Sunday, 9 December 2018

The edge of chaos

It's always fun to capitalise on French rioting. It certainly gives political writers something to do. The yellow vest movement has exploded into a general protest largely to the point of incoherence where anybody with a gripe can don a vest and start burning cars. You can read into it whatever you want to read.

Some would have it that we are looking at the imminent demise of the EU since the mood has spread to neighbouring countries, but I rather suspect this will peter out by next week and that will be it for a while. I could be wrong and this go run for months on end but even then the French police will have got into the groove of asserting their authority and working out what is peaceful protest and what is wanton vandalism from crusties in need of a bath.

If we could call it anything, though, it is an anti-politics protest and we have not seen the last of the general sentiment of discontent. Meanwhile, we can say a similar feeling is growing here in the UK. It does not manifest in quite the same way though.

Predictably the pro-Brexit march yesterday turned into a Tommy Robinson parade reportedly attended by anywhere between three to eight thousand depending on who you believe. It doesn't matter. People will always construct their own narrative in accordance with the version they are most comfortable with.

Naturally the remainers are out in force on Twitter telling us their march was bigger. This, though, tells us nothing. The "people's vote" march was highly organised and orchestrated and financed by you know who. More to the point, waving placards is just not how leavers do things. We never have. Every street demonstration over the last two decades has been a damp squib.

For starters leavers are fragmented a dozen different ways. In the 2014 Euro elections there were at least eight anti-EU parties standing in the UK. The only thing we ever agreed on was a fundamental dislike of the EU. But that's indicative of how leavers roll. We don't stand around waving placards. We organise (badly) on a budget of peanuts and we put up candidates - and that's how we got here.

Even now with the suggestion that Brexit hangs in the balance, we still won't bother to turn out to London - partly because most ordinary leavers wouldn't want to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukip/EDL types. It's not really what we're about. We have patiently done things the way they are supposed to be done and that's how we'll keep doing it.

More to the point, I don't think it's necessary. Being that the legacy remain campaign is largely a lefty progressive outfit it is adept at making noise and saturating the media with polls and soundbites. They can very easily create the appearance that the mood has shifted but still there is no real evidence of that and were there another vote, Remain certainly could not be complacent about it. I still think they'd lose again.

What they're not taking into account is that is that this whole experience has created a core of seasoned keyboard warriors and it's organic in ways that the remain effort is not. Over the last two years the EU itself has given us plenty of ammunition and we have all the footage we need of various remain politicians and activists parading their extraordinary arrogance and condescension.

But then, for all that, I don't think any of this really matters now. They could reverse the 2016 vote but our destiny is still departure for the simple reason that the progressive regime across the west is dying. Merkel is going, Macron is toast, the UK centrists are a spent force and Trump will probably win a second term - especially if Clinton is in the game. This is no temporary thing either. I think we are seeing an epoch shift.

We could see an establishment fightback but I do not think it would do them any good. Their authority is draining and we have seen through them. Their greatest asset was the veneer of gravitas which is now shattered. Their legacy regime was built on the accomplishments of Churchill and Roosevelt. It once had towering prestige, but now it's spent and it's financially and intellectually broke.

What we are seeing now is a grubby race to hold on to the status quo. I've long concluded that the legacy remain campaign is nothing at all to do with EU membership. It's not the EU they value. They evidence shows they don't even care. What they want is to hang on to their systemic entitlements and privileges, refusing to admit the status quo is living on borrowed time.

You have to ask where was this rampant europhillia before the referendum? Why were turnouts 35% in euro elections? Why did they mainly return Ukip MEPs? If there was a strong sense of EU identity then there would be evidence of a European demos - and there isn't. The remain movement is just a tantrum from a middle class having their toys taken away.

What really bothers them is that they are losing control over the narrative. They hate that Brexit has empowered ordinary people and they're worried that their last instruments of control are slipping from their grasp - hence the legal jihad against Brexit and the censorship. The tin eared globalists terrified their world order is collapsing in front of them and believe that democracy opens to door to ignorant savagery - despite the murderous consequences of their own policies.

What we are seeing is the swansong of the twentieth century order and the wails of a cosseted class desperate to hang on to their privilege. The problem they have, however, is that the current economic model is totally unsustainable. Every policy they have is a sticking plaster which can no longer conceal the crumbling facade and the gaping inadequacies of our system. We are going through the motions until the whole thing implodes.

