Friday 1 March 2024

How the failures of Brexit feed Radical Brexitism

One of the more ‘highbrow’ arguments for Brexit – these things are, of course, relative – was that, having left, politicians would no longer be able to blame the EU and would have to take responsibility themselves. Needless to say, this has proved as illusory in practice as it was improbable in theory. Even leaving aside all those they blame for the failures of Brexit itself, the politicians who brought us Brexit have never ceased to blame others for all the country’s woes.

That has been glaringly obvious in the last week. Ever since the her disastrous mini-budget, Liz Truss and her allies have been blaming her downfall on everything from the Establishment to ‘left-wing’ bond traders. Now, in Washington to promote her peculiar-sounding forthcoming book and to court the pro-Trump, QAnon weirdos, she let rip at globalism, wokeism, socialism, and liberalism. Then came the much more high profile row of the week, starting with Suella Braverman’s claim that “Islamists are in charge of Britain” (£), which was followed by Lee Anderson’s more pointed attacks on Sadiq Khan and London as being “under the control” of Islamists, for which he lost the Tory whip. Since then he has renewed those attacks, whilst Braverman has gone on to talk in almost apocalyptic terms about Britain becoming “unrecognizable” (£).

Clearly this is about more than the utterances of a few Tory MPs, although even if that was all it was it would not be insignificant, given that they comprise a former Prime Minister, former Home Secretary, and former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party. But, in fact, some version of this analysis is now commonplace across numerous groups of Tory MPs and, very likely, the majority of the Tory Party membership, as well as the Reform Party, carrying all the way through to the street-fighting hard right of ‘Tommy Robinson’ and the English Defence League. Actually, we can be more precise: some version of this analysis is now commonplace across many, if not most, of the leading advocates of ‘hard Brexit’ including even harder forms of Brexit than we actually have. 

As an analysis, even leaving aside its conspiracy theory nonsense, it is totally incoherent. Many of its proponents are in favour of global free trade, but opposed to ‘globalism’; liberal but opposed to ‘liberalism’; ‘libertarian’ but in favour of state clampdowns on those protests they dislike; hugely privileged, yet ‘anti-elite’. There’s not even the tiniest attempt to explain how globalists and socialists and Islamists can all be running Britain. The only coherence is the idea that whoever is running things, and whoever is responsible, it isn’t the Conservative Brexiters. And this idea is impervious to the observation that Conservative Brexiters have been running the country for years, since its proponents insist that those in charge were not ‘true’ Conservatives and Brexit was not ‘real’ Brexit. This is now a standard belief of ‘Brexitists’ and is promulgated across the right-wing media, including, and in particular, their own propaganda channel, GB News.

The deeper failure

So, at one level, this is yet another example of Brexit having failed to live up to its promises. Far from ushering in a new era of political accountability it has seen an intense denial of responsibility, not least for Brexit itself. However, this reflects a much deeper level at which Brexit has failed: it was supposed to have resolved all the things that Truss, Braverman, Anderson et al. are still complaining about.

For, whilst Brexit had multiple meanings and motivations, many of them are captured by the idea of it being a great ‘re-set’, a return to ‘the time before’. It’s true that even contained within that single idea there are also a wide variety of apprehensions of when that time was, and what it consisted of, but they all entail some notion of a supposedly simpler, more comprehensible world (or, perhaps, country). As the word ‘supposedly’ implies, this entails gross simplification, if not downright fantasy, about the past, and it is easily mocked as being about silly symbols like blue passports or imperial measures. But it does have some real, empirical basis in referencing a world which was less economically and culturally globalized (though there’s plenty of room for debate about the nature and meaning of that, too).

It’s a notion that finds all sorts of expressions in relation to Brexit, though perhaps lurking in the margins rather than in the headline slogans. It’s most obvious in the many invocations of the Second World War. It’s present, in a more subtle way, in the many varieties of the idea ‘that we managed perfectly well before’ EU membership. It’s also present, though not necessarily explicitly linked to Brexit, in all those sly little social media memes where English street scenes are circulated with expressions of regret about ‘how different things are nowadays’, which might refer to the fact that such scenes show men wearing hats, high street shops that are flourishing, towns that are not choked by traffic, or even roads that are free of potholes - but more likely refers to there not being a non-white face in sight.

As that last example suggests, issues of race and racism are integral to this idea of a return to the past, often coded by the lament ‘I just want my country back’, and they are clearly also integral to the idea of an Islamist takeover. But they are only one element of something which is more subtle and nebulous. The Vote Leave slogan ‘take back control’ was certainly in part a message about controlling immigration, and perhaps about political accountability, but it also had the wider resonance of ‘regaining’ all manner of losses, and in that sense is best understood in terms of nostalgia.

