I think the author of the linked article may be on to something. The working classes have had a hard time of it in Britain in my lifetime. Yes our growing economy has created lots of new jobs. Most of them cleaner and more pleasant to do. Many involving the polishing of trousers and skirts on comfy office chairs. Yes average purchasing power has risen when modest pay increases have been multiplied by downward pressure on prices of manufactured goods (net of course of steady increases in taxes as the state consumes more and more of GDP). But this is no consolation for the fisherman, miners and factory workers whose jobs have been wiped out by the EU, priced out by environmental regulations or simply offshored.
To add insult to injury, the political instrument they and their trade unions founded — the Labour Party — has turned its back on them, neglected them and taken to describing them with contempt as idiots and bigots. In its Islingtonian manifestation, it's more interested in its new consitutencies of assorted minorities who are — or can be made to feel — oppressed. So interested in them in fact that it has taken to importing them despite concerns among its old supporters that they may drive down wages.
To such traditional Labour voting fodder, long condescended to or scorned, the sight of the likes of Kinnock and Mandelson living it up on the EU gravy train is galling. As is that of Blair openly coveting, enjoying in return for God knows what in office and ultimately achieving the life of his multi-millionaire chums.
New Labour has delivered what Old Labour predicted capitalism would: a profound sense of alienation. All this compounded by the electoral tactic of "triangulation" under which none of "their" politicians are ever to be heard actually talking to them in public
If Brexit delivers a swift kick in the pants to those pigs who clearly think themselves more equal than others, why not give it a try?
People are understandably emotional in the aftermath of the murder of Jo Cox MP. Her husband's feelings right now are all too sadly familiar to me and I am sure all our thoughts are with him and his bereft children.
She was a political foe but her death diminishes us just the same. Nothing she sought to achieve by democratic means could ever justify any violence against her.
So much so obvious, one would have thought. And yet a shameful chorus of voices is trying to make her killer an emblem of Brexit. Even The Spectator has published a piece that despite some weasel words amounts to a smear on the Leave campaign.
People say in grief things they will later regret. The genuinely distraught must of course be cut some slack. No forgiveness should be extended however to wicked people trying to make political capital from murder.
It's good that the official Remain and Leave campaigns were suspended out of respect. Let's hope some civility can be achieved in the final days of this historic campaign. The nation's future still depends on getting this right. A murderer must not be allowed to shape our decision.
I subscribed to The Spectator today because it seems to be the only publication consistently speaking for the best interests of the people of Britain.
Now I have to decide if my decades-long subscription to The Economist should go the same way as the one I cancelled last year to the Financial Times, which is now far pinker than it looks.
I do love this image from the current Spectator cover. It is a picture worth a thousand words and expresses my feelings about the referendum perfectly.
Mass shootings like Orlando make headlines and rightly so. They are disgusting and they certainly justify state authorities using their powers to review people applying to obtain or renew gun licences as, at present, they often don't. They also justify closing loopholes in the system, for example around trade fairs. There is a lot that could be usefully done to promote public safety around firearms. No-one, least of all a responsible gun-owner, wants guns in the hands of minors, the mentally-disturbed, people with criminal records or, I would suggest, anyone who has declared public support for a terrorist group or foreign power hostile to the United States.
The fact is that gun ownership in the USA has risen in the past twenty years, while the homicide rate has fallen. Before we reject the Second Amendment as so much American craziness, we should bear that in mind. As someone in the UK growing older and more vulnerable to crime, I wish I could carry a weapon to defend myself. I also wish that the law in the UK was as robust as in most US states when it came to the issue of a home-owner's right to defend himself, his family and his property.
The law in the UK does not restrict the supply of firearms much more effectively than it restricts the supply of drugs. Everyone who wants either guns or narcotics has them. There are millions of guns in circulation; more than enough to serve the needs of active criminals. Many of those criminal gun users are also drug users and therefore less likely than a sober citizen to use them sensibly.
In awkward reality gun control is a state guarantee to armed criminals that their victims will be defenceless.
I don't want to be the guy who responds to events by using them to support long-held views. There is anyway no support for wider legal gun-ownership in the UK. So much so that merely writing this post guarantees I could never be nominated as a candidate for political office. Yet minds should be open when we discuss emotional issues and I feel that on this occasion someone needs to say what no-one wants to hear.
