There will be no kissing and making up on 24 June
Much like this blog, Pete North is angry at the conduct of this referendum campaign by the arrayed forces of Remain, and sees little point in hiding the fact:
We’ve had decades of their rule, decades of their orthodoxy and no means to challenge their political dominance. We’ve been watching and waiting for years. Watching as successive governments have ceded ever more power, ever more control and have insulated themselves from the wishes of the public. Well, now we’ve got our referendum. And now we see just how deeply the game is rigged.
So we’re angry to say the least. Angry at what has been done to us, done in our name, and angry that once again democracy is being trampled on to preserve the orthodoxy. And we do not take kindly to being lied to.
There’s an old saying that politics is between you, me and the swamp. Minorities on either side, playing games for the votes in the middle. But unlike classic politics, this is not a left vs right dispute. There are only those above the line and those below the line. Those who have the power and those who do not. In this estimation, the establishment holds all of the cards. It has always known a challenge to its legitimacy would one day come which is why it set out to bribe institutions in advance.
We Brexiteers on the other hand have what we have. An angry rabble with keyboards. And let’s face it, none of us are ever going on the front cover of Vogue. We’re a bunch of griping, moaning angry people who seem to hate just about everyone in politics and everything they do. We’re not helped by a pretty shoddy Leave campaign either, with some fairly odious spokesmen.
We are irredeemably spit. We all hate each other. I despise the Toryboys and I loathe Ukip. I hate all political tribalism. I’m not a joiner of clans. But there’s one thing that unites us all. All of us can articulate a better definition of democracy than any of those would would have us remain in the EU – and though we can’t seem to agree on coherent Brexit plan, we all know what democracy is, why we should have it and crucially why the EU is the absolute opposite of it.
And that’s why this referendum really settles nothing. The Remainers will play their little games, steal the referendum and carry on as before; feathering their own nests and consolidating their power. But we’re not going anywhere. We’re not giving up. And we are taking names. Us Brexiteers hold deep grudges. We are in it for the duration.
We will remember Cameron the fraud. We will remember Hague and Corbyn as turncoats. We will remember the frauds like Boris Johnson who used the cause for their own advancement. We will remember the parasites who had their fingers in the till. We will remember all those hacks and policy wonks who twisted the truth. We will not forget what was done here. And unlike 1975 – we have a full record of who said what. The internet never forgets.
And North’s blood-chilling conclusion:
In fact, we are going to be pure poison. If you thought the SNP were sore losers, you ain’t seen nothing. A remain vote will ensure domestic politics remains permanently toxic. While these part timers waft into to the Brexit debate with their tedious rhetoric about Brexiteers being little englanders and xenophobes, and venting their empty rhetoric of cooperation and internationalism, we have been here from the beginning. Will be here at the end.
You can stifle an idea, but you can’t kill one. Especially not that seemingly antiquated notion that the people should be able to refuse their government. The EU may be powerful but it is not stronger than the desire for democracy. And if it takes another generation to get what we want then that is what we will do. There is only one way this fight ends – Britain leaving the European Union. We will either do it amicably and by the book – or we will do it some other way. The general public may well go back into their political slumber, but we Brexiteers will be back – and in between, we are going to cause merry hell.
I should say that I agree with nearly everything in Pete’s piece – as always, his diagnosis of the flaws of the EU is spot-on, and his objections rooted not in shameless partisan positioning (like nearly every Remain supporter on the Left) but in a deep love and respect for democracy.
I can’t say that I look forward to the idea of being “pure poison”, or causing merry hell. But increasingly, I cannot see an alternative if, as is still likely, the Remain camp prevails on the back of a campaign based on sowing fear, uncertainty and doubt.
There are some political issues where I don’t get my way – in fact, as a libertarian / conservatarian living in Britain, it is pretty near all of them – where I am still happy to play the game according to the rules. I think personal taxes are too high, for example, as a result of decades of fiscal drag and Gordon Brown’s only partially-repealed spiteful hike. But I’m not going to take my toys and go home in protest, refusing to engage and participate in the democratic process because we don’t have a flatter tax system.
Likewise with the size of the state. This blog believes that government does far too much for far too many people – including many who are already self-sufficient and do not need government largesse, as well as many who could know self sufficiency if only they had the right short-term help and weren’t indefinitely coddled by the welfare state. But it is not the relatively unambitious and half-finished work of implementing Universal Credit which has enraged me against this supposedly conservative government.
On all manner of issues I’m happy to play for incremental progress, accept the victories as well as the losses for my side, and then move on to the next battle. But this is different. The European Union question is different.
The EU referendum is not about whether we want politics to be a little bit more left wing or a bit more right wing. It is not about tweaking tax policy, industrial policy, reforming benefits, or social issues. It is so much more fundamental than that, because whether or not Britain votes to remain in the EU says in a single gesture what kind of country we are, and what kind of country we want to be.
And the same thing applies at the personal level. I have never had a problem socialising and being friends with people from all across the political spectrum. Most of my social circle probably leans significantly to the Left, if anything, and while it leads to the occasional lively conversation there is always a full measure of respect. But – and I don’t take any great joy in writing this – I do not think I will be able to help thinking less of people who vote for Britain to remain in the EU.
Now, that doesn’t go for every Remain supporter. If I knew that someone is voting Remain because they truly believe in the European project, that they admit that political union is being brought about by stealth but that the ends justify the means, that they “feel” more European than British and want to forge a new combined European state, then I would profoundly disagree with them but I could respect that position. It is a positive (although distasteful to me) vision of Europe, and it is an honest one. I know several people who do take that position, and I am at my happiest when I am debating with them because I don’t feel like part of my soul is dying while I do it.
