Saturday, November 04, 2017

Genuinely Astonishing


I see why Hadley is shocked that Nigel Farage's comments have largely been met with indifference.  After all, the hacks have reported almost every belch, fart and whistle that the malignant Ukip nutsack has emitted over the last few years, so why the weary response now?

Farage may no longer be the leader of his party but he still has a radio show; he still tours the world meeting with senior political figures in Europe and the US; he still speaks at rallies for Nazi sympathisers and most importantly, he's the living avatar of Brexit, the worst political crisis in recent British political history. It should be astonishing that there hasn't been a public outcry.

Being an enormous smartarse however, I wasn't surprised at all that nobody much cares about Farage's wacky racist view on "Jewish influence", and I certainly wasn't "genuinely astonished".  If you'd asked me at the time what would happen, I'd have said "It'll be reported; there will be some snotty tweets, and then nothing will happen", and not only because that's precisely what's happened in the past.

That Hadley is astonished and I'm not, suggests to me that she's holding on to some incorrect presumptions.  That doesn't necessarily mean that my views are correct, but in the interest of us all growing as people and learning about the world around us, I thought I'd talk a bit about how I was able to call this one right.

There are a variety of reasons and I might look at others later but for now, let's consider the people whose job it is to report on matter of public interest - the press.  It'd be discourteous and dickish to put words into Hadley's mouth, so I'll consider here what I take to be the views of the Average British Opinion Writer.

I think the Average British Opinion Writer believes that the men and women of the British press are mostly decent, rational humans who would object to overtly foul behaviour, including the dissemination of openly racist conspiracy theories.

Conversely, I think the British press is mainly peopled by half-bright hacks who can usually be relied upon to noisily dislike such behaviour only when it's politically and personally expedient to do so.  I think many of them blithely accept certain unpleasant realities, including public racism and the ongoing career of Nigel Farage, as Just The Way Things Are, immovable and unconquerable.

If that's true, it'd go a long way to explaining why Farage can express views that would see almost any other politician either immediately drummed out of public life, or at very least besieged by a squad of reporters everywhere he or she went.

Further, I think the Average British Opinion Writer would say that most of their colleagues are dedicated and reasonably honest people, giving their flawed but often brave views on complex issues and mainly just calling it as they see it.

But what if instead - with only a few exceptions - most of the nation's political commentators are incurious, easily-led shitehawks?  What if the majority of opinion writers mistake received wisdom for deep thought and deeply-held conviction? What if they need to see others lead by example before they'll reevaluate their views, and if they regularly exhibit the herd instinct of pissed lemmings?

What if these personality traits are the main reason why they're employed as opinion writers in the first place?

That would certainly explain a lot, and not just about Farage, but about how the ongoing disaster that he and people like him created came to pass.

So that's one facet - we take different views of the press's role in public life.  Again, it's possible and perhaps even likely that I'm wrong, but you'll note that I'm not the one having brain explosions over events that aren't even unprecedented in the last few weeks, let alone years.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

How Dare You

Given the sheer quantity of "How dare you call me racist, sir" that there is flying about just now - clogging the airwaves, filling the papers, determining the outcome of elections and the very future of entire countries - I think it might help to ask the Not-A-Racist-Bone-In-My-Whole-Body types the following question:

If you decided tomorrow to be an out-and-out, self-declared white supremacist, then what would you do differently?

If you already spend your time e.g. writing articles about how touchy-feely liberalism puts everyone at risk of being beheaded by crazed Jihadists, or discovering who The Real Racists are by sharing dodgy comments made by black teenagers, or continually retweeting news stories about Muslims being convicted of crimes, or angrily focusing on Mo Farah's alleged steroid use while wholly ignoring similar stories about non-religious athletes, or calculating the percentage chance of a random male being a sex offender by controlling for country of origin....

Well, my point should be fairly clear.  From this baseline, it's difficult to see how you can take it up a notch to actual declared white supremacism. 

 If you're already carrying on like this, and quite gleefully too, then the difference between your behaviour and what you'd consider to be provably bigoted activities is pretty academic.  You could maybe be a bit more conspiratorial or wave suspect flags or use racial epithets but ultimately, these are differences of tone rather than content.

