2007 - 2021

From Mr Brexit to Saint Brigid

As a sort of tableaux of the moment nothing much can beat Jim Davidson unveiling a painting of Nigel Farage, “Mr Brexit” in a When Did You Last See Your Father sort of way. If the photo of the scene evoked the drab shitness of Britain in 2020, celebrating the toxic mediocrity of these people, it was wonderfully apt for a racist politician to be fronted by a racist comic.

It also raised the question: which comedian would you match with other politicians?

If Harpo Marx seems perfect for Jo Swinson (‘Untitled’), Bernard Manning would surely do a good job for Theresa May (‘Mrs Windrush’) and Kenny Everett would be perfect for Tony Blair (‘Mr Bomber’).

The celebrations in Parliament Square went on late into the night with Tim Martin of Wetherspoons, Ann Widdecombe and, er, Dominic Frisby leading the crowd in “Rule Britannia” and “Land of Hope and Glory” while people waved flags and held banners calling on ‘Remainiacs’ to be hung from lamposts.

‘Mr Brexit’ was there, obviously, calling it “the greatest moment in our nation’s modern history.”

A nation rejoiced, just not this one.

Wild celebrations were not confined to central London. The Rising Sun pub in Kettering had a Vera Lynn sesh.

“ENGLAAAAAAAND!” “God save the Queen, fuck the Pope!” rang out.

It’s easy and tempting to laugh at stupid-sounding inarticulate Brexiters, like this woman who claims we are “getting our courts back from Germany” (and countless others). And there’s no doubt that this is an act of epic economic self-harm. There’s no doubt that Brexit is a symbol of a broken and divided Britain and the vastly different events and symbols emanating from Scotland and England look very different.

But Mocking the Stupid Brexiters is a charmless exercise that fails to recognise any of the anger that led us into this fiasco, and that’s a pointless project. Characterising the entire English nation as mindless xenophobes is reductive and mapping the Brexit campaign as solely a con by Cambridge Analytica is a political cul de sac.

Sharing our hashtags of “leave a light on” and waving our EU flags may make us feel fuzzy inside, but it doesn’t take us forward into analysis of what is actually deeply structurally wrong with the EU institutions, and the contradictions and challenges Scotland faces.

Leaving the European Union is a profoundly traumatic event – an attack on democracy dressed up as liberation. But we need to transcend that sense of crisis and humiliation and turn to the task ahead.

If England needs to wake up this morning and look itself in the mirror, there is no room for Scottish complacency, lashed to this farce and unable to find a way forward. But this is Imbolc, Saint Brigid’s feast day, February 1, which marks the beginning of spring and the return of the light after winter.

If there is light in a dark moment it is this. Brexit is a phenomenon of inter-generational harm. It is seizing opportunity and openness from one generation to another. It is an attack on the young and theft of their future. But this week saw the political landscape in Scotland changing in a different way – away from the fever dream of Brexit.

Overlooked in the mayhem this week YouGov polling told us:

“Yes” vote leads “No” by 51% to 49%, the first Yes lead since early 2015.

Chris Curtis from YouGov told us: “One reason for this shift is that Remainers are increasingly moving towards Yes. While England and Wales voted to Leave, 62% of Scots voted to Remain, and many of them had voted against Scottish independence just two years earlier.”

“Over one in five (21%) of those who voted Remain in 2016 but No in the independence referendum have now shifted over to Yes.”

The really important figures in the YouGov polling were the overwhelming numbers of younger people supporting independence.

These figures show a trajectory despite the failures and problems of the independence movement. This is not a time for giving up or walking away in despair, this is a time for stepping up and looking forward.


Comments (13)

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  1. James Mills says:

    It is a comfort that the young ( and probably most EU citizens living here ) are likely to be for YES – but the danger with Brexit and all that follows is that too many of them ( both groups ) may move furth of Scotland to better themselves BEFORE the next chance of voting for Independence . I do not subscribe to the view that the older generation will not support independence ( I am one of them ! ) but we need the young to be sure of getting the substantial majority which guarantees our future against challenge . We cannot afford to lose them !

    1. Bill says:

      In the run-up to the 2014 referendum, I had many discussions with the members of the East Lothian elite squad at the pool in Prestonpans. I was struck by the quality of the debate engendered by these young people. The discourse was passionate, erudite, informed an d conducted in a most seemly manner. There was none of the vitriol that was sometimes seen and heard from adults. I even telephoned the local school to make them aware of the quality of the children that they had the good fortune to teach. None of the children at that time had the vote – but they will all have the vote now. I can only hope that they are imbued with the spirit that they showed then. As an old person who voted Yes and Remain I am heartened to think that those young people will be the future of Scotland, and if we get our way they will be the core that makes a success of our independence.


