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Brexit Bulletin: ‘Turn to the left, Turn to the right?

Brexit Bulletin: ‘Turn to the left, Turn to the right?

‘We are the goon squad and we’re coming to town’ 1

 

This week Brandon Lewis, a Tory spokesperson, refused to say when the Tories’ European election campaign will launch, saying his priority is not to have to fight them at all, in the rather forlorn hope  that agreement can be reached among MPs before 22nd May, enabling us to cancel our participation in the elections.

Probably that is the Tories best hope, a recent Opinium poll of voting intention, shows Farages’ new movement level with Labour on 28% – 14 points ahead of the Tories.

Some Conservative members are so discontent that they reportedly plan to support the Brexit Party, and Conservative councillors in Derbyshire are refusing to campaign at all in protest at the failure to have left the EU.

Indeed, yesterdays’, local elections endorsed voter’s dissatisfaction with the Tories, and, perhaps surprisingly, Labour did worse than expected, the big winners being the Lib Dems and the Greens.

However, it would not be a surprise that when I comes to national elections neither the Lib Dems or the Greens will feature; the former because the electorate seems never to see them as a viable alternative, the latter because, despite all the tut-tutting when watching David Attenborough, few of us seem really bothered!

despite all the tut-tutting when watching David Attenborough, few of us seem really bothered!

So, it could be a straight shoot-out between the Brexit Party (Right) and Labour (Left), and no one should be surprised if the Right does better than everyone expects, especially at the expense of the Tories.

As an example, last Sundays general election in Spain saw the Peoples Party, the traditional conservative party of government in Spain, suffer big losses, some to the anti-feminist, anti-immigration Vox party, which won 24 seats in parliament, the most significant victory by a far-right party since the end of Franco’s dictatorship. Vox, which was formed five years ago, has promised to defend Spain from its ‘enemies,’ citing feminists, liberal elites and Muslims among others.

Sounds familiar? Yes, Signor Santiago Abascal and Nigel Farage are little different, neither is their rhetoric or their supporters. Vox is viewed as a party of national identity, tapping into a wider discontent about corruption and the perceived failure of the establishment parties to talk about issues – migration, gender, patriotism.

As their leader in the town of El Ejido, recently dubbed Spain’s ‘bastion of hate’, said: ‘This flag? It is like we are ashamed of it, you cannot hang it outside or it’s looked upon as a disgrace,’ he says.

‘When I wave it they call me a ‘racist’ and ‘fascist’, but at Vox rallies we fly the flag. It is a question of pride.’

‘Another Nazi attack, Skinhead is cracked, My blood is black…’ 2

 

Turning from Spain’s ‘bastion of hate’ to Clacton, the bastion of not very much at all, whose main claim to fame could be where the Brexit Party held their inaugural rally.

Attended by an audience described as, ‘older, rural, exurban and provincial, a collection of pinstripes, tattoos, Barbour jackets and tracksuits’. A diverse mix of haves and have nots sharing a common grievance, and swathed in nostalgia, all with fond memories of D-day, and Empire.

Or, as they sing at England football matches, ‘two world wars and a world cup.’

A diverse mix of haves and have nots sharing a common grievance, and swathed in nostalgia, all with fond memories of D-day, and Empire

The existence they mourn for is reminiscent of an episode of ‘Poirot’, though without an irritating Belgian, is not coming back.

The logic of Brexit opposes any worldview, championing a retreat into isolation and a grab for what we can, ‘If you want to see what Brexit will do for Clacton, just look out there,’ Farage told the crowd, extending an arm towards the waves. ‘It’s called the North Sea – and half of it should be ours. Not to be shared with the Dutch or the Danes or anybody else. It’s ours. It’s our birthright.’

Nothing like whipping the crowd into a righteous frenzy. When Farage became leader of UKIP in 2006, the party was transformed from a marginal club full of loonies into a cultural movement united in its fixation with, and opposition to, immigration.

While Boris Johnson and Michael Gove promised bounteous trade deals, an NHS spending bonanza and a fresh start for a liberated UK during the 2016 referendum campaign, Farage stoked the fires.

Who can forget the poster showing a long queue of Syrian refugees under the slogan ‘breaking point’. Evil, yes, effective, very.

After that, we all thought he’d gone away, but, as he loves to claim, he has ‘come out of semi-retirement’, answering a historic calling, with a feigned reluctance while draped in the Union Jack.

The old soldier returning from private life to perform one last service for England, ‘one last crack at Jerry’.

And, what of UKIP? Mercifully, not a lot! Their latest leader, Gerard Batten has dismissed Farage’s Brexit Party as a ‘Tory-lite’ ego trip as he insisted only UKIP has a ‘clear policy’ for leaving the EU.

UKIP was a ‘real political party’ with members and a rule book, he said. Its rival, he said, was a ‘wholly owned subsidiary of one man’s ego’ and a ‘safety valve for disaffected Tories’.

Editorial comment: Gerard, you are right, the Brexit party is a ‘wholly owned subsidiary of one man’s ego’, but then so was UKIP. Goodbye Gerard, you and your cronies won’t be missed!