The politicization of nostalgia

Nostalgia isn’t the only reason why Brexit had, and still has, far more support amongst the old than the young, but it is surely one of them. These older voters may have had some overlap with those ‘left behind’ economically but, more obviously, they were those who were left behind psychologically and culturally. That is not a sneering disparagement. It’s just a recognition that it is quite normal, perhaps natural, for older people to tend to see the world they grew up in as being the normal and proper order of things (just as the reason why younger people tend to be relaxed about multi-culturalism and social liberalism is not because they have some special virtue but because it is what they have grown up with). It’s equally normal to overlay nostalgia for that world with the different kind of nostalgia for youth and vitality; perhaps, even, to conflate the two so as to feel, if only unconsciously, that if the proper order of things could be restored then so could that lost vitality.

There’s nothing particularly objectionable about nostalgia as a psychological phenomenon, but it is dangerous as a political philosophy and doomed as a policy programme. Yet, at the same time, it is also profoundly powerful as a political motivator, especially when combined with the politics of grievance and with nationalism. What that three-part combination creates is not just a neuralgic sense of loss, but the anger of having been cheated, and the chauvinism of having been cheated by external and internal enemies. It means that the passing of time is not something to be accepted, if regretted, but is the theft of a birthright by alien forces and something to be outraged by.

Prior to Brexit, EU membership could act as a symbol of that theft and be ascribed as the cause of all that had changed in the world in previous decades. That wasn’t entirely implausible, if only because the EU is a part and parcel of those changes, but leaving the EU could never deliver a return to the past. That’s partly because the EU was only one aspect of what had changed, but primarily for the obvious reason that time only goes in one direction. The world prior to 1973 could not be regained by a vote to return to it, but one dishonesty of Brexit was to allow people to think that it could be. Far worse, because voting for Brexit was ‘democratic’ then when the past failed to re-appear ‘the will of the people’ had been thwarted. In this way, the original theft has been compounded by a second, more blatant, offence.

‘Ordinary’ people, the Brexit Delusion, and the culture wars

The consequence is that the pre-existing boil of nostalgic grievance has not been lanced by Brexit, but has become infected and inflamed by Brexit. Would we be having current debates about Islamists running the country, or about multi-culturalism, or about woke social liberalism, if Brexit had not happened? Of course we would. Despite the idea, yet another piece of grievance politics, that these are things ‘we’re not allowed to talk about’, they have been talked about, endlessly, for decades. To take just one example, the term ‘Londonistan’ emerged in the late 1990s, and Melanie Phillips’ book of that title, published in 2006, claimed the Islamification of Britain to have begun twenty years before that. But we wouldn’t be having them in quite the same way.

In the days when, according to Phillips, Islamification was getting started, Lee Anderson worked, as he never ceases to remind people, in the coal mines, before emerging to become first a Labour and then a Conservative politician. An ardent campaigner for Brexit, he became a Tory MP in 2019 and is taken, not least by himself, to be emblematic of ‘Red Wall’ leave voters (£). And whilst there’s always been a political market for his kind of plain-speaking man-of-the-people, professional Northerner schtick, it’s hard to imagine him having come to prominence in anything other than the post-Brexit Tory Party.

Whilst also not entirely new, Brexit has given focus to the idea of regional, ageing, working-class Englishness as being the template for ’ordinary people’, from which any divergence is a sign of elitism and the privilege of ‘luxury beliefs’. More even than Nigel Farage, who can’t quite shake off the taint of being Southern and middle-class, Anderson represents a voice which is almost as angered by the thought of London itself as it is by ‘Londonistan’. Ever since 2016, such voices, which have always represented themselves as ‘the silent majority’, have been able to persuade themselves and others that they are the actual majority – a phenomenon which Week in Brexitland author Nick Tyrone recently described as “the Brexit Delusion”:

“This is the idea that because 52% of the country voted to leave the EU in 2016, that means that 52% of the country agree with all of the ideas held by the hard right Brexiters who roam SW1A. 2016 made them become convinced that they have a god given right to govern the country their way because, hey, when finally given a “real” vote (which in their minds, the 2016 referendum was the only example of, really) they plumped for their politics, supposedly.”

To give just one example of this delusion, Tory MP Jonathan Gullis claimed that deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda was what people wanted when they voted for Brexit, precisely as if the referendum had been a mandate for an entire policy agenda rather than a vote on whether or not to leave the EU. Ironically, it is a delusion which relies as much upon the liberal middle-class guilt of remainers bending over backwards to try to understand Brexit as it does upon the aggressive working-class machismo embodied by Anderson. At all events, it is this idea of an ordinary people, girded by their referendum victory, who have been cheated by history, that gives a new inflection to cultural debates, to the extent that, now, we call them culture wars.

It’s in this context that Anderson matters, not just as the supposed tribune of the common man, but for his self-declared commitment to fighting these culture wars. That is why Sunak made him Deputy Chairman of the Tory Party, but, if anything, he matters more to the Labour Party. That is because he is also seen as representative of a certain kind of traditional Labour voter, who may not be quite as numerically important as party strategists think, but who symbolizes what within Labour political psychology still seems to be the archetype of the ‘real working class’; the male, unionized, manual industrial worker.

