SHHHH . . . don’t tell them, but in fighting the prorogation of Parliament British liberalism is about the make the greatest, most unforced error since its rise to hegemony began more than fifty years ago. By deciding to die in a ditch to defend ‘Parliamentary sovereignty’ – by which they mean EU sovereignty – over our affairs, they will end both, and with it their grip on British politics.
To understand why, it is worth recounting how liberalism became such a completely dominating force in Western politics over the past half century. It started, of course, in the 1960s, the ‘boomer’ generation which idealistically surfed the sexual revolution and the age of mass prosperity. Growing in power as it came of age, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the communications revolution allowed it to become truly international or ‘globalist’ in nature. Its hegemony was due not to a conspiracy hatched in the brain of Antonio Gramsci or Davos Man, but rather the simple, organic consequence of highly connected liberal elites who gradually came to realise that they had more in common with their counterparts in other countries than the majority of their own countrymen. A natural consequence was that liberalism became progressively anti-democratic, as nationally based democratic institutions could not represent the new ‘global’ demos that the elites increasingly felt they belonged to.
In short, liberalism found expression via a cultural network of powerful people, and liberal ideas triumphed because they could be propagated through it. The great strengths of networks are that they allow decentralised agency, variability of scale and no single point of failure. As such, they are vastly more powerful than organised conspiracies, which are brittle, scale poorly and require a high degree of centralised control. If, say, you were a highly connected liberal representing some pressure group or charity, you could hope to implement your goals through many different routes. Perhaps you know someone on the relevant NGO who could quietly give policy a nudge in the right direction. Alternatively, you could lobby Parliament to change the law. If the current governing interests were hostile, you could hope to circumvent them via your contacts in the EU. Sympathetic media chums could frame the desired narratives. As you beavered away, thousands of other independent actors would be creating similar initiatives. At least some would bear fruit.
Exit from the EU therefore looked like proving a grievous blow to British liberalism, but not an existential one. Except for the DUP, liberals retain very powerful presences in all political parties and completely dominate the quango state. On the international stage there was still the United Nations, which even before Brexit was replacing the crippled and declining EU as the nexus for globalist initiatives such as its sinister migration pact. To cap it all, they even have a Brexit leader who agreed with most of their agenda: when he became Prime Minister, Boris Johnson telegraphed that albeit sans the EU, the liberal settlement would remain intact. He was offering a Henry VIII-style Reformation. For social conservatives, Brexit under Boris threatened to be: ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss’.
Faced with this final opportunity of a tactical retreat, more subtle liberal leadership would draw in their horns, pretend to surrender, lie low for a time and await further opportunity. Instead, they have doubled down on the same militant tactics they have used since the referendum result, using their networks to launch blatant conspiracies against Brexit, insulting leavers and becoming ever more stridently hostile to democracy.
Why fight so hard? Perhaps in some cases it is personal venality or strongly felt European identity. However, the major reason is that liberalism has become a high-status faith – and a fundamentalist one at that. Where once it was flexible, now it is rigid; where once it exuded the oily charm of Metropolitan Man, now it’s aggressive and in-yer-face; where once its tenets seemed vaguely connected to reality, now much of its policy portfolio is rarefied, elitist madness. No better illustration of its quasi-religious fervour is the recent grotesque spectacle of rich international figures flying to a conference on global warming in private jets, using carbon offsets rather in the same way that the rich once bought papal indulgences for the forgiveness of sin.
By throwing all their forces into their doomed attempts to stop Brexit, British liberals, especially those within Parliament, are doing terminal damage to both their and its reputation, destroying an institution that they themselves still largely control. The great weakness of liberalism is that its adherents are in a permanent minority. Their actions have all but assured that a far more populist version of democracy will replace our clapped-out ‘unrepresentative shamocracy’, and their hegemony will, at long last, be over.