Here we can tell a lot by the state of our media. There was apparently a Channel 4 debate yesterday featuring the same old tired faces. I live and breathe Brexit but even I didn't bother to tune in. The only function television interviews and debates serve in respect of Brexit is to remind us how profoundly ignorant our politicians are - which is actually nothing we didn't know - so what on earth is the point?

Then there's a mad piece in the Times about how "leader" Johnson would go to Brussels and demand negotiations on a free trade agreement by 2020 or he withholds half the £39bn. It's absolute gibberish, but because Johnson says it, they print it. The front page story on the Sunday Times didn't even last the day before being debunked. The papers aren't even pretending to publish news any more. It's just gossip of the day. They have no idea if it's true and I don't suppose they care. Their purpose is to fuel the gossip, which then generates more gossip which keeps the machine ticking over. It is of absolutely no interest to anyone outside a two mile radius of Westminster.

As much as the gravitas has gone from our politics and media, so has the sense of purpose. What passes for research is almost entirely reliant on secondary sources. Prestige is valued over knowledge and of what little real debate there is, the objective is to make sure the other side loses no matter the cost to the country. 

The essential problem for remainers is that they want to put everything back how it was - to go back to that illusory time of political competence and national self-confidence. But we can't. We have pulled back the curtain and what is seen cannot be unseen. This incoherence cannot carry on forever and sooner or later it has to fold in on itself.

To me it's now a wonder that anything works at all, but when you look at it, the main reason things work is because most of our critical systems are run out of the reach of government and are working to long established technocratic systems, many of which are underpinned by EU technical governance. It's Britain life support machine for an ailing and broken system of government. Once you switch it off at the wall the patient cannot live. 

This is the core dispute among pragmatists. Some of us think that it is overdue and very necessary to have this out, let it fold and rebuild, whereas pragmatic remainers with no love of the EU want to prop it up for as long as they can. Part of me doesn't blame them. But the real question is whether we can afford any more of this systemic neglect? I don't think we can. It's those Grenfell moments that show us that the fundamentals are no longer sound.

Of course, there is always the possibility that I'm being overdramatic. The Winter of Discontent was more serious and closer to political collapse than this and just four years prior, France was on the brink of revolution. The forty or so years of stability we've had are more than likely an aberration. The sense I get, though, is that there are too many common themes emerging all over the West for any of this to be coincidental. There are larger forces at work and a shift in the tides of power. Nobody knows how this ends and what's going on is a lot bigger than Brexit.

Here I am not devoting too much time or attention to speculation simply because the situation is too fluid. Every day throws up a new set of possibilities. I'm now leaning toward the view that the EEA option is for the foreseeable future dead in the water so it's either going to be May's deal or no deal And we cannot progress to the next stage of the national conversation until we know. So we wait. We know as little as we did last December.

Even when we know how this phase ends we will still be in a limbo and lost in a cacophony of impenetrable noise and I really don't think we will see any coherence until we are smacked with the reality of our predicament. Between now and then we are in the same cycle of bickering and fighting where most of or energies are ill-directed and unproductive. 

Right now we are all bearing witness to the final months of an expired political settlement. Our political parties do not represent the divisions of opinion nor do they represent any coherent body of people. Politics is atomised every which way and comprehension is thin on the ground. We are short of leadership, short of ideas and short on political talent. We are taxed to the hilt and nobody knows where the money is going because it sure isn't going on public services. Most of us are only one missed paycheque away from oblivion. We are at the edge of chaos. 

It is in this morass the reason for our EU departure become abundantly clear. The economic turbulence we seek to avoid is unavoidable. EU membership isn't going to shield us either way and there is no question of achieving a new economic normal until there is a new political normal. What the UK needs is a free hand to rebuild without constraint and without the divisive thorn in our side.

Forty years is a good innings but now we are heading into a wholly different era. It's time to let go of the past and accept the federalist project failed. As much as we need a new Britain we need a new Europe. We need a new model of democracy and a new way of doing politics. Britain is disintegrating because there is no longer a sense of national purpose. Brexit gives focus to our politics and once again opens up the debate about who we are and what we want for our country. Only when we have answers to those questions can Britain be at peace with itself. 

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