It is a ludicrous and offensive archetype, if not stereotype, of such workers as Gerhard Schnyder has eloquently explained, but it exerts a powerful hold on Labour for reasons of its own version of the politics of nostalgia. It’s as if Labour accept the proposition made endlessly by populist Conservatives like Matthew Goodwin, that they have betrayed the ordinary working-class people of Britain to become the party of ‘the new elite’ of woke, urban graduates.

One of the many things missing from that proposition is the implication of the line, so striking when it was first said by Neil Kinnock in 1987, but now so common as to be almost a cliché, of someone explaining their working-class credentials by saying they were ‘the first in their family to go to university’.  Missing, too, is any sense of justifiable pride from Labour that this transformation in access to higher education was in good part due to the Wilson and Blair governments. Perhaps most importantly, what’s missing is a recognition that, if only because of the changing nature of the British economy, millions of ordinary working people don’t fit this narrow template of the ‘real working class’, and yet are by no means the elite, ‘new’ or otherwise.

From Brexit to Radical Brexitism

The overall effect of all this has been that post-Brexit political debates in general, and those about multi-culturalism and social liberalism in particular, have become more rather than less toxic. Rather than accept that liberal multi-culturalism is not only a reality, but, actually, in Britain, has been rather successful – not perfect or unproblematic, but that’s true of all societies, most certainly including illiberal monocultures – it is invariably framed as if it were an affront to ‘ordinary, decent people’, as Farage called those who had voted for Brexit.

Thus a new ‘knot’ of grievance has been created: these ‘ordinary decent people’ have not only been denied ‘real Brexit’ but they have been denied the more amorphous great re-set they were at least implicitly promised. The clock hasn’t been turned back, the past hasn’t been regained, and the politicians who promised to ‘take back control’ have not been able to deliver on any of the senses of that slogan. From which one obvious conclusion that can be drawn, and which brings us back to where this post began, is that ‘someone else’ – the globalists, the Establishment, the Islamists, perhaps all of them! – Them! Them! The Others! – must be in control.

In this way Brexitism has become radicalized by the very failure of Brexit so as to seek new targets, other than the EU, to blame, and to pursue ever more extreme projects than leaving the EU in order to regain the lost past. Whether, given the demography of support for it is actually quite limited, that agenda can be realized is another matter, certainly at the moment, when it looks as if that support will be split between parties at the next election.

However that split may not last forever, and it is perfectly possible that this more radical Brexitism will attract new recruits, even amongst the young, at the same time as disillusionment with a future Labour government reduces faith in alternatives to Brexitism and reduces voter turnout. In those circumstances, and assuming the First Past the Post system remains in place, it’s not that difficult to envisage a government imbued with the kinds of ideas that Truss, Braverman and Anderson have been advancing this week. The ‘silent majority’ is not an actual majority, but it does not need to be to gain power.

If put into practice, the irony is that whilst animated by a conservative desire to return to the past, these ideas are predicated on the distinctly unconservative desire to ‘smash the system’. In this, and other ways, they, like Brexit, contain the seeds of their own failure. The more they succeed in their mission of destruction, the less they will deliver on their promise of restitution. But this is hardly a cause for comfort since, along with all the damage that would do, such a failure would, like that of Brexit, generate a clamour for even more extreme policies.

An elusive target

I’m aware that this post is slightly different to my normal ones, and perhaps (even) less satisfactory. That may partly be because I have had a stinking head cold all week, which doesn’t aid clarity of thought or expression. That aside, it’s also because the issue addressed is far harder to pin down than those of, say, trade and regulation, or politics. It could be called populism, of course, but that is a blunt and generic term, which doesn’t capture the specificities of this case, if only because doing so is impossible without reference to Brexit. It’s certainly not identical with, say, Trumpism or Orbanism, even though it has some resemblances to those and other manifestations of populism. It’s not fascism, and it would be glib to call it that, although it has some elements of Ur-fascism. It’s not even an ideology in the normal senses of the term because, although there are elements of that, it’s more about a certain kind of cultural mood, or ethos, or feeling.

As such, it is hard to articulate – hard even to give supporting evidential links to – and all too easy to dismiss as stupidity or absurdity. But it’s important to try to understand it. After all, it’s not that long ago that the idea of Brexit was dismissed as stupid and absurd, the purview of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”. It would be rash to dismiss what, for want of any better label, I’m calling ‘Radical Brexitism’ in the same way.


  1. Thank you for this, Chris. I hope you get well soon!

    It may be a vague topic in some ways, but it is an important one. The right wing has made a virtue of repeating its views in the hopes that they become an accepted norm, regardless of the facts.

    For years the problem was the EU. Now that they have "solved" that, they want to move on to something else - mostly so that nobody inspects the plainly failed solution too closely, but also because they have other grievances.

    Currently they seem to be unable to unite on a single issue, and only those truly immersed in the right wing would recognise their grievances.

    It's therefore important that we recognise how the right works, and find ways to counter it. They will likely soon find their issue that they believe works, and begin repeating it until it rings true for enough people outside their own group.

    This is a useful overview of what they're flinging out in the hopes that something sticks, and how they try to make their claims seem legitimate.