So I suppose the question is: If the only way that you could be more openly prejudiced would be to do exactly what you're doing but slightly more so, then why the hell would you bother getting pissy when people tell you that you're racist?  The line you're attempting to draw is so impossibly fine that it may as well not exist.

And this is before we get onto one of the iron rules of public conduct, which is: You don't have to be racist to be an arsehole, nor do you need to be a strident bigot to be a really unpleasant person to spend time with.

Friday, September 23, 2016

In My World Of Liberal Journalism

One of the most tiresome trends in opinion journalism goes like this:

I have found some people with wacky opinions, therefore

Everyone must support my utterly deranged policy proposal.

As regular readers will know, one of the serial offenders for this rhetorical style is the Spectator's Nick Cohen, who is very fond of announcing that because Person (x) is bad and wrong, we must immediately do something tremendously stupid and counter-productive.  Previous examples include: 

George Galloway is a bad man who proposes bad ideas, so 
Let's invade and occupy other countries.

Islamism is a horrible, vicious political movement with totalitarian aims, and thus
We must drop lots of high explosives on heavily-populated urban areas.

Lots of people now hold views that many people think are racist, but
I have decided those views aren't racist, so let's espouse these totally-not-racist views and win votes.

Given our mutual interests, I'm fond of using Nick as a weathervane for the trends of UK politics, so the following line from his latest column on the Labour Party poked out rudely, like a turd in a teacup: 

"...The sleaziness of (Jeremy Corbyn's) behaviour has allowed his opponents to avoid a question that the rise of the SNP should have made unavoidable: Can they create a progressive English patriotism?"

Now, the main thrust of Nick's piece is that the Labour leader and his supporters are bad and evil and wrong but again, it's worth noting that Nick is saying:

Corbyn and his fans are bad and evil and wrong, and so 
We must create a progressive English patriotism.

This idea - imitating the SNP's progressive nationalism - is exactly the kind of thing that strongly appeals to English people who are utterly clueless about Scotland, England and nationalism, and quite possibly about politics as well.  

Here's why: 

1)  Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose 

Which is French for, "Every few years some fucking berk wanders in and announces that we need to create, like, 'a progressive English patriotism', as if he's the first person ever to think of it".

Perhaps there is a way to harness this theoretical progressive patriotism - it has certainly been tried, by smarter people than Nick.  On the other hand, it's worth noting that whenever you haul English patriotism to the polling station, it tends to vote for the meanest, ugliest, nastiest right-wing lunatic on the ballot.

Does this mean that English patriotism will forever be a weapon wielded only by angry Tories and country-dwelling, wannabe Mussolinis?  Well, maybe not!  It is, however, a strong indicator of the general flow of patriotic politics in that country.

This is before we address the likely ability of the available candidates to achieve success.  Do Yvette or Hilary have the mettle to forge this new progressive alliance?  Is Chukka going to win over the north with his fiery rhetoric?  

Christ, no. 

2)  The SNP will absolutely love it.

The SNP in its modern form is basically the Labour Party's rhetoric and policies, delivered with barely-restrained anti-Westminster hysteria, to the extent that the only major difference between the two parties' manifestos in 2015 was over Trident, IIRC.

The SNP exists and thrives not because it has a big smiley, happy-happy attitude to patriotism, but because it has something clearly defined to push back against.  All it says, week in and week out, is that we could have awesome hospitals and more jobs and better education, if it weren't for the BASTARD SWINE at Westminster.

It's only a small exaggeration to reduce the entire movement to "English people are all like, Rah-Rah, Faw-Faw-Faw, Let's smash the oiks, but Scottish people are just like, Aye, whatever pal, nae bother".

Consider - is it likely that the solution for this is to create an equal and opposite form of the same thing?  Can anyone see why this might create more problems than it solves?

This makes as much sense as trying to eradicate lions by feeding them steaks and steroids.

3)   Nationalism = Nationalism.

One of the SNP's celebrity supporters asked recently why the First Minister was on TV talking about holding another independence referendum, when a survey had just illustrated the terrible extent of poverty in Scotland.  