If you don't disapprove of something that annoys them, the new puritans of the Left will redefine it. Their objective seems to be to warp the language until it's scarcely possible to discuss anything except upon their terms. Redefining "poverty" in relative terms, for example, has meant that nothing but communism could ever eliminate it. We couldn't be sold communism. We didn't think income equality very just. But we can hardly approve of poverty and now every policy proposed that doesn't tend to the misery of communism promotes it!
We were not overly keen upon mass immigration and wondered with the irritating practicality of people who have to work for a living and manage limited budgets about its impact on overloaded public services and infrastructure. But immigrants tended to be from other cultures and of varying skin tones and so an interest in the topic was redefined as racism and effectively made taboo.
As Chris Snowden explains in the linked article the SJWs of public health are now seeking to redefine malnutrition in such an absurd way that the over fed of the First World will now be no less malnourished than the hungry of the Third World. It sounds ridiculous now of course but discourse in the economic fairyland of the public sector where money grows on other peoples trees doesn't need to be logical. Once the term has been defined to their satisfaction, those of us distracted by the ever increasing need to work to fund their parasitical lives will hear nothing but that malnutrition is rising and needs more taxes to be fixed.
They are a cancer. The metaphor is particularly apt in that here is no safe amount of cancer to be left in a system if it is to be healthy and survive.
The undeniable failure of the USSR, the introduction of free markets in the PRC and their "betrayal" by the workers who flocked to Thatcher for cheap houses and BT shares in the UK put the authoritarians of the Left in a tough position in the closing years of the 20th Century.
They could of course have abandoned their Leftism and accepted that free markets work. This would involve them acknowledging the death, oppression and poverty they had inflicted during that century's long experiment during which more than half of mankind lived at some point under their rule. Worse, it would involve them getting proper jobs and accepting the verdict of the market on their economic value. This was not appealing to people whose ideology had in truth arisen from varying combinations of laziness, stupidity and envy.
It was slightly more attractive for them to stick to their ideological guns. One Russian communist told me, when guiding me around the Kremlin when I lived in Moscow, that the Left had to accept that history had not been allowed to run the inevitable course predicted by Karl Marx. As she said
Russia and China were still feudal societies and their revolutions came too soon. We will now have to wait for them to go through their capitalist and monopoly capitalist stages before we can have a socialist revolution followed by true communism. Next time, we will get it right.
This is admirably consistent, but still involves all living socialists going back to proper jobs for the foreseeable future. It's no more attractive for them than the first option, except that they can dream of a "better future" for their grandchildren as they work as Moscow tourist guides or whatever.
So they went with their third choice instead. They abandoned (at least for now) the idea of "class war"; though they do still like a nostalgic rant when confronted with non-socialist Etonians. Instead they focussed on generating social conflict by identifying "oppressed groups" and setting them against their "oppressors". Wimmin vs The Patriarchy. Black and Minority ethnics vs Racists. Muslims vs Islamophobes. LGBT people vs Homophobes and cis supremacists. Greens vs anyone who doesn't want to live in the Stone Age. Even, despite the historical internationalism of the Left (and the unfortunate outcomes of National Socialism when it was tried in Germany) Scots and Welsh Nationalists – all leftists – against the English.
Identity politics had arrived and a game of victimhood poker began. Soon it became apparent that there were some real contradictions among the artificial ones they were fomenting to justify a powerful State – headed by them – to do "social justice". The Left in Britain had long depended upon the Scots to prop up their minority position in England, for example, and yet lost control of their votes by pandering to their nationalism. Being Scottish (and Socialist) trumped just being Socialist. Feminists like Germaine Greer took understandable exception to arrivistes in the trans community who tried to join her victim group rather than running their own. Most insanely of all, as Milo Yiannopolous points out in the linked article;
Liberals: the problem with putting Muslims at the top of your victimhood hierarchy is that THEY WANT TO KILL EVERYONE ELSE ON THE LIST
Nothing could be more ridiculous than a leftist campaign group called "LGBT against Islamophobia". And yet the group was formed. If we capitalists wanted to (and why should we play their stupid game?) it would be hard to be vile enough to persuade forces so divided to unite in the face of our "threat"!
