First things first: ‘Brexit’ is NOT an ‘anti-establishment; victory. It’s nothing of the sort.
But here we are, a week on from a paradigm-shattering vote on Britain’s membership of the EU, and politics in the UK has descended into a malfunctioning mixture of Wacky Races, Blackadder and Game of Thrones; leaving the English no longer able to look down their noses at the odd spectacle of the American presidential race.
A week since the EU Referendum ended in a winning vote for Brexit, the country is in a state of political confusion and social anxiety, and the future is a blur of uncertainty. The Prime Minister has said he is resigning – but not just yet. The Conservative Party is divided and no one is sure who the Prime Minister is going to be.
At this same time, the main opposition party is in chaos, with a massive coup attempt taking place against Jeremy Corbyn. We are not sure who the leader of the opposition is going to be in the coming weeks or months either.
Mainstream news broadcasters appear not to be sure whether we even have a working government at the moment.
If this week has been a shambles, the weeks and months leading into the Referendum were also a shambles. Referendum night/day itself was a shambles. Nigel Farage all but conceded defeat early on the night of June 23rd – within hours his campaign was winning.
Every poll and pundit had predicted a win for the Remain campaign. Come the morning and victory for Leave, that campaign’s chief spokesperson Boris Johnson appeared shaken and lost.
That’s because Boris Johnson wasn’t planning to win. He and David Cameron had probably agreed that if there was to be a Referendum debate, someone from the party in government was going to have to lead the Brexit side – but that Remain was going to win anyway. I am convinced that Boris Johnson was even more confused than Cameron was as to why and how the Leave vote had won.
The fact that, for two or three days after the result, Boris was AWOL is suspicious. This should’ve been his moment to give celebratory speeches and TV interviews – instead he hid.
Probably because he knew he didn’t have anything resembling a plan – because winning might not have been his plan in the first place.
In his absence, Nigel Farage was instead paraded all over TV, making over-the-top and sometimes offensive speeches which did absolutely nothing to soften the great unease and division that had emerged sharply in British society.
But this was probably fitting, as Farage has been the true face of Brexit. Boris didn’t join the panto until very late – and I’m fairly sure his heart wasn’t in it; but that he and his long-time Etonian chum David Cameron had simply come to a little gentlemen’s agreement that in a Referendum to appease the right-wingers HE would throw in with the Brexit campaign. The main reason would’ve been to give Boris a big PR boost for his eventual accession to leadership of the party once Cameron stepped aside some time in the future.
The problem was that the Remain campaign was so mistrusted by so many people, with anti-Establishment feeling so high that a popular, charismatic figure like Boris jumping into the Leave campaign might’ve been the thing to just about tip Leave ahead of Remain in the final reckoning.
If so, it was all a game that backfired badly.
The Brexit ‘campaigners’ within Westminster of course had no plan in place for a Brexit – because they weren’t supposed to win.
One of the side-effects of that is that, in the immediate aftermath of the vote, the tension, uncertainty and anxiety kicked in very quickly… and hasn’t abated in the week since.
At precisely the time where unsettled people need reassuring statements from reassuring, familiar figures – like Boris, like Cameron, like the Labour Party – they have instead found their politicians either AWOL or resorting to unprecedented levels of in-fighting and backstabbing.
In their absence, Nigel Farage has stolen the limelight, basking in victory, making triumphant speeches and heading over to Brussels to antagonize the European Parliament, while some of the Far Right groups who’ve been most zealously campaigning for Brexit are declaring victory for themselves; emboldening racists and xenophobes to steal the Brexit narrative from those Leave voters who otherwise had the best of intentions.
I’m not one of those people who says (wrongly) that Brexit is all about the Far Right – it isn’t. At the same time, however, there’s no missing that the dregs and the scum entirely see this as their great moment: their monumental victory.
“This is VICTORY DAY, brothers,” wrote Andrew Anglin, the editor of the Far Right, pro-Trump, anti-Semitic website, Daily Stormer, on Friday. “Nothing can stop us now. But the fact is, brothers: nothing ever could stop us. God and nature are on our side. The stars themselves declare our ULTIMATE VICTORY over the (((forces of darkness and evil))).”
