Boris Johnson’s Big Day Out

Politically speaking, schadenfreude tends to be a consolatory emotion, whose pleasures are generally ephemeral and often sharpened by defeat.   Even so the humiliation of Boris John last week was worth the price of admission.     I’m referring, of course, to the car crash press conference in which Johnson appeared alongside John Kerry and found himself subject to some very sharp and hostile questioning that he clearly didn’t anticipate.

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The questions included gems like the following:

‘You’ve accused the current U.S. president, Barack Obama, of harboring a part-Kenyan’s ‘ancestral dislike for the British empire’ while claiming, I think, untruthfully at the time that he didn’t want a Churchill bust in the White House. You’ve described a possible future U.S. president, Hillary Clinton, as someone with “dyed-blonde hair and pouty lips, and steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.’ You’ve also likened her to Lady Macbeth. Do you take these comments back or do you want to take them with you to your new job as some sort of indicator of the type of diplomacy you will practice?’

And this:

‘You have an unusually long history of wild exaggerations and, frankly, outright lies that, I think, few foreign secretaries have prior to this job. And, I’m wondering, how Mr. Kerry and others should believe what you say considering this very, very long history? ‘     

Such interrogations don’t appear to be common amongst the US press corps when referring to their own politicians, let alone representatives of Her Majesty’s government, and Johnson hasn’t experienced many of them from British journalists either.   For some mysterious  reason, most journalists who interview Johnson seem to break out into smiles and giggles in his presence, as though some quaint and endlessly amusing and endearing toddler had just come bouncing into the room wearing a ‘where the wild things are’ playsuit.

It’s weird and – to me at least – inexplicable how often this has happened, and how rarely Johnson has ever been called out for anything he’s ever said or done.  Admittedly it’s not easy dealing with a politician like this, who doesn’t seem to care what he actually says beyond its immediate usefulness to him.  When Alex Salmond called him out for drawing dishonest and inaccurate conclusions from a paper that he’d never read, Johnson just tossed his blonde tousled locks and grinned sheepishly.

Because after all, why should Johnson have to actually read something that he’s inaccurately quoting, and  it was awfully unfair and perhaps a little celtic and presbyterian of Sammers to come on all truthy and facty in what was just a bit of knockabout fun – using false arguments to advance his career whilst pretending to stand up to the European ‘dictatorship.’

Johnson clearly feels entitled to do things like this.  He sees himself as a national treasure and expects the nation to think the same, and too often -unfortunately for us – he’s been right..  The single exception was Eddie Maier’s velvety ‘ you’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you’ interrogation, but even then, accused of lying and trying to get someone beaten up, Johnson just grinned it out

Perhaps this cheekie chappie thing only works in England, because it clearly didn’t work for Johnson last week.  He looked and sounded shifty.  He exuded incompetence, self-regard, dishonesty, pretentiousness and bluster in equal measure.  One minute he was telling his audience:

“We can spend an awfully long time going over lots of stuff that I’ve written over the last 30 years … All of which, in my view, have been taken out of context, through what alchemy I do not know – somehow misconstrued that it would really take me too long to engage in a full global itinerary of apology to all concerned. “

Yep, it’s weird that suggesting that Barack Obama’s opposition to Brexit was due to some ancestral racial resentment of the British Empire can be ‘misconstrued’, isn’t it?  I don’t understand it at all.  But Johnson stuck with this line, declaring

“There is a rich thesaurus of things that I have said that have, one way or the other, I don’t know how, that has been misconstrued. Most people, when they read these things in their proper context, can see what was intended, and indeed virtually everyone I have met in this job understands that very well, particularly on the international scene.’

I suspect a lot of people on the ‘international scene’ are still struggling to understand how the hell someone like Johnson ever got appointed to his position.   Because that ‘rich thesaurus’ of lies, exaggerations and distortions does go back quite a way, to his stint in Brussels back in the early 90s, when his former colleague Martin Fletcher accused him of making up stories to pander to Tory Party xenophobes.

Even more pathetic than Johnson’s attempts to convince the assembled journalists that his remarks had been ‘misconstrued’ was his painfully inept stumbling towards the gravitas normally associated with the position of foreign secretary.   Even Philip Hammond managed to look the part – sort of. But Johnson doesn’t and can’t.   After all,   you probably don’t want a man who has accused the current president of Turkey of having sex with goats to be giving the British position on the Turkish coup and its aftermath, and the fact that Johnson confused Turkey with Egypt on two occasions during the press conference didn’t make it any better.

