Who are ‘the people’?

Since the Brexit vote of 2016, the phrase ‘the will of the people’ has gained significant political currency. Brexiteers argue the referendum represents the will of the people and so needs to be implemented, whereas their opponents report opinion polls as showing that the will of the people has changed. Others still dismiss the idea of the will of the people as a fantasy, arguing that no group – especially not one as diverse as the British electorate – can have a single will. Are people too marked by differences and unique identities for the idea of ‘the people’ to have anything other than rhetorical use? Amidst the churn and change of the twenty-first century, can we give new meaning to the idea of ‘the people’? Ultimately, who is afraid of the people?

This engaging debate was filmed by WORLDwrite- WORLDbytes volunteers at the Battle of Ideas Festival at the Barbican in November 2019.

The speakers are: Aaqil Ahmed: professor of media, University of Bolton; media consultant; non-executive director, Advertising Standards Authority and OFCOM; former head of religion, Channel 4 and BBC. Sophia Gaston: director, British Foreign Policy Group; research fellow, Institute for Global Affairs, London School of Economics; academic fellow, European Policy Centre. Mick Hume: columnist, spiked; author, Revolting!: how the establishment are undermining democracy and what they’re afraid of and Trigger Warning. Lord Stewart Wood: Labour member, House of Lords; fellow, Magdalen College and the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford; member, EU Select Committee. The chair is Ella Whelan: co-convenor, Battle of Ideas festival; journalist and frequent commentator on TV and radio; author, What Women Want.