and the recurring theme of how we have treated immigrants. The historical exploration included the British Empire and the education system which was set up to create individuals to run the Empire, and knowing your geography was key to that. He built a case that many of the Tories come from this empire educational mindset, still acting as if we have an empire to rule. He also explored the idea that we have always had different scapegoats to blame for our problems, from trade unionists to socialists to feminists and now the immigrants.

Interestingly although he voted to remain, he believes that Brexit has highlighted many of our national issues, including the levels of racism, and the number of far-right UK MEPs in Europe. Brexit has given us the opportunity to take a look in the mirror, the question still remains as to what we will do with this newfound awareness. Danny offered a number of surprising facts, for example that we have one of the highest levels of inequality in Europe. If remain had won, maybe the mirror effect would not have been as strong, maybe the immigrants would have continued to be the convenient scapegoat for the UK’s problems.

The Brexit vote was the biggest swing in voting in UK history. The geographical analysis highlighted the fact that the highest numbers of people voting to leave were from the southern counties, the old retired Tories, and that these numbers are higher than many northern counties added together. Counties such as Hampshire had very high leave voters, and yet no-one mentions it. He did point out that one reason for lower votes in the North was a low turnout.

Danny made a clear attempt to share with us more of his statistical geographical data, however his screen and slides could have been bigger and better designed, because he had to repeatedly tell us ‘you’ll just have to believe me’. Luckily all of what he said can be found in his book ‘Rule Britannia: Brexit And The End Of Empire’. The talk was over an hour and packed with useful information, and I would recommend hearing him speak or reading the book if you want more facts on Brexit and who voted.