This is a bit like asking why The Cookie Monster is on TV talking about how he wants to eat lots of cookies, while ignoring Scottish poverty.  

Scottish nationalism is all about securing independence, by fair means or foul.  Whatever your damnable progressive agenda is, there's little point in trying to bolt it onto the SNP.  Anything that you try to stick to the side of the nationalist program will be immediately consumed by the single priority of independence, either now or further down the line. 

And that's our happy-clappy, God-we-hate-the-English-but-welcome, foreign-friends! version of the phenomenon.  You can probably imagine the types of thing that this theoretical English progressive patriotism would consume.  

4)  It's so nakedly disingenuous. 

Nick has spent much of the last few years chiding us all for failing to heed the Very Real Concerns of the electorate about immigration.  The EU Referendum has just taught us a very real lesson about the very high levels of racism in the Very Real Concerns of the electorate.  The Labour right are still, this week, demanding that we all heed the Very Real Concerns of the electorate and act upon their wishes, despite knowing full-well what that entails, and which instincts they are fluffing.

Exactly how do you intend to square your "progressive English patriotism" with your simultaneous desire to win the votes of people who are willing to immiserate the country, economically and personally, because they don't like all the foreigners? 

The answer, of course, is that this "progressive English patriotism" will not be very "progressive" at all, particularly not in relation to immigrants and immigration.  Unless there's something I'm missing, an anti-immigration left-wing party would be little more than a touchier-and-feelier Ukip.  

And finally, it should go without saying that the idea of a touchy-feely, left-wing Ukip is 

5)  Utter electoral insanity.

It's basically saying: "We have lost much of rural Britain, so what we need to do now is to tell all of our city-dwelling supporters to fuck off as well, and then we will win".

Why, in the name of sanity, would anyone who wants to see a political party succeed demand that it force such an obviously destructive policy down the necks of its few remaining supporters? 

Well, perhaps this is the final answer to that question. 

Bonus silliness:  I like how Nick berates "commentators" who "throw around the 'far left' label without stopping to ask what it means", before Nick throws around the far-left label without informing us of what it means.  

I also like "Utopias are always banal", which is a cracking point to hear from one of the country's most enthusiastic supporters of extreme transformative violence as a means to creating democracy and stability.

And I imagine everyone chuckled at Nick's pronouncements upon what is and isn't good writing.  

And that line, "In my world of liberal journalism".  Polemicist, damn thyself. 

Friday, July 08, 2016

The View From The Outside

If nothing else, we can agree that there aren't many middle class British writers who will ever get bored with cranking out columns attacking other middle class people for being middle class.

Even so, I note that despite the endless wails and complaints about Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, he is still at least as secure in his current position as leader of the Labour Party as he was last September.  Possibly more so.

Now as I always say, I'm not a member and people who are can accept my advice or tell me where to stick it, as they see fit.

From where I'm sitting however, it looks very much like the Labour right are going to have to come to some kind of accommodation with Corbyn, no matter how much it sticks in their craw to do so.  Or, they can put up a challenger and duke it out.

Simply put, there is no other way

Why do I think so?  Well, a quick recap:

In the leadership campaign last year, the members indicated that they were going to reject the candidates offered by Labour's centre-right.  Maybe this was a wise choice and maybe it wasn't but ultimately it doesn't matter, because that's what happened.

The centre-right of the party were outraged about this, and so they ran to the press wailing and screeching and beating their breasts...

...And they got absolutely walloped in the leadership election, because the members wanted politics that were more like the ones that Corbyn was offering, and less like the austerity-lite ones of the centre-right.  Nor did they much appreciate the wailing and the screeching, and so on. 

Corbyn's leadership victory outraged the party's MPs all over again.  Almost as one, they ran to the press, wailing and screeching and beating their breasts.  They denounced Corbyn and decried the members as a bunch of entryists and loonies.

Now, maybe the wailing and screeching was a good idea, and maybe it wasn't.  It probably wasn't a good idea for politicians to attack people whose votes they might later need to win.  Either way, it doesn't matter whether it was a good idea, because it didn't work.

