Mr Nigel Farage MEP elicits mixed emotions. Some folk warm to the bloke and dislike his politics. Others recoil at the man, but like his ball skills. Some people think he’s the bees’ knees in all respects; others simply despise everything about him. Whatever your opinion of Nigel Farage, it’s very difficult not to recognise that were it not for him, there would not have been a European Union Referendum in June 2016. You might even think there should never have been a Referendum, but there was one, and we are where we are, as they say.
The outcome of that Referendum has been seismic, by any standard. Today, over 6 months on, the UK remains in a degree of political and social turmoil. I’m trying to figure out (a) what really happened in June of last year and (b) what it means for this year and beyond.
In the general sense, I write primarily, if not exclusively to help me understand things, that’s all. When I’ve clarified my thoughts for myself, I then find myself wondering what others might think. The internet and blogs like this allow people like me to share thoughts with a relatively wide audience (Moraymint Chatter is now sitting at well over 100,000 visitors) and make a modest contribution to this or that debate, whilst allowing others to chuck in their two pennyworth if they wish.
Here are my thoughts on what’s going on in politics at the moment in the form of an open letter to Nigel Farage.
Dear Mr Farage
Doubtless you will receive a huge volume of correspondence, but I would ask politely that you take the time to read my letter. I’m a retired RAF officer turned company director, a family man who lives on the Moray Firth in Scotland.
I’m the proverbial ‘lifelong Conservative voter’ who years ago began to question the whole political and social system in our country. If I had to guess when my scepticism started I would say around a decade ago, perhaps even before then, at the turn of the century.
The Political Class
With hindsight, I can articulate now why I was becoming uneasy, although at the time and over the intervening years I could never quite put my finger on it. It was the sense that I had no say, still less any control over how I was being governed. In his book, ‘The Triumph of the Political Class’, published 10 years ago, Peter Oborne summed it up nicely, as follows.
‘Our predicament today has almost nothing in common with the period of mass political participation of only 50 years ago. However, the resemblance to the UK’s pre-democratic phase (the period lasting until the mid- to late-19th century) is uncanny.’
Mr Oborne goes on, ‘once again the British system is defined by a sharp contrast between an arrogant, self-interested ruling elite and the mass of the population. In the 18th and for most of the 19th century this distinction arose because most people were legally denied access to the ballot box. Today, the right to vote is universal, but the methodology of post-democracy – manipulation, targeting, intra-party collusion – means that the great majority of voters have been disenfranchised in subtler ways.’
Until very recently, I was one of the disenfranchised majority.
Let’s stick with Mr Oborne for a moment who further asserts that, ‘the potency of today’s Political Class is a pure function of the state, akin to the nomenklatura that dominated Eastern European states during the period of Soviet rule.’
In terms of where all this is heading, Mr Oborne declares – presciently – ‘that the next great movement will come from outside the Political Class.’ You, Mr Farage, come from outside the Political Class. For all his faults and whatever one may think of him, Donald Trump also comes from outside the Political Class. Mr Oborne makes the point that, ‘just as the Political Class has emerged from the wreckage of the [traditional] party system, so it is certain to produce its own antithesis.’ In the UK, you lead that antithesis, Mr Farage. To quote Peter Oborne once more, he says, ‘at some stage a British politician may well discover a new language of public discourse and methodology of political engagement which communicates simply and plainly to voters.’ You, of course, are that politician Mr Farage; Mr Oborne was your prophet.
Why Am I Doing This?
My principal reason for writing to you is to thank you. At the risk of coming over all melodramatic, before the European Referendum in June, I had almost given up on my country despite having served it for a fifth of a century in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. For all the reasons, and more, proffered by Peter Oborne in his seminal analysis of the Political Class, I was beginning to feel resigned to living the rest of my life as a kind of Orwellian serf.
How Did It Feel As A Nascent Orwellian Serf?
For me, governance of the people of the United Kingdom was becoming ever more surreal. The Government, the Political Class, the Establishment were all telling me, invariably through, and with the enthusiastic support of the BBC, that I’d never had it so good. But there was – and even now, remains – a disconnect between what I was being told about how great life was as a British citizen, and my experience on the ground. Back to my earlier point: above all else I felt both duped and disenfranchised. I felt like I was being taken for a ride, politically and socially. Above all, I could see that the UK’s membership of the European Union was a cancer in the nation’s bloodstream. However, I was being told, day in, day out, by Governments of all and any persuasion, by the Political Class, by the Establishment, by the BBC (which wields a terrifying amount of propaganda power), that membership of the European Union meant that the UK was on the road to utopia. There was really no alternative to us living under the yoke of The Lisbon Treaty, nor indeed why on earth would we wish to?
