Happy Birthday, Brexit! (A whingeing Remainer writes in sorrow and anger)
I sometimes ask myself when the hurt and anguish I have been feeling since that fateful June day will eventually subside. Certainly I feel no respite from the torrent of emotions that have haunted, confused and angered me since that momentous decision was taken. Maybe I should ‘get used to it’ as some of my opponents say; or else ‘suck it up’ as others have counselled. I have been accused of being a bad loser and this is a particularly painful allegation for me to deal with by dint of being comically and devastatingly accurate. I hate losing! Frank Sinatra once said, ‘show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.’ (I started to take Frank’s music much more seriously after I came across this particular pearl of wisdom) Like every other shallow and narcissistic Remoaning creep I prefer being on the winning side and have suffered mightily ever since I woke up in the early hours of June 24th to hear David Dimbleby telling the nation that it had voted to leave the European Union. I must come clean here and state that my response was to suspect that this was some kind of colossal joke! Surely we couldn’t be that stupid, I told myself. Perhaps I was still dreaming? Perhaps Dimbleby had developed some extremely rare speech impediment which caused him to mispronounce his words? My head was spinning as I looked in disbelief at the television- Dimbleby himself seemed completely unruffled by his own revelations but I could only do what I almost always do in moments of crisis- I fell to pieces! I remember screaming the word ‘no’ and writhing on the sofa until my wife appeared with a glass of water. She was obviously concerned by my distraught and no doubt dishevelled appearance and demanded to know if we’d been burgled. I told her the reason for my anguish through sobs and she looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. ‘You’ll get over it’ she told me calmly.
So here I am almost a year to the day since that June morning and the most screamingly obvious thing I can record is that manifestly I haven’t got over it! I sometimes wonder if I will ever get over it. Let me be clear here- I knew that the result was ging to be a very close- I had heard stories from local Labour activists that almost all of the council tenants they had canvassed were intending to vote Leave which news was disturbing given that many of them had never voted for anything in their lives. The idea to many of these newly politicised swathes of the most disadvantaged groups within our society of excercising their democratic rights had hitherto seemed rather effete. I was aware even in the early stages of the campaign that a decisive majority of English people were intending to vote Leave but I put my faith in our near brothers and sisters, the Welsh, the Scots and the Irish. The Welsh in particular as net beneficaries of EU membership were sure to help out the cosmopolitan elites to which I had pledged my unwavering allegiance, I consoled myself. They were surely immune from the contagion of stupidity which had established itself so promiscously in many of the major cities of England. It’ll be alright on the night, I was certain. The table bashers and street orators who were appearing in ever increasing numbers on programmes such as Question Time would soon get theirs along with their sad fantasies of a newly revitalised Britain restored to its rightful postion of global supremacy. All this nonsense would soon be nipped in the bud by the more politically sophisticated cosmopolitan elites, we told ourselves smugly.
But how wrong could we be! On the morning of June 24th a gloating Nigel Farage appeared on our tv screens to drink in his moment of triumph and let’s not be churlish here it is entirely understandable that he would do so. Let no-one forget that when Farage first inveilghed himself on the public conciousness it was as a rather eccentric outsider with a single political destination in mind; namely the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union a partnership which had existed for over forty years and to many seemed certain to endure for at least another forty. Of course right from its inception that partnership had always been prey in this country to profound hostility from both wings of the political divide but I think it’s reasonable to say that for a significant majority membership was a matter of profound indifference or else there were those who were actively enthusiastic supporters. I can recall at the time of Britain’s entry into what was then known as the Common Market some dark mutterings from my left leaning buddies of the day who told me it was it was federalist racket favouring fat businessmen but mostly the issue didn’t over excercise too many minds and anyway it wasn’t long before much more important stuff such as the rise of Thatcher proved a much bigger distraction. And so most of us went about our lives more or less at ease with the new order and while it might reasonably be said of the British that their deeply embedded insularity makes them hostile to change it can also be said that having once taken an uncharacteritic leap into the unknown they certainly don’t like the idea of submitting to irksome volatility. You might, if you are very lucky, get the Brits to change their minds once in a while but woe to he who believes that this sort of thing should be become the normal state of affairs. As Napoleon said we are a nation of shoplifters and it seems we are determined to remain so. And so we slumbered on:occasionally there would be dire warnings of impending doom from the right wing press;the tabloids in particular seemed to be getting their knickers in a twist about something or other but mostly we laughed it off and watched shows such as Monty Python who satirized brilliantly the more absurd aspects of the British establishment. Surely the day of the improbably stupid colonels, and the imbecilic repressed judges was over, we told ourselves. Such types were disturbing we knew but mostly only to themselves as their baleful influence waned by the day. Even the appearance of some shrill, hectoring, ambitious old shrew rising rapidly within the Tory ranks only augmented our sense of invincibility. A party famous for its monumental stupidity was fighting back by championing the rise of a woman even more ridiculous than her predecessors. No, we had nothing to fear from these gross caricatures of self deluded parvenus climbing some greasy ladder that no longer existed. And so we we lit our enormous bongs, shagged ourelves silly and continued chortling at the sinile old buffers pouring themselves huge measures of gin to numb the pain of their humiliation. Hubris, you say? We were way past hubris, let me tell you, we were too smart for that.