As he sternly reminded his audience:

‘We have very serious issues before us today we have an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Syria that is getting worse. We have a crisis in Yemen that is intractable and a burgeoning crisis on Egypt, and those are to my mind far more important than any obiter dicta you may have disinterred from 30 years of journalism.

Johnson is right about one thing: the world does have some very serious issues before it. But his press conference only revealed why he is so utterly and unforgiveably the wrong man to deal with them.   It’s not only that he’s a ‘post-truth’ politician for whom words are only ever ‘obiter dicta’ – remarks in passing, designed – in his mind at least – to be said and then forgotten.   It isn’t only that he’s a self-aggrandising clown with no moral compass, who will say anything to anyone in order to rise higher.

The problem with Johnson is this: removed from the protective embrace of a British audience that sees him as some kind of real person as opposed to robotic politicians we are used to, he is painfully and glaringly inadequate, incompetent and out of his depth.

That’s what Johnson looked like last week, and you can’t help feeling that a part of him knew it.   That’s why his public humiliation was much more than schadenfreude – it was the moment when one of the most disreputable frauds in British politics was revealed to the world to be… a disreputable fraud.   As Johnson might say ‘Mendacem memorem esse oportet’ – A liar needs a good memory.

He clearly doesn’t have one – or thinks he needs one. But last week, perhaps for the first time, he has discovered that other people do.  Let’s hope that it isn’t the last time.

 

 

 

 

Mayday! Mayday!

I’ve just returned to Brexitland after a week in the Aragonese Pyrenees with my daughter. During that time we continued to follow the tumultuous events that have convulsed our tormented island: Chilcot; the PLP’s viciously inept coup; the rapid extinction of the wretched Andrea Leadsom and the coronation of Theresa May; the ongoing racism coursing freely through the body politic.

Watching it from a distance there were a few shreds of minor comfort that could be drawn from the UK’s startling transformation into a political motorway pileup: the eclipse of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson; the indictment of Tony Blair by British establishment mandarins; the fact that England were no longer in the European championship.

That was about it really, and it wasn’t much.  Returning to the motherland on Wednesday rapidly dissipated the lingering glow of schadenfreude and the healing properties of sunshine and mountain landscapes, and reminded me that the country I was born in has become a thing to behold with more horror than admiration.  Within minutes of passing through the ridiculous signs aggressively proclaiming UK BORDER to all those foreigners out there stupid enough to mistake passport control for…passport control, I saw my first headline from the Daily Express: ‘Theresa May Will Stop Migrant Crisis.’

No surprises there.  The day the Express  fails to put the word ‘migrant’ on its front page is the day Richard Desmond will probably self-combust along with many of his readers.   Even more ominously a phone call to my mother revealed that Boris Johnson, the Great Liar whose ambitions had supposedly been thwarted by Michael Gove’s treachery, had been called into Downing Street for talks with Theresa May.

By the time we left the airport we found out that Johnson had been made Foreign Secretary.  I felt the beginnings of Brexit fever coming on again – a shaking hand and trembling jaw, eyes staring wildly in search of an escape route – as I tried to absorb the fact that the UK’s new foreign secretary is the same man who once lied again and again about the European Union as a journalist; who has made racist ‘gaffes’, as the media likes to call them, a stock-in-trade of his cheekie chappie persona; who suggested that Obama’s support of the EU was due to his ‘Kenyan ancestry’; a man who doesn’t read briefs; who used to shout ‘yah fishcakes’ when asked questions by the London Assembly; who was instrumental in winning the Brexit vote even though he had no plan what to do next.

I wanted to think it was funny, in a giggly, knockabout farce kind of way, as though I were watching a movie called Carry On Brexit, but I found I wasn’t laughing.  As the train sped across the East Anglian countryside we pored over our phones and read the media praising David Cameron’s ‘dignified’ last PMQs as though they were saying goodbye to a noble and benign statesman, rather than the Flashmanlike bully and glib PR man who gambled his country’s future to win a political argument within the Tory Party, and who still had the unbearable gall to talk of his dedication to the ‘national interest.’

We read aghast that MPs on both sides of the house had applauded a prime minister who will surely go down as one of the greatest political wreckers in his country’s history.  Some of these honorable gentlemen were Labour MPs who had previously shouted, heckled and sniggered at their own leader when he called for unity on the day that Cameron originally announced his resignation and apologized for the Iraq War.   Some of them  had sought to exclude Corbyn from the ballot in the leadership contest because they knew that he would win with an even bigger majority than last time.