Contempt For The Political Class
The 25 years that you’ve spent arguing the case against the European Union were 25 years in which the British Political Class closed ranks in support of the European Union. And let’s remember for a moment that the founding principles of the European Union were, and remain to this day, concerned with the development, by deceitful means, of a European superstate. For as long as people like Nick Clegg et al protest loudly otherwise, we can safely assume that the EU elites will pursue their goal, to the ends of the earth if needs be.
That the British Political Class threw in its lot with the founding fathers of the European Union is a travesty of the first order. It has been, with hindsight, a shocking affront to democracy; an abrogation by politicians of their duties and responsibilities as servants of the people who elect them to office. It makes me feel sick even now to observe the extent to which the majority of our politicians are railing against the prospective recovery of the nation’s sovereignty.
It grieves me to say that I have a barely concealed contempt for the British Political Class. Sure, there will be individual politicians who merit respect for one reason or another but, by and large, we remain ruled by a semi-detached, self-serving elite. For these reasons, it is absolutely vital that you remain engaged in the fight – for it is a fight – for freedom and democracy. Only when the UK has wholly extricated itself from the tentacles of the European Union will British politicians have the opportunity to redeem themselves – and I hope very much that they do. For politicians to be held in contempt by as much as half the electorate they are supposed to serve is not healthy for any society.
Politics – Neither Left Nor Right
It’s both fascinating and pleasing to analyse the voting map of the EU Referendum. Voters didn’t cleave to the traditional Left or Right. We didn’t see the Left/Labour/working class/socialist voting one way and the Right/Tory/upper class/capitalist voting the other way. Of course, this has been an obsolescent political distinction for some time now, not least evidenced by the actively pursued emergence of the homogenous Political Class described by Peter Oborne. Today, the ruling elite of Britain is characterised more by its professionalised (sic) attitude to politics rather than old-fashioned Left/Right ideology. This has made party political differences almost non-existent as politicians pursue power and patronage above all else.
So, Who Voted Remain? Who Voted Leave?
The absence of party political ideology being reflected in the EU voting pattern is interesting. Broadly speaking, based on evidence from various post-Referendum researchers, ‘middle-class liberals’ were the only section of British society which backed Remain emphatically. On the other hand, according to NatCen, voting Leave appealed primarily to those who felt politically disenfranchised – which included me, of course. Incidentally, there’s a certain irony these days in the use of the term ‘liberal’ to describe a cohort of people whose beliefs about how society should be organised seem to me to be more towards the Marxist end of the political spectrum. If ‘liberal’ means support for being governed by an unelected, unaccountable foreign oligarchy, then somebody needs to rewrite the Oxford Dictionary.
To be more specific, as well as being predominantly a middle-class liberal desire, remaining in the EU was also the preference of younger, working class Labour voters. Remain was also the preference for the majority of people earning over £3,700 per month. Remain was the firm preference of those in the 18 – 34 age group too. So, voting Remain was the preserve of neither the traditional Left, nor traditional Right of politics. If you (dear reader) voted Remain it doesn’t mean, of course, that you automatically fit the researchers’ ‘middle-class liberal’ description. However, the evidence suggests that your main motivations for keeping the UK in the EU were primarily related to fear of the economic consequences and because you thought it was simply an all round bad idea in terms of the UK’s influence in the world; you felt that sticking with the devil we know was preferable to a leap in the dark. I think many of my Remain voting friends probably voted for these reasons.
Leave voters were a somewhat more complex mix. This perhaps explains why the pollsters and pundits failed to predict the Brexit outcome, much to the BBC’s chagrin. Leave voters of all social categories were overwhelmingly (75%) concerned about ‘controlling our laws’ (which was the principal reason I voted Leave). Generally, apart from the distinction made above, the working class tended to vote Leave – and yet most Labour supporters voted Remain.
As an aside, one wonders what this tells us about the relationship between the Labour Party and the working class, and who in our society now makes up the Labour Party? All those ‘middle-class liberals’, perhaps, which is a bit ironic. Perhaps for ‘middle-class liberals’ we should read ‘closet Marxists’?
Small wonder that UKIP sees the working class, those erstwhile Labour voters, as a prime target. There’s also an irony here given that its critics tend to associate UKIP with the Right (or, more preposterously, the ‘Far Right’), and disaffected Tories. To add to the complexity, I’m a member of UKIP, having previously been a member of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. Apparently, I’m categorised as ‘Technical Middle-Class’ these days (try it for yourself here), so no wonder all bets are off now as to the whys and wherefores of political allegiance.