We don’t learn though, do we? When will we ever learn? To keep us honest we even had a popular song back then asking that question verbatim -we had covered out tracks and we weren’t going to be as dumb as the gullible fools who proceeded us. No sir! We moved on and so did time and time took us to 1979 and the election of that ridiculous screeching harridan we had all laughed at. What! can we be that stupid!!?? we asked ourselves. You see the pattern? I bloody hope so and I make no apologies for linking an article on Brexit with rise of the the neo liberalist whore who appeared from nowhere. The times might change but to the shrewder observer in all the important details they actually stay the same and now we hipsters are back to scratching our heads and asking ourselves how on earth did we get here? We’re a bit fatter in the middle and a bit thinner on the top but deep within us a rebellious spirit still burns although the bonfire of our passions has subsided to a small spunk of flame as we wait our turn to be pitched into the darkness. Sure the clocks are running down but maybe we can make one last tilt at the windmill and fight, brothers and sisters! I don’t know about you guys out there but I don’t go gently anywhere it just isn’t my style. It would be easy if we compare Brexit with the rise of Thatcherism to conclude we fight an unbeatable foe who have shut down all the escape routes but as very recent history shows there is some life in the old dog yet (with some much welcome assistance from some young pups, it seems) Essentially, the enemy stays the same: the patriots who claim they would die for their country (oh if only some of them would and quickly!) They tear up- they tell us- whenever a Union Jack is unfurled and then swoon, their eyes blazing with a deep sense of duty (yet strangely whenever the tax bill arrives they experience a strange overwhelming paralysis due no doubt to some supererogatory service performed unnoticed by the ignorant mob but which nevertheless leaves the sacred realm more secure from the barbarians at its gate) The charlatans are alive and well as ever, the natural order is safe in their hands, it seems.
But let’s get back to dear old Nigel here and rejoin him on the morning of his astonishing triumph. I remember him commenting that it was a beautiful day and that all the gloomy prophecies of the Remain camp were alreading unravelling. I also remember him telling us all with a shrug of his shoulders that the legend writ large on a certain bus was a ‘mistake’. Just that- a ‘mistake’. But Nigel me old mucker this wasn’t just any old clapped out Clapham omnibus it was one of the most famous buses in political history. It was a shiny, state-of -the- art bus replete with a message of hope for the downtrodden British people. It promised the British people that the money we sent to the EU would stop forthwith and be sent instead to our cash strapped NHS. It said that. Nothing else: no caveats, no small print, no ifs, no buts. And now, finally, we have arrived at a juncture which has troubled me deeply ever since that morning and it is this: this message was deliberately transmitted to invoke that most laudable characteristic of the British mentality it’s inherent, incontestable sense of fair play. British fair play! A noble sentiment if ever there was one. What on earth could be more luadable than a promise to cut off the money we were sending to some bloated undemocratic self serving monlithic bureaucracy and divert that loot to that most cherished of British institutions the NHS! But now we get to a point which this writer finds even more difficult to absorb than the insouciant flip of Farage’s famous shoulders and his ‘mistake’: in the year that has elapsed since Brexit I have not heard a single Leaver on any media declare his or her disappointment as a promise which must surely have appealed greatly to their better instincts was withdrawn in a puff of smoke. I’ll say that again, but this time I’ll shout and swear as I often do when I get angry: not fucking one! Forgive me but this indifference to what seems to me one of the most egregious betrayals in British political history suggests very strongly to me that the Leavers weren’t too bothered about such trivial minutiae as truthfulness in their campaign and concentrated on the bigger picture (I’m trying my best to use their chosen syntax here) of winning the referendum. And you have to hand it to them they did win- just like the footballers who commit ‘clever’ fouls or presidents who thinks not paying taxes makes them ‘smart’, it’s all about winning thesedays, innit?