“The vote by Brits to exit the European Union is encouraging for White separatists,” the ‘National Action’ Chairman Will Williams wrote on Friday morning. “‘Brexit’ was driven by nationalism and rejection of non-White refugees flooding into Great Britain.’ He goes on to talk about “responsible whites” wanting to live only among their own kind (source).
The links between UKIP – the party most involved in trying to get the UK out of Europe – are fairly easy to establish. UKIP had previously done a deal with a Far Right white supremacist and Holocaust-denier, Korwin Mikke; a Polish MEP for a Far Right party who, among other things, said the minimum wage should be destroyed and that the vote should be taken away from women.
Major Far Right campaigners for the Brexit vote include Britain First, the English Defense League, and the BNP, as well as general Far Right figures like Nick Griffin and Tommy Robinson. Internationally, Far Right politicians like Marine Le Pen in France, as well as others in Holland and elsewhere, along with US political names like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin.
The likes of Boris and Michael Gove have done their best to distance themselves from the less savory elements of the Brexit campaign, as well as from Farage and UKIP; and it isn’t their fault that unsavory forces have happened to support the same outcome as them, albeit for very different reasons (nor is it the fault of millions of ordinary Leave voters that racists and fascists have had a field day with both the campaign and the outcome) – but the problem is that it’s not their story anymore.
They didn’t HAVE a story beyond the campaign itself – there appears to have been no morning-after plan whatsoever: just blank, confused faces for a few days, followed promptly by a free-for-all power grab involving different camps of ambitious politicians.
So where are we now?
We are being told that the Labour Party is in an ‘existential crisis’ that could jeapordise its very existence. There is talk now of the party actually, literally *splitting* into two different parties. In effect, the opposition is destroying itself, allowing the Conservatives to cement power in Westminster – free of any effective Labour opposition, already free of any Liberal Democrat opposition (who were destroyed comprehensively last year) and probably free now too of the EU.
And yet even in the Conservative Party, the Game of Thrones is unfolding.
Meanwhile, it took absolutely no time at all for false promises and misleading claims from the Brexit camp to be exposed.
The funniest part now is the possibility that neither Leave nor Remain voters are going to get what they wanted.
But whether it’s in Britain’s best interests or not to leave the EU – and I entirely accept that it might well be – what is clearly misguided is the misconception that this has been an ‘anti-establishment’ campaign and anti-establishment victory.
I had been suspicious of the whole Brexit-as-anti-establishment-victory narrative all along, since long before the actual vote. For one thing, it was always suspicious that all of the major political and media figures backing Brexit were card-carrying members of the Rich Boys Club – essentially, elites. People and alliances with vested interests and agendas.
One of the biggest – if not the biggest pro-Brexit propagandists has been The Sun newspaper and the Murdoch empire in general. Since when is Rupert Murdoch, The Sun or Fox News ‘anti-establishment’?
Since when is The Daily Mail or Daily Express, for that matter, anti-establishment?
My scepticism was confirmed just a day or two before the vote when The Sun ran the front-page about the Queen ‘backing Brexit’.
It was nonsense, and anyone with two working brain cells would’ve known that was nonsense – but it might’ve been enough, at the last minute, to convince one or two particularly gullible people into voting a certain way.
Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire is generally credited with ‘picking’ which party or leader wins elections in Britain. One of my most abiding memories of any General Election was when Murdoch simply decided, halfway through an election campaign, to switch his media empire’s support from Gordon Brown and Labour to David Cameron and the Tories – a move that many have credited with having determined the course of the 2010 election and helped put the Conservatives into government (just as he was heavily credited with having helped Tony Blair win his elections).
With his various media outlets consumed by millions of people, Murdoch has sometimes been dubbed the King-Maker.
But Murdoch’s highly influential outlets have generally been viciously anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, and highly, permanently Euro-phobic for the longest time. Murdoch is essentially anti-European and permanently slanted in favour of Anglo-American interests.
In his book How Britain Will Leave Europe, former Minister for Europe Denis MacShane describes how former Prime Minister Tony Blair considered holding a referendum on adopting the euro, only to renounce the plan for fear that the “shadowy figure of Rupert Murdoch” would use his media empire to campaign against it. ‘Few men have done more to fuel anti-European frenzy than the Australian-American media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, owner of several newspapers and the UK’s most important private television news channel‘, he writes.