The old Left, with which I grew up in the one-party North and at my redbrick university, was famous for its splittism, as beautifully satirised in Monty Python's "Life of Brian". The People's Front of Judea was far more likely to fight the Judean People's Front than any actual Romans. The Left hated each other so intensely that they sometimes forgot to hate the wealth generators upon whom they all plotted to live as parasites. This characteristic seems to have re-emerged in cultural Marxism as the victim groups proliferated.
The Orlando killer drew a terrible hand in victimhood poker. It seems he was a homosexual raised in a Muslim family. They would have thought him fit only for death had they known. Had he killed himself in his sexual and religious torment, I would have felt very sorry for him. Had he become a happy gay atheist, Christian or Hindu, I would have smiled for him. But he chose to redeem himself by killing others and must now go down in history as one of the worst of us. Not to be vindictive, at this moment I rather wish there was an Allah or Jehovah to give him the justice he escaped. Now that we know he was a regular patron of the gay club where he went amok and a user of Grindr and similar apps, it seems even more disgusting that Snowflake Owen Jones is still more concerned with ranking the relevant victim categories correctly than with the actual horror of innocent lives lost.
I was serious in what I wrote yesterday. It's really not enough to say "Aha! I told you so!" when discussing this awful story. The Left must address Milo's point. The NRA, as the representatives of responsible gun owners, must come forward with licensing schemes that ensure crazies can't get or keep guns or ammunition. The US Government must actually enforce the licensing regime they have. It seems bizarre that the Orlando killer could have been twice investigated by the FBI and yet retain his "G Licence" as an approved security worker, contracted to the government. G4S, the British multinational that employed him (as it once employed the late Mrs Paine's father - a former military and civilian policeman) must review its HR procedures for armed employees.
There are lots of practical lessons to be learned that can save lives in future. They will involve listening to each other calmly as adults, rather than just yelling the usual abuse. In the case of the Left's factions, they will involve listening to each other and realising just how crazy they all sound.
The Orlando massacre tells us nothing about the killer save that he was insane, but it's telling us a lot about ourselves.
Just look at the politicians warning of islamophobia. The people virtue-signalling on Facebook. The triggered leftist storming off British TV because he thought the discussion was focussing on the terrorism angle rather than the hatred of gays. Donald Trump turning the horror to predictable political advantage. Give it a day and the gun control advocates will be complaining about the ease of buying weapons in America and the NRA will be calling for more heavily-armed homosexuals. Plus ça change...
We need to learn lessons but for that we need to open our minds. Every comment I have read so far is someone seizing on a new event as proof of the correctness of old ideas and the continuing wickedness of old adversaries.
If facts don't change our minds what is the point of having them? We might as well all curl up in a corner and live in our deranged imaginations whatever life we fancy. Or to take my ambiguous question the other way, why have minds if facts don't change them?
A cultured Polish friend posted this clip on Facebook today to explain Britain's odd attitude to the European Union. It's only funny because it contains a grain of truth. "Divide and rule" is comic overstatement however. Unlike France, Germany, Russia and even Poland (in the days of the Polish-Lithuanian Empire) our hands are clean in Europe. Even in the Age of Empires when we got a little carried away in our desire to open the world to our trade, we never sought to rule our home continent. Our policy has always been "divide so as not to be ruled". We are anyway not much into ideologies or "geopolitics". We would just like our trade routes open, thank you very much, so we can keep on making an honest living.
The Continental mentality is different. Given their common Roman Law heritage our neighbours are inclined to a "top down" quest for Ordnung. They look for "rational" direction from the wise men of academia with their professorships and multiple doctorates. The very people we instinctively try to keep as far away from practical matters as possible! The economic democracy of markets, with doctorate-free plebs willy-nilly signalling their vulgar desires through trillions of spending choices, is repugnant to such intellectual snobs. Hence the shameful succession of "isms" developed in the academic Mordor of the Continental universities. Communism, fascism and socialism – all devised by European intellectuals – have repeatedly brought Mankind to the brink of destruction. These ideas are still (ask Cubans, Zimbabweans and Venezualans) wrecking lives on this planet by the million.
