The following piece is a full article from the Comment Section of our upcoming Seventh Print Issue, which will be released on 15th January.
For three years now, this country has been divided into two camps – ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’. In truth we have been divided for much longer, but it took a referendum to put a name to it. Since 2016 we have been continually mocked for our choice to leave the European Union (hereafter, EU), for our very insolence to go against the destinies that the liberal elites envisioned for us. We met their condescension with mockery of their undemocratic ways, of their out-of-touch attitudes. We called them ‘Remoaners’ – sore losers, entitled, snowflakes. But not all of them voted ‘Remain’, no, a great deal of them voted ‘Leave’. The entitlement, hubris and snowflakery that defines a ‘remoaner’ is not isolated to Labour and the Liberal Democrats, it is often all too present in the Right of British politics, embedded in the so-called Conservative Party like a weed and serving as an indictment of our entire political class. These are the ‘remoaners’ that won.
Let’s use the referendum on leaving the European Union as a case study. In the ‘Remain’ campaign, voters were not given a grand vision of prosperity to secure their votes – they were compelled with fear and desolation, with forecasts of an economy brought to ruin by leaving the cold embrace of the European Union. Heavyweights like our then-prime minister, David Cameron, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, gave power to these words. Instead of selling the European Union to the British public, they attacked leaving it. Such methods were not invented by the ‘Remain’ campaign, indeed they have been honed like a fine blade by both of the main parties, in particular the Conservative Party, who dust them off every few years for election season. These same tactics are the hallmark of those we now call the ‘remoaners’.
We saw it in 2015 and 2017 with UKIP and most prominently in 2019 with the Brexit Party. Whenever a politician or party challenges the Tories on their home turf, their response is not to beat their ideas but to attack their existence. Any vote for Farage is a vote for Corbyn, they say. Don’t split the Right or the ‘Leave’ vote, they cry, unable to convince voters on their record alone. Shenanigans of this nature do not befit a party that claims to be the ‘most successful political force in the modern world’. Although then again it is true that success does not always prove merit. The character of the politicians using these tactics, it seems, is not all that far from those of the hardcore ‘Remainers’ they so often call ‘snowflakes’.
Nevertheless, for the last three years I have operated under an assumption, an assumption that a vote to ‘Leave’ was much more than a vote about the European Union, it was a strike deep into the heart of our political establishment. It meant much more than whether we remain or leave the European Union – it spoke to our culture, history and values. I still believe that assumption was right – more so than ever, in fact. The wrong assumption, however, was to presume that our parties were capable of acting on these -on the concerns that ordinary people have – or whether they even cared, even if some of them do support leaving the EU.
Of course, we will still be leaving the European Union, but what of the other concerns that the vote to ‘Leave’ represented? Those same ‘remoaners’ discussed earlier, namely the ones over at The Guardian and The Independent, often deride the ‘Leave’ vote as being based not around objections to the EU but instead as being a swelling of anger at politics as a whole. For once, I’m inclined to partially agree with them; rising unemployment in left behind areas, the decline of manufacturing, the collapse of coastal communities and the rapid increase of immigration all contributed to the argument to leave the EU. The EU as an institution served as a focal point for voters to unleash their fury, and rightly so. All of the above reasons for discontent have had the EU’s hand involved, but we are being too kind to our own politicians by allowing them to get off so easily by handing the blame off. Let us not forget that all of our grievances with the EU have been inflicted upon us through the consent of our political elites – to allow them to play the powerless card when all concessions made to Brussels have been through them is an insult to the British public, who between the 1975 and 2016 referendums have truly had no power.
As already said, when a political force arises to challenge the main parties on their failures, say UKIP or the Brexit Party, the main parties (especially the Conservatives) resort to the tactics of the typical ‘remoaner’ – they attack not their rivals’ ideas but their very existence. They attempt to smear their supporters as ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’ and shush them away as a fringe movement, rather than taking their qualms seriously.
But yes, I know, we will soon be out of the EU. Will our leaders now finally tackle rising immigration? What about the decline of manufacturing and industry? Or our coastal communities, will they now be rejuvenated? I’m pessimistic. And why should I not be? These are not problems that have sprung up in the last few months, they are problems that have been in the making for decades and been entirely ignored, except of course at election time when we are made promises which soon fail to appear.
Perhaps the similarity between the Conservatives and the ‘remoaners’ lies not only in their tactics, but also in their ideas – no surprise given the large swathes of ‘Remain’ MPs in their ranks. Looking just at immigration, we have recently been promised by Johnson an Australian-style points-based system to determine who enters the country. However, curiously omitted from the party-political broadcasts and messages is the fact that this new system will, unlike the Australian system, have no cap on immigration numbers. Someone should call the Labour Party and tell them to cancel their leadership election – the Conservatives seem to be doing their job for them; considering the main opposition to the government for the last 3 years have been the Tory backbenches it’s no surprise. What good is investing yet more billions of pounds in our NHS and public services if we are to continue to burden it with hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year; a state of affairs brought about by a cowardly political class afraid to tackle mass immigration, or worse yet not caring about it.
Adding insult to injury we now have a Prime Minister who wants to offer amnesty to illegal immigrants; who are believed to number up to 1.2 million, according to the Pew Research Centre. I ask what the point is of even having immigration restrictions if we are to reward those who ignore them completely and intrude upon our borders, making their first act in our country a criminal one. It may be fashionable in liberal circles to talk of the plight of illegal immigrants and their lack of security, but try telling that to the British people who are put out of a job by being undercut by foreign workers who have no right to even be here, or those that often tragically die in their attempt to enter our country, encouraged by lax attitudes to illegal immigration.
With policies such as these, why should we believe that the supposed champions of conservatism, the Conservative Party, represent anything different than that which is offered by the Left, or in fact the ‘remoaners’, who would be all too happy to live in a world without borders or sovereignty. What benefit are policies such as amnesty for illegal immigrants to those northern constituencies that have so recently placed their trust in the Conservative Party? The Conservatives shouldn’t rest on their laurels; these new votes have merely been borrowed, not won – the Tories will have to show that they are worthy of this trust and can deliver not only Brexit, but deal with the other concerns ordinary people have in order to keep seats like Blyth Valley and Great Grimsby. The tactics and ideas of the ‘remoaners’, who are in actual fact the most accurate representation of our political class, will not work.
Until they’ve proved they are worthy of this trust (I imagine we’ll be waiting some time), we shouldn’t be fooled; the Conservatives may support leaving the European Union, but does that mean they are any less out-of-touch or entitled than the ‘remoaners’ we so rightly ridicule? I think not.
Photo by ChiralJon on Flikr.