PopCon as Popcorn

The latest spasm of Britain’s collapsing far-right politics took a new form yesterday as 49 Day Liz and 30p Lee congregated with others around the corner from Tufton Street. Some of the least popular people in British politics have dubbed themselves ‘Popular’ and gathered to share fantastic stories about the world before being ejected from Westminster.

PopCon included such luminaries as Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Frost, Priti Patel – and Mark Littlewood (more of whom in a minute). They were, they they explained here to back the Secret Conservatives who were scared to speak in modern Britain (which is, whisper it run by Not So Secret Conservatives, including the former PM Liz Truss, who was, you know, the keynote speaker). They were here also to slay the secretive left wing forces that run Britain, including the media and ‘the legal system’, and the Environment Agency, and Natural England, and, er, the Post Office. Okay?

It’s difficult to tell whether this is a trial-run for a new party as they sense that the Non Secretive Conservative Party (aka His Majesty’s Government) are about to face an extinction event, or just some very very dim people getting together. These people may seem too stupid to be taken seriously but they have had supporters with deep pockets behind them in the past and the far-right is circling around the anti-LEZ, anti-ecology Net Zero backlash and the low-grade conspiracies of the post-Brexit backwaters. So instead of Liz Truss dribbling on about Pork Markets or the problem of cheese we had Lee Anderson arguing that coal is sustainable and the targets of environmental organisations is no coincidence.

As De Smog explained this gathering has an explicit;y climate denial core:

“The self-styled PopCons included politicians critical of climate policies and science, including Lord Frost, who is a director of the climate science denial Global Warming Policy Foundation, as well as Conservative MP Lee Anderson and Reform party president Nigel Farage.

PopCon director Mark Littlewood is the outgoing managing director of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), an influential free market think tank that has talked up its access to government.

The IEA received funding from oil company BP every year from 1967 to 2018, according to an Unearthed investigation confirmed by the IEA. Both IEA and BP have declined to say if this funding continues, when asked by DeSmog.

A branded leaflet handed out at the event, under the heading “what we stand for”, stated: “End net zero zealotry and promote energy pragmatism to provide both security of supply and low prices”.

The leaflet also named the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the government’s independent advisory body on hitting its climate targets, as one of the institutions which “stand in the way of meaningful reform”.

The CCC was chaired for many years by former Tory Cabinet Minister John Gummer (now Lord Debden). To picture them as the extremists is off the map.

The language was inevitably of snowflakes and the wokerati, of ‘collectivists’ and Reds Under the Beds, then also with a Trumpian turn talking of purging the institutions of people who had infiltrated and were destroying Britain. It’s not clear what this thing is. Is it the last dregs of the Tory party congregating to share their horrific world-views before being ushered into obscurity, or is this in fact the Conservatives morphing into something even worse than the dense charlatans that still occupy Westminster?

But what we can see – as the Conservative Party begins to collapse under the weight of its own incompetence – is a newly hellish post-Brexit political landscape. As the state shudders in the harsh light of self-inflicted national humiliation and constitutional crisis, Britain’s far-right needs new scapegoats to attack. Now the ongoing attacks on foreigners, immigrants, asylum seekers, the French, the Germans, the Bulgarians (and on) are merged into conspiratorial attacks on NGOs, environmental bodies and mysterious ‘collectivists’ all ushered into the world by none other than … wait for it … Tony Blair! The Enemy from Abroad is now joined in the PopCon Feverdream by the Enemy Within. As Truss models herself on the Iron lady its convenient for this trope to be evoked again.

But if Lee Anderson and Rees-Mogg seem cartoonishly stupid their comedy-element is a distraction and for Mogg, yesterday he dropped his guard as seen here …

Another aspect of this new political landscape is the amplifying of two traditions – one the dark conspiracism that haunts much of the anti-ecological movement (the ‘war on the motorist’, the climate deniers, the belief in ‘Davos Man’ etc etc) – the other is the descent into pure gibberish. The PopCons are remarkable in many ways but theirs is truly post-truth politics. None of it makes any sense but none of it needs to make any sense. This is not only because the audience for such politics are likely to be already immersed in this world but also not capable of navigating it. But also because these are tactics similar to Steve Bannon’s ‘flood the zone’. In this view public discourse is so debased, political debate so transitory and the media so messed up that simply flooding the news stream and your timelines with absolute garbage stories and arguments is considered a legitimate strategy.

Comments (5)

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  1. Daniel Raphael says:

    As ever, I’m impressed with how well-informed and incisive your commentary is, Michael. I greatly regret that Bella is no longer on X/Twitter, as this limits distribution of its articles.

    1. Hi Daniel, thanks! I am back on Twitter after taking a break. Follow @bellacaledonia

  2. John says:

    I would imagine that this bunch of weirdo’s would gain few votes in Scotland based on UKIP/Reform etc failure to make any significant progress here.
    The problem is that, based on previous voting history, the same cannot be said re electoral progress elsewhere in UK. Under current Westminster political system the electorate in Scotland may comprehensively reject these right wing, socially regressive policies but have to live with consequences of them.

  3. Spudd Connor says:

    simply flooding the news stream and your timelines with absolute garbage stories and arguments is considered a legitimate strategy.

    Unfortunately that’s working and they know that and are remapping the playing field by turning it into a battleground.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    Potential confusion with the PC brigade? Piddling clique precociously celebritised pseudonym chosen perilously close to Poop Clowns (Panorama covered pollution cover-up):
    Tony Blair did abuse powers to place New Labour loyalists in quangos, but the Conservatives have been doing this longer. As regard to British institutions, the prevailing government practice seems to be a kind of reverse-Heracles and flood them with shit (George Osborne for the British Museum floats to mind).

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