And unsurprisingly, the wailing and screeching only annoyed the members who had voted for Corbyn, and their support further solidified Corbyn's grip on the leadership.

Finally, after the Referendum disaster, the MPs decided that they'd had enough.  And so they ran to the press, wailing and screeching and beating their breasts.

Again, maybe this was the appropriate response, or maybe not.  I think it was a daft idea but to be absolutely clear, it doesn't matter, because it didn't work.

Worse, the renewed wails and screeches caused another huge influx of new party members, most of whom will now probably support Corbyn, rather than the party's centre-right.

Which leaves us where we are today, with the MPs and the hacks still wailing and screeching and beating their breasts and insulting the party members.

And yet, it looks like Corbyn's position is more secure than ever.

At this point, I have to ask the right of the party - How's that Corbyn Out strategy working out for you, folks?

What's your plan now, and how much wailing and screeching does it involve?

Because the wisest thing the Labour right could do now is this - forget all the complaints about Corbyn's unelectability and his faffing, bumbling public persona.  They're irrelevant.

Put all the outraged cries about his supposedly unacceptable comments to one side, and dismiss the endless garment-rending and teeth-gnashing over his terrible, outrageous personal politics.

All of these are mere details I realise that they're vitally important to some but in the long run, they just don't matter.

There's one cast-iron truth that everyone has to face up to here, and it's this - if the Labour Party is to have any chance of winning a national election in the next few years, then there will have to be a decisive fight.  If not, then everyone will have to plaster on a fake grin and swallow half a ton of humble pie.

Corbyn is not going to go away and barring an unforseeable miracle for the MPs, it looks like no amount of wailing, screeching or breast-beating is going to get rid of him.

The only viable choices are:

a)  Come to some kind of horribly awkward, grudging, mutually demeaning accommodation with Corbyn and hope that you can, for example, agree on a suitable successor for the next election;

b)  Put up a challenger who will espouse vaguely Corbyn-esque politics, and beat him at his own game, or

c)  Keep wailing and screeching and beating your breasts until either Corbyn retires, or you lose the will to go on.

And that's it.

Now, choose carefully.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Chilcot Report Open Thread

An open thread, for anyone that wants to discuss today's Chilcot Report.

Indulge me for a minute of rambling first, though.  I imagine I'll return to this but for now, having wasted a decade bickering and complaining about exactly the type of stuff that Chilcot covers, I'll confess that the headline news is immensely gratifying.

Is it childish to take such a horrifying global issue quite personally?  Very well then, I am childish. 

So aside from the usual backstage politics stuff, the most important of Chilcot's conclusions are surely the sections on planning and provision for wars.  The bottom line - don't invade countries simply because the Prime Minister thinks it's a good idea, because there is a severe risk of getting very large numbers of people killed, including your own soldiers.

I'm also very pleased by the declaration that the Iraq disaster was anything but unforeseeable, and that those who prosecuted it intentionally ignored the - very prescient - warnings of exactly the consequences that might ensue.

Already, I've seen yelps and screeches and loud complaints that this will now make it more difficult for the UK to wage wars, and indeed it probably will.  I say, good: our track record in recent wars is appalling, and substantial reflection is now sorely needed.

I'm also pleased that it's dealt bluntly with the "Did the Government lie?" question, by announcing that the Government "exaggerated" its case for war.  This saves us the long, boring argument about the difference between "Public Relations" and "Lies", and allows us to simply note that misleading PR about wars is a considerably more serious matter than misleading PR about a £3 bottle of shampoo.

For me, its very welcome that Chilcot's conclusions come with the official imprimatur of the British state.  For far too long, any public figure arguing that e.g. the government exaggerated its case for war, or that its case for war was mere PR for a decision already taken, was likely to be mocked as a conspiracy theorist and a nutter.  The suggestion that Britain's involvement in the war increased the threat of terrorism was treated as tantamount to siding with Al Qaeda, if not outright incitement to violence.

That these straightforward points were demonstrably and obviously true, did not help at all with Britain's highly belligerent and obnoxious pro-war party.  Those people will still be belligerent and obnoxious tomorrow, but the difference is that the facts are now decisively on our side, because they're part of the official record.