  2. Amanda Wright says:

    Firstly, not everyone who lives in England, and not even all English people voted Brexit. You are the lucky ones, because you can vote to secede. We are stuck in a country where a hard line right wing government is being kept in power by people who have been brainwashed into thinking that all the pain of Tory austerity has been inflicted on them by the EU, and by a lumpen bloc of drunken, anarchic troglodytes stuck in some mythic Anglo-Saxon past.
    Many Remainers are comforting themselves with the thought that now Brexit is done, all the pain it will cause will be seen to be the responsibility of the government and the Brexit camp. I think their belief is misplaced. One of the reasons that Brexit succeeded was because the Tory government never took responsibility for the miseries caused by George Osborne’s Austerity regime. Ten years after he fell from power, Gordon Brown was being held responsible for the cuts and if it wasn’t Gordon Brown, it was because we were shackled to the EU and their(!) rules were stifling us. It will be the same now, all failings of Brexit will be laid at Europe’s door – Europe’s bad faith, Europe’s vindictiveness, Europe punishing us.
    I have every sympathy with Scotland for wanting independence. If I lived in Scotland I probably would want it too. But I would like you also to consider what would happen to the rest of us. Ireland would probably re-unite at last. However, I don’t think Wales is viable on its own – at least it won’t be for a long time and England would be condemned to perpetual Tory rule. You might think that is fair-dos – each country following its own course, but it isn’t because the union has been in place so long, there are many people who are, like me, British, in other words a mixture of the four nationalities. I have more Scottish, Irish and Welsh blood than English and I lived in Scotland, both in the Highlands and Glasgow for a long time, but through force of circumstances have ended up living in England and I don’t think I could face moving again – even if I could afford to do so. What will happen to all us mischlings stuck in an increasingly isolated, xenophobic England?
    I think the only way to counter the effects of Brexit is to work together. The UK needs the strong voices of Nicola Sturgeon and Joanna Cherry and their leadership. Please don’t abandon us.

    1. Josef Ó Luain says:

      “Strong voices” are ten-a-penny in Scotland, Amanda, strong deeds not so much, in my very long experience. On a more optimistic note: ‘Yes’ minded Scots aren’t going to be intimidated by the New Order, we’ve been forced to grow much, much tougher than that.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Amanda Wright surely not anarchic? Monarchic, more likely, following some cult of leadership: a royal, an entrepreneur, a celebrity, a politician, a general. Of course, Anglo-British double standards mean that ‘our’ leaders are heroes and rightly beloved, whilst ‘their’ leaders are monsters and foolishly/knaveishly followed. Apparently a lot of Anglo-British think the British or even the English defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, when of course it was all about forging European alliances, effective diplomacy, honest communication and coming to each other’s aid. Anglo-Irish Wellington might have commanded a multi-national force which was one of several European armies, but the aftermath showed you cannot build a nation on jingoism, and the army was tearing into peaceful pro-democracy protestors a few short years later in the massacre which became known as Peterloo. Wellington himself, still living off his fame and with a cult following, became a (mostly) reactionary prime minister and grew deeply unpopular amongst many. Yet it is difficult to think of anyone approaching similar stature in today’s establishment. The Queen might bump her cousin up to field marshall seventeen years after he retired from military service (I think he got a medal for preventing democratic elections in British Guiana or something) but if modern generals are looking for a Wellington-esque path to political power, I am not sure which opponent they would like to pick on.

      And you are surely right about mixtures.

      1. Amanda Wright says:

        I agree with virtually everything you say except monarchic/anarchic. The group of people (if you can call them that) that I am talking about are a mindless horde that can be whipped up into a hysterical frenzy above and beyond any laws or specific leaders. You have only to look at some of those celebrating Brexit last night. Listen to what they say, look at their placards which incite people to murder Remainers. These people aren’t governed by any laws. They are the mob.

    3. Wul says:

      Amanda, I feel for you, but England is going to have to fix it’s own mess.

      Anyway, I’ve long held the view that the sight of an independent Scotland next door, doing things a little more fairly and kindly, would inspire a sea-change in England.

    4. Thanks for the comment Amanda, when you say “Firstly, not everyone who lives in England, and not even all English people voted Brexit” – I totally get that and tried to reflect that

    5. Graeme Purves says:

      England can’t rely on Scotland to fix its problems, Amanda. It needs to find its own progressive voice. It has rich cultural resources to draw upon and will find friends in the other nations of Britain and Ireland when it does.

  3. Hamish100 says:

    We are nearly there ( I believe we have a majority) but not quite enough to be sure of a reasonable majority that will prevent britnats calling on the hooligans to prevent democracy to work.
    Next year we will be 7 years on from the Independence referendum. In the institute of government page on possible Irish reunification it states “ The legislation stipulates that a secretary of state may not make provision for a border poll within seven years of a previous poll.”

    The dice are lining up. The young adults coming through see through the farage’s , Johnson and trumps of the world. They recognise as Scots we must control our future rather than the right wing cabal at Westminster.

  4. Robert says:

    Sorry but what’s this got to do with St Brigid ?

    That’s rhetorical question by the way — in fact the connection is clear, though not mentioned here:

    Britannia, of course, is just Brigantia/Bride/Brighid by another name, who gave her name to the Brigantes tribes, from which we get the name Britain. So when the Brexiteers sing “Rule Britannia” and celebrate what they understand by Britain and the British, they’re unconsciously worshipping the Celtic goddess of spring, fire, poetry, healing and fertility, who was later Christianised as St. Brigid of Kildare.

    It’s indeed a strange coincidence, then, that Brexit Day should fall on the eve of her feast day.

    (Mike, you could have replied to my email about Brighid!)

    1. sorry Robert – I missed your email

  5. C. E. Ayr says:

    The view in France has gone from initial disbelief at the stupidity of ‘les anglais’ to curiosity as to what happens next.
    There is a widespread belief that the EU was already broken, as epitomised by the treatment of Greece, especially, in recent years.
    The increasingly draconian reactions of Macron to ‘les gilets jaunes’ is an ongoing cause of deep unrest here, creating a feeling that things might well come apart at various levels of government.
    On verra…

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