The Self Inflicted Wound – Brexit and the Idea of England

s-CAMERON-CHRISTMAS-large640A 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.

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  1. Daisy says:

    Hi,
    Would really appreciate if you could read my most recent blog post –
    https://daisycollinsblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/snp-spring-conference-the-call-of-hope/#more-1208

    Feedback much appreciated 🙂

    1. Astragael says:

      Daisy, you need to retype your blog address accurately if you want anyone to go there!

      1. Astragael says:

        Then again, as there appears to be a problem with character recognition in the comment section of Bella, this may not prove possible.

        1. Daisy says:

          The link seems to be working on my laptop?
          Thanks for letting me know though 🙂

          1. Jamie says:

            Daisy, I do not think the SNP offer hope anymore, maybe once upon a time when they promised independence but now they do not even offer a referendum. In fact as has been said SNP are becoming more and more like New Labour every day. Other than some token tax policies what policies are the SNP actually proposing? They are going to win without actually offering anything, very new labour. Sadly I will probably vote SNP for my 1st vote unless there is someone offering independence immediately or some socialist policies but other than Solidarity and Rise and if the trade unionists are running again them, I have seen nothing inspiring. Scottish politics has become boring unless you live in the strange SNP bubble where apparently they are the best thing since sliced cheese, when to any neutral observer, of the big parties, they are clearly the best of a very very bad bunch.

  2. James Mills says:

    ”… a possibly terminal self-inflicted wound .” Good !

  3. George Gunn says:

    I fear the Tory party is more rebust thn that, Peter. Both the indepence referendum and this currrent EU question have been couched in a way that whatever the result the Tory Party wins, as John Warren has so eloquently pointed out. You are dead right about the robbery which has gone on since the 1980’s. Maybe the Tories have stolen the “i” from Bella!? Torrance, Martin and their kind are beyond contempt as are the journals they write for. I think, and this is faith not empirical anything, that independence is closer than we think. It is proud England, tragically, that is now a one party state. False arguments are constructed to conceal the real debate which should be about the fact that the UK is broke and that a political movement and economic policy which serves the City of London is doomed and that the human fallout from that will be socially nuclear..

  4. Mark Crawford says:

    All they need to do 1s tell people to turn on the TV, watch the even1ng news and they’ll see for themselves what a great success story the EU has become… Okay, maybe not.

  5. bringiton says:

    If Cameron thought that the ScottIsh referendum would see the Independence questIon gone for at least a generatIon he was wrong.
    LIkewIse,If he thInks that a defeat for the Out campaIgn wIll settle the questIon wIthIn the Tory party he Is also wrong.
    Perhaps he only hopes to kIck the can down the road so that these events don’t happen on hIs watch?
    Whatever the outcome,whoever is left In charge of the Tory party is goIng to have a very hard tIme tryIng to keep them together and be able to Implement polIcy through the WestmInster system wIthout support from other partIes.
    Together they ain’t let alone Better.

  6. Crubag says:

    These unions are the product of their times. And like other unions, when times change it can take a little while before their internal contradictions bring about their collapse.

    For the British union, economics, religion and shared culture led to political union. For the SNP (the pound, the BBC, the Queen) some of those reasons are still valid.

    For the European Union, first fear of war and then the idea of closed trading blocs, motivated union. But a union that can accomodate the degradation of Greece, or the current politics of Poland or Hungary, or the integration of Erdogan’s Turkey? It has lost its purpose and only staggers on because people are fearful of change.

    Fear of change is all either union has left to defend its existence.

  7. Peter Day says:

    I am voting to leave, as it may encourage the Scots to leave and stand on their own two feet, it is too much to expect England to have a master across the channel and a begrudging dependent as a neighbour. It is a pity, as I have fond memories of those war films almost always with doughty Scots fighting with us, and my own experiences of Scots in England, Germany, Spain, Holland and Australia.

    1. Jeff says:

      Admit it – you are a cartoon character, arent you?

  8. JohnEdgar says:

    The fissuring of the English Tory party and its increasingly acrimonious slanging matches in public, are without precedent. It will lead to a split and realignment south of the Tweed. As for the Tory “twig” in Scotland, it is a mere silent onlooker. The tectonic plates are shifting over these fundamental constitutional issues in the wider UK. The collapse of the 3 unionist branches in Scotland, especially the collapse of ScotLab. The Tory branch has not recovered after its demise 20 years ago. The SNP is now dominant in Scotland. Cameron, in trying to kill anti-European tendencies in the English Tories, has started a process he cannot pr- manage. He has a divided cabinet, party in the shires and in Westminster. The last time there was a fundamental divide in the Tory party was during the repeal of the Corn Laws. It led to a split. In the words of the French – deja vu!

