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O'Shaughnessy James New

Lord O’Shaugnessy is a Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute and Baroness Stroud is the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice.

With the ruthless efficiency of which it is famed, the Conservative Party will have moved from one Prime Minister to another within the space of three weeks.

These are momentous times, and it is easy to get distracted by the extraordinary events occurring at Westminster. However, across Britain something even more important is happening.

While all eyes are on a future negotiation of our place in Europe, an even bigger negotiation faces the next Prime Minister – healing the divisions that resulted in the referendum result.

The Brexit vote showed that many British people are unhappy with the status quo. Ahead of the vote people expressed frustration at feeling left behind and seeing things getting tougher for them and their children. Many live in communities directly affected by pressure on schooling, health services and wages.

But the early data is confusing – how important was the seemingly arcane issue of Parliamentary sovereignty? Were people voting for £350 million a week more for the NHS, or was it concern about immigration that swung the vote? Is this a battle of young versus old, or North versus South?

The truth is we haven’t even begun to understand what motivated so many people to vote as they did, and unless we make that effort then we are destined to misuse the unique historic opportunity we’ve been given.

Whatever side we supported, it is essential to understand – as Theresa May has done – that Brexit means Brexit. Parliament has to deliver on its promise to the British people or we will face a constitutional crisis of the highest order.

But while it is tempting to start thinking about our strategy, and who will be leading it, the first response ought to be to pause and ask: why has this happened?

If it was anything, the vote to Leave was surely a silent, determined cry from a group of people who have felt ignored for too long.

Our belief is that too many people feel excluded from the world that is emerging. The globalised economy has failed to bring them economic benefits while fracturing the bonds that keep their families and communities together.

But even this is conjecture – we need to seek the truth before we can act. To this end, our two think tanks, the Legatum Institute and the Centre for Social Justice, are joining forces in the “48:52 Project – Healing a Divided Britain”.

The project aims to build an understanding about why people voted the way they did in the referendum, drawing on the CSJ’s unique poverty fighting alliance and the analytical power of the Legatum Prosperity Index.

We want to allow the voices of the disenfranchised to speak, without the filter of imposed ideology. The “48:52 Project” seeks to provide a robust analysis of voting behaviour within an economic, political and cultural context. This will provide a road map for Theresa May to meet the needs and quell the fears of many Britons.

As institutions we believe in helping people move out of poverty and into prosperity, and the first step in that journey is understanding where we as a society have been failing. We believe that each person is of equal value and has a unique contribution to make.

In this time of great change, we need to recognise the collective worth of all our fellow citizens if we want to build a united and prosperous society that is founded on wealth generation for all, social wellbeing, good government and civic virtue.

The ’48:52 Project’ will be a joint project run by both think tanks. For more details about the project contact amelia.abplanalp@centreforsocialjustice.org.uk

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