An old article in Politico, fittingly titled ’12 Reasons Why Cameron Will Lose on Brexit’, also cites Murdoch as one of the chief reasons, noting that ‘Britain is unique in allowing its major newspapers to be owned by men who pay no tax in Britain and who dislike the EU. That’s their right, but as a result, the news coverage of Europe over 25 years has been skewed to crude misreporting and propaganda.’
The difficulty for me with Brexit all along was that it was being championed by either right-wing millionaires with personal stakes or by outright racists and xenophobes at the lower level – the latter in fact being utilised and weaponised by the former in order to spread the word and help accomplish the goal.
All of which has nothing to do with some of the legitimate and important reasons lots of people have for voting Leave (of which there are two or three particularly good ones) – but I am illustrating why calling it ‘anti-establishment’ is a nonsense.
The whole notion of ‘voting anti-establishment’ was misguided to start with.
If you were voting against the EU on an ‘anti-establishment’ basis, you were simply rejecting one realm of establishment politics in favor of another – as in fuck Brussels, yay for Westminster. ‘People’s Revolutions’ are not supported by people like Boris Johnson (who I have nothing against, by the way) or Michael Gove. And the British establishment, along with its Deep State, are no less elitist or corrupt than the people in Brussels – and may even be more so.
It wasn’t Brussels that destabilised the Middle East or invaded Iraq, cut people’s welfare, or turned their backs on the disabled.
Martin Lewis touches on that point here, asking why a so-called ‘anti establishment’ vote would object to European elitism by placing their fates more firmly in the hands of British elitism. ‘So often, arguments are made by Brexiteers about how undemocratic the EU is. Some of the points are valid. But one will rarely hear someone who castigates the EU’s lack of democracy discuss the UK’s own democratic deficit’, he writes. ‘And one of the core arguments heard time and time again is that ‘the European Commission is unelected’. Let’s put it straight. The Commission – the EU’s civil service – is appointed by elected governments to implement the wishes of 28 democracies who have voluntarily come together...’
As he points out also, ‘all this misses the point that one of our own Houses is totally unelected in the UK – the House of Lords, which like the Commission, can initiate legislation. It desperately needs reform – but few of those condemning the EU as undemocratic condemn the Lords on the same grounds…‘
None of which lets the EU off the hook for its own problems, nor the fact that technocrats are probably pushing for the creation of a super-state – with or without the consent of its member states. Professor Werner, Director of the Centre for Banking, Finance and Sustainable Development at the University of Southampton, offers a mostly solid, coherent basis here for Brexit.
The EU of course is deeply flawed, has a widely acknowledged ‘democratic deficit’, and is fatally imbalanced – but the same is true of our own system. And it could be regarded as a macrocosm of everything that’s wrong with (and sometimes right with) our own national systems of government, elitism or mismanagement.
Both sides of the EU debates lied, exaggerated, tried to scare voters.
What people needed was a Spock like point-by-point explanation of the pros and cons; what we got instead was scare stories from one side and deceptions from the other and the general public being talked down to like silly children.
But one suspects that, as far as Cameron was concerned, this was simply a way to resolve the longstanding split in the Conservative Party – appeasing the right-wing by giving them the Referendum they wanted and resolving the Europe issue. Again, it wasn’t supposed to be lost – Boris Johnson was only a pantomime character thrown into the mix to play the whole thing out.
Did politicians simply play games with the fate of the country, too cocky to think things might go wrong?
The referendum has simply substituted one disillusioned half of society – depending on how happy Leave voters in general are in the next few years, dependent on how this Brexit goes – for a different half of society who are now disillusioned with the idea of Brexit altogether.
So where does all of this leave us now? It’s difficult to know.
Meanwhile, if the political situation appears this disorganized and chaotic on the surface, we should probably wonder if something much more coherent and controlled is going on behind the scenes. Though, at present, we don’t know what that is, I have some suspicions about it – which at present I’ll keep to myself.
But don’t be fooled into thinking this whole thing is any kind of ‘anti-establishment’ victory or ‘people power’ moment: because it’s probably the exact opposite of that. And Brexit is no doubt servicing the interests of millionaires and the old elites.
In the meantime, enjoy the Wacky Races.