Saturday, 13 July 2019

Brexit: Spiked gets it wrong again

"Brexit has ruthlessly exposed the poverty of mainstream left-wing thought which is now mobilised against Brexit itself" , says Tim Black of Spiked Online. "Not all of the left is anti-Brexit, of course. But certainly the UK left’s leading proponents are, from the Corbynised Labour Party to the pundits and academics who so ostentatiously style themselves as left-wing, radical and sometimes even Marxist. The poverty of their thought lies principally in their embrace of conspiracism". Says Black:
The basic conspiracist logic always persists, unaltered and compelling in its simplicity. There is a ‘cadre’ of bad people who are the agency behind the scenes, the power behind the people, the not-so-great men making history. And they are manipulating a mess of resentments in order to realise their vision of an utterly deregulated free market, a neoliberal utopia. Or something. ‘This, after all, was the point of the exercise’, says one pundit about Brexit, as if it was all just one big ruse.
It is not, however, a "left-wing" conspiracy theory. Those making this argument were a few months late to the party. The way in which the nexus of Tory "free market" think tanks in conjunction with their media connections have gradually manipulated the narrative is something this blog has reported on for quite a long time now. And I am certainly not left wing. I have a serious loathing for the British left.

Of itself, Brexit is a fairly pedestrian proposition. Britain has never been wholly at ease with its membership of the EU and has never supported the direction of travel of the project. Leaving was only ever a matter of when, not if. If we'd been given a say in the matter sooner, we'd have departed a long time ago. 

What brought us to this point, though, was a sustained campaign eating away at the Tories' capacity to win elections outright on the presumption that the Tories were the party most likely to hold a referendum on EU membership. Insofar as there is an authentic voice of Brexit, it is the demand to reassert national sovereignty and a repatriation of decision making. 

That movement, though, was hijacked. In an alternate universe where Farage and Ukip weren't criminally inept, Ukip would have planned for a referendum and ensured they were ready to turn their entire movement into a referendum fighting army. They would have secured the designation of lead campaign group in the referendum and been able to set the agenda. That, though, didn't happen. They were too busy infighting. 

What they failed to notice is how the Tory think tank nexus, in conjunction with ERG MPs, had headed them off at the pass. In anticipation of a referendum, Matthew Elliott had built up a network of sock puppet campaigns and quasi-thinktanks all of which would be used to lend weight to Vote Leave's designation application and channel funding to it. Ukip weren't smart enough to protest.

When it came to it, the only other serious contender was Arron Banks' Leave.EU and when you look at the designation applications side by side, it is not difficult to see why the Electoral Commission went with Vote Leave Ltd. The Leave.EU application was sloppy and amateurish whereas Vote Leave's had dotted every i and crossed every t. Elliott has worked the system over a number of years and knows exactly how to manipulate it.

From that point, the people's movement was left out in the cold; to run their own sideshow campaign funded by Banks, Tice and a few others. Vote Leave, though, had control over the official narrative. They appointed Boris Johnson, they engineered the message, and more importantly, had control over who said what - and who could speak on behalf of Brexit. To date, that's pretty much still the case. Though Vote Leave is defunct, the Tory Brexit blob own Brexit.

Through their chumocracy they used the Telegraph, Sun, Mail, Spectator and Daily Express to promote their no deal mythology, promoting their house experts Minford, Howe, and Singham. BrexitCentral, the hellmouth of ERG propaganda, has become the official voice of the Brexit blob and any voices with different ideas on how to deliver Brexit have been quite deliberately excluded from the debate. 

Were it that Spiked had done any thinking of their own instead of parroting the received wisdom of the Brexit blob, they too would find themselves out in the cold. This is done with the full cooperation of the media. Christopher Booker found himself demoted with his column relegated to the back pages the moment he started saying inconvenient things about the so-called WTO Option.

But how do we know there is an agenda of an "utterly deregulated free market and "a neoliberal utopia"? Well, quite simply, we can do what Tim Black of Spiked has evidently not done. We can simply read the articles they publish. More or less every week there is a Brexit blob affiliate published in the press telling us that we have nothing to fear from no deal, including one Brendan O'Neill - the useful idiot. 

