I’m beginning to warm to those Continental commentators – many of them here in Sweden – who believe that the UK, or at least the English part of it, has gone collectively mad. Electing Boris as our Prime Minister is one sure sign: except that he wasn’t of course ‘elected’ in any true sense of the word. The Monty Python-esque conduct of Jacob Rees-Mogg – ‘Member of Parliament for the Eighteenth Century’ – is another. There are rumours of Parliament’s being ‘prorogued’ in order to see a ‘No Deal’ Brexit through; followed by a General Election on the theme of ‘Parliament versus the People’. How much more ‘populist’ can you get? Dagens Nyheter recently published a piece by its (very good) London correspondent claiming that it might require the Queen to step in and stop all the nonsense: which sounds ridiculous, but is technically possible. Yesterday a Conservative MEP called for the Treason Act of 1372 to be extended to all those who profess loyalty to the European Union: https://www.businessinsider.com/conservative-mep-david-campbell-bannerman-british-people-eu-loyalty-tried-for-treason-brexit-2018-7?utm_medium=referral&utm_content=topbar&utm_term=desktop&referrer=facebook&fbclid=IwAR0XjPnAkghzwSimtYQeFcIfrPSLVVfdXT9Yqnp0hGZlIGyr8Ze18tpznFE&r=US&IR=T. ‘Patriots’, on the other hand, those who would no doubt avoid the new definition of treachery, are bad-mouthing immigrants in the streets. Then, on the edges of all this, there are the grotesque attacks on Corbyn from the Right-wing press and some in his own party – charges of spying for the Czechs and being an anti-semite, among others – which in cooler-headed times would never be credited by anyone. Where will it end? Many are now predicting a form of Fascism – a cuddly English sort – which is looking more and more likely as time goes by.
For my part, relatively secure as I am now with my new Swedish and consequently European citizenship, this seems all very sad, indeed tragic; a grotesque betrayal of the values of tolerance and compromise which used to cement my loyalty to my country of birth. I still believe that Corbyn’s way is the only one that could heal the present painful divisions in Britain: ‘Brino’, or Brexit in name only; out of the EU but still bound to it in every way possible short of formal membership, including remaining within the European common market and under the aegis of European law. That would be a generous compromise on my side. (Compromise because I’d prefer to stay in the EU.) Why won’t the Brexiteers meet us at that half-way point? Most of them will have voted in the 2016 Referendum for something close to this; having been repeatedly assured that their European trade would not be affected by Brexit. Scarcely any of them will have voted for the ‘clean break’ the present Brextremists are insisting on; an option that was never put to them. Nor, of course, did they vote for the shortages, the collapse of the pound, the flight of industry, their under-staffed hospitals and restrictions on travel that are already upon us; and the Götterdämmerung of ultimate Thatcherism that our neo-liberal leaders, and their American backers, are plotting as their next stage.
Back in Britain I can see myself being arrested under the 1372 Treason Act; or expelled from the Labour Party simply for demanding (in an earlier post: https://bernardjporter.com/2016/04/28/anti-semitism-and-labour/) evidence of anti-semitism there, like Chris Williamson was. This is no time for rational debate. To call it ‘mad’ is of course an opt-out. There are reasons for all this. I think I can glimpse some of them, but I need to organise them properly. A crisis of late-stage capitalism must I think be the root cause. But I’ll come back to this.
I doubt whether the current level of intolerance are ‘new’, but latently lurking (little Englandism, deference of social ‘superiors,’ racist attitudes, ersatz patriotism) and been cynically stirred up the right wing press barons as they always have. The Leave campaigners are now in power, just, and they know they have the one chance of winning again, by taking the country out of Europe and then calling an election in October while this is happening, effectively another referendum. If Labour win, the revival of the Liberals makes this unlikely) they can legitimately reverse it but if the Toires win it will be too late.
I like the post, but I can’t agree that ‘Corbyn’s way is the only one …’ because he’s such a ditherer. Moreover he leads the Labour Party, and I hold them (almost) equally responsible for all the bad stuff which has come out of Westminster throughout my adult lifetime! (Let’s say that started in 1965.) When did Corbyn ever say anything intelligent – or intelligible – about electoral reform? Tell me, ‘cos I missed it!
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Electoral reform – I don’t know; though I’m sure he’s against the House of Lords. On Brexit he’s been entirely consistent, and only a ‘ditherer’ to those – many of them – who can’t see that there are viable positions, including his, in between ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’. ‘Ditherer’ is the false image stuck on him by a hostile press.
Hmm …. I suppose eating some of the cake and keeping the rest is a viable position between having your cake and eating it ….
I buy only one newspaper, the i, and that mainly for the puzzles, but I don’t think it can be described as ‘hostile’. As for the House of Lords, I’ve no idea how many times over the last 50 years I’ve woken up to the news ‘the government was defeated in the Lords yesterday’ – and cheered! Besides, the Lords has, by definition, nothing to do with electoral reform, being (as its opponents keep telling us) unelected. Something the Electoral Reform Society seems to have forgotten, spending too much time bleating about the Lords instead of getting on with trying to reform the ‘Representation of the People Act’.
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