My problem is with those who either see supporting the European Union as some kind of necessary virtue-signalling act to be accepted in their social circle (oh, aren’t UKIP simply awful, darling?), and those who abrogate any notion of acting as an engaged and enlightened citizens with a responsibility to this country and to democracy, and so vote based solely on their wallets or other narrow personal interests. I will struggle to look upon such people in quite the same way after this referendum.
Maybe that is easy for me to say – I do not have a lot materially at stake in this referendum, financially or otherwise. My job is not dependent on EU funding, and the immediate interests of my family are not threatened by Brexit. All of these are mitigating factors – if my own salary and job security were directly or even indirectly contingent on staying in the EU, I concede that it would take a superhuman effort to overcome the instinct toward confirmation bias which would encourage me to seek out other facts and opinions supporting the Remain case.
But human beings are emotional creatures and the fact cannot be denied: I have a lot invested in this campaign, in terms of this blog and my other campaigning activities on the side. With such an early referendum and with the government doing everything short of stuffing ballot boxes with fake votes to assure a Remain vote, I remain pessimistic about our chances, though I fight to win. But if we lose, the behaviour and motivations of many of those agitating for Remain is such that I will be very angry for a very long time. And I will not be the only one.
(None of this should be taken as a Rebecca Roache-style, “unfriend all my Tory acquaintances on Facebook in a fit of moral grandstanding, virtue-signalling post-election leftist pique” piece of melodrama. But there will be a degree of real disappointment, if for no other reason than it will confirm that those who vote Remain and I clearly see the world in a profoundly, irreconcilably different way).
Britain should be ready for the wave of anger that is likely to break over our heads on 24 June. In the event of a Leave vote, expect a lot of short term hysterics from the virtue-signallers and special interests, most of which will die down once it becomes evident that Britain will be exiting to an EEA/EFTA holding position and maintaining single market access. But in the event of a Remain vote, given the underhanded way that the government has been fighting the referendum campaign, expect the SNP on steroids – a long, guerilla campaign of attrition directed against anyone and everyone who betrayed the Brexit cause.
Chris Deerin painted a vivid and I believe accurate prediction of the future in a piece for CapX last year, comparing the likely fallout from the EU referendum to the aftermath of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum:
I have been bemused and fascinated by the number of English people telling me in recent weeks that “it won’t be like Scotland” – that this will be a more sedate affair, will inspire less passion, do less long-term damage. Well, perhaps. But, as we Scots say, ah hae ma doots.
What was most extraordinary about last year’s independence vote was the turnout: 84.5 per cent, the largest since the introduction of universal suffrage in the UK in 1918. Many of those voting were people who had never before even considered entering a polling station. What happened? There was certainly a long, noisy, impassioned campaign. There was global interest beyond anything we’d experienced before, but beyond this were two key factors that I believe drove this historic level of engagement.
The first was timing – the referendum came along after a decade in which every significant British institution had suffered either a scandal, a crisis of confidence or a loss of purpose, from Westminster to the media to the City to the military. The ties that bind had never been looser, respect for the status quo never lower.
Second, people were asked an existential question: who are you? This is not nothing. You will want to answer. You will want to answer on behalf of yourself and your family and your nation. Especially when you realise that the answer really matters – no safe seats to consider, no popular or unpopular incumbent MPs, no First Past The Post system ensuring only a few marginals get all the attention. Every individual counts. This is the big one, for keeps. So: in or out?
Ultimately, we are about to ask the people of Britain an existential question: who are you? They will know that their voice counts this time, and that the consequences of the decision will be enormous and era-defining. They will think about themselves, their family and their country. They will get angry with the other side. Some very harsh words will be exchanged. Tempers will be lost and relationships fractured. And afterwards, whatever the outcome, the losers will be very sore, for a long time.
Not like Scotland? Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Like I say, I have no great desire to spend the next year walking around angry, holding nearly the entire political class in derision and many of my fellow citizens in open contempt. It does not warm my heart, in the same way that many left wing activists clearly revel in their anger and the righteousness of their cause, bleating about socialism and hating the Evil Tories.
But to my mind, there is a right way to vote in this referendum and a clearly, unambiguously wrong way to vote, and it is not hard to tell the difference between the two. The right way strikes a blow for democracy, self-determination and the normalcy of independence enjoyed by every single major country in the world outside Europe, while the wrong way would be to reward people who do not dare to advance their own positive argument for European political union, and so instead spend the bulk of their time pecking over the foibles, inconsistencies and other low-hanging fruit offered up by the hapless official Leave campaign.
In the event of defeat, then, the only question open to disappointed Brexiteers will be whether or not they use that anger and channel it toward some positive action to further the eurosceptic cause. This blog will do just that. Semi-Partisan Politics is in this for the long haul. Because as Pete North rightly says, you can stifle an idea like Brexit, but you cannot kill it.
I continue to fight this referendum campaign to win. But if we are fated to lose, I will not be going anywhere. If my generation is not to be the generation which restores democracy and self-governance to the United Kingdom then we can at least ensure that the flame of liberty is kept alive until it is time to try again – assuming that the doomed project does not implode under the weight of its own internal contradictions and the relentless pressure of global events, making the Brexit debate redundant.
And in the meantime, I and many others will make life as painfully difficult and unfulfilling as we can for all those in public life – particularly those in the Conservative Party – who come down on the wrong side of this referendum. That much I can promise.
Top Image: CapX
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