Similarly, we know that the ERG want a no deal Brexit because deregulation has always been part of the Tory Brexit canon. That is their central reason for opposing an Efta EEA Brexit or any Brexit deal that sees us retaining regulatory alignment. Since there is no mode of Brexit save for no deal that gives us total regulatory autonomy, they have thrown all their propaganda efforts at downplaying the enormous risks, and talking up the potential of unilateral trade liberalisation.

What Tim Black fails to appreciate is that this conspiracy is not a secret and it never has been. It's there in plain sight. They've used their position inside the Westminster apparatus to give their cronies access to the media and a chance to get their feet under the table in the department of trade and DExEU.

This, to a point, is just how British politics works and has for all of time. Despite social media, television is still king in politics and it is still the London political apparatus that decides who gets a platform. We like to think we are all independent freethinkers now but on the whole we are just as susceptible to narrative manipulation as ever we were. The lie by omission is still the most powerful tool in the box and so long as they have the power to freeze out alternative voices, the public can be steered into binary paradigms.

So who is really driving this agenda? There are those like Owen Paterson, John Redwood and to a point Rees-Mogg, who genuinely do believe what they say. These are not intelligent men. They are men of scripture. And then there are the surfers like Boris Johnson who exploit it for personal gain and fulfilment of personal ambition. Behind the scenes, though, there are opportunists lining up to exploit a no deal Brexit ie. "buying the dip". Most of all, it cannot have escaped anyone's attention the ERG's sense of urgency in going after an FTA with the USA.

All the best advice in various trade committees said that the UK first and foremost needs to secure its future relationship with the EU, thereby easing the process of rolling over existing third country deals. Beyond that, we need to find our feet and build up a core of trade experience by going for deals with smaller countries before attempting to tackle the USA.

That, though, was not in keeping with the ERG's timetable. Much of their vanity think tank funding comes from US interests, and the links between Washington think tanks and the IEA are more than coincidental. The IEA serves as the conduit for US corporate interests. This is what puts Shanker "snakeoil" Singham in the frame.

The direction of Brexit is now nothing at all to do with sovereignty, democracy or any of the principled arguments around identity and nationhood. It's an entirely ideological economic agenda based on a fundamentally flawed understanding of international trade and regulation. The ideologues are steering the ship but the disaster capitalists and media barons are fuelling it. 

In this, the left-wing Brexiters have been brought along for the ride to give the outward appearance that this transcends the left-right divide. Lefties have talked themselves into the idea that there can be no socialist utopia unless we break from any competition rules. Whether that's true or not is neither here nor there. They're in the passenger seat and will be thrown under the bus the moment we leave.

As to the Brexit Party, to date they still don't realise how Brexit was stolen from the eurosceptic movement and having done no thinking of their own, largely go along with whatever the Brexit blob says. Farage doesn't do detail and the complexities of trade, regulation and globalisation are way beyond the comprehension of his new intake of acolytes. They don't understand it, can't cope with the contradictions and dislike having their simplistic ideas challenged.

If Tim Black does have a point, it is that the remainer left have gone into overdrive by gold plating and sexing up conspiracy theories. There is an element of truth in number of allegations but through Carole Cadwalladr, they have constructed a spiderweb conspiracy and set about a splattergun media campaign in desperation to make anything stick. 

This is what fundamentally discredits them so that the likes of Brendan O'Neill can openly mock them. There are serious causes for alarm in the way that the IEA and the ERG have been operating behind the scenes but now anyone raising that alarm is now written off as a conspiracy theorist. Cadwalladr has done enormous damage not just to her cause but journalism in general.

Had Spiked ever understood the game in play they'd have objected to the hijacking of Brexit by the Tory right. Instead, they have played useful idiot to the ERG - an unwitting mouthpiece of Ultra Brexit propaganda. Were I a left wing Brexiter I might have found it highly suspect that the left and right of Brexit were feeding from the same trough for economic arguments. That Spiked is de facto a sock puppet of Tufton Street tells you justy how successful the propaganda really was. They are tools in every sense of the word. 

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