SO Happy New Year and happy new decade! Out with the old and in with the new! It’s a new dawn, is it not? Corbyn has been vanquished, Brexit is finally going ahead, so roll out the barrel and bring on the Roaring Twenties!
Are you fooled by any of this guff? Dominant narratives seek to obscure and deflect as much as they illuminate, and we can start immediately by dismissing with the sort of lazy decade-reductive ‘Roaring Twenties’ rubbish so beloved of the media. As for the rest, let instead us ask ourselves who gains from this spiel, and how is it being used to stymie our fragile new-born social conservative revolution?
The first deflecting narrative is the ongoing demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party leadership freak show. Thoroughly deserved, you might say, but Corbyn and Labour have not really been centre-stage players during the past three Brexit years. That accolade belongs to the networks of the liberal elite, whose monstrous power came very close to destroying both Brexit and democracy in this country. As it turned out, colossal damage was done to the elite’s cause – not by Brexit itself, but their stupid reaction to it: having mistaken a serious blow for an existential threat, they fought ferociously and, for the first time, fully in the open. Just as toadstools sprouting after a rainstorm reveal the underlying fecundity of the forest floor, so the elite’s endless pop-up conspiracies during the Brexit process revealed that true power resides in the highly fluid networks of the hyper-connected and powerful rather than that pantomime of pygmies known as Parliament. Even if this new administration acts to curtail their power, the fact that we live in a hyper-connected world isn’t going to change, nor is the narcissism of those who plainly regard themselves as belonging to an entirely new demos with no allegiance whatsoever to our nation or its institutions. My guess is that they will now follow the strategy that they should have followed immediately after the referendum: lie low, pretend to accept the result and quietly rebuild their influence.
Let us turn to the spin coming out of the newly elected Tory government. As one commentator put it, the party has undergone one of its frequent Doctor Who-like regenerations. Arrogant and entitled, it has the chutzpah to present itself as the party of the patriotic common man, when only months ago the bulk of its MPs were happy to pass Theresa May’s atrocious deal. Granted, Dominic Cummings is clearly a force to be reckoned with and his ideas for government are certainly interesting, but neither he nor the Tory Party seem interested in the broader culture war that is the true long-term threat to not just this country but the entire Western world. Never forget, the best way of seeing this ghastly institution is as a bunch of ambitious civil servants who are largely content to follow a direction set by others. Even if the Johnson government does prove to be initially surprisingly radical, without the threat of the Brexit Party and with Labour unelectable the ‘Conservative’ Party will soon slip back into its lazy, decadent, triangulating ways. We can already see the outlines of this with Johnson’s talk of ‘putting Brexit behind us’ and ‘time for national healing’, blah, blah, blah.
In short, the narrative fix is well and truly in: it suits the political and media establishment to get back to business as usual, to pretend nothing has changed, and that the exposure of the rotten edifice of our politics this past three years is a mere bad dream to be forgotten.
In contrast, the true lessons for social conservatives, or indeed anyone who believes Brexit is a mandate for radical populist change, are extremely clear: the only thing that can defeat the elites is democracy. By that I certainly don’t mean the largely meaningless Punch-and-Judy show that is Parliament, but direct consultation of the people, for the people and initiated by the people via direct democratic mechanisms. It is no accident that Brexit occurred only due to radical actors and mechanisms outside the mainstream: UKIP, the Brexit Party and the 2016 referendum itself. We cannot win under the existing constitutional mechanisms or by relying on the parties embedded within them. Our enemies are temporarily weakened but still powerful, and to go back to the status quo ante means an eventual return to a political agenda controlled by the highly connected liberal elite that largely floats above petty party politics. Nigel Farage, the towering political figure of the past thirty years, clearly sees this and has hinted he may return once again to lead such a movement, but will he do so? More to the point, is his authoritarian personal style really suited to the task, and having burnt his followers in UKIP and now the Brexit Party, will he ever be followed again? In any case, we cannot continue to rely on one exceptional, charismatic individual to pull us out of the fire for ever. Instead, let our new year’s resolution be to build a new broad-based grass roots movement for major constitutional and societal change. Happy New Year!