    1. This can be done systematically and quickly, as Brittany Kaiser explained, by testing adverts on social media to see which ones generate a strong response.

  2. I hope you feel better soon! Great piece today, thank you as always

  3. The proximate cause of the outpourings of xenophobia and conspiracy theories of the last few days was the Labour Party's desire to avoid debating an SNP motion about the Gaza Strip that contained the words "collective punishment of the Palestinian people". The Labour Party therefore claimed that the lobbies and demonstrations against the carpet-bombing of the Gaza Strip were making their MPs feel unsafe. This was just the opportunity that the xenophobes were waiting for.

    There are very large differences in the UK in the discourse of these two issues (Brexit and Palestine) and our political system (media, politicians) make little effort to bridge that chasm in understanding. For example, there is at present a case at the ICJ about the status of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (in parallel with the genocide case at the ICJ) and this case has had very little reporting in the UK. It is unclear what the position of the UK Government is, or of the UK Opposition Parties: are they following the line of the US Administration or the line of the other States who have made representations to the ICJ? This is fundamental to understanding Palestine yet there seems to be little interest by our media in finding out.

    The same applies to Brexit, as you have pointed out in the past.

    1. Good wishes for a speedy recovery, but your head-cold has not reduced your analytical skills - rather turned them inwards away from politics to a more elusive region - essentially psychology. In the last resort, politics boils down to what individuals think (or fail to think ) about political issues. In the case of British politics, recent years have displayed an epidemic of national non-thinking, together with various sinister attempts to fill the perceptual void. Pinpointing reasons for this failure necessarily involves psychological analysis. Keep it up!

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. There is something a bit off with the stereotypical view that conflates Brexit with "the ordinary people", stoic spartanism and a silent but patriotic majority.
    Firstly, a majority of working (and probably ordinary) people voted Remain - and I am always struck how clearly left behind groups (eg shopworkers) can understand the absurdity of Brexit.
    But all the Brexit tribes seem to be characterised by a strong sense of entitlement, combined with a childish belief in quick fixes - epitomised by Truss and her supporters. Like spoilt brats, they seem to believe they are naturally entitled to high growth, low inflation and rising living standards - but without the requisite hard work of building viable trade relationships and investments. And if they can't get this, then the adults in the room - B of E, CBI, OBR, ECHR, financial markets - must somehow be to blame, just like the EU pre Brexit.

  5. Even if this mentality of nostalgia is as hazy as the spirit that emerges from the bottle, it takes hold of everything it touches. Strong is homesickness. Hardly tangible but more important than the truth.

  6. I have to say that have some sympathy for the idea that Brexit would somehow improve accountability of the UK government, despite how naive it was.

    The forlorn hope that the massive disruption caused by Brexit would somehow unleash enough political will to start some reforms which have been overdue for decades, if not centuries.

    Unfortunately for those who bet their future, and that of the nation, on this hope, the opposite happened and the government, as well as parts of the population, retreated even deeper into nostalgia.

    So instead of discarding political systems, processes and procedures that have been obsolete for far too long, the reaction was to latch onto those with an even tighter grip.

    Instead of climbing out of the deep hole of anachronisms the hole got dug deeper.

    So sad to see all the energy some people had hoped for to be used to move forward, invested resulting in moving further backward.

  7. Chris,
    Your blog is perfectly clear and satisfactory. I believe you nailed down the essence of this movement with your description of the politicization of nostalgia.
    In uncertain times, rapid societal and economic changes can easily make us feel unmoored (not to speak of the large impact epidemies and climate changes can have – see David McWilliams, ‘Climate Change is a Threat, Fanaticism is a Bigger One’, Irish Times 2024/02/10 ).
    This ‘nostalgia’ engine is likely what also propels all the ascending far right movements we see everywhere. I’ve thought for a long time that neo-liberalism with its ever-increasing income inequality was a dead end, as wide social movements and revolutions tend to occur when the middle class falls back economically. I thought this would be coming from the left. That it is coming from the right is far more ominous.

    Thank you for all your work.

  8. An excellent analysis - perfectly coherent and easy to absorb, unaffected by your cold.

    I encounter the "wanting things to go back" to the way they were in conversations with people from Council members to artists and everyone inbetween. Obviously each has their own, usually quite narrow, but vague idea of what they want to go back to.

    I'm usually quite blunt, for example explaining that the High Street of even a few years ago is dead and it's not coming back. I do immediately follow this up with an argument as to why that is not a bad thing, just a change thing. I point out that it is an opportunity to re-imagine the whole use of an area from the point of view of making it welcoming for people to socialise and generate new ideas themselves. So long as provision is also made for those seedling ideas to grow and not be snuffed out by impossible rents, etc.

    Each of your points provides another aspect that needs addressing by encouraging not just acceptance of change but embracing it.

    Older people, and anyone feeling excluded, are indeed feeling left behind but when they learn that embracing and doing something new is actually going to restore some of that vitality that looking back will only sap away, leaving them trapped in this vicious circle, things can be changed.

