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By Jason Michael
Boris Johnson says he doesn’t want a general election, that he’d rather we come together as one country and get on with Brexit on 31 October – Hallowe’en. But he may be out of road on that. The forces of rebellion are strong across the Commons, bringing dissidents from the government benches together with Labour, the Scottish National Party, and the Liberal Democrats – a loosely aligned ‘rebel alliance’ – in a desperate eleventh hour bid to stop a no-deal crash out of the European Union. Speaking on the Good Morning Britain show, albeit with Piers Morgan shouting over her, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she did not want to see Scotland or the United Kingdom crash out of the EU without a deal, reminding viewers that the “result of the referendum in Scotland, on Brexit, will be honoured” if she is successful in bringing down the London government and triggering another general election.
Yet, cross-purposes are the order of the day in this ragtag rebel alliance. While it is true that the only real leadership in politics in Britain right now comes from Sturgeon, the SNP is too small – almost pointlessly so – to affect any real change in the current trajectory Johnson has us on. Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is an anachronism; a museum piece of fist-pumping faux working-class politics, trying desperately hard to relive the glory days of the miners’ strike in a post-Thatcher Britain. It represents a constituency that was dead and buried by the time Tony Blair moved into Number 10. Neither the dissident Tories nor the Thatcher-loving Liberal Democrats want to see Corbyn Prime Minister. They want nothing to do with his pink socialist nostalgia, and – as recent voting trends have shown – Scotland has already kicked this idea to the kerb.
‘I don’t want to see my country, I don’t want to see the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.’… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Good Morning Britain (@GMB) September 02, 2019
Not only is this a leaderless rebellion, it is rudderless. Excuse the French, but what is here being touted by political pundits and the media as an alliance against a hard, no-deal Brexit is a conglomeration of widely diverse and deeply divided political agendas that does not know its arse from its elbow. It is doomed to failure. Its leadership might be wanting – even utterly moronic – but the movement over England for an uncompromising hard Brexit is the only show in town. In recent months, much to the chagrin of moderates of every hue in the UK and the EU, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party has delivered the single largest party in the history of the European parliament. He himself might be an embarrassment, but the movement that brought him to where he’s now at is a force to be reckoned with. Why Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government fails to appreciate this reality escapes me. She is deluded if she imagines she can save England from itself and bring down this angry chthonic monster. All she risks is the catastrophic damage of her own cause.
In his more sober moments – not that they’re many, even Johnson knows he isn’t driving the Brexit bus here. His mistake is a classic one. Like Cameron and May before him, he thought he could use the racist far-right to his advantage, but the outcome is always and everywhere the same – this particular tail always ends up wagging the dog, and Johnson is being wagged. We all are. The genie is out of the bottle in British politics. The far-right in the guise of the Brexit Party, UKIP, the EDL, and every thuggish messiah of British nationalist street politics is on the march. Johnson’s greatest challenge does not come from the soft liberal alliance, but from the shadows of the right.
He knows that if he fails to deliver the Brexit he has promised – to make Britain great again – then the rabble will turn on him and support the true fascists. A general election offers slim hope for a liberal victory over Brexit. The collapse of the current Westminster government will signal only Johnson’s weakness and inability. Blood will be in the water, and Farage’s Brexit Party – having promised a non-aggression pact or not – will repeat its European triumph in the House of Commons. This may happen with the Brexit Party scooping up the seats of non-conformist Tories and entering into government under Johnson’s so-called war cabinet, but it will happen. The Conservatives aren’t actually the problem here – painful as this is to admit. The Tories are only doing what the Liberal Democrats and Labour have been doing for years – chasing the far-right down the rabbit hole. The problem is the far-right, the same beast the tabloid media has been feeding for decades, and right now its stars are perfectly aligned for a changing of the guard.
If this collapses into another messy Brexit general election the 'rebels' won't win. What we'll have is a changing… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) September 02, 2019
True, much of what we are seeing in British politics today is the fruit of a very British coup – a ‘conservative revolution’ not unlike the trends in German politics which conspired to bring Hitler and the Nazis to power through the late 1920s and early 30s. But this coup – as it was in Weimar Germany – has never been dependent on political leadership. It is the aggregate of complex processes of scapegoating, exceptionalism, and hard, ethno-nationalism. From the introduction of the politics of austerity England has been moving in this direction. The current was enabled by the Liberal Democrats’ campaign for ‘homes for locals’ in inner city London in the 90s and Labour’s about-face on immigration. Class-politics was torn to shreds by the very party that from of old promised to unite the workers and fight their corner against the wealthy establishment. It has come undone and set the scene for a politics of rage that no one can now quite understand or stop.
The reality is that Brexit has become the banner under which these forces are rallying, and they have shown themselves to be more powerful and more determined than any of us could have imagined. By no means is this piece written in support of Boris Johnson. He is altogether less than perfect, but given that one of the two alternatives is too weak and the other too unthinkable, Johnson happens to be our last best hope of stopping a wholesale collapse into the abyss of far-right fascism. It is only our wishful thinking that makes this assessment unpalatable, but we have to base our reflections on the facts – and these are the facts. Brexit – the hardest possible Brexit – is now all but a foregone conclusion. In Scotland, we had our chance to escape this. To date the Scottish government has acquiesced to Westminster’s rules, leaving us tangled in the deadly Brexit web. Why we are still part of the union is an unfathomable mystery, but what is for sure is that, for so long as we remain part of the United Kingdom, we have to accept that this is the direction of travel. While we remain shackled to the Westminster agenda we are forced to play the hand we are dealt, and the smart player will know that the Johnson bad dream is miles better than the Farage nightmare.
Brexit: PM hints at snap election if MPs block no deal