And on Tony himself, well, what's left to be said?  He was a lunatic and a true-believer when he was Prime Minister and as he demonstrated today, he's still as mad as a box of frogs.

The main accusation against him is, I think, that he preferred to risk the lives of millions of people on his own windy, arse-extracted interpretation of events, rather than listening to the advice of people who actually knew what they were talking about.

So what does Tony do?  He gives a rambling, 45-minute press conference in which he confirms beyond all doubt that the accusation is absolutely correct.  

I used to think that there was method in his madness but now, I'm not so sure.  Looking at him today, he reminds me of people who have been accused of the most serious crimes.  Those people very rarely plead guilty and usually maintain their innocence, even in the face of the most overwhelming evidence.

Why do they do this, when a guilty plea might slash their sentence?  They do this because some crimes are so serious that the reputational damage is too horrible to accept, and because prisons are full of stab-happy killers with lots of time to whittle shivs.

They do it because it's better to go to jail wailing about a non-existent miscarriage of justice, than it is to admit to what you did and face the consequences.

Anyway, on that note, have at it - I'm sure that there are plenty of hilarious attempts to muddy the waters out there today, and there'll be thousands by tomorrow.

But the good news is that at long last, it's them who will have to prove their points beyond doubt.  It's scant comfort, but even that has been a long time coming.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

This Film's Crap, Let's Slash The Seats

One last Brexit post then, before the Chilcot Report reveals all the Mistakes that Were Made, and to what extent they were Made In Good Faith.

On Referendum night, I overheard half a conversation between a friend and her Dad.  I got the other half later:

Friend:  How did you vote then, Dad?
Dad:  I voted Out.
Friend:  Dad!  Why did you do that?  The economy will crash!  It'll cause chaos!
Dad:  That won't bother me hen, I'm retired.
Friend: But it'll affect me!  What about me?
Dad: (Long silence).

And the more that I talk to people about the Referendum, the clearer it's becoming that for many, the calculation was a lot less This is a make-or-break moment for the nation than it was the eternal response of the bored teenager:  

This film's crap, let's slash the seats. 

I was thinking about all this when I was reading Rafael Behr's unintentionally hilarious article about the Remain disaster, in which he details the difficulties that the Tories had in fighting against other Tories and assorted right-wing cranks. It leaves me with the bizarre impression that the Brexit disaster isn't really David Cameron's fault at all, and that the real problem is the strange, alien and suspiciously liberal province of "Remania".

The longer version of it is: Cameron and his campaign fought a brave, principled but doomed battle against an incredibly corrupt and extreme opponent.  They fought nobly but were defeated by the might of the tabloid press; by the chicanery of their adverseries, and finally by their own remoteness from the anger of the ordinary voter, because Remain supporters are all a bunch of pointy-headed, ivory-tower, middle-class, la-de-da woofters who don't understand the populace's manly rage.  Shame, shame on us all.

The short and more accurate version:  It never occurred to Dave and his mates that their own shitty tactics might be successfully used against them, and now politicans and journalists don't know whose arse they should be kissing.

Behr produces a cast of cross-party characters from Remain to express disgust and astonishment that Leave not only turned the EU Referendum into a celebrity bunfight between Johnson and Cameron; not only that they openly lied to the electorate with an actually-racist campaign, but also that the press allowed them to get away with it:

"...More infuriating still was the amount of air time given to claims from the Leave campaign that were either grotesque distortions or flagrant lies - the fiction that EU membership cost £350m per week; the pretence that Turkey was close to EU membership and the denial that the UK had a veto on that point..."

"...Papers normally do so much of the work in a campaign, ripping policies apart," noted a No. 10 source.  "There was nothing new about the (idea of introducing an) Australian-based points system, but the papers just gave it a free pass..."  

"...We underestimated their willingness to be mendacious and xenophobic", ("Stronger In" head of strategy Ryan) Coetzee said". 