    At the root people have to learn how define themselves as a human being first, not by whatever job they do -or did. That's is vital as technology changes not just jobs but entire processes. Indeed the way we live is changing and the rate of change has only just hit the start of the exponential part of the curve.

    The current media, government and extreme wings of other political groups are driving fear and mistrust. Which means the best way to fight it is to find ways of allaying fears, turning them to a sense of adventure instead. Mistrust can only be conquered by getting people from all walks to engage in the adventure together.

    1. The problem is that large numbers are left behind - and then become the collateral damage of low growth, low investment and high inflation. They are often people who continue to play by the rules, while struggling to keep their heads above water. The relevant point here is that hard Brexit fundamentally and permanently resets the UK economy on a lower growth path - with added higher inflation. No Brexiteer can come up with any viable or credible economic plan to offset this damage.

    2. My point is there is a lot can be done to persuade people away from thinking an even harder Brexit is the answer, whilst steadily rekindling hope and reducing the divisions currently being exploited by this government. In doing so the path to rejoining, to whatever degree, the EU will be made easier.

      We would also have a population with a far more positive attitude to the future. This is not a simple thing that can be achieved by some small group, it would need a hell of a lot of diverse groups all reading from the same page.

      Large numbers will be left behind anyway, in or out of the EU - out is definitely far, far worse - unless we change our entire worldview. That is because the world itself has changed and is continuing to change at an even faster pace.

  9. Chris,
    Your blog is perfectly clear and satisfactory. I believe you nailed down the essence of this movement with your description of the politicization of nostalgia.
    In uncertain times, rapid societal and economic changes can easily make us feel unmoored (not to speak of the large impact epidemies and climate changes can have – see David McWilliams, ‘Climate Change is a Threat, Fanaticism is a Bigger One’, Irish Times 2024/02/10 ).
    This ‘nostalgia’ engine is likely what also propels all the ascending far right movements we see everywhere. I’ve thought for a long time that neo-liberalism with its ever-increasing income inequality was a dead end, as wide social movements and revolutions tend to occur when the middle class falls back economically. I thought this would be coming from the left. That it is coming from the right is far more ominous.

    Thank you for all your work.

  10. Chris, thank you as ever.

    While you write about how Brexit has impacted the "inner" psychology of the UK populace, it might also be worth looking outward for some signs of how Brexit has changed international views of Britain, and ou relationship with institutions and "markets" (for want of a better word).

    Not every wound attributable to Brexit is necessarily self-inflicted. Some of them are the result of a dispassionate assessment of what Britain now represents as a partner and as a stakeholder in the wider global community and economy.

    For example, the meltdown in the wake of the Truss/Kwarteng budget was not driven wholly by UK-based "lefty" bond traders (and if there's a 'profession' that's less lefty, please point me at it), but also by bond and other traders in Frankfurt, New York, Tokyo and Singapore, who took a measured view of the budget and its implications, and acted accordingly.

    Similarly, the declines in cross-Channel trade are driven not just by UK exporters who struggle with the additional admin, but by European businesses who equally don't have time or resources to do all the form-filling and absorb the costs.

    Your always-excellent blog has, quite rightly, focused as much as possible on measurable impacts, and I find this week's a very worthy excursion, as it touches on the intangibles that are not only changing us Brits but also changing how we interact with the rest of the world.

  11. Mark Ballantyne1 March 2024 at 18:50

    This week’s blog is not so strange: here is a list of recurring US Trumpist tropes: Law-abiding citizens, Hard-working people, Taxpayers money, Hard-earned money, Ordinary, decent people, Real Americans, Your friends and neighbors, God-fearing folks, Un-elected bureaucrats, the list goes on. And « why don’t they make films like ‘Gone With The Wind’ ?»
    The Special Relationship seems to include sharing the same dog whistles.

  12. The point is made yet again in this piece that removing what might be called "over-immigration" from any analysis of Brexit cannot be done, and in the eyes of half the public, Labour are up to their necks in over-immigration, just as they are up to their necks in aiding and abetting Brexit in the eyes of the other half. And, it has to be said, there's a decent sized overlap.

    It tends to receive knee-jerk responses, and a fair amount of messenger shooting, but, I would postulate that had the Great British Public, instead of a referendum on leaving the EU, first been given a Referendum on a 10 year moratorium on immigration (no, reciprocal, controllable EU migration was not the same thing) then when later offered the chance to commit economic, cultural and societal suicide by leaving the EU, they would have roundly rejected the idea.

    To some people, this may be an unpalatable idea, but the basis of democracy is that we are forced to follow a majority opinion - AKA, we're not always ourselves correct in our beliefs, and even if we are, it's beholden on us to persuade doubters of the "rightness" of what we believe, not order them t think what we do.

    No such attempt was ever made on immigration - arguably because there can be no real defence of continually bringing new people into an economy that is rapidly losing jobs that pay a living wage, except the neo-liberal/right wing notion that more mouths to feed means more consumption - regardless of where the money comes from to pay for that consumption.
    And of course, when all else fails, the Ordinary Taxpayer pays for that consumption via benefits - a kind of "redistribution of poverty" as opposed to redistribution of wealth.