The majority of Leave voters felt that the Establishment let them down (there’s me again). The overwhelming majority of Leave voters were optimistic (which included me); Remain voters were mainly fearful. Those aged 35 – 64 years (which includes me) and particularly those over 65 years old were twice as likely to have voted Leave as 18 – 34 year olds. My hunch is that we older ‘uns had a better handle on the before-and-after of the UK’s membership of the EU – and perhaps could read the writing on the wall.
The indoctrination of my children’s generation, those 18 – 34 year olds who voted Remain with gusto, into the fantastic world of the European Union is quite alarming; but that’s for another post.
NatCen also classified people like me as ‘affluent Eurosceptic’. Three-quarters of us voted Leave, but we voted right there alongside the group classified as ‘older working class’ (my father would have been in this group) and, interestingly, the ‘economically deprived’ group. Again, no wonder the pollsters couldn’t figure out what was happening and that traditional politics is in disarray.
Earlier I thanked you, Mr Farage, for your unstinting efforts over the past quarter-century. Frequently, you’ve been reviled, ridiculed and stonewalled; only until recently you tended to be suffocated by the media, especially by the BBC (and you still are stifled to some extent, compared to other politicians and commentators); you’ve experienced threats of violence to you and your family (those ‘middle-class liberals’ again?); over 25 years you have put up with more than most of us could tolerate for a week.
Yet what your persistence did was this: you gave voice to over 17 million people in a (so-called) democracy which until 23 June 2016 was actively, aggressively and deliberately denying a political choice to those 17 million citizens, me included. When you read it like that it’s both shocking and scary. It also gives you a degree of power to your elbow.
In fact, for the past 40 years or so we’ve been living in at best a sham democracy – until you decided to do something about it. How else can one explain the largest British vote for anything, ever? A vote which would otherwise never have seen the light of day if left to the workings of the British Political Class. Those 17 million people (me included) who voted to take back control of our laws, to regain control of our national borders, were being shut out of politics, shut out of shaping how we were being governed, shut out of having any say in how our society is organised.
Let’s be honest, you’re not everyone’s cup of tea. I think that many if not most of my peers despise you; many of them have told me as such. However, I chose to see through your character and listen to your message; I tried to focus more on the ball and not so much on the man. Whatever people think of you, your service to your country has been verging on priceless. History will be far kinder to you than your critics and detractors today. All I can do is emphasise that your mission is not yet complete and to ask that you stick with it because it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.
Where Does This Leave Us?
So, where does this leave us? Well, I’m in that cohort of British citizens who think we’re on the cusp of something hugely exciting here. However, I’m acutely conscious that for every one of me, there’s an anti-me who probably thinks the polar opposite; that we’re all doomed. This is a mess of the making of the British Political Class and the Establishment. They set out decades ago systematically to engineer politics in their favour; to mitigate the impact of pesky voters; to turn on its head Abraham Lincoln’s maxim that democracy should be about ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’
Instead, our politicians signed up to an institution whose culture, its values and beliefs, were and remain the antithesis of democracy. The European Union is not about political pluralism; it’s about a sort of political monotheism; it’s about 500 million citizens being told by the likes of Gerhard Schröder (a previous German Chancellor) that ‘national sovereignty will soon prove itself to be a product of the imagination’, or by Martin Schulz (President of the European Parliament) that, ‘the UK belongs to the EU’, or by Angela Merkel (German Chancellor) that, ‘we want more Europe and stronger powers to intervene’.
I could go on, but the point is that the European Union is singularly inimical to freedom and democracy; the European Union is a flawed political construct, an empire with ‘doomed’ etched into its genes. That British politicians ever subscribed to this nightmare is bad enough; that British politicians, the Establishment and the BBC remain even now almost hell-bent on frustrating the UK’s extraction from the European Union is shameful. If British politicians are to redeem themselves then it will only happen if people like you, Mr Farage, and your ilk hold politicians’ feet to the fire.
It’s critical therefore that the whole Leave, or nowadays Brexit movement remains focused ruthlessly on ensuring that the UK gets the hell out of Brussels. This is one of those situations where compromise would be fatal. I am devoted to recovering my country’s sovereignty and, moreover, to seeing the United Kingdom becoming once again a bastion of freedom and democracy.
To anybody reading this post, I would ask in this context to what cause are you devoted?