The political temperature is high, and not only in this country. Our newspapers have returned to their original ways, as practiced during their heyday of the 1930s, yelling ‘Hurrah For The Blackshirts!’, or the contemporary equivalent, and urging contempt for the rule of law. Brexiters threaten a march of 100,000 people to intimidate the judiciary. The Leader of the Opposition is mocked for attending Remembrance Sunday solemnities, while at the same moment the ‘patriotic’ leader of UKIP poses for pictures in a golden elevator on the other side of the pond. And meanwhile a man is on trial for a political assassination.
It’s politics, Jim, but not as we know it.
Some of this heat is justified. A President Trump is a genuinely frightening prospect. Brexit is so foolish that only a political class that is terrified of the voters would even consider it. As for Italy’s upcoming referendum, and the French presidential elections next year…. These are genuinely unprecedented times, at least since the middle of the last century.
But there is a cooler way of looking at Britain, at least. 37% voters voted to leave the EU, constituting 52% of those turning out. Since the vote, a series of opinion polls has tended to suggest that support for Brexit has been flaking away.
You’d be forgiven for not seeing those numbers for what they are. Social media, phone-ins, below-the-line comments are dominated by foam-mouthed Brexit bigots, racists, xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists, and fruitcakes. Surely when the Daily Mail declares judges to be ‘Enemies of the People’, there will be millions baying their agreement, and primed to act?
But I’m not convinced that there’s as much behind the noise as the New Moseleyites would like us to fear. And maybe they’ve made their first big miscalculation?
The march on the Supreme Court could be the moment they begin to get called out.
Great claims have been made for this march. They aren’t pretending that it will match the two million who tried, and failed, to stop the invasion of Iraq, but I suspect that that’s about playing a political game. Claim 100,000 will march, and then a quarter of a million is a massive triumph.
But can they even muster 100,000? Arron Banks, or some other off-shore fat cat, can pay for free coaches to bus in demonstrators (as they do in Iran), and treat them to free beer in London (as they don’t do in Iran), but coach hire for 100,000 doesn’t come cheap, and I’m not convinced they can find the bodies, not unless they hire some extras – Romanians, perhaps? – to bump up the numbers. We shall see.
They’ll certainly get lashings of publicity. The Brexit yellow press will big it up, and the craven BBC will send along the cameras as they no longer to to most other demonstrations and marches these days. They’ve been good at using smoke and mirrors to create an illusion which may be less grounded in reality than they’ve led too many of us to believe.
But we’ll be watching. As the evidence accumulates that June 23rd was the moment of madness, not a turning point in history, we need to shine a spotlight on the weakness of the Brexit mob.
For Brexit is a movement without a goal. A project without a clear purpose. It has an outcome – leaving the EU – which is undeliverable without causing maximum damage to the economy. It is also a kind of social vandalism. There are people who genuinely are disrupters, and say “bring on the wreckage”. Everything ‘creates value’ – for some. No accident that that’s a phrase from the financiers’ lexicon.
When we begin to expose the shallowness (of numbers, of willingness to go to the barricades) of Brexit, then we can begin to convince the cowardly political class that it is time for leadership, or at least a little rational thinking about the national interest.
Farage, like Fox News, thinks he’s Leader of the Opposition, and on track to be crowned King. Our media feed his narcissistic delusions. But this emperor rules a dungheap, and must be called out.
Boris, the clown prince, is a diminished figure these days. It’s nice to travel the world trashing foreigners and making stuff up for £250,000+ a year as a journalist. It’s harder to enjoy it when you have to be sneered at, ignored, or rebuffed by those foreigners – and do it on a Cabinet minister’s miserly pay.
And May, the woman who would be Prime Minister even if it kills her country, retains enough survival instinct, surely, to change with the tide (again), if Brexit starts to look more dangerous and unpopular than calling a halt to Brexit.