Don’t let the Brexit vandals take control of our politics, writes Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.
When Trump was in town, Michael Fabricant, the Tory MP for Lichfield, retweeted a gross image of London mayor Sadiq Khan’s head on an inflatable balloon, being mounted by a pig. Khan is a Muslim. For Muslims, pigs are unclean and taboo. Khan had given protestors permission to send up a giant balloon of the US president as a baby in a nappy over the capital. That made Fabricant and other pro-US Tories livid.
His impulsive click kicked up a storm and Fabricant apologised and said he had tweeted the image while in a meeting, without checking it properly. Before this nasty incident, the Tory had proposed a terrific wheeze: US security guys should shoot down the fat, Trump balloon. What an exciting moment that would have been.
Some years ago, Fabricant tweeted that he wanted to punch me in the throat after watching me on Channel 4 News. Again, he apologised, hoping people would think him a little eccentric but harmless. Don’t fall for it. He is one of the nasties of Brexit – those who have been trying to own the narrative since the referendum and claiming they represent the ‘will of the people’. They are like those generals in the First World War, who brainwashed the population, treated working class soldiers like fodder and fools. They marched them up to the top of the hill and got them shot while they lounged around and drank their sherries and gins.
Trump, Farage, Arron Banks and Steve Bannon and other low sorts in high places promote themselves as ‘patriots’ and honourable warriors protecting democracy from the devious ‘establishment’ and various ‘elites’. They are on a mission to disrupt and dismantle the peace consensus and systems that emerged out of the ashes of the two world wars.
The western democratic world order, post-colonial and post-communism democracies are all imperilled. Think about Italy, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Egypt and other countries where voters have chosen anti-democratic, hard men as leaders. The drift or pull is towards the hard right. Trump is the poster boy of this ‘revolution’. That is why he turned on NATO allies, savaged the EU as his biggest foe, bullied and played May and bigged-up Putin.
Such political vandals are contemptuous of refined political conduct and speech, of institutional rules, the social contract between voters and the elected, the rule of law. It took centuries to evolve a civilized governing system. Its demolition is part of a master plan, as outrageous as those dreamt up by evil Bond villains stroking white cats. Only it’s real. They want rabidly free capitalism and total control over what people do and think.
Journalist Fintan O’Toole has written a compelling analysis of this existential challenge in the Irish Times. We are in a ‘phase of trial runs and what is being trialled is fascism’. As before in dark periods of history, the elements are lined up: rigged elections, nurtured, intense tribal identities, propaganda machines and populist support. Minorities have to be hurt so people get a taste for savagery and consent to dehumanizing state actions. The media becomes complicit.
Those who were kept out of mainstream national conversations now have unlimited access to radio and television shows and newspapers too. Our regulators sleep deeply while extremists such as Bannon rant, roam and incite hatreds. O’Toole portends that in the future, tests will be refined, the methods sharpened and a new age of fascism will sweep in. It’s that serious.
So, fellow liberal democrats, no more cowardice, compliance and appeasement. We are keepers of the promise ‘never again’. This is our war. Stand up and fight.