These efforts were still going on even as our train continued to run through the stops. By the time we reached our destination we learned that the NEC had allowed Corbyn on the ballot after all – so generous of the NEC to allow a leader who won with more than sixty percent of the vote last year and still has the overwhelming support of his party membership to run.     But shortly afterwards we discovered that this act of largesse had outrageously cancelled out by a new announcement from the NEC that all members who have joined the party since February must pay £25 in order to vote in the leadership contest.

To say that this was dispiriting and unedifying doesn’t even begin to describe it.  It’s simply mindboggling to contemplate the strange combination of Ruritania and Banana Republic that the UK has become as it continues to sink into a swamp of rancorous decadence with a distinctly Weimar flavour as it frantically searches for new ways to exclude foreigners from the country and find itself a new post-imperial role in a world that mostly sees us as a bad joke.

On the surface,  Boris Johnson is the most obvious example of the Banana Republic jokey part.  We know this is a man who likes a laff, and his improbable recovery from the knife that Gove stuck into him is yet more proof, if any were needed, that in today’s Britain intellectual shallowness, narcissism, political dishonesty, racism and incompetence are no obstacles to the progress of elite white politicians, and might actually smooth their progress to high office.

But Johnson’s promotion is also evidence of why the Tory Party has ruled the country for so long.  After a brief period in which political bodies were piling up on stage like the final scene from a Revenger’s tragedy, the party has locked together behind Theresa May and produced a hard-right government that includes representatives of most of the factions that might have destabilised it.

Like Cameron when he first appeared as the Tory antidote to Tony Blair, May’s government has announced itself with lots of emollient ‘healing’ One Nation rhetoric. No one who looks at May or her team can take such claims seriously.    First of all there is May herself, the political equivalent of Cruella de Vil, who presided over a swathe of draconian anti-immigrant laws, deportations and restrictions, including the removal of some 50,000 foreign students falsely accused of faking English language tests,  and supported every bleak miserable decision that the Cameron/Osborne tandem took in the name of austerity.

Then there is Liam Fox, the equally rightwing former defense secretary whose ‘friend’ Adam Werritty accompanied him on official foreign trips and conducted private business that forced Fox to resign, and should have excluded him permanently from political office. And don’t expect much ‘healing’ from new Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who is a member of the political council of the Henry Jackson Society.  Or from the new Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom – UK Mum of the Year – who knows as much about the environment as I do about astrophysics.

May clearly doesn’t know or care much about it either, and has now abolished the Department for Energy and Climate Change in the same week that scientists have warned the government to take urgent action to mitigate the effects of…climate change.  And then there is David Davies, the new ‘Minister for Brexit’ who even when he was campaigning in May didn’t realise that it is not possible to conclude separate trade agreements with EU member states.

For all the talk about May’s ‘safe pair of hands’ this is a hard-right, reactionary government that isn’t really likely to heal the nation even in normal circumstances, let alone when faced with the distinctly abnormal and unpromising circumstances in which we now find ourselves.  Nevertheless it is a government, and the fact that it even exists is a testament to the Tory Party’s ability to hold itself together when it counts, and lock the troops together after completing its ritual political slaughter.

While the new government purrs smoothly away – probably towards disaster but never mind – Labour’s wheels continue to screech frantically round in the mud into which the PLP has dragged the party.   Instead of trying to use the massive increase in membership as a basis for a revitalised social democratic politics, its MPs are actively seeking to neutralize and even expel their own membership, using the kind of gerrymandering practices that one would expect to find in Ulster in the 1960s.

The outcome of this struggle is by no means clear, but the fact that it is even taking place at all is an act of gross irresponsibility which suggests that many MPs have more in common with their counterparts on the other side of the chamber than they do with their own leader or their own members.

It’s also a tragedy, which opens up the chilling but very real scenario that May and her team of reactionaries and buffoons may prove to be far more enduring than they have any right to be.

 

 

 

 

Taking Our Country Back: Brexit and the Seeds of Hate

There was a time, in the country that so many Brexit voters would like to take ‘back’, when it was commonplace to have signs in the windows of rented accommodation that read ‘no dogs, no Blacks, no Irish. ‘  We have spent decades moving away from the society where such discrimination was semi-respectable;  through painstaking work on the ground; through slow shifts in attitudes; through open resistance to racist violence and intimidation from the men and women who have frequently had to fight for their place in British society; through myriad acts of solidarity by the many individuals and organizations who have welcomed them and stood alongside them.