 

But some things never change and the old tales just keep coming; last weekend Farage addressed an audience of young libertarians at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, claiming that entire streets of Oldham in Greater Manchester are split along racial lines: ‘I could take you to a town called Oldham in the north of England where literally on one side of the street everybody is white and on the other side of the street everybody is black. The twain never actually meet, there is no assimilation. Whole streets in Oldham of people who have lived in my country for over 30 years who don’t speak a word of the English language. These, folks, are divided societies in which resentments build and grow.’

Editorial comment; how many students in Pennsylvania know of, or care about Oldham?

 

Unsurprisingly his comments were inaccurate, but Sean Fielding, the Labour leader of Oldham council who represents Failsworth West (which is 95.1% white), suggested Farage was talking nonsense. ‘I’m not familiar with any visits that Nigel Farage has made to Oldham since he came during the 2015 byelection so I have no idea what streets he has walked down and what experiences he bases them on, because by all accounts, when he came to Oldham all he did was go to the pub,’ said Fielding.

Editorial comment; Pub, surely not!

 

Now, in fairness some parts of Oldham do have greater concentrations of immigrants, for example, Werneth were:

  • 4% of the population was white at the time of the 2011 census, down from 43.2% 10 years earlier,
  • The Pakistani population grew from 38.2% in 2001 to 48.6% in 2011.
  • The Bangladeshi community also swelled in that decade, from 11.6% to 17.8%.

As a [white] resident said, Farage was half-right. ‘The truth is we don’t have much to do with each other, but it’s friendly. A lot of people here we don’t have conversations with, but we live in peace.’

At Ashi’s takeaway, Mohammed Riaz said, it’s bullshit, ‘We all live here together. I deliver takeaways to everyone. We have all sorts of people here, from Somalia, Pakistan, West Indies, Ghana, Iraq, Kurdistan, Palestine.’

But immigrants gravitating to certain areas in nothing new, in the late 19th and early 20th century, many Jewish immigrants of lived in the East End of London, later moving out to the suburbs of north London. It isn’t unique to Oldham, and it doesn’t mean communities don’t mix.

Farage is just looking for attention, said Fielding. ‘Let’s face it, this is the latest in a string of desperate cries for relevance from a second-rate shock jock.’

Editorial comment: I couldn’t have put it better myself

 

So, where is the heartland of Brexit and the Brexit party? Farage predicts that his party will sweep through Labour’s northern heartlands, not unlike his Jarrow march lookalike. And that fizzled out into a glorified pub crawl. As Mary Creagh, Labour MP for Wakefield, warns, anybody looking for ‘angry men who warn a vote [referendum] means riots on the streets’ doesn’t need to look to the north. Fact: Labour supporters voted 2:1 for remain. Brexit was swung by the ageing Tory vote in the shires, overcome with nostalgia, empire, and another crack at jerry.

Whilst Wakefield may have voted 66% to 34% in favour of leave, a recent survey shows that changing, some comments from the town residents include:

  • ‘I voted on immigration, but they never said it would harm business. I see its effect already round here and I’d vote against Brexit now.’
  • Another voted leave for the NHS £350m, ‘but where’s our market gone? Look, it’s all empty. My mum’s really worried, working in an import-export business. [There are] loads of reasons I voted leave, but I wouldn’t now.’

This month, YouGov polled 5,000 Labour heartland voters in the north-east, north-west, Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside, asking, did these Labour voters back ‘a new public vote on whether Britain should leave on the deal negotiated or stay in the EU’?

  • Three-quarters supported the idea, and
  • 43% said that if Labour backed a vote they would feel greater affinity for the party.
  • Only 8% said it would make them feel less keen on Labour;
  • only 11% backed Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Labour isn’t and never was the party of Brexit, Brexit is overwhelmingly a Tory cause. The final comment goes to a middle man from Wakefield: ‘I voted leave. I hate how the EU tells us how to live our lives. But you’ll see how prices go up if trade’s blocked. They lied, all of them.’ He’s ‘fed up to the back teeth with the bloody lot, but we’ve got to stay, or we’ll pay for it’.

Please note this isn’t a party-political broadcast on behalf of the Labour party, indeed I have traditionally voted Tory. It’s the simple acceptance that there are no better alternatives.

A strong showing for the Brexit Party in the EU elections will simply empower the likes of Boris, Rees-Mogg, et al, to take control of the Tories, inflicting a no-deal Brexit and leaving the vast majority worse off. Oh, for the choice of another party, but for now I am …….

‘Fit for one who sits and cries, For all tomorrow’s parties’ 3

 

Another triple treat for lyric spotters this week – including a bit of a curve ball for those that think they’re getting the hang of things.

1 First off the rank is our regular helping of Bowie, and this time we’re turning to the left and turning to the right with ‘Fashion’.

2 Anyone that nails the next one can take an extra point – we’ve gone across the Pond, skipped a decade at least to 1992 to land at NYC’s  Sonic Youth and ‘Youth Against Fascism’ (I’m ashamed to say that I thought Sonic Youth were the kids that passed the dutchie!)

3 Last but by no means least is a track that the author describes as ‘a hauntingly beautiful song that, at the same time, manages to be equally disturbing’. No arguments here, and I’m sure some of you will have been expecting some Velvet Underground – here with ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’.

Enjoy. 

 

Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

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