Brexit and the construction of the white, racist, working class

To say we have come out of one of the most toxic weeks in british politics in a long time, would be an understatement. On Thursday there is a referendum to decide if Britain should leave the EU, which has been about anything but the EU. To read the political press you would believe the UK was torn between Remain or Leave. A referendum with huge consequences for the UK’s political and economic future:  tossed like a bone to prevent a few defections to a minor party with no sustainable support.

The threat of UKIP was never the threat of their electoral success. The British public have consistently rejected that politics. The BNP dissolved, EDL had to use mainstream political rhetoric and relied entirely on media attention given to them by the Westminster media and the elite left, and UKIP were never a threat.

The most UKIP could have enjoyed was one or two victories at the General Election, and they are entirely sustained by European elections people pay little attention to. The referendum was called to manage the risk of one or two defections from the Conservative Party to a party who are a non entity and enjoy a very stable but very low level of public support. A decision with huge long term consequences thrown as a bone to deal with nothing.

With no reason to call this referendum, no treaty change to discuss, no decision to make, this referendum has been turned into a referendum on popular fascism. In the words of Iain Martin, ‘immigration was deployed’, the dogwhistles were brought out and Westminster again orbited the politics of hate. A politics the decent and intelligent British public repeatedly and consistently reject.

If you read the Guardian and the New Statesman in the past few weeks, you would believe the north of England was in the midst of a popular movement to leave the EU. John Harris went seeking support for this, and in a video where even his solid leave voters struggled to show enthusiasm, an image was created of an amorphous working class in the grips of a rising tide of hate demanding popular fascism. Owen Jones obliged as he explained the working class he has never met but makes his living on are getting ‘Brexity’, and some very odd polling has shown evidence of the type of surge that characterised Scotland during the Independence Referendum. Only there is no evidence of this. Anywhere. Not a single tangible piece of evidence to support this.

I have spent weeks looking for evidence of this surge. I spent yesterday and the day before in Stockport, there were no posters in windows. The only rallies and debates have been staged photo-opps by funded campaigns. Remain campaigners and Leave campaigners stand isolated in shopping centres as we all try to ignore what is revealed by this referendum. There is no evidence of this surge in the towns surrounding where I live. The racist stupid working class that the Guardian needs to justify its position, do not exist. Nor is a surge to Leave the EU. I have obsessively asked every person I have met for weeks and the only universal feeling is that this referendum has exposed the worst of our political system.

I have seen reasoned discussion of the benefits of EU membership. I have seen almost universal exasperation that yet again a Westminster media culture have taken this country to the brink. I have seen horror and disgust at the tactics used to whip up hatred, and revulsion at the smug construction of a stupid working class, by a centre left culture who loathe us. I have seen ZERO evidence of a strong support for leaving the EU and zero evidence of support for the Remain campaign.

We need to discuss Katy Hopkins and Nigel Farage and who creates them, who benefits from their existence, and how they gain traction. Katie Hopkins is a product of the left wing outrage business model. Entirely. Her views are desirable for the centre left, who like Owen Jones, need to construct a racist and stupid white, male, working class, to base their ambitions on.  It’s fine for Owen and his friends to base their livings on an invented version of the working class they disenfranchise, but when the politics of hate becomes real, its our communities and children that pay.

This white, racist, stupid working class are a construction of left and right politics run by twitterrage and newspaper headlines. Increasingly you can see they are a fantasy in a chatroom used by those with media ambition. They are a construction that suits many people. It is in the interests of Owen Jones and John Harris and Laurie Penny, to tell you there is a rising tide of hate in this country. That we urgently need the centre left to protect us from a white, racist, working class. It is in their interests for the Katie Hopkins business model of whipping up fascism to exist. The symbiosis of left and right powered by twitter is pushing us towards ever more extreme politics. But the fact remains that neither the swivel eyed right nor the far left and centre left have any public support. They both exist on the fringes of a media culture who maintained their grip on political media by newspaper, and now whip up hate on the internet to hide that their institutions are in crisis. They spend their time arguing about which dogwhistles to use, while we pay the price. Whether that be emboldened fascist groups who have been rejected, or in having our ability to fight austerity removed as the centre left use the entire Labour machinery to erase consensus on it.

We need to take our country back. We can’t have this any more.

On Thursday an educated, decent, and intelligent British public will send a message to these people. A message they will all refuse to hear. It’s not enough to deal with Katie Hopkins. Its not enough to deal with the Daily Mail. We need to discuss the entire political media, and ask why they so desperately need a white, male, racist working class, to base their bullshit on. And why they have so little understanding of a complex 21st century society and economy, that this is the narrative they are selling.

Am not in the Remain camp, am certainly not in the Leave camp. I will vote to remain in the EU on Thursday because this was never a debate about the EU. This is the most reckless political and economic act I have seen in my lifetime and when it is all done we need to take our country back.

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One thought on “Brexit and the construction of the white, racist, working class

  1. “A referendum with huge consequences for the UK’s political and economic future”

    Well this depends. Brexit could mean a lot of different things which are as yet unclear.

    Lets start with the fact that this referendum is advisory and there is nothing in its construction to compel the UK to leave the EU even with a majority vote to do so. It then requires some kind of notification to the EU from either the UK Government or Parliament to enact Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the formal process of withdrawal by negotiation. Its not clear whether Dave Cameron can throw his toys out of the pram and start this process unilaterally then resign as PM to allow others to deal with the consequences but its possible.

    More likely, the initial action will take place in Parliament. The UK has the ability to unilaterally end its membership of the EU without a negotiated settlement under international law but this would require repealing the Act of Parliament establishing our membership. So that’s very unlikely.

    So then there is the interpretation of what Brexit means to Parliament – a body whose majority is in favour of staying in the EU. The most attractive flavour of Brexit would be the Norwegian model which would keep us in the Single Market and continuing to abide by the four pillars including freedom of movement. The UK would lose some of the social benefits of being within the club but would keep the economic conditions that currently exist. This model also has the benefit of seeing the sacking of all UKIP MEPs so denying them a significant source of funding whilst keeping a lot of the things that currently annoy the UKIPpers and some Tories.

    Such a scenario would be toxic to the Tory Party so despite the letters of intention to keep Dave on, this could not be allowed to be the settlement. The Brexit gang would have to invoke a leadership contest then dissolve Parliament for a General Election in order to seek the mandate to not just leave the EU but leave the Single Market also. For the Labour Party, keeping as much benefits as possible including workers rights demands that they seek the Norwegian model as the least harmful to the UK.

    However seeking that leave the Single Market mandate is easier said than done. They would have to have some sense of what they would want as a model. It could get quite amusing for Jeremy Corbyn to fight an election on a pro-market pro-EU agenda.

    Even if they get past that hurdle, you still have the poison pill that is Article 50 itself with its two year framework to find a negotiated settlement or be chucked out without any settlement. It isn’t in any government’s interest to start that process without having some idea that the deal can be completed within the timeframe. However there is no compulsion for the EU to negotiate an exit until Article 50 has been activated. There could be years of non-negotiations ahead before any UK government has the bravery to hit the button.

    We could be in for years of this rubbish ahead without any resolution. It will dominate the Westminster/Media bubble with years of inertia in British politics. Ordinary concerns about homes, jobs, care, schools etc will go on the back burner. That might be a bad thing but then I look at the 18 month period that Belgium went through without a formal government. The growth during that period of no government was higher than achieved by the Belgium governments before or afterwards. There might be a lesson there and cause for a little hope. The betting is that ordinary people will be shat upon regardless of what happens.

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