The Brexit Revolution: Breaking Britain To Remake It.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his principal political adviser Dominic Cummings.

WHY IS BRITAIN falling apart? The whole world is shaking its head in disbelief at the spectacle unfolding in Westminster. Well within a single human lifespan, Great Britain has undergone a profound transformation: from industrial behemoth and global empire, to one of the six economic also-rans which, alongside the USA, make up the G7. Historically, such descents from the geopolitical heights are almost always the result of defeat in war, revolution, or both catastrophes combined. But the British Isles have not suffered invasion and defeat for nearly a thousand years, and the last time the British people made a revolution was during the reign of Charles I – more than 375 years ago. Could it be that the extraordinary scenes currently playing themselves out in Britain represent its people’s long-delayed reaction to their country’s rapid relegation to the Second Division of world powers?

As an explanation, it maps very neatly over the geographical and generational divisions fuelling Brexit – that bitter debate over Britain’s future relationship with the European Union which lies at the heart of the present turmoil.

Take a map of Britain in 1642 indicating which parts of the kingdom are siding with the King and which with Parliament in the unfolding Civil War, and then superimpose over it a map showing which regions of Britain voted to “Leave” the EU, and which to “Remain”, and, extraordinarily, you will find that they are an almost exact match.

The wealthy, mercantile, south of England – most especially the city of London – has always looked towards the continent of Europe and beyond: to those places where the opportunities for amassing riches through trade and money-lending were greatest. To the people of the North, however, wealth has always been looked upon as something they made themselves. Be they generated by farms or factories, the riches of these far-flung and self-reliant regions of England were regarded as the just reward for their own labours – and nobody else’s.

The wishes of Scotland, Wales and Ireland, the Celtic fringe of the British Isles, being conquered territory, have never really counted for all that much, and, if the Brexit Referendum and the Euro-Sceptics’ response to the so-called “Irish back-Stop” are any indication, they still don’t.

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What made Britain truly “Great” was the coming together of the mercantile south and the industrious north in the scientific and technological revolution of the Nineteenth Century. The huge advantage conferred upon Britain by this heroic period of innovation, construction and investment overlaid the potent idea of “Britishness” across the still lively identities of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. While Britain’s power waxed ever greater, spreading itself over a quarter of the Earth’s land surface, those subsidiary identities remained in shadow. As Britain’s power waned, however, the unifying power of Britishness began to fade. It is one of those historical ironies that Britain’s insistence on being referred to as the “United Kingdom” coincided with its slow unravelling.

Britons born in the 1920s and 30s came into a world where, to all appearances, British power was as great as ever. The truth was very different. Even before the exertions of the First World War, the Americans and the Germans had left the British eating their economic dust. After the war, the British Empire turned out to be an antiquated, deeply-indebted mirage held together almost entirely by bluff. By the time those men and women reached their teens – in the midst of an existential struggle for their nation’s survival – Britain’s bluff had been well and truly called. In the years of austerity that followed the Allies’ victory over Germany and Japan, Britain was kept afloat by the generosity of American taxpayers and shareholders. The “Special Relationship” was always a one-way affair.

Some of those Britons born 80-90 years ago have come to terms with their country’s decline, but a great many more have not. Their children, the first-born of the Baby-Boom generation, who came into the world between 1946 and 1956, also struggle to grasp what has happened to “Great Britain”. In their formative years, the world map was still reassuringly dominated by imperial red. Popular culture teemed with stories of Britain’s “finest hour”, along with the outstanding deeds of more distant times that still glimmered in its glow. Though this generation had never felt the shock-wave of a German bomb, or fired a shot in anger, its members still boasted of how “we” had won the war. The spell of Britishness was an unconscionably long time dying.

Economic reality will not, however, be gainsaid and intelligent Britain knew it. Joining the European Economic Community was the obvious, sensible and entirely reasonable solution to the problem of a Britain which was now smaller and less influential than it had been for close to 400 years. But the attempt to exchange the EEC/EU’s new spell of collective strength and confederative support for the old spell of “splendid isolation” and imperial self-sufficiency, while winning over young and immigrant Britons in the 1970s and 80s, never truly succeeded in bewitching the over-60s.