Did we made racism disappear from the UK?  Are we a ‘post-racial’ society?  No, because racism can never be entirely eliminated from any society, and keeping it at bay requires a constant effort, and a constant willingness to pay attention whenever it manifests itself.   Nevertheless, we made considerable progress towards creating a society in which overt racism was marginalized and drained of its lethal legitimacy and respectability. .

As a result of the Brexit referendum, that achievement is under its gravest threat since the rise of the National Front in the 1970s.    In little more than 48 hours since Friday’s result, it is already becoming disturbingly clear that immigrants and foreigners in the UK are now facing a vicious and widespread epidemic of racism and xenophobia that is unapologetic and openly celebratory.

Reports are pouring through social media from up and down the country of verbal and even physical abuse of anyone foreign, speaking in a foreign accent, or who looks ‘foreign.’  On Facebook I have seen stories of an 80 year old Italian woman who has been living here for 50 years, who was told that it would be better to go back to her own country; of a woman attacked on the tube by a man who became enraged when he heard a foreign accent on the tannoy; of a Polish man and his son beaten senseless and left in the street; of leaflets in Huntington put through letterboxes telling ‘ Polish vermin’ to go home.

Social media is filled with tweets like these:

Italian person I was w/ last night was assaulted for asking how someone voted. Knocked out w/ a bottle, lost a tooth, stitches. I’m scared.
Disgusting RT @fionaand: Older woman on the 134 bus gleefully telling a young Polish woman and her baby to get off and get packing.Horrific.
Getting my nails done when a man pops his head in the door & shouts at the therapists “you lot better fuck off home” aarggh!
In the aftermath of #Brexit, neighbors we’ve never spoken to before confront us with ” Do you even speak English? #PostRefRacism
Gloucester : ‘this is England, foreigners have 48 hours to f**k right off. Who is foreign here? Anyone foreign?’
Our neighbour is a deputy head and she said there were Polish kids crying because they were scared that they were going to be deported.

There is a lot more where this came from here and here  Today the Independent reported hundreds of hate incidents.  Since Friday, the website Thisiswhatyou’vedone uk has received dozens of reports of verbal and physical abuse directed at foreigners and immigrants or men and women perceived to be immigrants.  Many of these attacks have cited the Referendum and the decision to leave the EU as a justification and a carte blanche, such as the reports of strangers stopping people in the streets to tell them to tell them  ‘ We voted Leave, it’s time for you to leave.’

To date not a single major politician has condemned these incidents.  The Brexit politicians, who did so much to stoke up and pander to anti-immigrant hostility in the last weeks of the campaign, have been absolutely silent about it.   Clearly not all those who voted Leave were racists and xenophobes, but racism and xenophobia were crucial and indispensable components of a campaign that persistently played on fears and prejudices about immigration, whether these ‘immigrants’ were EU workers, putative Turkish immigrants, or the refugees who Nigel Farage said were a threat to the ‘security of British women’, who he portrayed in his atrocious poster.

Not all Leavers voted because of immigration, but many clearly did, and the Leave campaign’s flagging up of immigration in the last two weeks of the campaign had a decisive impact in shifting the momentum away from Remain.   It is now becoming clear that these developments have unleashed forces that will be very difficult to put back in the box, and that many of those who voted Leave did so in the expectation that the immigrants they feared and loathed would a) stop coming and b) leave the country.

The explosion of racism and xenophobia that we are now witnessing is not simply the result of the campaign itself, but the campaign has crystallized and brought to the surface all the toxic currents that have percolated through British society for the last fifteen years or so in response to ‘mass migration.’

Of course those who fanned the public’s ‘concerns’ about immigration always insisted that they were not ‘racist’, just as Leave campaigners get uppity if you suggest that their campaign had anything to do with racism.  But here’s the thing; racism isn’t just about skin colour or biology.  It doesn’t only apply when you talk about ‘race’ or accuse Jews of polluting the German ‘reservoir of blood.’

