2007 - 2020

Brexit, Lies and Videotape

26809-xciudjToday is another momentous day, with a discredited David Cameron facing his European colleagues for the first time since the debacle unfolded, and Nicola Sturgeon attempting to rally and unify the Scottish Parliament in her efforts to negotiate with Europe.

Government sources tell us  that the PM would “use the potentially awkward meeting to urge the other 27 leaders and EU institutions to take a “constructive” approach to negotiations over a new relationship with the UK”. That will be fun.

The crisis is making some strange bedfellows. Today I am in the unique position of agreeing with Alex Massie and Alastair Campbell. On the Brexiteers fantasy schedule and process Campbell wrote: “What an irony that today UK is dependent on EU leaders being fair and reasonable when we have been anything but. Thank Heavens for Merkel.” Whilst Massie notes: “Above all, it is hard to gainsay Nicola Sturgeon’s suggestion that Scotland is being forced to do something she does not want to do and that this something is a large and important thing with any number of consequences. No wonder many people are thinking about alternatives. We would, of course, make mistakes and face many hard times as a newly-independent nation but they would be our hard times and our mistakes, made by we ourselves. That, right now, is worth something too.”

But the crisis is also forcing schisms too.

Two people I’ve got a lot of time for and who’s writing I admire are at each others throats. Vonny Moyes tweeted that “People who Voted Leave were assholes” and Darren McGarvey (Loki) responded saying this was classist and accusing Vonny of being a ‘millennial snob’.

Vonny’s anger is real and legitimate, and so is Loki’s.

But Loki taking sides with “the real people, the decent people” is deeply ironic and it’s pretty clear to me who has really ‘taken back control’. As Marina Hyde writes: ‘Nothing indicates quite what a bloody nose the referendum was for the establishment like discovering that Boris Johnson spent Sunday playing cricket with Earl Spencer and writing his £250,000 a year column for the Daily Telegraph.’

And in terms of ‘defending communities’ we have a reported 57%  rise in ‘hate crimes’ since the EU referendum result, in particular, police have been investigating attacks on Poles and Muslims. Vonny may have been patronising but in Britain today racism has been legitimised. As Jakub Krupa wrote back in April this year (‘Despised, but voiceless’): “Front pages of most newspapers are constantly alerting readers to the continuous threat of another “swarm” of migrants “flooding” this country causing “overwhelming pressure” on “our” public services and jobs. Claiming undeserved benefits, defrauding public money, bringing crime, eating swans – you know, the things them migrants do. The nation’s only hope is that, to quote a xenophobic politician across the pond, “some I assume are good people”.

Front pages of most newspapers are constantly alerting readers to the continuous threat of another “swarm” of migrants “flooding” this country causing “overwhelming pressure” on “our” public services and jobs. Claiming undeserved benefits, defrauding public money, bringing crime, eating swans – you know, the things them migrants do.

If there are communities needing defending, and there are, they will have common cause against the right-wing government Boris Johnson is about to lead and against the reactionary forces Brexit has unleashed. His polices will affect the poorest, the most marginalised and women in our society more than most. Vonny and Loki should be on the same side.

Trust and Disrespect

There’s been a great deal written about how the disaffected masses ignored the ‘experts’ advice on economics and how this is a terrible tragedy. I think it’s a good thing, an essential thing, a critical thinking citizenry should be independent-minded. Here there are parallels between the indyref and the Brexit vote.

A lack of faith in ‘experts’ is a great thing and a visceral disrespect for authority is an essential element of a functioning society.

As Fintan O’Toole writes: “…distrust extends far beyond the dominant political class – to church and trade union and business leaders and to the whole idea of objective expertise. Every time a Remain campaigner said the word “experts”, another Leave voter was born. And this raises a huge question: where is the source of authority in the brave new England? Many of the most prominent Leave campaigners are naked chancers. They made stuff up with gay abandon, but when they come to power in the autumn, they will be the establishment they have told everybody not to believe.”

But also, and this is crucial as we see a reactionary racist action kick-in: “The English nationalists have just lost their favourite scapegoat, the EU. When their dream turns sour, where will they find another?” According to this account that’s already happened (‘Post EU Referendum Racism Documented Online And It’s Really Scary’). and we see the same in Glasgow ‘Spanish Civil War memorial defaced with fascist slogan’.

Many of the most prominent Leave campaigners are naked chancers. They made stuff up with gay abandon, but when they come to power in the autumn, they will be the establishment they have told everybody not to believe

The truth is no-one’s working as a homogenous bloc here. Leave voters were made up of people with little to lose making a conscious choice, people who were conned, people who gave leave to their already racist sentiments, people who had inhaled thirty years of tabloid hate, and people who just didn’t have a clue what was going on.

The same could be said of Remain, people acting on rational choice, people with a shallow understanding of European institutions acting in blind faith, people acting out of fear and people just trying to resist the debacle we see today.

We should be able to both call out racism for what its is AND step back from smearing an entire section of society. It is possible and necessary to do both.

