It was a pretty good-looking march. Lots of forty- and fifty-something middle-class men and women flourishing home made banners with witty slogans. We're not sure how many there were - estimates vary from about 20,000 up to half the population and were accompanied by the now familiar moans about how the media were reporting other news (even god-forbid the timely jumping ship of UKIP MP Douglas Carswell) rather than indulging the marchers vanity - but however many turned out they were an attractive bunch. No punks or masked anarchists just 35 year-old civil servants with their faces painted like the EU flags and well-groomed writers who've dragged their seven and eight year old children along.
These are the new authoritarians, the political children of 2016 - Remainers. Looking at the images from yesterday's march I am struck by both the homogeneity of the crowd - for all the talk of diversity it was a very samey looking gathering. And this was also a gathering of the 'haves' not the 'have nots', Harm de Blij's flatearthers rather than the common folk who are happily tied by love and faith to the place they live.
The common theme of the hand-made banners is that somehow a wrong has been done to these people. And, because of this wrong, we should change the principles of democracy to accommodate what they see as right. It's not enough that we had a referendum. It's not enough that Parliament, in accordance with constitutional principles made up yesterday by some judges, voted to allow the advice of that referendum to be taken by the government it advised. No we must have other votes, referendums and debates - a live second-guessing of a delicate negotiation.
At the end of last year I described 2016 as the Year of the Remainer:
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).What's clear to me about these few thousand remainers - let's call them Remain Ultras - is that they've invented a EU that didn't exist before 23 June 2016. Before then the EU was an unloved institution, almost no-one would dream of painting their face with it's flag without first getting a grant and we only waved that flag because the conditions of that grant required us to do so. Even those people who saw our membership as a good thing would have struggled to muster much enthusiasm for defending the EU itself.
Today all that has changed as our Remain Ultras take to the streets - where they'll be addressed by EU pension-holders like Nick Clegg and Peter Mandelson. Flags are waved, smiling and healthy faces nod at the sage metaphors from these men - cars driving over cliffs are a favourite. The EU is portrayed as a marvellous sugar daddy of an institution, a bastion of democracy, equality and all sorts of other good stuff (including those grants, of course). Then comes the crunch as one of the speakers, yesterday it was David Lammy MP for Tottenham, mentions the D-word:
We’re living in a dictatorship. In democracies people are always allowed to change their minds. Over the coming months and years we will fight.Nothing out there suggests that any more than a few people have changed their minds about the vote last June. And some of them have come to like Brexit. What Lammy's words tell us, and they could have come from any of those Remain Ultra leaders, is that we cannot afford to see them as figures of fun. They are genuinely a threat to our ideas of liberty, democracy and the right of the people to have a say. As I wrote in December:
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:We must resist this authoritarian, anti-democracy message. Above all we should not indulge this bunch of extremists just because they dress well, have a decent hair cut and nice kids.
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.