The “Leave” vote was overwhelmingly old, and the “Remain” vote overwhelmingly young.

That generational dislocation was matched by a geographical dislocation born of the Thatcherite South’s thirty years of malign neglect of the Labour-voting North. The Brexiteers who refused to believe that Britain had ceased to be “Great” were joined by those who had come to believe, through bitter experience, that “Britain” had ceased to care – at least, about people like themselves.

The decision to leave the EU was thus driven by two impulses: right-wing southern nationalists’ wilful self-delusion about the possibility of reasserting their country’s greatness; and the disillusioned northern left’s desire to be revenged upon the London-based financial oligarchy which had callously sacrificed its once-strong industrial communities to the twin deities of neoliberalism and globalisation. That the EU of 2016, in its ideological rigidity and arrogance, bore a remarkable resemblance to that London-based oligarchy, didn’t help matters one bit.

The problem, of course, is that the fulfilment of the Brexiteers’ dreams of restored greatness and regional revenge can only ever be accomplished by driving through a “No Deal” Brexit. Only a No Deal Brexit can assert British sovereignty in the pure and untrammelled fashion demanded by the hard-liners who have always been in charge of the anti-European project. Theresa May’s Brexit deal was a surprisingly good one, but by acknowledging the reality of Britain’s need to retain strong economic ties with the EU (not to mention preserve the Irish peace agreement) it ruled itself out of contention. For the Northern revanchists there was a similar need to make the defeat of the London oligarchy and its handmaidens in the British political class absolute and irremediable. Anything less would only prove that the North had, once again, been shafted.

It seems clear that the only person who appreciated the uncompromising trajectory of Brexit was the man who masterminded the 2016 Leave campaign, and who is now ensconced in No. 10 Downing Street as Boris Johnson’s principal political adviser, Dominic Cummings. Like his American counterpart, Steve Bannon, Cummings has always understood that to make your country great again it is first necessary to demolish the political structures which turned it into something less than great.

Accordingly, there is absolutely nothing accidental or unintentional about the looming confrontation between Parliament and “The People”. Johnson – advised by Cummings – understands that an election fought and won on these terms will lead, inevitably, to the destruction of parliamentary democracy as generally understood by the peoples of the British Isles. As unlikely as it may seem, what Johnson, Cummings, and the hard-liners controlling the freshly-purged Conservative Party are out to launch, along with Aaron Banks, Nigel Farage and their soon-to-be-disbanded Brexit Party, is a second English Revolution.

Does Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and the Liberal-Democrat’s Jo Swinson understand the revolutionary nature of the Brexiteers’ ambitions? Do they grasp the central truth of the forthcoming general election: that unless it becomes a battle between two equally revolutionary alternative futures, Johnson and his allies will sweep all before them? That the one position that Corbyn must, at all costs, prevent himself and his party from being manoeuvred into defending is the status-quo? That his only chance of victory is to let the voters know that he ‘gets’ it? The old way of doing things has failed the British people, and must be swept away.

Only if he is able to convince British voters that Johnson’s fake revolution will lead them directly to the triumph of privilege, greed and corruption, and to their country being swallowed-up by the planet-destroying American plutocracy, will Corbyn secure a fair hearing for his own revolutionary appeal.

To the old people of the North he can offer a rock-solid guarantee that neither London’s financial oligarchy, nor the political elites, will survive a manifesto entitled “For the Many, Not the Few”. To the young people of the South, he can promise something far more exciting than a Britain made great again.

He can offer them a Britain made new.

