The Self Inflicted Wound – Brexit and the Idea of England
A lot has been made recently of the negativity of the Remain campaign, that it cannot find it within itself to make a positive case for the European Union, that, like the No campaign in the Indyref, it seems trapped in a rhetoric of threat, that it is nothing but Project Fear 2. The “Remain” campaign feels like a repeat performance to us in Scotland, and it is becoming clearer by the day that Oor Wee Referendum was regarded principally by David Cameron as “A Rehearsal for the One that Matters.” I would argue that what looks like a repeat is in fact a continuity – and a continuity undermined by the very project in whose name both campaigns are undertaken. I would argue that the valueless negativity and desperate scrabbling for a “positive message” that characterized “Better Together” and now defines an increasingly desperate and confused campaign to stay in the European Community have their roots in the same paradox.
The dominant rhetoric of the last thirty years is that “the state” is inherently corrupt – that truth as well as virtue resides wholly in the workings of the market. Communitarian values are the self-serving lies of state employees. Welfare corrupts its recipients, “Workers rights are a fiction cynically put about by Trade Unionists to feather their own nests. There are no values that cannot be measured in money ; indeed, to attempt to do so is another Guardian reader hypocrisy as the system of robbery known as taxation continues to batten on the long-suffering “hard working people” we hear so much about.
And if the UK “state” (other than the Queen and her Glorious Armed Forces) is a nexus of this evil, what can you say about the EU? Its parasitic and unaccountable bureaucracy getting its sticky foreign fingers into every decent British pie, its nasty cosmopolitan pretensions to suspiciously garlic flavoured “human rights”, its obsessive regulation of decently curvy British bananas and our manly disregard for “health and safety”. Let alone the protections the language police offer to those people who lacked the better judgement to be born the with right skin colour, gender and “sexual orientation” whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean! Oh it’s enough to make ones Boudicean Blood Boil!
And now, after forty years of moaning about it along with the rest of us, David Cameron and the rest of them are trying to tell us after a couple of nights of negotiation in some Palace somewhere that it’s okay now and that they’ve fixed it? Who the hell do they think they’re talking to?
The deeper truth is that the “Establishment” have inflicted this on themselves with their years of Libertarian Anti-Communitarian chit-chat and assumptions. When it comes to defending the Collective Values of either the EU or the UK, their words sound hollow, unconvincing. Just as it never seems to have occurred to these clowns that in their systematic and self-interested undermining of the welfare state and the collective provision that they DON’T care about, that they might ALSO be undermining the collective institutions (like the EU Free trade Area and UK plc) that they DO care about.
The collateral damage has already included the Labour Party, who did once represent, in their always flawed way, the best hope of civilisation on these islands. But the Tory Party itself, like everything else in this sceptred Isle, is beginning to look fractured and fragile.
And the human values of inclusion, of immigrants as well as Provincials, that have been so deeply damaged by the nihilistic looting that has characterized our history since the “bad old days” of the 1970s, do seem to be threatened by the tidal wave of resentment and racial hatred that is boiling beneath the line in the comments sections of the Daily Mail.
While the idea of England, its richness and decency so long subsumed and distorted beneath the Imperial and post -Imperial Fictions of Britain, might just send the lid off the kettle…and that is going to be good for no one on these islands that we call home.
In more senses than simply calling these two referenda in the first place, David Cameron, the vapid PR man , has delivered unto the Britain he professes to love, a possibly terminal self inflicted wound.