    It has therefore become a kind of mantra that not being in favour of immigration is inherently racist, even though some of the worst affected by competition for work are - for example - children and grandchildren of Windrushers.

    I'd postulate that remaining part of the EU, not enabling the likes of Farage and Anderson, let alone giving Putin the pleasure, would have made that 10 year moratorium preferable - but, we are where we are, instead: Out of the EU, and in the political grip of the kind of trash that nobody sane wants near the levers.
    And still they are piling in more people, even with a now shrinking post-EU/Single Market GDP.
    I honestly don't see anything good coming of it for the UK. My opinion is that now, short of the next election breaking the back of the Red Tory/ Blue Tory duopoly and some really courageous thinking outside of the box by the progressive parties, not least on immigration, the UK is broken beyond repair.

    1. I've heard the "just stop immigration" idea before, but there's a world between saying it and actual implementation.

      For example, around half a million people emigrate from the UK every year. If you don't at least replace those, your population is 5 million lower after 10 years. Is that what you want?

      Ok, so you've decided that you want to have a zero net migration. So you have half a million slots per year to give away. Do you run a lottery? Maybe multiple rounds? Young British student visits Europe, falls in love, marries and wants to live with partner in UK. Is this acceptable? Maybe we should limit that to a specific amount per year. Tell the rest to bugger off elsewhere.

      And work visas? There are all sorts of jobs where there's a shortage. If you don't want to attract people from elsewhere you need to setup a massive program to train people who live in the UK to do that work. Assuming they even want to. Maybe make an exception for medical students?

      Etc, etc, etc. All of this is certainly possible, but needs much more than just a simple slogan "stop immigration". You need a plan, a vision. Something which is in desperately short supply these days.

    2. "around half a million people emigrate from the UK every year. If you don't at least replace those, your population is 5 million lower after 10 years."

      You are knee jerking.
      1) why do you assume that a smaller population is a bad thing?
      2) If you actually READ what I wrote, it was that a Moratorium on Immigration in 2016 would have cut the Leave campaign off at the knees, meaning we would still be in the EU, and able to enjoy the regulated migrancy inherent in Freedom of Movement. So no, no "shortage of skills" as you put up as a weak excuse...
      3) And it's a weak excuse, because you are actually spouting the neo-liberal tropes that people "don't want to be re-trained" and that they won't work "for low wages" - the second of which is correct: they are FORCED TO ACCEPT lower wages because they are un-trained and competing on a skewed playing field.
      With less people, everybody's inherent value rises. Including you and your kids and grandchildren.

      You need to ask yourself: "When did I become a billionaire neo-liberal?" - because based on your reply here, those are your actual values.

  13. I wonder how old you have to be to start having nostalgic feelings about the past? I am 64 this year and don’t feel a single twinge about the “good old days”, apart from when the U.K. was in the EU of course.

  14. I don’t agree with this stereotype of the elderly white residents of northern towns as working class. These people usually have good jobs (often in the public sector), own their own houses (as house prices and still affordable there), own a car and have holidays abroad. Today’s working class are younger, live in cities, live in expensive often poor quality rented accommodation and work in poorly paid, minimum wage, zero hour jobs like care workers and Uber drivers. These people certainly did not vote for Brexit or Tory.

  15. "I’m aware that this post is slightly different to my normal ones, and perhaps (even) less satisfactory."

    With utmost respect and a reader for many a year, I respectfully disagree. I suppose the west is suffering a morality complex and the ideas of a social psyche are less clear. "There is no such thing as society...". A moral vacuum.

    "...the issue addressed is far harder to pin down than those of, say, trade and regulation, or politics. It could be called populism... if only because doing so is impossible without reference to Brexit."

    I agree with you here, Sado-Populism and the "politics of resentment" are the best descriptions I've heard. I'm not sure it will ever truly be accepted that 2016 was the inflection point though, and arguably is a greater weight around remain necks. As it allows accusations of ignorance of others' perceived reality. Perhaps this could be alleviated by pointing to the economic madness of austerity.

    Furthermore I think the entire media establishment have realised from Brexit they can bend agendas to logical extremes and influence power and direction. I daresay this is an aligned international movement from pluto-maniacs, Murdoch / Barclays / Musk / Paul Marshall. It's either by design or a bug, but as many others have pointed out, the gap between journalist and right-wing politician (I don't see any lefties included) is now non-existent.

    The Gender / AntiSemitism / Islamophobia / Royal crisis is inflamed by those seeking to divide and undermine via ignorance and bad-faith arguments to devastating effect. For all the talk of political-correctness -gone-mad, is it racist of me to suggest that Sunak may not want to call out Racism or Islamophobia to protect his families influences interests under Indias Hindu Nationalists??

    I think the concept of "Working Class" is particularly intriguing as in and of itself is a nostalgic construct that fails to recognise the modern largely asset-less post 2008 generation but ironically does include home owners. - this is hugely interesting data and shows how easily it is to form a fake narrative of a populous. Although I suppose the data shouldn't be surprising if remain votes were all urban and over represents Rural influence.