 

15 COMMENTS

  1. It’s sure fascinating to watch.
    But a few thoughts; though Britain was on the winning side and took the lead and the initiative in both WWs, they cost her dearly in young men and economics . She really finished up bankrupt and did not get the assistance that Germany got after WW2 to help recover.
    And what happened to her influence in the world before during and after those wars was that her children (colonies, including the USA) grew up and left home and took over the world from their parent. (Mother). Mother never opposed them.
    People voted to leave the EU because it has developed into a democracy free zone ruled by unelected bureaucrats who cannot be removed. Young people voted to remain because of the freedom to travel and work wherever they chose, My niece has established a life in Paris she is terrified will be terminated at any time; older people are looking at it in a more nationalist way and less personal.
    The way Greece was and is being treated by this “protective” bureaucracy for those that have followed that countries evisceration ,says it all. It has not lived up to the promise it seemed to project. Like globalism it does not serve the majority of people except in that freedom of movement, it serves the bankers and the multinationals.
    Most of the objections to Brexit by the remainers is the short term pain that existing cross border business will suffer by imposed tariffs . Longer term disadvantages are much harder to identify.
    Theresa May’s Brexit deal was a surprisingly good one except for the Irish backstop which effectively eliminated it. With this in place there was no Brexit and never would be . Just a relinquishment of Britain’s influence within the EU. If a resolution acceptable to the EU was available it would have been identified during the last 3 years. There is none, so the EU was safe to make everything else in the agreement look surprisingly good for Britain. It was never going to happen.
    It didn’t need Cummings to expose the confrontation between parliament and the people, except in as much as he worked on the referendum, the people voted to leave, almost no parliamentarians wanted to do that, and parliament has worked ever since to try to prevent it from happening without openly admitting that that has always been their intention.
    Now I get lost… How do you picture this second English Revolution? Surely not a violent revolution like the first; and how do you see Parliamentary Democracy being destroyed? I think it’s working very well in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Some are decrying the lack of a written constitution but in the present situation rules written a hundred years ago to refer to in this time would be a blunt instrument. their process will work it’s way through this and their parliamentary democracy will be strengthened and endorsed by the testing of it.
    Britain will still be a democracy after Brexit , and how it proceeds in the world will be up to the government of the day whoever that is. The worst thing for Jeremy Corbyn would to be to find Brexit arrive in his lap . He would not win an election now because his party is neither one thing or the other in terms of the burning issue of the day so it will bleed support from both sides. This is a good thing because if he were to become PM in this situation he could not deliver Brexit. His Blairite faction would not allow a hard Brexit , May’s deal is not Brexit with the backstop in place and parliament would reject it a fourth time, That leaves only welching on the referendum after all this time spent and he would never recover the disgust . A second referendum would likely endorse the results of the first if it was in or out, then what would they do? Most politicians don’t want to leave so they won’t risk a second referendum anyway unless it is between May’s thrice rejected worse than no deal non Brexit and remain , making remain the only option ,and whoever moves a trick like that will get the
    disdain they deserve.
    D J S

    • Using BREXIT to renegotiate Britons standing in the world will be an excellent opportunity to provide a different back story to the immigration issues faced by Briton. Read John Cleese criticised for saying London is no longer an English city – https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2019/may/29/john-cleese-criticised-for-saying-london-is-no-longer-an-english-city

      One line that stood out to me was the dichotomy between north and south England. To expand on that more, the reveal is that the establishment both respects and fears the lower classes. Despite decades having past the glorious and Great, British Empire, Briton remains a respected nation. Briton today is not weak but misguided, but non the less respected. If I had Great Britons many blessing even after a hundred years of decay, Europe would have been renamed as a client state of The British Enpire. Instead we have BREXIT.

      Now we have Boris Johnson confronting Jeremy Corbyn for what has turned out to be a pivotal moment in British history. It might just be a simple footnote. We know each British prime minister achieves global recognition. But it would be wise for Boris Johnson to hold a genuine amount of fear for Jeremy Corbyn and the underclass.

      Given that Boris and Corbys singular motivation is to destroy the establishment and make anew in each to there own vision, maybe there footnotes in the history books might not be as grand an issue. But the reason why Briton is respected and feared is a far more interesting issue than political rivalries.

