Mitch Benn discusses why Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is not what the UK needs.
I have good news and bad news.
The good news is: you’re not going mad.
The bad news is: you’re not going mad.
Yeah, sorry about that. There are times when it might be comforting to be able to dismiss the current turn of events as the product of our collective fevered imaginations. But nope, this is actually happening.
The political and media establishments of this nation (if those are in fact still separate entities) took one look at the huge swing away from pro-Brexit parties to Remain parties at last week’s local elections and immediately came to the unified conclusion that this can only mean that people are annoyed that Brexit isn’t happening.
It’s obvious, isn’t it? If someone offers me tea or coffee and I say “coffee please”, that must surely mean that what I want is actually tea, but I’m so annoyed that they haven’t already given me tea without asking, that I’m requesting coffee in order to convey the message that I should have been… erm…
No, sorry, It’s no good. That analogy has already fallen apart. Normally, as regular readers will know, I will try to point up the ridiculousness of a political decision or opinion by constructing a tortuous but nonetheless amusing, well-observed and evocative analogy, but in this instance my allegorical powers have failed me.
I simply can’t come up with anything which even comes close to the sheer stupidity and dishonesty we saw from all pro-Brexit parties and commentators (including, to their ongoing shame, the BBC) in response to the local election results.
It’s becoming clear that Brexit is becoming the British equivalent of the eternal US debate on gun control: there are certain conclusions which – a collective decision has been taken – simply may not be arrived at, however glaringly the evidence points toward them.
Just as the solution to spiralling gun violence and monthly mass shootings in the United States can only ever be “we need more guns” and never “we need fewer guns”, the only permissible interpretation of overwhelming polling and now voting data showing a clear and rising majority in favour of abandoning Brexit is… “the people want Brexit faster”.
This is why the political and journalistic establishments will fight tooth and nail to stop us getting a confirmatory vote (and why Labour, or rather Jeremy Corbyn and Seumas Milne, are trying to stitch this up with the Tories); they are peddling a false narrative, they know they are peddling a false narrative and as long as the people remain un-consulted, their false narrative goes unchallenged and their dishonesty unexposed.
The hypocrisy reaches new heights when Nigel ‘Unflushable’ Farage’s new Brexit Party is factored in. The local election results only appeared to show a huge swing to Remain, the pundits tell us, because Farage’s Phoenix-from-the sewer-like party had not been formed in time to field candidates in these votes. When it does take part in the forthcoming European elections (and take a moment to reflect that our probable participation in those elections is a victory our movement was told it would never achieve, so take heart from that… sorry, that’s enough of that, back to reality), then, we’re told, we’ll see what the people really think.
In other words, polling and voting which conflicts with the narrative is to be ignored; polling and voting which supports the narrative is to be trumpeted.
Here’s the thing though: even if the Farageistas do score big in the European elections, it won’t change anything. The reason Brexit isn’t working isn’t because of a lack of political will – the leadership of both the two major parties are desperately trying to make it happen. Brexit is in deadlock because it doesn’t, and can’t, work.
What the apparent support for the Brexit Party represents is a longing to return to the easy days of 2016, back when Brexit was still an abstract concept, when Leave meant Leave and Brexit mean Brexit, before the tawdry business of trying to figure out exactly what Brexit did mean, in practical terms, crashed in upon the Europhobic dreamscape.
A surge in support for the abstract concept of Brexit won’t make any difference whatsoever to the deliverability or otherwise of the actual Brexit.
Farage can go ahead and form his little hobby gesture-party; leaving aside the eternal question of pro-Brexit politics – ie. where’s the money coming from? – nobody expects any victorious Brexit Party MEPs to actually turn up to work or try to achieve anything (and besides, as always with Farage, the principal objective is Getting Nigel Back On The Telly, so in that respect he’s already succeeded).
The job of making Brexit happen will still rest with the parliament to which Farage has failed to gain entry so many times. And having him and his little helpers banging their tin drums outside the House won’t make that job the least bit more possible.
The Brexit Party is an expression of the desire to return to the days of unchallenged dishonesty about Brexit. As George Orwell may or may not have written, “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”.
Sorry Jeremy, sorry Seumas… you’re the establishment and we’re the revolutionaries now.