I’ve been getting rather political lately. Apologies to those who hoped I’d stick with technology, but ranting about politics is so much more fun. Maybe after June I’ll go back to the techie stuff, though it’ll be difficult if Britain votes to leave as life will be even more interesting, if only in the sense of the Chinese curse.
I’ve also been getting a bit perplexed about the political positions adopted by some of the pro-Brexit people. When I went looking for trouble on one of their Facebook Groups (see a previous post) I found a bizarre mixture of right and left wing ideology, often expressed in the same breath, that left me wondering if there really is a new politics about.
It’s not just the EU they hate, you see. David Cameron is coming in for some pretty serious slagging off by these people, who seem to regard him as some kind of an EU stooge. Most of the rest of the current political classes are also the target of their anger; it’s only Boris and Nigel who escape, along with as many of the other nut jobs who anyone can remember such as Michaels Gove and Howard, Ian Duncan-Something and that fellow who supposedly leads the House. This motley bunch stay exempt as long as they quote regularly from the Daily Mail, that well known comic and lie factory.
President Obama is another of their favourite hate figures. He’s apparently a Muslim, which puts him beyond the pale as he’s personally responsible, along with Angela Merkel, for the millions of jihadists who are flooding into Britain through the EU’s open door. You know, the ones you see every day running around with Kalashnikovs, killing people at random. You haven’t seen them? You should get out more.
Donald Trump is another matter. None of the anti-EU posts found anything unusual or reprehensible about his political position, so I assume they actually like the Orange Man. But their primary admiration is for Vladimir Putin. Most of them think he’s a really decent fellow, somebody we should aim to be friends with once we’ve left the evil, scheming, anti-British EU. The very suggestion that he has anything but our deepest interests at heart is considered by these naive folks as ridiculous; it’s obvious he is a gentle leader who has nothing but goodwill to us. Neville Chamberlain returned from Berlin in 1938 waving a little piece of paper containing Hitler’s signature, convinced that no war was possible. Have we learned nothing in 78 years about duplicity and lies?
Where does such a strange inversion of conventional geopolitics come from? How is it possible to believe the EU is evil but Russia good? Which of these is having an economic meltdown owing to a calamitous fall in oil revenue? Which of these can only stem the exodus of its own elite by trying to prevent them taking their money out of their home country? Which of them can only keep up morale by embarking on military expansionism? Which of them is destabilising the Ukraine in order to keep their own population from rising in revolt at their failure to deliver prosperity to the masses?
The strangest thing about all of this is the inability of otherwise sensible people to see beyond screaming Daily Mail headlines. Every fact and every event is carved to fit the straitjacket that declares the EU to be the sole evil force in the modern world. This is combined with an almost religious belief that we British are in some way different to everyone else; different and infinitely better. We are British so the rest of the world will go out of its way to accommodate us, because it always has. Constant repetition of this mantra blinds people to the possibility that Putin is only the latest in a long line of Russian leaders interested solely in power, that to create a modern version of the Soviet Union is the best way to achieve that ambition and that the classic imperial strategy is to divide and rule, splitting country by country from the EU and then picking them off one by one.
As for America, although Obama is often recognised as having been the most honest President since Jimmy Carter, one of the defining characteristics of his administration has been isolationism. The “special relationship” much beloved of British Prime Ministers from Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair, is now a figment of the imagination of Tory grandees who won’t accept the world has changed. And a Trump administration is unlikely to change that; it’ll probably make it worse. Not that we can expect much consistency from a Trump administration, which will veer all over the place according to the latest whim of the president.
So Brexit will leave our small island without any genuine friends, at the mercy of an EU that is stinging from the rebuff we’ve handed out to them, a Russia intent on rebuilding its former empire and an America that doesn’t know what it wants from one day to the next. And I haven’t even mentioned China, intent on becoming the number one world power. Our nearest neighbours are our only real friends and the Brexit camp is bent on kicking them as hard as it possibly can. While David Cameron jets from one European capital to another in a folorn quest to convince them we can be trusted, Boris, Nigel and the rest only go on spouting rabid anti-European nonsense about conspiracies, bureaucratic gravy-trains and the rest. However much they may hate their European counterparts, a new Tory leadership will have to butter them up in order to smooth the renegotiation of hundreds of trade deals once the dust settles later this year. How does antagonising them now make the prospect of favourable deals more likely? Nobody outside the poor brainwashed Daily Mail readership believes that although we hate the rest of the world, it loves Britain so much it will give us everything we ask for. Like rats following the Pied Piper they go marching on to the drumbeat, eyes and minds closed.
When all this is over, British political life will have changed. Strange alliances have formed and, leave or stay, it’s unlikely we can return to the status quo ante. Each of the main political parties is split down the middle into rival camps that hate each other more than they do the other parties, and this is hardly a recipe for stable government. All at a time when stability is needed more than anything else. If we stay, the Euro-sceptics won’t go away; they’ll be screaming about conspiracy and baying for blood. If we leave they’ll have to find another scapegoat on whom to pin the blame for all the ills of the world. The only winners in these situations are extremists, and although I am reluctant to ascribe so much intelligence to the tabloids, I do wonder if that is part of the game plan, a strategy to replace government by consent with government by permission of those who can raise the largest rabble. We really are in danger of slipping back to an earlier time, where not only the EU did not exist but neither did modern standards of civilised conduct.