We Brits are pragmatists, realists and shameless tradesmen. We're not insulted to be called "a nation of shopkeepers". Retailers, unlike professors of politics or Énarques, are useful people who serve real needs and enhance our lives. We instinctively agree with Orwell that some ideas are so stupid only intellectuals can believe in them. We laugh at the pretensions of academics who insanely believe they can tell the world's billions how best to live their lives. We instinctively understood – before the expression was invented – that no-one, however clever, can outthink the "wisdom of crowds".
The Common Law is both the sign and symbol of our mentality and our greatest achievement as a society. It has no author or founder. The names of the judges who developed it, first in the forests of what is now Germany and then on our archipelago, are lost. It derives from no "Grundnorm". It needs no pompous Constitution to give it legitimacy. It developed organically (and is still evolving to the extent modern politicians leave it be) from the customs of our common people going about their business. In modern parlance you could say it was "crowdsourced." It gave us a useful and adaptable legal order long before we had a democracy.
In the course of the Brexit debate, some German commentators (as reported via a link to Newsweek as the Der Spiegel article is firewalled) have even been wise enough to recognise that we;
... have an inner independence that we Germans lack, in addition to myriad anti-authoritarian, defiant tendencies. A lot of what happened in Britain spilled over to us sooner or later, reinforcing our cultural ties
They are right to fear that the EU will trend faster to authoritarianism without us, but their mistake is to believe we can hold that back from within. When we differ with our fellow members we lose every vote because its institutions are shaped by the dangerous tendencies I have outlined. It is yet another professor-crafted, top-down, énarque-run institution that – like the previous evil works of Europe's academies – only proves Mencken's point that;
For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong
For so long as we are members, the EU will always try to harmonise our weird and wonderful way of seeing the world with precisely what makes Continental Europe the historic source of all ideological darkness. Our neighbours need to understand once and for all that, to to be available to them as an ideological fire brigade, we must remain us.
I tire of the Remain campaign's "it's their future" meme, which suggests that older people should vote according to the majority pro-EU views of the young. It's insulting to older voters who know they would live through the short-term disruption that uncertainty in the wake of Brexit would bring, but may not get to see the longer term benefits they anticipate. Many believe they are voting Leave precisely to protect their family's future. It's also silly to assume that the younger voters are more likely to be right. It would be no more unreasonable or rude to say that "support for the EU varies inversely with life experience".
As the linked article reports, there is a difference in voting intentions according to age:
There is a huge gulf among young and older voters over the European issue - with seven in 10 young voters backing the European Union. 73 per cent of those aged between 18-29 want to remain in the EU, while 63 per cent of those aged over 60 want to leave. The middle-aged population are divided almost evenly on the issue.
The real mistake is to assume that these views will remain constant as the current electorate ages. My first act as a voter was in 1975, when I voted to remain in the Common Market. I was 18 and had read little about it. I believed the assurances of Heath and Wilson that no loss of sovereignty was involved. I had never heard of "ever closer union" and was essentially in favour of the promised removal of barriers to free trade. As I studied European Law and learned about the Common Market's institutions at University, I became more sceptical. Once qualified and out in the workplace I became even more so. By the age of 30 I was seriously doubtful of the Union's value. I then went to work in Europe and had my first encounters with Continental Civil Law and the very different political and administrative mindset of those brought up under it. By the age of 40 I was outright hostile.
I am not saying that everyone under 30 who is going to vote Remain will change his or her mind as I did. Some will, some won't. But it's absurd to assume that they will all remain constant in their views. If we Remain, many may regret they voted against their elders. If we Leave, many who are disappointed on June 24 may come to bless theirs. Future new voters may, if we Remain, turn out to be more anti-EU on the basis of yet more experience of its incompetence, corruption, inability to get its dodgy accounts signed off by the auditors and anti-democratic tendencies! Maybe young EU enthusiasts should think of the interests of voters as yet unborn?
