If I had hoped to get away from Brexit by flying to Sweden, I’d have been disappointed. It has been the major item in the Swedish newspapers and TV News for days now: on the front pages many days (here is an example, from today’s Dagens Nyheter); and with reams of analysis inside. Usually the analysis is accurate and pretty fair – more so, in fact, than in the British press. The Swedes are too polite to laugh at us openly, but I’m sure they’re doing so behind their hands.
Like most Brits in Europe, I imagine, I’m feeling thoroughly demoralised, and even ashamed. I’ve asked Kajsa to be gentle with me. She’s surprised that, as someone claiming to be a cosmopolitan, I’m so sensitive to the reputation of the country I was brought up in. It will be easier when – if? – my Swedish citizenship comes through, and I can laugh with them. Apparently Migrationsverket are now fast-tracking us British refugees. Cross your fingers.
On the issue itself: it looks to me as if the much-abused Corbyn could turn out to have been right all along. After all the Mayhem, we could be in line for a ‘soft’ Brexit, and the general election the country needs. He’s a lot brighter than the public school mob takes him for. It seems that you can learn as much wisdom from an allotment as from the Greeks.
Only a matter of days ago, Bernard, you wrote: “It’s the violence that has finally put me off the idea of compromise, or a ‘soft Brexit’; together with the Brexiteers’ lack of humour.”
Now you are back in favour of Corbyn’s soft Brexit.
You write: “On the issue itself: it looks to me as if the much-abused Corbyn could turn out to have been right all along.” He cannot fail to “have been right all along because he has been advancing two contradictory policies “all along”. (Like the tout who tips a different horse to everyone he meets: that way someone gets the right tip.)
Judging by your recent vacillations, this is something the two of you have in common.
Vacillation is an essential part of diplomacy, as well as of political commentary. If Theresa May had been more willing to vacillate we might not be in the dire situation we’re in now. My remark about Corbyn referred to his JUDGEMENT: i.e. it all seems to be turning out as he predicted. (You’ll find that he really has been consistent in this: see https://bernardjporter.com/2018/12/30/corbyns-way/.) My view is simple. I’d like – quite passionately – Britain to remain in the EU. But I can see the disadvantages: not those of EU membership per se, but in the form of the vicious reaction that reneging on Brexit might provoke. Many are threatening, or else predicting, civil war. I think that’s OTT, but it needs to be kept in mind. A Norway-style Brexit (Corbyn’s, essentially) might avoid that; we’d still be out of the EU, but allied to it in essential ways. It might be as close to EU membership as we can now get, in practical terms. My ‘vacillation’ between those two solutions is governed by my recognition that Norway-style might not be so very different from what we have now, and to my fears of feeding the Right. Those fears wax and wane as I consider the situation on the ground from day to day, and as my boldness (‘balls’) waxes and wanes. – Politics, in a large, disparate and crazy country like Britain, depends on compromises. Anyone who would ideally like to Remain, but can also see a second-best solution which is not so far from the ideal and might be less risky socially and politically, is bound to vacillate. It’s called thinking and adapting.
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I am surprised that the threat posed – by what you later term – ‘the mob’ should play such a decisive role in deciding the fate of the UK. The intimidation is certainly asymmetric. Brexiteers do not fear the wrath of the Remainers after a hard Brexit when things inevitably go awry.
I would be interested in your opinion on what is behind the extreme anger of the Brexit club. You mention as OTT the prospect of civil war, which others seem to take semi-seriously. However, if one subtracts racism, which you want to do in explaining the motivation for EU withdrawal, what is left to stir such terrible passion?
The will of the majority is frequently thwarted in democracies but never generates an ominous reproach of such magnitude as in this case. Vacillation is ordinarily regarded as par for the course in a modern polity.
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It’s complex, and I’m sure that immigration (not necessarily racism) is a factor. But the main one, which we see in all these European and US right-wing populist movements, is resentment against ‘the elite’ – Westminster, Washington, Canberra? – for not listening and responding to the myriad complaints of ‘ordinary people’. It indicates a flaw in our (forms of?) democracy. And it’s a reason why we are tempted to appease such violence. The appeasers – me included – are guiltily conscious that the ‘mob’ has a case, even if it isn’t the case they make.