You get the idea, and it's probably worth allowing the sheer preposterousness this claim to sink in: that the Remain campaign were surprised to discover that it's possible for British politicians to tell whacking great lies, and that they were astounded to discover that the British press enthusiastically repeats those lies.  Even the racist ones! 

Who could possibly have foreseen this misfortune?

Now obviously, nobody in the Remain campaign was really surprised to discover that Johnson is a liar or that Farage is a fervent racist.  Seasoned political campaigners are not often shocked by the scummery of the tabloids, and any that were should be coerced into committing Seppuku with an EU-mandated straight banana.

Ultimately, this is yet another attempt by various Remain figures to dodge responsibility for their own ineptitude.  The loudest cry from any losing campaign is always We Wuz Robbed.  This is no different, just with a long additional whinge about the alleged death of the supposedly sensible centrism that gave us the damn referendum in the first place.

Nonetheless, it does offer us a glimpse into the real story of the Referendum.

For a long time, the Tories kept their socially conservative faction - a crinkled crowd of resentful sexual shut-ins and retired colonels with unphotogenically racist tendencies, like Fawlty Towers crossed with 28 Days Later - in check with regular pantomime displays.  The type of people who wouldn't trust the government to run a power station, but fully expect it to dictate acceptable rules on procreation and parenting to the populace.  You know the type.

Mostly, the Tories kept these people and much of the rest of us in check by draping themselves in the Union Flag, winning wars, jailing louts, baton-charging protestors and loudly disapproving of the deviancy and profligacy of modern youth. 

Meanwhile, the party's money faction - the part that actually takes all the decisions - set about ripping up every British service and utility that they could find, then flogging them all out of the back of a van to their financier mates. 

And this suited everyone who mattered, for decades - the money men got rich and made sure that kickbacks flowed into the right purses, and the blue rinse brigade at least got to feel like they were in charge.  Whenever the scam got too obvious - which was most days - it was necessary to invent whole menageries of enemies to terrify the crinklies into compliance.

So invent they did: great cackling cavalcades of communist hobgoblins;  flocks of privilege-checking metrosexual students; ravenous, swan-munching Poles and legions of foreign politicians with big funny noses, all of whom had malign designs on the public's money, their nifty cars and their lovely little hobbit-holes. 

But nothing lasts forever.

"This was the first time Cameron experienced what it would feel like to fight a campaign with most of Fleet Street lined up on the opposing side - to receive the kind of ferocious treatment usually reserved for Labour leaders..."

"...Anyone who expressed a view on the hazards of leaving the EU was painted as the hostage of a corrupt Brussels-worshipping establishment...  As one Cameron aide puts it: "If anyone on the left had ever said the Bank of England was corrupt and shouldn't have a view, they would be incinerated, but the BBC gave a free ride to the rubbishing of institutions".  

And so on, with the children of the revolution eating the original revolutionaries.  As you reap, so shalt thou sow.  The monster is throttling fuck out of Dr Frankenstein, you get the drift.

The upshot here is that this has precious little to do with the remoteness of the political class - or the 48% of voters who wanted to stay in the EU - from the public, or any of that malarkey.  This is more like the financial crisis of 2008 - the scam got so big and so unweildy that it could no longer be controlled, and it's now blowing up in the faces of its architects and enablers. 

And as with previous crises, one government or another will eventually bring it back under control, and we'll return to something like business as usual, only poorer, angrier, more vicious and more mean than ever before.  Then, the whole cycle will repeat itself, in an uglier and louder fashion.

But for that to happen, it's going to be necessary to create some new bogeymen to share the blame.

Going by the general tenor of this week's opinion pages, including Behr's article, those bogeymen are going to be disproportionately urban, young, and suspiciously fond of foreigners and wanky cuisine.  Metropolitan hipster types, you know, the sort who might want to force 52% of the population to listen to the diktats of hated auslanders like, say, the European Union.

Just as in the financial catastrophe of 2008, it looks like some folk would far prefer it if we all accepted our own share of responsibility for causing this fresh debacle. 

The alternative would be to admit that our sensible, centrist government screwed up badly, and that the nation was swallowed by the scam that they and their friends had created.  That might include taking a hard look at our supposedly centrist politicians, and at the people who report their innermost thoughts. 