As Michael Skey writes (‘Stop sneering at Leave voters. They knew exactly what they were doing.’):

“First, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth and then, the reproaches and the recriminations. It was an act of self-sabotage, a feat of blinding ignorance, a classic case of those unwashed masses not quite knowing what’s good for them. Unfortunately, it’s also a load of nonsense. By and large those who voted leave knew exactly what they were doing. Participants in an unfair fight, this was the chance to finally land a punch that actually drew blood. Disdained by a political circus that barely even bothered to acknowledge the crowd anymore, this was a chance to (really) send in the clowns. Ignore us for long enough, they said, and we’re going to do exactly the same to you, and damn the consequences, because in places like Sunderland we already feel pretty much damned.”

We should be able to both call out racism for what its is AND step back from smearing an entire section of society. It is possible and necessary to do both.

As the lies are covered up and the websites deleted, Leave’s toxic legacy is spreading. It is hard to fathom how Loki thinks this is a good thing for his ‘community’.

None of this is surprising. The key figures behind Leave, the Press Barons, the aspiring politicians, the players, don’t have our interests at heart. This is naked opportunism, pure self-interest. This revealing interview by Eddie Mair from 2013 shows a rare opportunity for the incoming PM to be actually challenged on air. He doesn’t like it one bit:

Now, in the circumstances where Hedge Fund managers – human carrion creatures – are circling hoping to profit from the crashing pound, how does this tally with a class analysis of the Brexit vote? The pound we’re told has fallen to its lowest level since 1985, touching $1.3118 on Monday, and has fallen 14 per cent since the polls closed on Thursday evening. This is the largest two-day decline in sterling during the post-Bretton Woods era that began in 1971. Who will benefit from that chaos?

People have been systematically lied to and addressing those lies and the conditions in which they are allowed to thrive is essential. As the reality of this crisis is laid before us and the economic consequences made clear it’s becoming apparent who will suffer and who will benefit. In these circumstances it’s not helpful to label people ‘assholes’ but to campaign to find solidarity across communities. As Paul Mason writes:

“What happens when the investment banks move to Frankfurt, the carmakers to Hungary, the offshore finance wizards to Dublin, the tech companies to newly independent Scotland? What happens when, instead of Poles, it is poor white English people herded into the polytunnels of Kent to pick strawberries for union-busting gang masters? You cannot project the story of the past three days into the next three years, but the pattern is chilling: cancelled orders, cancelled contracts, the potential exclusion of UK universities from multibillion European health and science projects.”

Comments (9)

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  1. David Fee says:

    “By and large those who voted leave knew exactly what they were doing. Participants in an unfair fight, this was the chance to finally land a punch that actually drew blood. Disdained by a political circus that barely even bothered to acknowledge the crowd anymore, this was a chance to (really) send in the clowns. Ignore us for long enough, they said, and we’re going to do exactly the same to you”

    I thought this quote hit a particular nail hard on the head. Democracy is deader in England than it is up here. The distance between voter and representative that much greater. Therefore the leave vote.

    But the demonising of an electorate that feels unrepresented already is just another step on the way to anarchy and/or fascism. The roots of this cancer (and it’s causes) go much further back. Which is why the PLP treatment of Corbyn as they make him their scapegoat for everything is so callous, self serving and, in fact, despicable. As an English emigre to to Scotland I weep for what is happening there. And I do mean “there” because it should becoming clearer to even the most blinkered unionist that, even without Scottish independence, we live in different countries.

    Thank goodness that Scotland does have other possibilities. I doubt that we, or our representatives, will make the perfect choices, but we should definitely act. I think Nicola Sturgeon is making the right moves mostly. You can only deal with the cards your dealt. Time will tell, but change is certain.

  2. Crubag says:

    Scotland and England are too closely entwined for a quick dissolution. BREXIT has come at a time when the SNP haven’t yet begun to think about how to put together an improved proposition for a second run.

    Wider YES has ideas, but no consensus.

    So I think there will be a longer wait to see what the post-Union settlement looks like, which could take several years. For pro-EU voters, there is the risk that this becomes the new normal and people will not dissolve the UK simply to apply to join the EU.

    The treatment of Ireland/UK relations by the EU will be fundamental to this, and show whether an independent Scotland in the EU, but with England and Wales out, is feasible. That’s assuming there is still something like the EU to join, by that point.

  3. John Page says:

    These are terrible times. I keep thinking about the role played by Desmond, the Barclays, Rothermere and Murdoch……….everyone of good will must do everything they can to persuade their fellow residents of Scotland to diminish the influence of these people and their papers.
    Thank you, Bella for your hard work in this sphere. An increase in my monthly sub from next month is in order
    Best wishes
    John Page

  4. Broadbield says:

    An interesting article covering many issues.

    Amazing how so many people seem to know how other people think, what motivates them, what impulses drive them to behave in certain ways, why they put a cross in a particular box – they were all giving the Establishment a bloody nose apparently. Well, Ms Hyde is one of these “experts” we should distrust and an authoritative voice we should disrespect. Bella aspires to be an “authoritative voice” I suspect so should we be disrespective here too?

