The world currently has some major problems; climate change with no strategies in sight, multiple devastating wars all over the planet, the rise of far-right parties across Europe, a recently elected narcissist in the US and increased tension between NATO and Russia. Focusing in on the UK’s issues; the NHS is in free-fall, inequality with all its associated problems is increasing exponentially, while the government adds to the woes of the populace, by spending less and privatising more. The ruling elite are a collection of people who are devoid of compassion and care little of the 99%. Remarkably people still state that they would rather vote for them in the 2020 election. How is this so? What magical strategy have these master tacticians conjured up? The simple answer is, ‘divide and conquer’, a method that has been serving tyrants well, all over the globe for thousands of years. More specifically, one of the ways the Tories have achieved this is through the EU referendum. Brexit as it is known is quite literally the scam of the decade and more importantly for the ruling elite it has worked to perfection.
Never has a country been so divided, not just regarding the EU but on every conceivable level; racially, geographically, financially and nationally (attempts at Scottish independence proves this) to name a few issues. The EU disagreements and deep division began months before the 23rd June 2016 and continues unabated to this day. I claim to be no expert on Brexit itself, in fact the whole process bores the pants off me, because I view it as an intentional distraction, clouding much bigger issues as previously mentioned. It’s fair to say, however, that it is presently the most talked about and emotive political subject in the UK. Each time I post a Brexit linked article on my Facebook page there is always much greater interest than anything else I could post. When discussing the EU referendum on varying pages I visit, political discussions quickly deteriorate between opposing factions. Rational debate between ‘Brexiteers’ and ‘Remainers’ could be at best considered illusive. There appears very little middle ground and every step of this painstaking process to leave the EU sparks less debate, but more anger and vitriol .
As a political junkie, my ambivalence towards Brexit is rooted in my belief that the main purpose of this charade, is to splinter the nation even further. The concept is cunning in as much as the battle-lines between the two camps regarding Brexit are not drawn simply between left and right on the political spectrum. The fissures already evident in society can be complicated further with this added contrived layer of complexity we call Brexit. The population can be divided in a myriad of ways such as; north/south, rich/poor, non-migrant/migrant, Labour/Tory/Lib Dem/UKIP, England/Scotland/ NI/Wales, remain/leave and so on. These varying groups can be manipulated for example by using referendums, inflammatory government policy or media propaganda to disrupt social cohesion. One of the prime levers used leading up to Brexit was immigration. Although the EU referendum wasn’t directly related to non-EU immigration, parties such as UKIP and to an extent the Tories, used the subject of immigration to evoke fear of a country being over-run. They repeatedly suggested that immigration was a primary reason for decreased public services, notably the NHS and an increase in crime. These scare tactics weren’t grounded in facts, nor were they required to be, their job was purely to scaremonger.
One of the upsides for the government regarding Brexit has been the lack of cohesion within the Labour Party. I hardly think right-wing think tanks would have thought the EU referendum would have such a calamitous effect on the main opposition, but sadly that has indeed been the case. Since Jeremy Corbyn’s overwhelming original leadership election in September 2015, right-wing elements in the Labour party have been desperate to make Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure a tricky one. Labour always describe themselves as a ‘broad church’, but I would offer that they behave more like a ‘dysfunctional family’, such as the Simpsons. There are sections of the party that are simply poles apart, for example, the left largely embraces democratic socialist ideas, while supporters on the other side of the party comically called ‘moderates‘ subscribe to a centre/right ideology. It was this political path also known as the ‘third way’ which Tony Blair and New Labour adhered to. Between them there is no common ground as such, hence the friction. We then added Brexit into the mix and this now gave the ‘moderates’ another stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with.
Shortly after the EU referendum result there was a spate of tightly choreographed mass resignations of Shadow Cabinet members, this was jokingly named in left-wing circles the ‘chicken coup’. The reasons provided for these grandiose displays of displeasure generally revolved around accusations of a poor performance by Jeremy Corbyn in his role of persuading Labour supporters to vote remain. This, however, holds little water as 63% Labour party voters decided to tick remain at the ballot box.
Regardless of the truth, the right wing of the party continued their assault on the elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. What transpired following this debacle was a protracted leadership contest, with the eventual challenger being little known sacrificial lamb Owen Smith. Despite a whole manner of dirty tricks leading up to the day of the vote, Jeremy Corbyn prevailed again by a huge margin. But in no way has this deterred the Blairites as they continue to ignore the members who largely support Corbyn in pursuit of a Labour leader who is willing to support neoliberalism and austerity.
Recently the Labour leader has declared his support for article 50, which will eventually start the Brexit process. Jeremy Corbyn’s decision is generally borne out of respect for democracy following the narrow vote to leave the EU in June 2016. This unsurprisingly has triggered more resignations and consternation within the party, followed by further calls by many ‘moderates’ for him to step down. It is clear to me that not only have the Tories and it’s many politically attached media outlets used Brexit to divide the country, Labour have used it in an attempt to depose of a socialist Labour leader. It would be deemed inconceivable for many of the MP’s to actually have to work with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. This is a man who is diametrically opposed to the Blairite corporatist way of doing things and looks towards a fairer Britain, not a Westminster driven country club for the privileged.
So how did Brexit affect the Conservatives? Well, after David Cameron resigned, they quickly installed Theresa May and life pretty much carried on as before. The fascinating thing was prior to the referendum, it was reported that the party was split and in a shambolic state. However, post Brexit they patched up their differences quickly and continued to destroy the country without missing a beat. Theresa May who was ‘a Remainer’ ended up as Prime Minister, while Boris Johnson who was one of the lead proponents of the leave campaign was given the role of Foreign Secretary. The present cabinet is now a mix of ‘Remainers’ and ‘Brexiteers’, so the suggestions of division within their ranks in hindsight seems rather exaggerated. In my opinion their disagreements were short lived because they all believe in one thing; unbridled capitalism aka neoliberalism. Their EU referendum argument would simply be; how could they best create a neoliberal paradise, in Europe or out of Europe? This is the glue that always binds the Conservatives together; a government by the 1% for the 1% and nothing gets in the way of the establishment juggernaut.
The damage Brexit has caused, particularly for the Labour Party will not disappear anytime soon. It is a powerful tool the ‘Blairites’ can use to rock the boat. Just as many from the ‘moderate’ side of the party have played the antisemitic card on several occasions in an attempt to weaken the current leadership. My view about Brexit is simple, in or out of the EU, which now appears out, the left need to push for an agenda that; cares for the most vulnerable, decreases inequality, changes our interventionist foreign policy and endeavours to look after our planet. I can confidently state that these 4 things wouldn’t have been achieved in the near future whether the UK was a member of the EU or not. This is why Brexit holds very little interest for me, Article 50 does not contain a blueprint of how to tackle our biggest issues. All we are doing is squabbling amongst ourselves and wasting time. I appreciate Labour is not in power, which obviously limits what the party can do. This period, therefore, offers 3 more years for the left to get a clear, simple coherent message across, because we cannot afford anymore neoliberalism anywhere on this planet.
This is a recent quote from Jeremy Corbyn referring to a UK outside of the EU.
“I say to everyone, unite around the important issues of jobs, security, economy, rights, justice, those issues, and we will frame that relationship with Europe in the future outside the EU.”