“What a catalyst you turned out to be. Loaded the gun, then run off home for your tea.” Eton Rifles, The Jam
Paul Weller’s 1979 song about the futility of the working class fighting against the establishment has never been more relevant. What chance have you got against a tie and a crest? And this line in particular could have been written about any of the crowd that has got us into this Eton mess called Brexit.
That arch old Etonian David Cameron set the ball rolling. He called the referendum, and also made it a straight in or out choice. Complex economic and constitutional questions were left to a public already angry with the status quo and distrustful of politicians. Why on earth did he do it? This was not some grand exercise in democracy, he offered it as a sweetener to the Euro-sceptics in his own party to ensure he got re-elected. And besides, Dave was sure he would win and then we could get back to the usual routine. When you are from the gifted elite you have the confidence to roll those kind of dice.
Then Boris Johnson joined the great game. I am convinced that Johnson is at heart pro-EU. When he decided to lead the fight against the Remainers he had one goal in mind. That goal was to become the heir apparent when Cameron stepped aside before the next election. His tactics a glorious defeat that would ensure he kept enough friends in the Eurosceptic camp, and a well-fought campaign that would keep his ratings high.
And then his side won. That wasn’t supposed to happen. And Cameron resigned to compound the shock. Boris, who is an extremely intelligent man despite his best efforts to convey a more bumbling persona, realised that not only had he brought about a catastrophe for Britain, but he would be the one who’d have to clean up the mess. One look at his ashen face on the day after the vote showed that he clearly understood the depth of the doodoo he had helped to land the country in. Imagine his relief when the slippery Gove stabbed him in the back over the leadership. The palpable relief of a man finding himself on the outside of a burning tent, most definitely pissing in.
Nigel Farage’s contribution to the Brexit campaign was unconscionable , but then we always knew it would be. His Breaking Point poster showing a line of Syrian refugees exactly mirrored a Nazi propaganda poster and it was despicable. A low in British politics. But it wasn’t out of character. Unlike the conniving and calculating MPs at the head of government, Farage is a buffoon. A buffoon lucky enough to have hit on an issue that thrust him onto the grand stage for his 15 grubby minutes of fame. A buffoon lucky enough to arrive at a time when the British public have ‘had enough of experts’. A reality TV star masquerading as a politician, whose populist appeal is based on liking a pint and a smoke, and not knowing much about politics. He’s just like us!
But while you could never seriously call Nigel Farage anti-Establishment, he wasn’t of the Establishment, and I feel that despite his latest attempts to withdraw from UK politics, he will not be able to crawl under a stone, and will be made a scapegoat for the lies of the Leave campaign and for the ugly outpourings of racism that it has unleashed. The public school mob will throw him under the bus. Probably a large red bus with spurious claims written in large letters on the side. He was the fag who could conveniently take the blame if everything went tits up.
It annoys me greatly that we have allowed what is essentially an age-old Tory squabble to so dominate the future of our country. For let’s make no mistake, this was a Blue on Blue fight for power within the Conservative Party. Where was the traditional left and how did they allow this to happen? The trade unions and the Labour Party had a duty to focus the debate on the effects of the decision on working people. Jeremy Corbyn I think will pay for his virtual abstention with his political career. It is no coincidence that Corbyn’s Director of Strategy Seamus Milne is in the pocket of just about the only world leader pleased that Britain is leaving the EU, Vladimir Putin. “Seamus I’m not sure this is a great idea.” Too late now, Jeremy.
I am convinced that the only solution to this Eton mess will be a second referendum. Clearly this is a decision of such importance that we should be allowed to say “Really? Are you sure?”. I don’t mean straight away. I don’t think us Remainers get to say “Best of 3 / 5 / 7…!” until we get what we want. But as consequences emerge I believe and hope that the public clamour for a second vote will be deafening and undeniable.
When people realise that leaving the EU will not mean we have full control over immigration. Or as they realise, and let’s start saying it now and often, that immigration is not in fact the cause of all of the country’s ills. When they realise that the UK’s contribution to the EU is the fee we pay for immeasurable financial benefits. That we can’t just stop paying the EU and put the money into the NHS instead. That those derided experts in the Treasury and the Bank of England were right after all and Britain is going to get poorer through this decision. And we don’t do poor well. It certainly does not bring out the best in us.
When people realise that their golden age thinking is a false nostalgia. We are not going back to a Britain of full employment, where you could leave your back door open and you’d stroll down to your local and have a chat with Pop Larkin and the cast of Heartbeat. It never existed, and if it did exist in any way it was a lot worse than you remember it.
I hope and pray that common sense will at some stage kick in, but as the main parties remain rudderless and beset by infighting and backstabbing, as confusion and anger ripples through the country on all sides, as racist attacks both verbal and physical increase fivefold, well common sense seems in very short supply.