JAMES Bartholomew writes in the Telegraph about how the ‘little people’ will get us through a No Deal Brexit. He catalogues the quiet preparations being made by industrial leaders to mitigate the potential disruption whilst the politicians generate much sound and fury in the media, to-ing and fro-ing from endless summits and parliamentary shenanigans, as the world watches on breathlessly.
The irony of James’s article is the people he mentions are hardly ‘little people’: the heads of pharmaceutical companies, banks and ports are pretty big wheels in the scheme of things compared with most of us. However, his general point holds true. Brexit, as we are truthfully if repetitively told, was a little people’s revolt against the elites: brought about the quiet wisdom of the majority. If we do by quirk of fate get a No Deal Brexit, then it will the stoicism and initiative of that quiet majority that in millions of different ways will see us through it.
And that, I think, deep down, is what terrifies a certain type of Ultra-Remainer most of all: not that Brexit will be an economic disaster, but a resoundingly successful cultural revolution. You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise: the extremely noisy phalanxes of Ultra-Remain #FBPE types are often – and not without reason – caricatured as being a shallow lot: obsessed with money, they talk of nothing but the economic damage through disruption to trade that Brexit will bring, and quickly fall silent when challenged about the much more fundamental arguments concerning national sovereignty or the EU’s democratic deficit. Many of them plainly have an Excel spreadsheet where a culture should be.
That said, for some, such as the ever more grotesque Matthew Parris, culture – and particular the preservation of an elite patrician culture – is indeed paramount. Writing in the Spectator that he simply does not trust the ‘will of the people’, Parris states that his style of Tory paternalism has been all about living with democracy as a necessary evil and where necessary subverting it. (His case for paternalism rests on a belief in representative democracy. MPs are representatives, not delegates, and are not bound to reflect the views of their constituents, but to represent their interests, having debated and listening to expert advice, as they see fit – the Burkean model of conservatism.) At least he is honest about it, and perhaps a case could even have been made for it at one time, before mass literacy and the information revolution, but it is an increasingly weak one now, just as the case for direct democracy, as in the Swiss system, looks increasingly strong.
However, surely what has happened with the issue of ‘Europe’ these past few decades goes way beyond Parris’s outmoded paternalistic outlook: it has been an attempt, hitherto immensely successful, not so much to live with democracy but to hollow it out and reconstruct a much older, reactionary form of society based on unaccountable, trans-national elites. Fired by a dangerous, almost religious idealism, they have imposed ever more disastrous policies on their unwilling peoples while ignoring Europe’s parlous and deep-rooted problems. Such elite zealotry has plainly been an absolute disaster, and inevitably created the populist reactions they so feared.
Those same elite zealots must, deep down, now suspect the truth. Namely, that they stand naked, both intellectually and morally bankrupt. As a No Deal Brexit looms, what terrifies them more than anything is that it will succeed. What if we wake up on March 30 and nothing much happens? At the very least the emperor will have been shown to have no clothes. If we go on to make a success of Brexit, their humiliation will be complete. Major constitutional reform will surely follow. The elites, those notorious ‘citizens of nowhere’, will become the nobodies, and the citizens of somewhere – the quiet, little people if you will – will be the somebodies of the future.