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.


Igor Belanov said...

"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."

And the large and crucial contribution of these people to the 52% has been almost completely ignored. Leave voters are all poor, to be written off as 'ignorant proles' or canonised as true patriots expressing their 'very real concerns'(!).

I suspect that the real reason that the Tory leavers are ignored is that they expose the real daftness of having the referendum in the first place- that many (if not most) people were in effect expressing an opinion about their identity, rather than about the EU as such.

This suggests to me that the referendum has in effect settled precious little and has merely accentuated many of the pathological traits of the UK political system- hardcore racism and xenophobia, terrifying people about the vital necessity of pleasing the financial markets, creating convenient scapegoats and violently attacking even the most minor(left-wing) threats to the political class and the establishment.

The only real change is that a few years down the line they won't be able to blame the EU any more.

Phil said...

It's a weird article, that one - three-quarters of it is a fairly unsparing depiction of a group of cynical players whose political project was either exhausted or stymied by their past cynical moves, and how those people got played by some even worse and more cynical specimens. But instead of drawing the appropriate conclusions, Behr flips into a weird apocalyptic register, as if to say David Cameron got played, and this shows that everything in British politics is now changed, changed utterly, and we shall all have to adapt to this strange new world (which will probably involve being a bit more racist). I've been hearing this tone a lot lately - commentators wringing their hands and explaining that everything they thought they could trust has gone south, and therefore the entire political spectrum needs to be rethought (probably involving a bit more racism). The thought that the problem might like in where they'd placed their trust doesn't arise.

Phil said...

Ugh - the problem might lie, I mean.

Gary Othic said...

Thinking about, what depresses me most about the Brexit fallout is the entirely predictable circling of the wagons by the centrists to try and save Cameron's reputation.

What's even more depressing is it seems to be working.

Gary Othic said...


"The thought that the problem might like in where they'd placed their trust doesn't arise."

It couldn't really. That would require some self-examination and an admission of fault. One of the perks of being a member of the Very Serious People club is that you never have to do this.

organic cheeseboard said...

Trying fr about the 4th time to reply here, hope it works - previously my phone was the issue I think.

My admiration for the piece was the 3/4 that Phil mentions above. even if its conclusions are 'poor old tories, why won't everyone feel sorry for them', in what it discusses it lays bare just how lightweight and arrogant the supposedly amazing Cameron/Osborne 'machine' really was (is?), and it also demonstrates the willingness of so many supposedly clever politics types, both people like Straw and Coetzee and also people like Behr, to go along with them. Reading it, it's clear that pretty much everything the Remain camp did was a colossal mistake. Allowing Camreon to self-nominate as frontman when he'd only weeks earlier been fronting like he might go for Leave, and had spent the previous 10 years pandering shamelessly to anti-EU types. Thinking that 'Osborne is a safe pair of hands' would win over swing voters, after he'd just delivered a budget that didn't even balance and his ratings had tanked. Not wanting much at all to do with Labour then whining when they didn't make Remain their top priority. Having absolutely no answers on immigration at all despite everyone in Leave being focused on it. Having as their three main organisers the following: 1) someone who masterminded the lib Dems losing almost all their seats; 2) someone who failed to even win a seat in an election, and 3) someone whose previous experience was in journalism. clearly having done absolutely no research at all beforehand and just relying on 'Tories know best'. etc etc.

organic cheeseboard said...

you'll probbo do a Chilcot post, and i'm planning on reading me some Decentpedia later, but hey. Am ultra impressed with 2 things:

1) Nick Cohen on Twitter asking 'When will Chilcot talk about gassing the Kurds?' and also claiming that What's Left is about how the West enabled said gassing (!)

2) Tony Blair saying the exact same things in his press conference as he did in his Chilcot testimony - '9/11 changed everything, terrorism is bad, Saddam was bad, put yourself in my shoes'. Impressive

organic cheeseboard said...

Blair's also using the 'alternative realities' line he and Decents love so much. Yet he's not really very good at it himself, is he? In fact when he's asked questions of that kind he, er, ignores them and answers a different question in his head.

Q: If America had not been committed to invasion, would you have tried to persuade them to invade Iraq?

Blair says that is a very good question.

He would definitely have been in favour of taking action to stop WMD falling into terrorist hands.

He says his first intervention in Iraq was with President Clinton. After that America adopted regime change in Iraq as official policy.

He does not know how it would have turned out if there had been a different US president. But he had to deal with the situation as it was.

flyingrodent said...

OC: Reading it, it's clear that pretty much everything the Remain camp did was a colossal mistake.

That's it exactly, and I notice that most of the hacks RTing it seem to have found this to be a profound human tragedy, rather than absolutely symptomatic of the Remain camp's sheer stupidity.

My interpretation of it is far less "Oh, how terrible for them to face those awful Farageists, so dishonest!" than it is "Boo-hoo you dogs, this was all your fault, so get confessing".

New post up above on Chilcot but I'll say this - Jesus, Tony Blair, what a piece of work. There's nobody quite like him.

Chris said...

To be fair, fuck the privilege-checking metrosexual students.