    1. "Furthermore I think the entire media establishment have realised from Brexit they can bend agendas to logical extremes and influence power and direction."

      A good point. It didn't start with Brexit, but Brexit was an important milestone in agenda-bending and so it continues.

    2. I believe this is necessary for the UK to fix its democratic process. However, ultimately, it means cutting the wings of a free press and holding individuals/organisations accountable. IE they should not be Non-Doms... and potentially an independent Ofcom-like arm of the CPS concerning strict rules on factual obligations. We should know who actually owns them and have insight into their private commercial dealings. However, this is blasphemy to a supposed pillar of democracy—IE Freedom Of The Press. It is worth noting that the issue with the Ownership issue of the Telegraph is being unduly interfered with by the political class. Why can the Oil-klepto-pluto-auto-crats own our football clubs and sporting enterprises but not our papers?? Are they any less proper than Paul Marshall?

      Perhaps Brexit is best described as a nostalgic revolution, a great reset to a feudalist / hereditary / know-your-place class-system era.

      But we live in an age where teenagers are using AI not only to do their homework (and probably heavily helping those with the resources) but also to create adult content of their peers/friendship groups; what would Mary Whitehouse have said? Yet no one in power or the media cares unless it's against Taylor Swift. If it's their offspring, it's fair game. No doubt the Tory Barons would be up-in-arms if young males were meaningfully criminalised for this activity, and while this is a poorly contrived example of the technological change exhibited throughout society from AI it is the very tip of a neurological iceberg.

      The papers and client Journos have always decided the content, and now the BBC has been filled with Tory sympathisers and those who believe flat-earthers and lobbyists have as much air time as scientists and experts it blindly follows their lead. Yet paper sales are declinin, no doubt it's worth the loss if it gets your agenda spoken by the lips of the average citizen. There seems to be a reasonably obvious diagnosis regarding taking back some control.

      I worry that Murdoch is already in Starmer's ear. I remain doubtful, but I dare to hope that if Labour wins a majority, they have a strategy for countering the inevitable press backlash. I assume The Times, The Sun will back Starmer before the election. He will not be afforded the success of beating Sunak without their help, but I cannot see Sunak fighting a GE, and in the case he isn't, the press may not swivel to Starmer but double-down with Boris / Farage / Badenoch / Gove / Hunt / Braverman.

  16. I can't remember whether it's something that you've ever touched on in your writings, but there are strong parallels between what you're talking about here and the psychology of Right Wing Authoritarianism as defined by Robert Altemeyer.

  17. Nostalgia ?

    Here are a few of my memories of growing up in the halcyon times of the 60s.

    1. There was nothing to do on Sundays

    2. My family thought that I had made it when I passed my 11plus

    3. . Missiles and Cuba

    4. Profumo prostitutes and homosexuel spies.

    5 Balance of trade deficits being the fault of the TUC and Jack Jones

    6. Never understanding who had killed Kennedy let alone why

    7. Miners refusing to go down the pit on New Years Day and some people getting very angry

    8. Rhodesia and Ian Smith

    I was able to progress my life outside of the UK after 1973 in ways I did not thing possible and am more than content to spend my remaining days on Eu territory.

    I think it sad that future generations are being denied the opportunities I had and used.

    1. You left out having ice on the inside of your windows during winter months

  18. Excellent analysis. Politicians crossed the line years ago. Braverman and other vampires are just taking advantage of a system that lets them get away with it. Remember Theresa May talking about citizens of nowhere? That was purely nazi rhetoric commonly used in pre-war Germany against Jewish people. In any other western country, she would have been taken to court for that.

    1. “In any other western country, she would have been taken to court for that.”

      This American blog reader would beg to differ. The US can’t even manage to take Trump to court for stealing classified documents or inciting an insurrection. There’s no way we would’ve taken Theresa May to court simply for being or cosplaying as a Nazi.

    2. What about hate speech, inciting violence and discrimination against a group of people based upon race, origin, sexual orientation..? Looks like a pretty serious offence.

  19. It is rumoured that there is a technical glitch with the Truss book, allegedly the front and back pages are too far apart.

  20. It should also be noted that "52% of the people" didn't vote Leave: only 52% of people who voted on that day: only about 27% of the actual population, to whom the rest of us are now hostages. I'm sick of being treated as a non-person by all the main parties.

    1. And unfortunately for the yUK, those 27% are the "ordinary decent people", the curtain twitching racists with "genuine concerns".
      Until they are gone there is no future possible for the younger generation.

    2. Sorry, but I think that is the lamest remainer complaint about Brexit, and should be put out of its misery for ever. Elections, or in this case referendums, are decided by those who have the franchise and exercise it. There’s nothing improper about that.

  21. Interesting piece. Gute Besserung, CG, as the Germans say. I always treasure what I think must be the most egregious bolleaux ever spouted by a Brexie (and that's a big field). It's when Andrea Leadsom said that after Brexit there would be no problem with the inter-Irish border because "the UK and Ireland traded before the two countries joined the EU without problems, so there's no reason why they can't trade freely after Brexit." I paraphrase but that's more or less what she said.

