The 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.
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.
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.