By James Melville
Brexit means…taking back control of the things we haven’t lost, to lose control of the things we already have.
As a middle aged man, I am beginning to fall into the trap of having moments of nostalgia for my youth. I now think that the good old days were better than today. The music was certainly better in my day, as was Scottish football. But the reason I have a nostalgia for the bygone days of yore is the exact opposite of why many people people voted for Brexit, I am wistful for a time when British people wanted to be part of some sort of liberal internationalism with our European neighbours through the common market. I am also wistful for the day when foreigners were made welcome rather than seen as some sort of existential threat. But nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It needs to be harnessed correctly rather than exploited. And right now, nostalgia is being harnessed and exploited by all the wrong people.
Many Leave voters voted to make things better. Many people who voted for Brexit did so for emotional reasons connected to hope. Leave voters wanted to jump into a time machine back to a Utopian Britain that may or may not have existed. Back to a time and place where Britain was a country full of hope.
Hope is a powerful thing. Politicians ruthlessly exploit it. And with Brexit, it has been exploited to such a degree, it has become a political sting. Brexit is the greatest political heist that Britain has ever seen. A gigantic con led by a group of right-wing libertarians who have exploited the hopes of millions of people to convince them that they were taking back control, when in fact, they were giving the control away to the people who conned them. So instead of making things better, Brexit will make things a lot worse. Britain will become a place where the hope becomes hopeless.
Many Leave voters feel disenfranchised. I get that. They are right to feel that. But they wrongly believe that the EU is to blame. The tragedy of Brexit is that the EU isn’t the source of problems facing Britain. Instead, decades of UK government failure are the true problem. Failed economic policy. Failed industrial strategy (or lack of). Failed regional regeneration. Failed social policy. All of which have created a society where the rich get richer and our communities and public services pay the price.
The hollowing out of Britain’s industrial communities and rampant privatisation by the Tories in the 1980s sowed the seeds of Brexit. It led to a giant fire sale of British industry, creating huge regional inequality and many of our communities have never recovered. Our industrial heartlands were decimated. Towns became rust belts. In the years since the mid 1980s, to put it mildly, the pendulum of hope has swung away from millions of people.
Fast forward 20 years. The financial crisis of 2008. I don’t remember a nurse, doctor, teacher, police officer or local council causing this crisis, yet, they were the ones who ultimately paid the price for unethical gluttony in our financial services industry. What followed the financial crisis was a decade of austerity with the destruction of many public services and a drop in real wages that created a new generation of poverty, a million visitors a year to food banks and a whole new cycle of resentment and the destruction of hope.
For four decades, millions of people within communities right across the country have seen a decline in their social fabric. The key community frameworks of a happy and stable society have been dismantled, defunded or sold off. It has made many people unhappy, disenfranchised and understandably, wanting something or someone to blame.
Sadly, it appears that many people have lost sight of the root cause of who to blame for this decline. Millions of people have been manipulated by politicians and media into mistakenly believing that their loss of hope was somehow the fault of the EU and immigrants. This was also wrapped around repetitive jingoistic messages about the pre-EU days of war and British Empire delusion. These messages have been hammered home by the Tories and right-wing media outlets for over 30 years. And sadly, it has worked. Millions of people think that because of foreign incomers or foreign interference, they and their country have lost control. They have been told to take back control. There has been a huge diffusion from the usual suspects in politics and media to demonise the likes of the EU and immigrants to deflect from the failures of government. It is psychological projection. It is a gigantic con-trick.
Brussels isn’t to blame. The Romanians aren’t to blame. Jean-Claude Juncker isn’t to blame. The Muslims aren’t to blame. Remainers aren’t to blame. But I bloody well know who should be blamed. You know, the ones who wear blue rosettes on election day; who wear bespoke pinstripe suits in parliament; who have exceedingly good manners and faux-politeness and who many people in Britain have a peculiar trait of forelock tugging towards. It is all a giant act of Tory manipulation. See through their veneer and the optics aren’t particularly pleasant. They are the ones that shafted this country. Not a Bulgarian immigrant looking for a better life.
17.4 million people with good intentions were hoodwinked by a bunch of political chancers who conned a nation to enable them to further their career or feather their own nests (or the pound shorting nests of whatever hedge fund manager chum they happen to have an association with).
Brexit is part of a 30 year planned heist designed for us to vote against our best interests. And tragically, millions of people still won’t realise or admit this and continue to blame the wrong things. If you voted for Brexit, you may well have had good reason; such as concerns over the NHS, crime, employment, pay levels, housing, education – but concerns over these issues are not the fault of the EU. It is the fault of government. And look what is happening now. Britain’s political system is being taken apart by the very rich and powerful against the best interests of the vast majority of UK citizens. This pattern has been continuing for over 30 years, and still millions of voters look in the wrong direction of blame.
And so we are where we are. The great con that wrecked Britain has three parts to the story:
Part 1. Thatcherism
Part 2. Austerity
Two previous political developments have conned a nation to vote against its best interests for the gain of manipulators, speculators and political hucksters. And we are about to witness and suffer from the third phase of this con:
Part 3: Brexit