Why The Real Elites Consistently Support Britain’s EU Membership

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Professional and social elites are more likely to oppose Brexit for narrow personal reasons – which makes them bad citizens

James Delingpole writes in the Spectator that the real dividing line when predicting someone’s position on Brexit is where they fall on the posh / oik spectrum:

If you need to know how properly posh you are there’s a very simple test: are you pro- or anti-Brexit?

[..] So there I was at dinner the other evening with a delightful, erudite Old Etonian friend of mine. Let us call him ‘Kevin’ (not his real name). Kevin has an accent so deliciously plummy that if you could somehow tin it and sell it to the Chinese you’d become a billionaire. He is immensely cultured, civilised, wise and sensitive. I agree with him on everything, so naturally, when I asked him his views on Brexit and he launched into his eloquent diatribe on why he believed — and long had done — that the EU was the Abomination of Desolation, I listened in a state of near-ecstasy.

Kevin’s beautifully modulated speech went on for at least ten minutes. (There was hardly a shortage of material.) Then, suddenly, something weird happened. About 30 seconds before the end, Kevin shifted tack, and explained (or actually, hardly explained at all) that for all these reasons the only logical position was for Britain to remain in EU. Something to do with Europe being a lovely place and our having a moral duty to help it set the tone, I think.

And goes on to draw a interesting parallel with the Thatcher era:

What does all this tell us about snobbery and Tory politics? Quite a depressing bit, I’ve begun to realise. You can see much the same sort of thing going on in the Thatcher era. Who were her greatest loyalists, the ones most in tune with her radical programme? Why, they were grammar-school types with slightly suspect accents, such as Robin Harris and Norman Tebbit — not the plummy-voiced grandees such as Heseltine et al, who were the ones who eventually did for her.

This is also true, I think, of the upper social echelons’ attitude towards Nigel Farage. It’s not that they disagree with much of what he says: how could they, when he’s so refreshingly candid and reactionary and un-PC? But they’ve persuaded themselves that, like Ukip, he’s just a bit too spivvy and downmarket to deserve their open affiliation. This enables them to have their cake and eat it: privately enjoying his every home truth but never being tainted by that awkward, embarrassed feeling which tends to accompany frankly expressed views on matters like immigration.

Delingpole sees this as an elitism thing: the closer you are to the establishment or to the top of your field or profession, the more likely to are to have vested in the current  order of things and the more likely you are to sense Brexit (sometimes justifiably) as a threat to your current position.

I think that this probably holds true in all manner of fields, from education (How many university Vice Chancellors are brave enough to bite the hand that feeds them recycled British taxpayer money?) to the arts (for the same reason) to the world of business, which understandably cares a lot about economic stability and not so much about democracy.

But this blog maintains that one’s stance on the EU referendum is also determined by whether you consider yourself a citizen or a consumer first and foremost. As Delingpole’s anecdote makes clear, many of the European Union’s biggest advocates within the British establishment freely concede and attack its antidemocratic nature, but still refuse to countenance leaving the club. They are unable take this logical step because they are thinking with their wallets and their social reputation in mind, rather than the good of the country.

By contrast, someone at the sharp end of globalisation – who has experienced the negative aspects of free trade and free movement of people on their employment, living standards and public services far more than the person living in Mayfair – is more likely to vote on the kind of issues that a thinking citizen should vote on, because they are much more likely to be directly touched by those issues.

As this blog recently noted:

If you have grown up and prospered under the status quo, with Britain as a vassal state of a larger and ever-more tightly integrating political union, then it takes an extraordinary amount of curiosity, empathy or insight to come to any conclusion other than that the EU has been a resounding success on all counts. By contrast, if you are self-employed or work in a semi-skilled or unskilled job at the sharp end of globalisation, you are more likely to be negatively impacted not just by immigration, but by the inability of your vote to effect any kind of meaningful political change in Britain thanks to the cross-party pro-EU consensus.

[..] It is those who think primarily with their wallets, as consumers first and foremost, who are most likely to be susceptible to the Remain campaign’s Project Fear and scaremongering tactics about the hysterically hyped “costs” of leaving the European Union, while those who think as engaged citizens and global stakeholders who are most likely to question the European project.

That doesn’t mean that the Oik (in Delingpole’s parlance) is not also often voting for his or her self interest. They may well want to see Brexit as part of a broader package of counterproductice protectionist measures, which would inevitably do Britain more harm than good. But regardless of their personal motivation, they are more likely to discuss the issue of Brexit in terms of policy and of democracy. The oiks thus often act like a better, more engaged citizens than the elitists who lazily support the Remain camp to virtue-signal their distaste at UKIP while overlooking the democratic question.

As for myself, I enjoyed the delights of a state education, worked to get myself into Oxbridge, but then left Cambridge University and went to Warwick. I suppose all of that places me firmly in the “Oik” category, a position I shall hold with even more pride now that it is also a marker for principled euroscepticism.