  22. Thank you so much, and get better soon! I very much enjoy and agree with your analysis, but there is a peculiar psychological aspect to all this. Braverman et al. using rhetoric close to that of white neo-Nazis. Are they 'nostalgic' about a past without non-white faces? I can sort of understand trying to fit in so badly that people deny their very roots (this phenomenon has been around throughout history, recent immigrants who try to put an end to immigration, recent converts who zealously try to kill their former coreligionists and so on), though I don't know how they manage to live with themselves, but still, I wonder if there is more to it and how you would account for it.

  23. Steven Pinker is good on nostalgia:

    'Though we tend to remember bad events as well as we remember good ones, the negative coloring of the misfortunes fades with time, particularly the ones that happened to us.24 We are wired for nostalgia: in human memory, time heals most wounds. Two other illusions mislead us into thinking that things ain’t what they used to be: we mistake the growing burdens of maturity and parenthood for a less innocent world, and we mistake a decline in our own faculties for a decline in the times. As the columnist Franklin Pierce Adams pointed out, “Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.”'

    (Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, p. 48).

    As you say, nostalgia is normal and natural (most of us can be nostalgic about various things), but it's a very poor guide to political action.

    One more point: although radical Brexitists talk nonsense about Islamists (as they do about other subjects), there is a real problem there (and has been since Salman Rushdie and The Satanic Verses), and it should be addressed by sensible people.

    1. Thanks, Bob. Your final point is a really important one. One of the things I wrote for the original draft of this, but cut because the whole thing was getting too convoluted, is that one consequence of what has happened is that it forces a polarization of discussion so that, re multi-culturalism, it’s as if either the UK has become some lawless hellhole or it is a rainbow utopia, and anyone denying it is one of these is deemed to be saying that it is the other. Of course the reality is it’s neither. This was what I was getting at in the brief line that liberal multiculturalism is “not perfect or unproblematic, but that’s true of all societies, most certainly including illiberal monocultures”. But it should have been expanded and explained.

    2. As you say, nostalgia is normal and natural - but I'm not sure it played a big part in the referendum. Inviting the population to embrace the ideology of "Global Britain" required suspending the economic laws of global trade. Suddenly, people with no understanding let alone education in economics (and in particular emerging markets) were spouting this nonsense - which could only have made any sense if we still had an empire - which very few 2016 voters could possibly have remembered. In fact, I believe (but stand to be corrected) that most of the surviving war-time generation actually voted Remain - just as they had voted Yes to join back in 1974.

  24. Thanks for a good post. I hope your cold gets better soon.
    Re: " It’s as if Labour accept the proposition made endlessly by populist Conservatives like Matthew Goodwin, that they have betrayed the ordinary working-class people of Britain to become the party of ‘the new elite’ of woke, urban graduates."
    FWIW this is a line of attack very popular with the far-right party in Switzerland, the "Swiss People's Party" (SVP - you can neither be Swiss or one of the "People" unless you belong...) and leveled against the Socialist Democratic Party (SP) which is roughly the Swiss equivalent of the UK Labour Party. You read it a lot in the readers' comments to Articles in the press. Interestingly enough, many of the SVP voters are saying they want to vote for an SP initiative that would give today's and future pensioners an 13th months pension per. When they notice there is something in it for them, they don't seem to mind if it comes from " ‘the new elite’ of woke, urban graduates."" Hey-ho...

    1. It's also common in Australia, usually levelled by Murdoch pundits against the ALP (Australian labor party) and taken on board by them. A recent example, a number of university trained professions (teaching, nusing, social work) require close to a year of in place training placements. This is all unpaid, causing great hardship to students. The obvious thing is to pay these students at least the minimum wage. But the ALP government won't do this because it might anger those who didn't go through university, despite the fact that apprentices also get government support and are always paid!

  25. Thank you for a perspicacious essay. Your insights into the outlook of older people (for one who reluctantly is also in that bracket) rang particularly true. Older people are not necessarily more conservative, but it is inevitable that periods that are part of history for the young are simply part of the lives of more senior citizens.

    How to deal with and accommodate the phenomena of real and imagined folk histories is a topic for another analysis. Needless to say, however hard illusions and delusions may be peddled, time and reality inevitably prevail.

  26. "whilst Braverman has gone on to talk in almost apocalyptic terms about Britain becoming 'unrecognizable'" Zero sense of irony.

  27. Not at all vague Chris. Timely and prescient description of where the extreme wing of the Tories is moving

  28. The OBR statement about 4% lower needs more attention paid to it. Back in 1954 R A Butler, chancellor, suggested it would be possible to double our standard of living in 25 years. Later, Harold Wilson was talking about aiming for a 4% annual increase in our standard of living. So they were both saying the same thing. If the OBR expects us not to achieve this steady growth, things will look very thin in 25 years compared to ROW. Maybe this is what JRM was thinking about when he said that we would need 50 years to see the 'benefit'.