  9. Campbell says:

    “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.”

    OK, good, are we going to hear a positive case for remaining in the EU instead?

    “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.””

    Really? I hadn’t noticed that at all. It seems to me the issue is more that this referendum involves England, whereas the Scottish Independence referendum was solely about Scotland.

    “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.”

    Agreed, parts of the UK political establishment are determined to maintain their power against distinct threats of English and Scottish nationalism.

    “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.”

    What? Really? “The dominant rhetoric” of what or by whom? The size of the UK state has grown since the 1970s, the control and interference of the state in people’s lives has never been more prevalent than today. The power of the state is used daily in acts of aggression against its own people and people from other countries.

    Some people may say “the state is inherently corrupt” and they may well be correct, but to call that a “dominant rhetoric” is bizarre. The UK state has never been larger nor more powerful than it is today.

    “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.”

    Nice satire, however, libertarian ideas such as these are most certainly not being used to govern our lives today. Incidentally, libertarianism is not necessarily opposed to communitarian values, welfare, workers rights, trade unions etc. Rather, the aggression and violence which one section of society imposes upon the other (such as “the robbery known as taxation”) are the fundamental problems with our society today. Do you think I should be forced to be a good person? Why do you think that your morality is more worthy than mine?

    “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!”

    Not sure what to make of the “dim racist” characterisation of pro-leave voters here. Are supporters of Scottish independence all blood and soil nationalists? Or do some of them believe in greater democracy and freedom for the people that live in Scotland? Perhaps leave campaigners feel the same about greater democracy and freedom for the UK? Are they wrong to do so?

    “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.”

    Chit-chat by some perhaps. Actions by governments – far from it!

    “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.”

    Perhaps they care about democracy and liberty. The Conservative party is totally divided on the EU referendum, this hardly suggests an establishment stitch-up which has backfired. The Tories are the cornerstone of the UK establishment.

    “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.”

    The UK welfare state has never been larger. Government in the UK is growing every year, it is everywhere. Are people only good when they are forced into being good? Imagine a world without a welfare state, would we allow people in need to suffer, to starve, to die?

    I seriously wonder if some hard left wingers believe that without the government, without the all knowing state each one of us would crumble and die tomorrow. Real compassion, real human values, such as inclusion, begin with each and every human being and cannot and should not be forced onto people who may have, quite rightly, different moral standards to yourself.

    “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.”

    Let’s hope not.

    “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.”

  10. Jamie says:

    Personally voting leave I reckon, in the past 10 years I have witnessed rents become sky high and jobs harder to come by and the competition for unskilled jobs just silly. Consecutive governments have done nothing to fix the housing shortage, low wages or job supply and Leave might be the only way to fix it. Remain is a vote for the status co and will accomplish nothing.

    1. Jeff says:

      Jamie – you think a UK out of Europe with Tory governments in charge for the next xx years will ‘fix it’? The main reason the right wingers want out is so that they can cancel out the workers rights that the EU provide – especially the hated Working Time Directive that compels employers to give workers adequate rest breaks. It would be the first thing to go, overnight probably, after a ‘leave’ result. And an emboldened Tory/UKIP right would enshrine in law that no further referenda can be allowed on Scottish independence which would threaten England’s oil in the North Sea. And the final slide to the bottom for UK workers would begin. Zero hour contracts for all, after they had the Human Rights Act abolished from the books, of course. Welcome to the 53rd State of America.

      1. Jamie says:

        Maybe the SNP would go back to their policy of unilateral independence then which would make it all worthwhile. People like me suffer now, the loss of working time directive is a price worth paying if there are gains in other areas such as less competition for jobs. I have nothing to gain by staying and nothing to lose by leaving. There are many people like this in the UK the media just like to ignore them though.

      2. David Allan says:

        So the Working Time Directive is written in stone – After TTIP what are it’s chances of remaining on the statute book ? Take back control get rid of the Tories at Westminster and reject the corporate led right wing elite in EU.

      3. Bob McMahon says:

        Which are the 51st and 52nd States?

  11. C Rober says:

    I have to laff sometimes regarding the EU , its somewhere I travel , live and work in frequently so do often see the reasons for arguments for both leaving and remaining.

