Genuine Concerns

labourThe contempt of the Conservatives for the people they govern knows no real limits. To recap we are now expected to submit to the idea that we carry on for four more years with a Prime Minister no-one voted for, with a political programme they are making up as they go along.

Of course we’re used to it. Scotland’s voice is routinely ignored, our democratic mandate is worthless, even if its given with historic clarity. But it will be interesting to see if England cares when it has the same treatment.

Having secured Pariah status it seems Boris and Farage are departing the scene, slithering off into whatever festering circuits will greet them. Nigel, like a louche slender Bernard Manning, Boris like a British Trump with less balls and more Latin.

They were only ever poster-boys for the New Right, the cheery ruddy-cheeked fixation for a bored media set. As UKIP and the Conservatives policy merger reaches completion, who needs Nigel on Question Time every week? Having completely re-framed the political debate around immigration so that it is now a mainstream Prime Ministerial utterance, what else is there to do?

Infantilism of the New Right

Maybe May’s hardline on EU citizens will go down well? Maybe evicting long-settled Spanish and French people will be greeted with glee. God knows how deep the xenophobic fever lies. Maybe the ageing Brits abroad are a powerful lobbying force worth defending for their symbolic selves? Who knows?

As Farage and Johnson’s departure is a shameful abdication of responsibility it is mirrored only by the grasping opportunism of the candidates.

These people are stupid cowards. They want the freedom of movement but only for ‘Brits’ and only one way. They want extreme exceptionalism, for the world to be re-made in a shape fitting their retro pink-mapped fantasy. It’s an infantilism projected (and embraced) across ‘the country’ (sic) like an enormous 1950s selfie.

Its like a pre-Copernican world where the universe still revolves around England/Britain. They get to make up all the rules, set time, choose the venue. ‘Take Back Control’ already has a more chilling proto-fascist tilt to it.

This is a new freakish form of de-colonisation where England/Britain reverts to a pre-1950s imaginary setting, where the Brexiteers pretend the rest of the world still holds them in some esteem and is miraculously willing to do whatever they say.

This. World. No. Longer. Exists.

New Language

Meanwhile, as the remnant Leave.EU group plot Labour’s downfall in the ‘North’, the real possibility of a rout emerges. And, as Chilcot makes it’s much delayed appearance all knives are (rightly) sharpened for Tony Blair. But Chilcot will also be a condemnation for New Labour, of Gordon Brown, for a thousand scribes and bag-carriers, for all those who stood silent, for those who didn’t want to rock the boat, all those in mute complicity.

Its arrival, whatever it says, will be a boost to the Corbyn left.

Since Iraq our language and politics have morphed. The lexicon of politics has been extended in recent years. We now have ’embedded journalists’ ‘regime change’ and ‘muscular liberalism’ (bombing folk). Few talked of ‘Unionism’ before 2007. Brexit was a joke like Brangelina and ‘consciously uncoupling’. Foodbanks, ‘ragheads’ and ‘sweaty socks’ have entered the lingo as the country descends further. The Blair years brought us ‘extraordinary rendition’ water-boarding and plausible deniability plus cute acronyms like WMD IED and ISIS.

As the fallout from Blair’s foreign policy came home new ways reflected new models, ‘drone wars’ and ‘kill-zone’ followed Abu Ghraib. Not all are new words at all. Some are old words coming back to haunt us. This week we had one with more than a hint of the 1970s about it: ‘repatriation’.

With new words come new euphemism. ‘Taking back control’  is code for all sorts of things: a visceral anti-politics; anti-Westminster; anti-Brussels; anti-elites; often under-pinned with a racial tag-line “It’s our country isn’t it?”

There was a new one that you were compelled to nod along to. People had ‘genuine concerns’ about immigration. This was a marker, the new version of ‘I’m not a racist but …’

This didn’t come out of nowhere but built up layer by re-framed layer.

indexFrom Clause Four to Pledge Four

From Tebbit’s cricket test (1990) to its realisation in the British Citizen Tests, from the BNP leader Nick Griffin on Question Time (2009) to Labour’s immigration mug. From the Tories ‘Are you thinking what we’re thinking?’ poster (2005) to the comedy farce of the Bulgarian and Romanian immigration hysteria (2014).

But if Chilcot isn’t just about Blair, this newly legitimised racism isn’t just about Farage. If the Brexit worldview is based on a fantasy so too is the idea that British foreign policy hasn’t led directly to the biggest refugee crisis since the second world war. Imagining you can walk away from this shambles  without facing up to our complicity is just two-sides of British political denialism, sold to the people as a Get Out of Jail Free Card.

