David Beckham, activist rebel boy

What happened when the ex-Manchester United striker joined the anti-Glazer campaign.

Who are the first people you think of as activists? Malcolm X? Emmeline Pankhurst? Swampy? David Beckham?

Hang on. David Beckham. It doesn't feel quite right, does it? But Becks, green-and-gold scarf flung over the tattoo on his neck, has overnight become an activist whether he likes it or not.

Of all the movements -- civil rights, the right to vote, the environment -- the anti-Glazer-ownership-of-Manchester-United movement perhaps has the least civic relevance -- except, of course, for Man U fans or those concerned with the ownership of football clubs. But a movement it remains! And Becks is now its face, its sideburned poster boy.

In some ways it's like he's become a UN ambassador, Jolie-style, if you imagine that the Manchester United Supporters' Trust is a multilateral organisation responsible in some part for global security, development and well-being.

In other ways it's like he spotted a scarf and thought: "Photo opportunity!" on the back of a squashing defeat. Either way, Becks has clearly embraced the political significance thrust upon him:

I am a Manchester United fan and I support the club. I always will. I saw the scarf there and just put it round my neck. It's the old colours. That's all I know. It's nothing to do with me how it's run. That's to do with other people. I support the team.

Now that's the stirring language of a rabble-rouser, surely. This man knows how to stir a crowd, spearhead a charge, start a revolution. Watch out, world, Becks the activist is on the loose.

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Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Have voters turned against globalisation? It depends how you describe it

Brits are more positive about diversity than Sweden. 

New research shows that citizens across Europe are pessimistic about the future, distrustful of government and other political institutions, ambivalent at best about multiculturalism, and increasingly sceptical about the role of the European Union.

We wanted to understand the extent to which Europe’s citizens favour a "closed" rather than an "open" outlook and perspective on politics, economics and society. Making globalisation work for ordinary people in the developed world is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. Globalisation’s popularity and political viability is both a pre-condition and a consequence of making it work, but mainstream politicians seem to be failing to persuade us to embrace it, to the detriment of democratic institutions and norms, as well as their own careers.

The decision of the British people to leave the European Union has been perceived as yet another step back from globalisation and a rejection of an "open" outlook that favours international co-operation in favour of a more closed, inward-looking national debate.

There’s certainly a strong element of truth in this explanation. The referendum campaign was deeply divisive, with the Leave campaign playing heavily on concerns over immigration, refugees and EU enlargement. As a consequence, the "liberal" Leavers – those who wanted to leave but favoured a continuing a close economic relationship with the EU along with free movement of labour – appear to have been side-lined within the Conservative party.

Our results are by no means uplifting, but it’s not all doom and gloom. While there’s no doubt that opposition to certain features and consequences of globalisation played an important role in driving the Leave vote, Brits as a whole are just as open, outward-looking and liberal-minded, if not more so, than many of our European neighbours.

First, we asked respondents in all six countries the following:

“Over recent decades the world has become more interconnected. There is greater free trade between countries and easier communication across the globe. Money, people, cultures, jobs and industries all move more easily between countries

“Generally speaking, do you think this has had a positive or negative effect?”

Respondents were asked to consider the effects at four levels: Europe as a whole, their country, their local area, and their own life.

Overall, British voters are overwhelmingly positive about globalisation when described in this way - 58 per cent think it has benefited Europe and 59 per cent think it has benefited Britain. More than half (52 per cent) think it has benefited their local area, and 55 per cent think it has benefited their own life.

One might respond that this question skates over questions of immigration and multiculturalism somewhat, which are the most controversial features of globalisation in the UK. Therefore, we asked whether respondents thought that society becoming more ethnically and religiously diverse had changed it for the better or for the worse.

Overall, 41 per cent said that ethnic and religious diversity had changed British society for the better, while 32 per cent said it had changed for the worse. That’s a net response of +9, compared to -25 in France, -13 in Germany, and -17 in Poland. Brits are even more positive about ethnic and religious diversity than Sweden (+7) – only Spanish respondents were more positive (+27).

There’s a long way to go before ordinary people across the developed world embrace globalisation and international cooperation. Despite the apparent setback of Brexit, the UK is well-placed politically to take full advantage of the opportunities our increasingly inter-connected world will present us with. It would be a mistake to assume, in the wake of the referendum, that the British public want to turn inwards, to close themselves off from the rest of the world. We’re an open, tolerant and outward-looking society, and we should make the most of it.

Charlie Cadywould is a Researcher in the Citizenship Programme at the cross-party think tank Demos. His writing has been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as the national media.