Thursday, 22 December 2016

2016: Year of the Remainer

Before 2016 Remainers didn't exist. There was a generally held view that anyone who had applied any thought to the matter was completely content with the UK's membership of the European Union. The problem was that David Cameron, against expectations won the 2015 general election and found himself obliged - mandated even - to hold a referendum on whether we stayed in the EU. It was a triumph for a small band of politicians, writers and campaigners who had argued for a long while that membership of the EU was bad for Britain - not just UKIP leader Nigel Farage (for all his grandiose claims) but politicians like Bill Cash, Iain Duncan Smith, Kate Hoey and Phil Davies as well as writers like Richard North with his EU Referendum blog.

And I don't need to remind you that on 23 June 2016 the British people voted to leave the EU. This was done against an avalanche of insistence by the great and good, from Barak Obama to Eddie Izzard, that leaving so was a really bad idea. The following day there was a cry of pain from the ranks of that great and good - how could people have disregarded all their expert advice and voted to leave?

The Remainer was born.

Over the coming weeks thousands of anxious, fretful articles were written about why people voted to leave. Numbers were crunched, opinions were pronounced and a received wisdom was established. People voted to leave because they were either conned by the leave campaign or else were a bunch of knuckle-dragging, Little Englander morons who probably shouldn't be allowed near sharp objects let alone a voting booth. The word xenophobia tripped from the tongues of Guardian columnists, FT bloggers and Economist writers.

Now it's true that most of those who voted to remain didn't take part in this catalogue of angst-ridden self-indulgence prefering to take the view that there'd been a referendum, the people had voted to leave and now the government should get on with the job of implementing that decision (however much they might have disagreed with it). But among the remain voters were the Remainers, a bunch of people who were so traumatised by the result that they visited a shock onto British politics.

Forget about the Brexit voter being the person bringing change to British politics, it's the Remainer. Now we know less about the profile of the Remainer than we do of the Brexiter because nearly all the analysis and opinion-making has been done by those Remainers - they want to understand why we voted to leave and will leave no stone unturned in their search for an appropriate collection of patronisingly dismissive characterisations for leave voters. What we do know is that remain voters and by implication our Remainers are younger, better educated and better paid than average (probably wittier, prettier and sharper dressed too).

Such people are the centre of British politics, those with the greatest amount vested in the current system and the most to lose from a short-term economic downturn. We're talking about moderate and thoughtful folk who assess facts, consider evidence and produce thoughtful analysis. And after 23 June 2016 a bunch of these folk suddenly got angry. So angry they were prepared to reject the ideas and principles of democracy so as to overturn the referendum vote. Court cases were crowd-sourced, marches were held and on-line petitions were launched - all with the express intention (if not always the stated purpose) of delaying, obstructing and ideally stopping the decision of the people being implemented.

People who had been moderate and considered in their politics suddenly became radicalised anti-democrats. People who a few months previously would have questioned our balance between the rule of law and civil liberties suddenly became champions of the former and questioning of the latter. A new and dangerous group of extremists were born, one that was prepared to reject democracy in order to stay as a member of the European Union.

Of course these Remainers don't see themselves this way and still use moderate, assured and confident language but their purpose is to obstruct the vote of 23 June 2016 being implemented. A few weeks ago some of these Remainers condescended to pay Bradford a visit. Calling themselves Common Ground this group say they're all about reaching out to leave voters, finding things we share. But peel back the cover of fine words and we have an anti-democracy campaign dedicated to overturning the decision of 23 June 2016 - you only need check out the group's 'network' to understand this as its purpose.

As a result, and because Remainers are not really interested in actually understanding why people voted to leave, our visitors went away with their prejudices reinforced. All this - and similar visits to other places that voted to leave - presents a picture of the leaver world as being dour, run down, left behind and divided. And we can infer that this contrasts with the golden city on the hill that is the Remainer's world.

These Remainers now represent the shock troops of a new authoritarianism, one that was perhaps there before 2016 but now has been animated - shocked into life like Frankenstein's monster - by the vote to leave in June. Remainers consider themselves as the prototypes for Plato's philosopher kings - wise, knowledgeable, experienced and expert. The natural rulers of a post-democratic state. They will be like Galadriel had she taken the ring:

And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!
Although with their talk of populism and nativism these Remainers want to portray the leave voter as the nascent authoritarian, the truth is quite the opposite. Remainers now consider that the ordinary voter cannot be entrusted with the future of the nation, this future should be in the hands of people who know, the experts. The idea of representative democracy is acceptable but only if it produces a result that allows the Remainer great and good to continue dictating the direction of policy. If the voters were to choose people reflecting their vote in June 2016 this would, of course, be a terrible thing indeed.

I repeat again that the Remainers are but a minority of those who voted to stay in the EU - perhaps a quarter maybe a third - but they represent an angry, self-serving, bigoted and undemocratic force that is the worst outcome of 2016. The political objective of 2017 should, in part, be to expose these people again and again as authoritarian, controlling and anti-democratic.



DMM said...


The contempt for the voters (and democracy) is appalling.

And I realised this year that the political certainties I'd had for the last fifty years (Got expelled from the Labour Party for being a member of Militant) were utterly wrong. And harmful.

I discovered that what I really was turned out to be a libertarian - and loathe all those who want to make others do "what is best for them"

Anonymous said...

"The political objective..should expose these"

intellectually flawed: "the golden city on the hill that is the Remainer's world" is not the result of EU membership since the leaver's world that they so despise has been created during EU membership.

Fact is, most of the Remainers can't imagine life without the EU - they weren't born before the EU's poisonous stranglehold.


rapscallion said...

The powers that be have always had contempt for the voters, that has never changed. What is now clear is how brazen they have been this year, the blatant lies, the fear, and if that doesn't work - the threats.

In a way it's been a good thing, because the people can clearly see the divisions that were hitherto hidden. The enemy is in full view.

Lowprofile007 said...

It is with some concern that supposedly intelligent folk wish to persist with this EU, originally a trade based group, that has caused such damage to the citizens and young people of Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal. What is so great about the EU? Why were they booing Boris on 24/06 and hanging EU flags out of their windows (I have seen these in Richmond and Twickenham). And their reaction. Best post ref int by Andrew Neil with Nick Clegg (lose the "democrat" bit)

@shoottheducks said...

Well yes. I'm in the broader group of "remain", i.e. I voted remain, was disappointed in the result, but now want the decision implemented and the uncertainty removed. But I find nothing remotely appealing in the "European Ideal": the irony is that it implements a nasty, UKIP style, of protectionism. The only difference between "little England" and "little Europe" is where the borders are. And the aim of European integration is to provide a safe trading zone which keeps members states prosperous (with the exception of Southern Europe) while preventing trade that would spread prosperity globally. That in essence is why in the short term it's very bad to be outside it.

That is UKIP dogma essentially - I can't see the difference at all. Preserve the European way of life and close the borders. So to have the EU presented as some morally enriching enterprise is ludicrous and demonstrates the ignorance and stupidity (and gullibility) of many of the middle class remainers.

The moral, internationalist view is that wealth should be evenly spread around the world. The route to that is fair trade with everywhere, and to accept that evening out wealth means we may have less of it.

James Higham said...

Merry Christmas, Simon, hope it's a good one today.