    While I wholeheartedly agree that “a critical thinking citizenry should be independent-minded” we should not default to consigning “experts” to the dustbin. We need to exercise that critical thinking, what evidence are they providing, what is the force of their argument? If we simply dismiss the “expert”, the “voice of authority”, the critique then we are only left with our own prejudices.

    On the other hand, the rationale for the outcome is years of lies, scapegoating, mythologising UK exceptionalism, lack of imaginative political leadership which instead of challenging the toxic stereotypes accepted them and a lack of a concrete plan for a Brexit.

    Perhaps now is time to move on to building a Yes momentum.

  5. tartanfever says:

    Mike, timely post considering the video now doing the rounds of the Manchester tram incident.

    But also about strange bedfellows and Paul Mason.

    BBC Daily Politics had an intriguing section which saw Mason and Tory MP and former Environment Secretary (and climate change denier) Owen Patterson sit opposite each other in full agreement. I never thought I would see the day.

    They were agreeing on the point that by joining the EEA (European Economic Area) that the UK could indeed have all the benefits of trade agreements with the EU without the need to take on the ‘free movement of people’ part. They were citing Lichtenstein as a good example of the ‘special status’ that could be given to the UK.

    Most striking was the real anxiety being displayed by Paul, he genuinely looks very worried. He thinks we need a cross party agreement from Westminster happening right now to say that the way forward is such an agreement under EEA membership. Time is of the essence. Westminster has to act.

    With this in mind, he is utterly bewildered by what is going on with the Labour party – he didn’t say much about Tory disarray. For him to be agreeing with Patterson, well let’s just say things must be desperate.

    Whether or not Paul’s ideas have any real merit within the halls of power at the EU I don’t know, but many people seem to think that what he’s suggesting is nigh on impossible. However, time is ticking, and the idea that everything can be put on hold by Boris et al by not invoking Article 50 until a time of their choosing will somehow mean that the markets will stop and nothing negative will happen to the UK economy is utterly deluded.

    Paul finished his answer by saying pretty much what you have quoted above but with a starker warning.

    If we don’t have European labourers coming to the UK, then all that does is shrink the economy. Bad trade deals will shrink the economy even further. Therefore as the UK debt keeps rising, we have a smaller economy to deal with it. Global confidence in the UK brand then drops (credit ratings go down, as we are experiencing) then the inevitable cycle of investors pulling out/ the interest rate and inflation fight and the plummeting of our currency/job layoffs etc etc.

    What they have forgotten of course, is that on Friday morning a senior UK civil servant came out and told the BBC that they simply do not have the experienced staff to deal with trade negotiations. He estimates that the UK has around 12-20 serious trade negotiators. The estimation is that we need 100’s of such people.

    So when the question becomes, when the Article 50 button is pushed, who will be representing and advising the UK government on these new trade deals ?

  6. Richard Easson says:

    Misinformation and lies have consequences including racist attacks and violence, including murder.
    The instigators are responsible for the influencing and (if we are talking in terrorist terms) the radicalisation of individuals who may be vulnerable.
    In the early morning when the result was announced on tv I distinctly heard Nigel Farage, expounding on British Democracy say…”at least no shots were fired”. Sadly he was wrong and an MP Joe Cox lies murdered.
    If as I believe the prosecution services are looking at this as a political and terrorist act then those responsible as leaders of groups spreading misinformation and hate should be investigated and should be in no position to carry on in any leadership role.

  7. Colin says:

    Funny but nobody I heard in the EU referendum campaign said anything about giving anyone a bloody nose, it was all ‘take back control’ and ‘out of control immigration’ arguments. I think the bulk of the 52% have genuinely been fed a lot of anti-EU nonsense by the tabloids for so long that this became almost inevitable. Bendy banana, anyone?

  8. florian albert says:

    Fintan O’Toole, who is quoted approvingly in the article above, has written in today’s Irish Times that Europe’s rulers should ‘start hatching a plan to escape the euro’ which has been ‘disastrous’ for most countries.
    The problem with this proposal is that it is as unacceptable to those running Europe as the views of Michael Gove.
    Even a cheerleader for the European project, like Fintan O’Toole, recognizes that – at present – it is a disaster.
    I very much doubt that a majority of Scots will sign up to sail on this particular Titanic.

  9. David Allan says:

    As one of the million Scots who voted leave I am beginning to get annoyed by the hysterical slurs directed at voters who genuinely voted to take this only chance to reject the undemocratic EU project.

    Accept the result and project some positive messages about what the future may hold for Scotland and it’s continuing healthy relationship with our European neighbours.

    Had we voted for Independence in 2014 we would have been out of the EU anyway too many people are forgetting that. England would have been in and us out. That was ok in 2014 why the indignation now?

    It’s easier moving forward with the UK all out. SNP get on with it. More devolved powers, likely future control of fisheries and agriculture a chance to demonstrate competence in government and an opportunity to put together the new positive case for Scottish Independence.

    How much longer are we going to dwell on the varied reasons why English voters dealt the referendum blow. Move on and get involved in the negotiations to unwind 40 years of EU law much of which was not in our longterm interests.

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