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Jeremy Clarkson: Refreshingly Frank Federalist Or Craven Castrato?

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One Jeremy Clarkson column, two very different reactions

To say that Breitbart’s James Delingpole disagrees with me about Jeremy Clarkson’s column calling for Britain’s dissolution into a federal European state would be putting it mildly.

While I praised Clarkson for being one of the only people in the whole sorry Remain campaign to honestly and openly admit their love for the European Union, Delingpole accuses him of “chopping off his own balls”:

There are lots of piss-poor columnists out there who you can easily imagine churning out this kind of bilge. But Clarkson really isn’t one of them. For a start, he has forged his entire career on tell-it-like-it-is-outspokenness and political incorrectness (especially where uppity foreigners are concerned). Also, he’s not stupid. The reason his collected columns tend to go to the top of the bestseller lists is partly because they’re funny but partly because they’re true. He has a gift for boiling down the political concerns of our time into a punchy but chatty style, replete with colourful images, witty asides and broad jokes which make them accessible to everyone.

Here, though, he’s not doing any of that. There is no way – in the unlikely event that he could ever bring himself to reread those words – that Clarkson will ever be able to look at that column and go: “Yup. I really nailed it, there.” Because he patently hasn’t. This isn’t just a fail. It is, by some margin, the worst Jeremy Clarkson column ever. Or at least the worst of the many I have read and (invariably) admired.

In fact what strikes me most is that here is the very exemplar of the kind of column you write when your heart just isn’t in it, when you’re making an argument you simply don’t believe in.

[..] I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at Clarkson in the same way again, however good his Top Gear replacement series is, because all I’ll be thinking is: “You had a choice, Jeremy. Either to go to the wall for the cause you believe in. Or to sell your soul to something you don’t believe in just because you live near the Prime Minister in the Cotswolds, share the same circle of posho friends and want to curry favour with the smart set.”

By contrast, I remarked:

But what is surprising (and actually rather impressive) is the full-throated way in which Clarkson embraces his support of the EU.

Unlike nearly every leading politician and personality in the Remain camp, Clarkson does not attempt to flatter us or pretend that he “gets” our concerns about Brussels gradually usurping our democracy. Unlike the deceitful-yet-ingratiating Sajid Javid, Clarkson makes no promises to go back to ranting at Brussels the moment he has helped doom us to continued membership of the EU (though in Clarkson’s case, more ranting is all but guaranteed).

Jeremy Clarkson actually does something which almost nobody in the intellectually squalid, fear-based Remain campaign dares to do – he owns his pro-Europeanism and wears it as a badge of honour, rather than doing what so many Turncoat Tories and others have done, prancing around like the World’s Biggest Eurosceptic before meekly running to David Cameron’s heel and supporting Britain’s continued membership of the EU as soon as the prime minister snapped his fingers.

Delingpole is also adamant that Clarkson’s full-throated support of European federalism was part of an effort to ingratiate himself with the prime minister and his circle of friends, whereas I tend to be a bit more generous, believing simply that because they both came of age during a long period of British decline, Clarkson and David Cameron almost inevitably share the same defeatist, pessimistic view of Britain’s capabilities and prospects as an independent country:

Our prime minister and foreign secretary may hold our country, its history and present capabilities in astonishingly low esteem, but fortunately the same cannot be said for many of the people. Many of us correctly believe Britain to be one of the few truly indispensable nations on Earth, that our contributions to the arts, sciences, commerce and global security are almost unmatched, and that we could throw our weight around in the world accordingly, if only we cared to stand up for our own national interest once in awhile.

But such views are unheard of outside the Chipping Norton set, the middle class clerisy in general and the fawning circle of friends and admirers surrounding David Cameron (of whom Jeremy Clarkson is one). These people, many of whom came of age at the peak of 1970s declinism and economic doldrums, have at their core a deep pessimism and scepticism about the ability of Britain to survive and prosper as an independent actor on the world stage.

So deeply have they internalised this self-doubt and self-loathing that no matter how much evidence you show them to the contrary – the examples of Australia and New Zealand, say, somehow surviving in the world without being part of an Asia Pacific Union and sharing a common parliament and court – they bat it away without even stopping to think.

Regardless of his motivation, I still think that Jeremy Clarkson made a more honest case for Britain staying in the EU than nearly anyone else in the Remain camp, with their bogus scaremongering statistics and artfully disguised vested interests.

Whether that happens to be Clarkson’s own honestly expressed view, or if he was channelling the honest view of others (like our prime minister, who is too cowardly to talk frankly about his commitment to Brussels, or nearly any other subject), remains a dirty secret known only to Jezza himself.

And maybe Delingpole is right that the column reads as though Clarkson doesn’t have his heart in it. But still: what other high profile public figure has expressed their desire for Britain’s participation in a federal European state so strongly? The answer is none. Tumbleweeds.

And that alone makes Jeremy Clarkson’s column quite significant, if not personally brave.


British television presenter Clarkson returns to his home in west London

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