From Blair Peach to impeach Blair Chilcot and British racism are deeply connected. They are deep failures of the British State rooted in a confusion of England’s place in the world.



Comments (24)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Bryan Weir says:

    Great post!

  2. John Fullerton says:

    Yes, great article. By the way: fewer balls, not less.

    1. East Neuker says:

      Depends whether you are saying one ball (fewer) or two tiny balls (less)!

      1. It’s less balls not bollocks. Less ‘balls’ fewer bollocks

        1. Graeme Purves says:

          Thanks guys! I’m much more comfortable now that that’s sorted.

  3. Neil MacGillivray says:

    You say what the “British” media will not say, cravenly beholden to their paymasters and to a vision of greatness. Where are the heroes to cry “God save England”?

  4. Crubag says:

    2014 is over. It looks like we are in for the long-haul of British politics.

    BREXIT can’t happen that quickly, at least a couple of years, and perhaps five or ten for it to fully work its way through. The rEU will probably be changing while that happens, so not a stable situation.

    I can see Scottish politics becoming a kind of looking glass for English politics, which might be fun, but we should be using the next half or full decade to do our own thinking about what an independent Scotland might look like institutionally.

    While we can’t quickly change the upper stories (parliaments, budgets, currencies, treaties, population movements) we can fix the ground level – community and local authorities – and at least create half the country we want to be – not be another mini-Westminster centralising everything.

  5. Davey M says:

    Erm, Prime Ministers are not elected and never have been…

    1. Bryan Weir says:

      Erm, Cameron was elected on the back of a promise of an EU referendum. That is true no matter how you look at it.

      1. Josef O Luain says:

        No Bryan, that is true no matter how you look at it.

  6. Mach1 says:

    David Blanchflower, a Keynesian economist who has long opposed austerity, writes in the Guardian today that austerity is dead.
    He rightly states that the Brexit vote was fuelled by Osborne’s austerity, which disproportionately hit the worst off. The organisational response must be to combat austerity, specifically demanding that spending cuts must be reversed and that policies are adopted which benefit the least well-off most.
    The core response is to organise, at work, in your community, in whatever environments you engage with people, to call out racism and to protest against the scapegoating of immigrants.
    There is no room here to despair. By organising, we shall overcome.

    1. John Page says:

      It would be great if this happened but I think the more likely outcome will be more “disaster politics” straight out of the Shock Doctrine
      We are trying really hard to restore Britain’s place in the world but those Eurocrats are being horrible, we can’t afford the burden of all these immigrant parasites, there is a world wide recession, we need to reduce taxes to encourage the wealth creators to stay and we need to pay for Trident’s replacement to maintain our status in the world so since we are all in this together we will have to tighten our belts, become more efficient and luxuries like the Barnett Formula and environmental protection will have to be scrapped.
      And of course the Press will ensure that the public will believe that there is no alternative.

  7. handofkwll says:

    This is an angry and unbalanced article. As a Remainer myself I share the disappointment at the result but I don’t think labelling Leave leaders as stupid cowards and Leave voters as stupid racists is really going to help the situation.

    The Leavers didn’t expect to win. Boris is indeed a contender for ‘upper class twit of the year’ but has left the struggle after being knifed by Gove, not through cowardice. Gove himself is still in there though probably fatally wounded by the fact that absolutely no one trusts him any more. Farage is a twat but it was always clear he was an outsider and never going to be able to clean up any mess he helped make.

    In my opinion the despair of the English working classes that no one was listening to their concerns and hadn’t been for years lay behind much of the Leave vote. If you live in Scotland and life doesn’t seem good to you, Labour and the Tories aren’t listening to you, what can you do? I would suggest that you can vote for the SNP in the hope for something indeterminate but ‘better’. If you live in England and are in that situation then you can only get angry and start looking for things to blame – immigration from the EU and Westminster being obvious candidates.

    Don’t get me wrong, racism should be condemned and I know there are a good number of racists in England – though the situation seems much improved to that in the 70s when I was growing up. However, it is just wrong to do as this article does and immediately write off people who say, ‘I’m not racist, but….’. Perhaps they really mean it. They really aren’t racist but they really do believe that something is wrong in their community. After the death of Jo Cox, I followed a link to a column she wrote for her local paper where she explicitly said:

    “Let me be clear from the start: it’s fine to be concerned about immigration – many people are.

    This doesn’t mean to say they are racist or xenophobic – they are simply concerned about pressures on GP surgeries or schools, or how once familiar town centres are changing, or whether they’ll be able to compete with migrant workers to get a job.”