      The reason why Great Briton is both feared and respected can be provided by Britons colonial history. As Chris Trotters blog notes Great Briton gained a tremendous understanding of science and industry. Having discovered great wealth from trading routes that are now up for renegotiations. As we all know even Trump has found great influence in these economic currents.

      Yet even though Boris is on his way to reclaiming a little bit of Britons past glory he still has a great big obstacle in his way namely Jeremy Corbyn. While Corbyn is a Democrstic Socialist, Boris will have reason to respect the man for one reason, because Corbyn’s decision to oppose the war on Iraq was very wise.

      Trump has very little respect for Briton seeing it as having very few abilities to adapt to the realities and having fallen to a mere debating society. But Corbyn is wise enough to not follow this path instead choosing to understand the origins of wealth and capital and the truth behind economics and raising the wealth and equity of everyone.

      Corbyn respects the underclass and demonstrates something that can’t be polled or measured. While Boris Johnson’s search for past glory maybe dangerous his fear of socialism is something different entirely. Boris knows that Jeremy Corbyn is an instrument favoured by the will of the many. Being favoured by the many is one of my favoured attributes as being a way for Labour to be protected by the people and carrying on the destiny that is favoured by the many themselves. But it is the people’s will, and Jeremy Corbyns connection to the people that should make him feared by Boris Johnson.

  2. Because of that ‘american planet destroying plutocracy’ no one in the UK is able to offer the new Britain you propose…..as you have observed earlier Britain is now firmly entrenched in the ‘second division’ and only gets to help make the rules if it remains within the EU (assuming the EU itself survives)….it is a common affliction.

  3. Is this what insanity looks like, where no one has a clue about what is really going on? It won’t end with a bang or whimper, but an untidy muddle? Watch and choose which side you are on, if there are sides to take in a dogs breakfast.

    • Evidently a cartoon apeared with the no 10 pets saying to each other… ” someone’s made a horrid mess in there and I’m not cleaning it up”
      D J S

  4. But it is exactly this, that makes Bwittan fabulous. Horribly, dangerously, insanely, awesomely fabulous.
    Maori have to contend with us lot here because Bwitain thought fuck it! Lets see what’s out there. Bag up some oatmeal, powder the muskets, off we go. “What oh Darkie!” ( Please forgive. It was a ‘Young Ones’ thing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Young_Ones_(TV_series)
    Britain is at once horrid and fabulous. And no one comes close to how insane, mundane, urbane, erudite, incredible, inedible and impossible Bwitain is and will continue to be.
    Banksy? Ya know? See what I mean? The Big Eagle-dick U$A can’t buy that which Bwitain instinctually is, and it’s instinctually like that for free which enrages the yanks because they just don’t get ‘it’ much less buy it. They have the V8, they have the swinging dick gun thing, they have the big, bold and brassy but they have no Class Dahlings.
    England is like Invercargill on steroids on acid on cocaine teetering on the edge. It’s a weird thing that enjoys being loathed yet loves to be loved and to love. Bwitain is an enigma. Try to figure Bwitain out of you dare.

  5. I voted to join the EEC when I was 21. It was all good – who could not want to trade with ones neighbours and be on friendly terms?

    But while I was way working my way around the world, the EEC morphed into a beast called the EU. What you failed to mention Chris is that the EU is an undemocratic monster with visions of forming its own army. Hitler would be proud.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0wFii8klNg

  6. The EU “is” part of the US sphere of influence. A good part of the reason I suspect UK voters elected to leave. No one with any sense wants to be part of an essentially un-elected bureaucracy that makes decisions they have little or no say in and may or more likely may not be in their interest.

    The alternative having shed one set of foreign shackles (US indebtedness which extended well beyond simple monetary repayments) for another backed by much the same players.

    A lesson we could learn a lot from if only we had politicians who had the will and conviction to put our interests first and actually respect voters enough to do as they are bidden.

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