And we could hardly have that.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Very Real

And so to one of the more prominent issues of the Brexit debacle: where now, for the Very Real Concerns of the British public?

(A bit of background here for new readers: every time the issue of immigration comes up, some nutless joker is guaranteed to issue baleful warnings that We Must Respect The Very Real Concerns Of The British Public Or Else, usually while finger-wagging every citizen to the left of General Franco.  It's this that has led to the comical weekly spectacle of entire Question Time panels and audiences all agreeing that they mustn't be prevented from talking about immigration, live on national television).

Leavers and Remainers may not agree on much but in the aftermath of this enormous political and financial catastrophe, I'd like to think that every half-reasonable citizen would at least agree that the Concerns have turned out to be not Very Real at all.

The fact that we've even been discussing the Concerns stems from a political calculation.  Every time a politician or other public figure mentions the public's Very Real Concerns, they're describing the universal phenomenon where notable influxes of people to any area are likely to cause resentment among the residents.  As noted in a previous post, this happens regardless of race and religion.  It's not very nice but it is a real and observable issue, and it's one that should be taken into account in planning for our future living arrangements.

Unfortunately for all of the fans of the Concerns, the EU referendum has graphically demonstrated that the Very Real Concerns don't just include resentment of outsiders and change.  They also cover everything from people being annoyed about hearing other folk on their buses speaking foreign languages, to resentment of new shops catering to immigrants, to outright racist abuse in the streets.

This being the case, it's now become quite difficult* to pretend that the Very Real Concerns are not, you know, a bit on the racist side.  If the R-word upsets you - and God knows, it drives lots of people out of their damn minds - then there are plenty of others: "prejudice", "bigotry", "unnecessarily being a cunt about it"...  You can take your pick.

So this leaves our politicians and public figures in a bit of a bind.  As a cursory glance will reveal, they've been pandering to the public's Concerns for well over a decade, and yet somehow the outrage has grown worse, to the point where Brexit is now endangering the finances of people who actually matter.  As the parties have more and more openly sought to co-opt public racism for electoral gain, it's only made us crazier and more unhinged.

The choice then is to pick - do we continue to pander to an increasingly racist public, or do we instead risk telling the public that they're wrong?

This should be an easy choice for Labour who are, after all, supposed to be in favour of the man in the street and against this kind of thing.  Racism is many things, but it's not a magic lamp that you can rub just right, and then command a genie to help the poor**.

There's no racism Laffer Curve, where you can achieve the maximum public good by pitching your politics at just the right level of prejudice.  You can feed racism or you can oppose it, but you can't co-opt it to your will, because it will end up controlling you and ruining everything that you are supposed to be working for.

Because here's the deal - during the referendum campaign, the Leave campaign quite happily  ripped off actual Nazi propaganda and propelled the nation into an unprecedented crisis, wiping out vast amounts of wealth.

And these are the people that the Very Real Concerners want to get into a game of Anti-Immigrant Bingo with?  UKIP, for example, have shown that there are few depths to which they will not sink.  Are you going to get down into the gutter alongside them?  That's not going to win many votes; it will actively repel your own supporters, and it'll inevitably spark a long downward spiral into worse hate and worse disorder.

In the end, this is what the Very Real Concerns always were - a con, just a not-very-clever way for bet-hedging politicians to keep us all pootling quietly into the sewer at a slow and steady rate.  Any attempt to play at racist one-upmanship with Nigel Farage is going to take us there on rocket propulsion.

So here we are.  The entire nation can surely see that there's no such thing as "a bit racist", only racist or not.  Which way are we going to jump?

I'm assuming that we'll go with "Continue just enough to keep the whole sorry show ticking along", but it wouldn't be the first time that I've been wrong, or the last.


*Difficult, but hardly impossible, if you're thick and shameless enough.

**I had a good think about this and pretty much the only instance of racism being successfully deployed in a way that broadly enhanced the greater public good, is the war in the Pacific in WWII.  And I don't think that's a very helpful example, what with all the mass-murder and destruction of entire cities full of civilians, and so on.