Monday, 3 December 2018
Matthew d'Ancona is the bigot, not me
One time cameronista now born again as a righteous Guardian writer, Matthew d'Ancona has written one of those lazy journalist articles about how those people who voted to leave the EU back in 2016 are bigots and, anyway, were manipulated (one unpleasant chap on Twitter called it 'gaslighted') into that vote by a sinister elite. d'Ancona's contention is two-fold - firstly that wanting to control immigration is ipso facto bigoted and that marginal advances in economic prosperity are enough to justify the undermining of culture and community. It is the very essence of the Remainer case that economic advancement is everything and that "the most important metric was economic prosperity".
The problem, and in different guises this is repeated again and again across Europe, is that the public simply don't see it that way. Indeed, many people remain convinced (the evidence supports them poorly here) that immigration is economically damaging - they'll point to the lack of affordable homes, the waiting lists at hospitals, the over-subscribed primary schools and the persistent low pay in unskilled and semi-skilled manual jobs. It's not enough to exclaim how the NHS depend on immigrant labour or is needed for "...affordable decorators..." or "...your Tesco and Amazon deliveries arriving on time." Out there in the real world away from d'Ancona's wealthy internationalist bubble people do their own decorating and don't see a job delivering parcels as something requiring cheap imported labour but rather as a job their son, nephew or neighbour might be doing.
It is this outlook, a sort of sniffy dismissal of jobs like cleaning hospital loos, delivering parcels and mopping floors as things only foreigners can do because we're all doing much grander things, that defines d'Ancona and his fellow Guardian elite as bigots. It's one with the equally common - I call it "Naomi Kline Snobbery" - view that, while posh clever folk who support progressive causes are immune, those common sorts are manipulated by big business and advertising into the terrible "consumerist" world. And by consumption they don't mean uplifting (and over-priced) novels, avant garde theatre or lovely evenings with friends in that brilliant little restaurant just off the common. No we mean very big plastic toys, McDonalds, discounted boxes of Stella and multi-packs of own brand crisps. It means shopping at Aldi - not to ironically buy cheap wine because a review told you to - but because week-on-week the basket is cheaper.
This bigotry is the bigotry that likes minimum unit pricing for booze (it won't affect folk like d'Ancona of course just common people), vaping bans ('well it's a bit naff, isn't it') and sugar taxes ('we have to think of the children'). The argument is that people don't know any better or they're conned by "Big Booze" or "Big Sugar" or "Big Food" or it's for their own good. But in the core of this belief - and it's the same as dismissing concerns about immigration as bigotry - is the idea that the sort of working class, provincial, horny-handed people that voted to leave the EU cannot be trusted to make decisions without the guiding hand of Matthew d'Ancona and his friends - more intelligent, more worldly-wise, better informed. And, course, these Philosopher Kings won't make decisions in their own self-interest, they are above all that, they read the Guardian for heaven's sake!
Some leavers are bigots, just as some Guardian readers think about the lives of people outside the charmed circle of wealthy, London-based progressive life. But in both cases it's a minority. It seems to me - as a leaver who is largely pro-immigration, supports free trade and would just like the option, and a means, to kick the bastards running Europe out - that, far from Brexiteers being bigots, the real bigots here are those progressive, Remainer, pseudo-centrist, selfish, short-termist, judgemental, know-all people like Matthew d'Ancona.