    People may forget that a few billions in UK exports go to the EU , and of course the history of the French and their Blockades imparting Uk exports to the continent .

    This alone is a reason to remain , in a privileged position to prevent blockades , and of course manky cheese and Franco German car imports in the same manner as a tit for tat , like back in the auld days. This tit for tat is one of the reasons , if not the main one , why the open trade zone was created.

    I do wonder though how UK union = good , while EU union = bad , but when you consider that the EU benefits Spanish grocery farming and German and French industry over the rest – then you can see why Scotland gets the short end of the wedge twice by being in two unions , thus 4 countries , that control it economically and externally.

    Cameron says he is trying to secure the London banking sector a sweet deal , protection from the EU in order to remain.

    I just dont see him arguing on fairness and open markets , perhaps between the UK , Germany , France and Spain they are all happy carving up the EU carcass – while the other states get the crumbs…. bit like Scotland and its Union I suppose.

    Open and freed trade , is supposedly a cornerstone , like schengen for free trade.

    However anyone that spends much time driving South , East or North while in France for business or freight will tell you this is a lie.

    There is still duty being paid via the toll roads , but ok its not called duty or tax now. So much so that in response to the road hauliers of Germany complaints , to its transport ministry , about the French psudeo taxation , they too are to introduce trade routes and take in the tolls.

    Protecting UK borders argument.

    The TORY lie that is ” OUR un-protected borders” should though be exposed , of all of the Nations in the EU the UK has the best border , its surrounded by the briney stuff. But yet Westminster fails to tell you that they have removed border policing on cost , not on a EU remit.

    Market rules , made for some , bent for some.

    In the EU free trade zone , where any EU company can trade or base in any other part of the EU , we only hear about those that avoid the taxes and only then a surpising few , aka Google et al tax avoidance.

    We dont however hear about the market protection by state.

    Where state owned companies like EDF , or any other companies which the state has a seat on the board , whom are all somehow protected from the free market laws , including forced privatization , which is often highlighted in Brussels but only when done by the smaller states.

    Yet we are told that to operate in the EU the UK had to open up markets and privatize. Below is only a tip of the iceberg , where state owned is still not privatised.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/08/18/foreign-state-owned-railway-british-train-companies-revenue_n_8003970.html

    Shall we see Boris and his Brexit brothers highlight this , I doubt it , the EU have too much control on rail transport. Sure one can argue that it has protected it to a point from the auld days of strikes because of it though.

    The EU big boys , those that set the rules have had 20 years to privitise their rail , but havent , nor has the UK Govt reminded them to do so , instead Westminster have allowed them to have protected income from it… at Uk subsidised tax payer expense.

    Perhaps this is the one thing that can get the Londoner and those of the SE behind Corbyn , in taking back state ownership of the railways as the wealthy commuter belt is expanded further and further to the periphery.

    Personally I would be worried that HS2 is really a ruse and will be short of the Northern powerhouse envisioned , merely a way of getting the serfs into London via lower wages and longer commutes.And with it of course further gentrification of London for the few to create wealth from with property.

    1. Jeff says:

      “The EU big boys , those that set the rules have had 20 years to privatize their rail , but haven’t…”

      That’s because they can all see what a shambles the railways have become in the UK. The railways weren’t privatized in the UK because of EU rules they were privatized because Major chose to interpret the rules that way; in order for the Tories and their crooked friends in big business to have guaranteed profits from the railways in the form of UK taxpayer subsidies.

  12. Peter says:

    When politicians ignore the will of the common people for so long, and favor the more elite (mainly wealthy) members of society that profess to know all, they will at some time incur the wrath of the people. It happened this time with the apparent disregard of protocol, when Frau Merkel, a hitherto admired politician, gave the welcoming light to would-be migrants; not forgetting that the UK, since Blair&Brown’s immigration policy (meant to rub their (Tories) noses in it’), had been doing that for some time, and without a mandate, and just happened to affect mainly England, too. The Calais and subsequent disturbances in Germany, Austria and elsewhere began to finally diminish the innate patience and goodwill of the English people. The only way to fight it seemed was to fight back through a referendum granted by Cameron for political advantage. This they have done and are now chastised for being racists, ignorant and needless of their country’s future and making them poorer! I am neither racist, ignorant or without concern for England. (Scotland seems to have more affinity with France now, as it had in the middle ages onward) I don’t care for them now, a pity as we fought together for independence from various nations that wished to invade) and it would be a sad farewell.

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