Here’s something else for the Leavers to chew over: as a long time admirer of that admirable old stick Tony Benn I often found common cause with the them; I often found myself nodding my head in agreement as Leavers reeled off their litany of complaints about Strasbourg, fishing rights, bloated centralized bureaucracies and the rest of it. How could I as an ardent anti austerity campaingner not sympathise with Greeks as they found their democratic rights denied them by bullying germans? Enthusiastic Remainer, me? Not on your life, squire! I and the overwhelming majority of my buddies did not vote FOR the EU; rather we voted against the gathering storm of xenophobia and sheer nastiness being unleashed by the press barons and their morally cretinous stooges. But really you have to hand it to them, these would becontrol freaks - they kept at it these vitriolic old fools as they sought to find any chink they could in the fragile armour thwarting their grubby intentions. They kept their heads down, kept reloading their cannons until finally in 2008 they got their breakthrough! The financial crash of that year and the despair and anguish felt by many could now be to traced a single simple cause: public spending! No matter that the diagnosis was ridiculously skewed, no matter that the real cause of the crash could be traced by anyone with even the slightest regard for the truth to its real authors the men and woman of ’79 but if the cap fits wear it and if it doesn’t fit then bash people about the head until it does fit. Here was a glorious once in a lifetime opportunity for the panzer divisions to roll into some gloriously sunny upland, here was the chance to pull the wool from the public eyes by revealing to them the perils of being too bloody nice for its own good. Even more prominence was given in their toxic columns to the benefit scroungers draining our coffers, the health tourists freeloading on our hard pressed NHS, the fanatical jihadists coming to a town near you, the communist rabble and with their drunken proletarian songs( no matter that almost all the communists voted Leave) the greedy doctors and nurses holding the country to ransom and above all the irresponsible socialist governments with their ludicrous hand outs to terrorists and rapists! All this with YOUR money! My God if medals were handed out for persistence then these guys should be at the front of the queue.
And so, sadly, bit by bit, one by one, group by group, sufficient numbers were reduced into a cringing witless submission, the super ego was now some pansy voice muffled at last by the more assertive, manly needs of the id. Emboldened the media ramped up its onslaught: we now began to see great social documentaries like Benefits Street, a squalid tale of free loaders draining the coffers of the nanny state. Fat louts and loutesses were depicted lounging on filthy sofas chain smoking and gawping at huge expensive tv screens: the inference was clear: if you were fat you were overfed. ‘My God, just look at those people!’ the nation said to itself. I thought at the time it was rather a pity the cameras weren’t pointing in the opposite direction at the chain smoking film crew lounging around waiting for the director to return from the boozer: couldn’t these people get themselves a proper job instead of inciting hatred against semi literates and social outcasts? I asked myself. There were other ways too of doling out the heroin: guys like Jacob Rees Mogg appeared with distressing regularity on our tv screens presumably to add intellectual credibilty to the Leave campaign; now Mogg may have the misfortune to look like a snide but there was surely no need for him to act like one quite so enthusiatically. With his slight frame, soft voice and ill fitting pin striped suit Mogg was the antipathy of the ranting street orators favoured by many of the right wing lunatics but it makes good sense to cover one’s flanks and besides who could dislike such a self effacing individual? Well I could, but since the question was deliberately rhetorical I claim the right to answer it too. ‘Britain’ Mogg told us (or was it Farage? All these Leavers sound the same to me) ‘Britain would rise like a phoenix from the ashes to reclaim its rightful position on the world stage’ we were assured and people let us never underestimate the power of the cliche, the cliche is one of the great labour saving devices rendering obsolete that most unpleasant of human activities: thought. I believe it was Bertrand Russell who once observed that people would sooner die than think and when you think about it (I mean really think about it)there’s not much that can be said about it- it only causes trouble and people’s hair to fall out prematurely. Think the unthinkable, people, and give up thinking. Which idiot once told us that ‘I think therefore I am!!??’ Maybe I am being a bit judgemental here since the coiner of such nonsense lived in those unhappy pre soundbyte times. A more modern variation might be ‘I don’t think therefore I read the Sun. Or the Daily mail. Or the Express. They are after all the same dog, it’s just that the fleas are different. The editors and bit players of these trash spewing rags are just about intelligent enough to know that they are not quite as stupid as their readers and use that advantage to secure the symbiotic relationship between themselves and their poodles in government to promote and sustain the natural order of things. If anyone doubts that the clumsy, transparent slush they dole out to their readers is ineffective then such scepticism can easily be overthrown by listening carefully to a regular reader of any one of the more notorious rags as he or she regurgitates word for word crucial passages of yesterdays leader column. I don’t suggest that ALL daily Mail readers are complete morons- clearly some are incomplete morons -a work in progress so to speak. If they stay long enough with the programme they’ll master the dirty little syntax of their puppet masters.