I have even heard it suggested by a young person working for the Remain campaign that "old people should only have half a vote in this referendum". Surely no-one should allow zealotry for either side of this debate to blind them to such a fundamental principle as equality before the law? We are all going to have to live together after June 23rd. Surely it's not too hard to assume our opponents will be voting sincerely with a misguided view of all our best interests in mind?
Perhaps it's too soon to be worrying about the aftermath of the EU referendum. Magnanimity in victory is all very well, but let's have victory first. Or failing that, let's not be good losers until we have actually lost.
There is going to be a price to pay regardless of the outcome. Do any of us really believe, for example, that the Scottish independence referendum resolved the issue? The United Kingdom can never be the same again after the nastiness of that campaign and the narrow result. Many naive English people discovered, watching a horror story play out north of the border, that millions of their fellow citizens genuinely dislike them on imaginary ethnic grounds. Nice English people who are never likely to meet a "ned" socially were rather disturbed by this. Nice Welsh people who had never taken Plaid Cymru seriously also learned what goodies can be extorted by pseudo-ethnic acting out. The Kingdom's unity was clearly weakened.
I fear a similar outcome to the EU referendum. If, as bookmakers still believe, the British vote to remain members of the EU it will be by a very narrow margin. Our Continental brethren have learned both the fierce intensity of anti EU sentiment in Britain and the lack of any genuine enthusiasm in the Remain camp. "Of course it's rubbish in many ways and a bit corrupt, but it's useful on balance and we should stay in to fix it" is not the warmest of endorsements. If that's the level of patriotism to expect in the United States of Europe, God help it.
My Continental friends know that I am voting Leave because I hate the EU, not Europe. But the Continental equivalents of those English people with no Scottish friends who were shocked by SNP "neds" can be forgiven for now thinking us hostile to them as people. Ironically that's not because of anything the Leave campaign is saying. It has mostly avoided SNP style nastiness and is usually scrupulous about being anti EU not anti European. It is the Remainers who, in characterising Brexiteers as little Englanders, Empire nostalgists, uneducated elderly white males and sheer bloody racists are frightening the horses on the Continental street. Particularly as in places like France, Germany, Poland, Hungary and Greece "eurosceptics" are often closer to fascism than mostly perfectly rational British Brexiteers who come from all political persuasions and none.
Britain has always been out of step in the EU for reasons I have explained here before, but I would not blame Continental true believers in the European Project for now seeing us as permanent obstacles to its success. Especially as they will also see that a narrow Remain result is not final. As in Scotland the issue will come back again and again until we finally Leave. We can hardly blame them for thinking, as many English think about the Scots, "... bloody well get on with it, take your hatreds elsewhere and leave us in peace..."
There will be different but equally serious problems if we vote to Leave. Britain has long been a country divided against itself on class, national and regional grounds. If not united by a common enemy a shocking number of us find reasons to despise and try to prey upon groups of our fellow citizens. Cameron and Osborne are open to much serious criticism of their policies, but how much easier it is to sneer at them as Bullingdon Club toffs. I was brought up in t'North to see Southerners and particularly Londoners as parasites and perverts preying upon honest working folk. On the other hand, fans of the London football club I now follow sneeringly chant "we pay your benefits" at the locals when they play away in the Midlands and North. My mum, an Englishwoman in Wales, has experienced ungentlemanly treatment at the hands of Welsh nationalists. And so on ad infinitum. We sure as hell do not need more division.
How would those of us who fought to take Britain out bring back into the national fold the loyalists of the EU and the ordinary Brits they have frightened into line behind their banner? It would be hard to avoid triumphalism, given how they have derided us. Yet if we allow the celebrations to last for more than one joyful night, we risk fracturing the very nation for whose independence we have struggled. The Conservative Party will swap leaders and unite under pressure to win an election. But what about the rest of us? Will UKIP dissolve itself, its mission accomplished, and let its members and voters drift back to mainstream parties? What purpose will the EU-compromised LibDems fulfil in a post-EU Britain? There will be plenty of political issues to resolve because people want Brexit for many different reasons. From Galloway on the authoritarian statist wing to Paine on the libertarian flank, we agree on leaving the EU but precious little else. We can't afford as a nation also to be divided over what should then be a dead issue.
I have no solutions to offer. I am merely thinking aloud. How, gentle readers, do you see this playing out?