    I think our politicians should follow her lead and actually listen to what people have to say. If people have legitimate concerns then it may be that they can be fixed and we’d all be the better for it.

    1. Charlie says:

      I FULLY agree with all that you have said. Although, having watched the channel five report on Blair last night I DO believe that the media and politicians have the idea that the WE have come up the Clyde on a banana boat. Social engineering has been at work throughout.

    2. Broadbield says:

      I’m not sure that “genuine concerns” should be addressed in the way you suggest. I’m sure some people are “genuinely concerned” but that is different, from the former, which suggests that the object of the “concern” – immigration for example – is really something to be concerned about. I don’t think it is. We’ve had immigration for decades and every time people have “genuine concerns” whipped up to a frenzy by irresponsible politicians and assorted rabble rousers in the press, planting false stories. Politicians and opinion formers refuse to take a lead and tackle these “concerns” – they’re taking our jobs, overcrowding our schools, overloading the NHS etc – by refuting them and showing how immigrants make a huge and positive contribution socially and economically.

      1. handofkwll says:


        I agree that immigrants have been a force for good overall. Indeed, I have no complaints in particular either, having grown up in London which had its immigrant crisis long ago and is now largely ‘over it’, and for a long time lived in a middling part of Edinburgh which is relatively prosperous. Not much cause for angst there.

        Others are not so fortunate. They might have left school with no qualifications and be living in parts of the country hollowed out by deindustrialization. Their opportunities were already limited and unlikely to be helped by the arrival of immigrants who are often skilled and motivated. If I lived in such a place and had a son or daughter looking for a job I might be peeved by the fact that British builders don’t take on apprentices any more because there are so many skilled migrants available, or that waitressing jobs are snapped up by well-mannered, multilingual Europeans.

        These are examples of what I would call genuine concerns, and they could be alleviated by the UK Government offering support to communities under stress, for example by supporting building apprenticeships. Furthermore, I would be disappointed that the ‘progressive left’ ignored the detail of what I was actually trying to say, failed to understand that what is true in London and Edinburgh might not be true in Boston or Sunderland, but simply wrote me off as a racist.

  8. w.b.robertson says:

    am very optimistic about our future. it is a great outlook for the reformers. remember the old adage … create a crisis and then exploit it.

    1. Bryan Weir says:

      … and only the exploited will suffer.

  9. john young says:

    We cannot lay the blame for our continuing malaise at the door of the Westminster Government,it is among our own people that the problem lies,they refuse absolutely to acknowledge the continuing problems”head in the sand” doesn,t even come close to it,they won,t ever change their view,not now not ever,well most of them.

    1. bringiton says:

      At some point these people are going to have to choose between Little England’s union or the European one.
      It may be that in those circumstances,they prove to be just as xenophobic as the Leave voters in England.
      We shall see.

      1. Crubag says:

        I don’t get why little England/little Englander should be pejorative. It was originally, it was applied to those who were against British military adventures and the continuation of empire.

        For the Remain campaigners (not that they tried terribly hard), there seems to be a kind of glee that the UK will now realise its not a world power and not everyone is looking to it for leadership.

        Isn’t that a good thing? A quiet and productive peace is the best grounds for Scotland to run its own affairs. An independent Scotland will be even more obscure than the rUK (if it holds together). At most we’ll be a cultural mini-power (possibly even with a film studio) trading on our global links – that actually come from the empire the Little Englanders didn’t want to maintain any more.

  10. Gashty McGonnard says:

    Good article that. Didnae miss and hit the wa.

  11. Jimmy says:

    A brilliant piece of writing. Thank you

  12. Ian Kirkwood says:

    Malaise is displayed by those who have lost hope. What use a choice such as New Labour when it is devised to be indistinguishable from a party that gets more votes? The disenfranchised outcasts of Scotland and Britain have lost their stake in the country. The simple necessity of getting a house is an example of why malaise is accelerating. The idea of getting one is for many — even professional couples — an elusive dream.

    When the first human groups tried working together instead of separately, they found a larger surplus was produced which justified their efforts to co-operate. Hey presto — civilisation! But that surplus only allowed the civilisation to endure if it was shared amongst the participants. The surplus of which I speak is to be found in the rents of land, which grow whenever our taxes are invested in amenities.

    Today in Scotland this wealth that we all produce together is invested entirely in one section of society. Site owners. Leading to a host of social and economic problems. These challenges can never be met until the socially produced surplus is shared by collecting the stream of value we all create together. AGR is the collection of Annual Ground Rent. Scotland’s economic outcasts can only be reconnected to society when AGR is collected to fund our public services.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.