Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Brexit: the revolution that never was
This blog will not be continuing that much longer. All things being well I will be moving away from politics in the very near future and back into the real world. But I have some reflections I feel at liberty to share with you now. Brexit as a revolutionary instrument has failed.
If you think back to the run up to the general election, Ukip was talk of the town. They were going to storm the castle walls and take the establishment on in their home turf. It didn't happen though. All eyes were on Ukip to see if they were made of the right stuff, but in the end what shone through was their complete lack of intellectual foundation and total lack of competence.
The Farage mirage jumped the shark long before polling day - and by polling day had become so odious that everyone was itching to see the whole enterprise fail. And oh boy did it deserve to. The anti-immigration rhetoric brought all the worst people out of the woodwork in support of Ukip.
Though Ukip at the core are just a bunch of very ordinary people with fairly pedestrian small-c conservative views, the vanguard of their online efforts was a small but particularly unpleasant and very vocal band of grunting misanthropes with a fixation on Muslims.
After a long and bitter election campaign I was truly delighted to watch Farage's face as he realised his holy grail of a seat on the green benches would never be a reality. But on that day also came the realisation we had a referendum to fight. Before that though there was the battle for the campaign designation.
The original intent was that The Leave Alliance was going to put in a bid but we were caught off guard and never had the resources to mount a credible challenge. We did however have one thing the other contenders did not. A plan. Through Twitter we eventually got the attention of Arron Banks and there were a number of talks with regard to the adoption of Flexcit - a plan that would take us beyond Brexit. To cut a long story short, that same contingent of malevolent Ukippers rapidly bullied Banks into a u-turn. Banks was a coward.
It later transpired that Leave.EU never had any intention of professionalising and was intent on being as foul as possible. It left the Electoral Commission with no real choice but to select Vote Leave. The bid submitted by Banks was sloppy and unprofessional. And that is how we ended up with a Toryboy outfit like Vote Leave, coming out of nowhere, running the show with their bogus promises of £350m a week for the NHS.
And now what have we? A very problematic win. In most respects Vote Leave failed to register at all with the media unless it was being especially obnoxious. It certainly didn't win any new friends. What swung it in the end was a two fingered salute to the government and the remain campaign who had been complacent, snobby, condescending and negative throughout. Much of the debate went on without any real reference to the EU. We were not sold on the idea of the EU - only the problems created if we left.
It seems to me that the EU was an abstract element in the whole campaign and nobody even attempted to sell the broader ideals of the EU to the public. So in the end it was a plebiscite against the establishment in a one shot deal that was more to do with domestic politics and a culture war on London than anything else.
So what we have is a corporate shell of a campaign, with no movement behind it, no real traction among its backers and a handful of empty marketing slogans which are politically unrealisable. Points based immigration systems and £350m to spend on whatever your pet hobby horse is.
And with Ukip having vacated the field entirely, turning on itself and ceding its left wing support to Jeremy Corbyn, there is now no movement at all in place to threaten the status quo or leverage anything more than a damp squib Brexit. Certainly nothing that can be carried beyond into a movement for democratic reforms. There is now a shadow organisation in the image of Vote Leave but it is not a genuine grass roots organisation. It is one of Matthew Elliott's sock puppets.
Apart from the tokenistic appointment of some useful idiots - Leadsom, Davis, Johnson and Fox, there are no leavers in any positions of real power. Certainly nobody who is a threat to Mrs May. One by one they will be weeded out and sidelined leaving a broadly europhile one nation Conservative party to deliver Brexit on our behalf. The insurgency has defeated itself and because its core grievance of the EU is neutralised as an issue there absolutely nowhere for it to go.
And just this week some have voiced the view that somehow I would rather we lost the referendum. That's a tough one. You see I would very much like to see the establishment cleared out and see a movement for democratic reform punch through in its wake - and now because of such a lacklustre Brexit campaign with no movement behind it, that won't happen. We are leaving the EU by accident with a slender mandate and the government gets to define what Brexit means. This is not the Brexit I was looking for.
Why sure, we're leaving the EU, and hooray for that, but it will be a managed Brexit where the right are thrown a few bones to chew on like grammar schools and a climate sceptic in the environment ministry, but on the whole the establishment has seen us coming - and in a masterful display of political judo has thwarted what could have been a sea change in politics. We blew it.
But now that we have blown it, I'm wondering if I even give a toss. After all Britain would not be better off for being run by libertarian fanatics like Carswell, Hannan and Redwood. As much as these are singularly stupid people they have shown themselves to be calculating, shallow and thoroughly dishonest. Would a revolution from the Tory right and their Ukip bedfellows be a Britain I want to live in? Ten years ago maybe. Now? Mrs May will do me just fine given all the alternatives.
That though does not mean I am satisfied with the political settlement. Brexit is only half a job and if the mission was to return the power to the people then the Brexit we get doesn't even scratch the surface. We're back at square one - back where we were when I was a kid attending meetings with Farage and Sked speaking to audiences of three in Lancashire church halls.
We have come full circle and in the end have accomplished nothing. The Ukip that we developed from next to nothing now occupies the space in the spectrum once occupied by the BNP at its peak and is fishing in roughly the same pond - give or take.
Through Farage's skilful political assassinations there is nobody in the party with any talent or political nous. There is no coherent intellectual framework and chances of winning a Westminster seat in their own right haven't looked this bleak for a decade. How different things could have been had Farage been a competent leader.
In five years time we will have a middle of the road centrist Conservative government, purged of the discredited Brexiteers, with a dilapidated Labour party struggling to put up a fight, and Britain will be lodged in an annexe of an EU treaty until the EU silently fades into obscurity. I wonder, what was it all for? Not for a marginal reduction in immigration I hope.
If Brexit were to have any revolutionary potential it needed skilful, knowledgeable leavers at the forefront working to a plan with a movement behind it. And that needed to be in place years before now. Vote Leave should never have even had a look in. The lead campaign should have been territory owned by Ukip. In the end though, it could not deliver the goods - so if you want someone to blame for the revolution that never was, Nigel Farage is your man.