I’m not sleeping too well thesedays, I confess. There’s too much anger in me and I’ve been like this for going on a year, I really ought to see somone about it. I’ve been like this ever since I saw that hideous poster of some vile bug eyed creep pointing contemptuously towards a stream of dishevelled broken people running from some unknown terror . Or would it be more accurate to say they were crawling from some unseen predator? Certainly if you looked closely enough most of those few poor sods in focus wore the well known eyes- to -the- ground expressions of despair. And here was our Nige (for it was he!)with his familiar oily smile beaming at us telling us we should on no accounts let these people in, they’d run off with our wives or worse still our motor cars! Ah but here’s the rub: they were Asians, this crowd of lonely and luckless people! What the living fuck had these guys anything whatsoever to do with our alleged problems with European Union? But hey I’m splitting hairs here, aren’t I? The fact remains (we were told)they wanted in on this free for all ,this never ending junket that was a Britain made stupid by its own goodness. By jaysus these folks had some front! Had they been sent here by some effeminate frog wishing to pass the burden to those congenital dupes the British? Maybe they were faking it and had even rubbed their faces in the dirt to endear themselves to the sweet old fools who just can not resist any opportunity to wallow in their own piety? Maybe they’d pinched the cheeks of their kids to deepen the emotional impact of the do gooders and fussy interferring clots who’ll fall for any old con trick the lower orders can cobble together? Did it even matter? Did it even matter that we didn’t even know to which country those bedraggled freeloaders were heading? Nope, what mattered was the fear they instilled in the old ladies of Surrey. They were surely coming to eat our children- any fool could see that. I contend that that poster represented the lowest, dirtiest, nastiest piece of filth ever presented to the collective British gaze. I’m sure I will go to my grave believing so for anything worse I couldn’t withstand, I’m absolutely certain. Legally it may be difficult -nay impossible- to charge Farage with naked incitement to hatred but morally, intellectually and spiritually I believe his guilt is overwhelming. But here’s the worse bit: it worked! It worked to the point that millions of people could suppress whatever qualms they might have had following the brutal slaying of Jo Cox by some slavering fascist (or some slightly odd chap undergoing some dodgy mental abberation depending on which newspaper you read.) It worked to the point that one self deluded idiot after another would appear on Question Time to tell the audience that he or she had reached his or her decision to vote Leave only after undertaking painstaking research. Strange then how many of these scholars could not arrive at an even remotely accurate estimate of the numbers of immigrants accounted for by EU policy. They couldn’t say exactly how much money we’d save by upping sticks but it was plenty and anyway Europe needed us more than we needed them (where I wonder did they unearth such potentially damaging information? A telephone booth, perhaps?) Why do we Brits have this sense of our own superiority when we seem so unwilling to mix other peoples? To feel superior it is necessary to make comparisons but we seem unwilling to have much to do with beastly foreigners with their pretentious gesticulating and effeminate cuisine. Maybe, then, our inferior neighbours send us messages telling us how wonderful we are? It always amuses me when I hear white Brits telling other people (usually brown people) that they have to integrate and accept British values- surely those that snub such uplifting advice are doing exactly as they are bidden? Surely it’s time for an updated national anthem something along the lines of ‘Piss off, Johnny Foreigner we’re British, innit’. But then I wouldn’t know whether or not the Leavers would be happy with this small rewrite of the sacred verses- they don’t speak to me anymore, at least nothing beyond the ‘suck it up’ and ‘get used to it’ retorts I referred to earlier. Jaysus, they’re becoming even more insular! Talk about the inscrutable face of the Orient! It didn’t matter to them that those Remain activists who knocked on their doors to ask for sanity (and sometimes begged for the same) were told to sling their hooks we’re all voting for Farage we want the fucking muslims out. No matter that Asian immigration is and will remain beyond the remit of the European Union, what DOES matter here is that the fantasy remains intact. The dishonest empty slogans still move the Leavers to tears especially the one about ‘taking back control’. What will happen I ask myself when a fracking company sets up at a location near their manor? Do they imagine that if they unfurl a huge Union Jack the would be frackers will take to the hills? Let them try it, I say. Teach fools according to their folly but the problem here is that the rest of us are going to have to pay for their stupidity. And for what? They claim they won and if that is the case why are they so bloody sullen, speaking to no-one as they traipse off to bed before pulling the shutters down. This is not the usual conduct of winners, is it? Winners are usually happy, outgoing people but these taciturn coves hardly fit the prototype, do they? If you are lucky you might get some surly response in which the words Project Fear may be discerned. in which case my response is unvarying: the real Project Fear was Nigel Farage pointing to a bunch of people many of whom are quite probably dead by now and telling us to fear them. Suck that up Leavers and get used to it while you are about it.