Racism can constantly adopt new justifications, new disguises and assumptions, in its attempt to marginalize and discriminate.      If you spend decades telling the population – as various politicians and our disgraceful tabloid press have done – that immigrants are a problem, that they are benefit scroungers and health tourists, thieves and criminals, intruders, parasites, cultural aliens, and a threat to our security, then you can’t be entirely surprised when the dregs of the nation take to the streets to demand ‘repatriation’or push leaflets through peoples’ doors calling them ‘vermin’ or demand to know why foreigners ‘don’t speak English.’

Johnson, Gove and Farage all pandered to these sentiments, and it is clear that some members of their audience now feel more empowered and more legitimized than they did before, and that ‘taking their country back’ means driving out anyone they don’t think belongs to it   The result is a truly dangerous situation, for immigrants first of all, and also for the culturally and ethnically diverse society that we have so painstakingly constructed.

No one can be surprised that Farage & Co have nothing to say about this, but sections of the left have also disgracefully continued to marginalize or play down the importance of racism and xenophobia in driving the Leave campaign, or else, as John Pilger did, they have simply ignored them altogether

The rest of us can’t afford to be so sanguine.   We need to remember the words of Linton Kwesi Johnson once wrote back in the 80s: ‘ Asian/West Indian/ an’ Black British/stan firm inna Inglan/inna disya time yah/far nuh mattah wat dey say/com wat may/we are here to stay inna Inglan/in disya time yah.’

Now, in these new times, we can add Poles, Romanians, and many other nationalities to that list, and we need to stand firm with them, because the monsters are out of their box, released by the outrageous frauds and liars who played their dark political games in order to con the nation.

It’s up to all of us to put them back, and show our solidarity with the men and women who have made this country their home, who have us much right to live in it as anyone else.

They may not be part of Brexit country, but they do belong to the nation that the rest of us inhabit, and we need to fight for them, and alongside them, for their sake, and our own.

In the gutter with Boris and Nigel

I don’t know if you’re enjoying the referendum readers, but I can tell you that I’m not.  I can’t think of any national political process that has taken place in my lifetime that I’ve found so constantly dispiriting and depressing on an almost daily level.  It now looks at least possible that Brexit could win, despite the fact that its three most prominent representatives, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage are three of the greatest charlatans who have ever slouched across the national stage.

That these three are not simply laughed off every forum they appear on,  is one level a testament to to the biliously rancid nationalism that is spreading across the country at the moment.  Never mind how often these three lie almost every time they open their mouths, and smoothly oil the wheels of racism.  Let them  attribute  Barack Obama’s support of the EU to his Kenyan ancestry, or warn of a mass influx of 76 million Turks.  Let them tell British women that the EU has endangered their security by allowing refugee ‘rapists’ into the country.

Such statements should be shameful, but in the current debased climate they are entirely normal, and even work in Brexit’s favour.  Every lie, every note of the dog whistle, every nudge nudge hint defamation of Johnny Foreigner  only makes these three Pied Pipers stronger, as they promise to ‘take back control’ – from a coalition of nations that Britain entered into voluntarily, as they promise ‘independence’ – from the European ’empire.’

It’s now clear that dangerously large sections of the British public, in the end, just can’t stand to share their country with foreigners.   Of course there are other ideas driving the Brexit process, but this is the big one, the driving passion that has dominated this ghoulish process   Let’s not kid ourselves that most ordinary members of the public go around worrying about.’EU red tape’ or ‘bureaucrats from Brussels’.   And as for ‘sovereignty’ – this is only a popular issue insofar as the lack of sovereignty is seen as an inability to ‘control our borders’, deport ‘foreign criminals’ etc.

Is Brexit a Trump-like rebellion of the disenfranchised against the political elite – and the detested Cameron in particular?  Maybe, up to a point, if you put aside the fact that the Tory Party’s divisions over Europe are essentially a quarrel between different sections of the ‘elite.’ No, this is ultimately about public ‘concerns’ over immigration – concerns driven by fear, prejudice and misinformation that have been whipped up relentlessly for decades by the media and the British political class.

Now we’re reaping those fruits, and boy, do they taste bitter.   In 1919 Colonel Charles Repington, a former British intelligence officer and an opponent of the Channel Tunnel, warned that the construction of a tunnel would lead to ‘the loss of our insularity and the easy access of shoals of aliens upon our shores’.  Repington was particularly worried that these ‘shoals’ would impregnate British women and ‘Latinize’ the national ‘stock.’

Brexit is a 21st century expression of this same desire for ‘insularity. ‘ Its Major Evans-Gordon and the British Brothers League, Enoch Powell and. Thatcher’s ‘swamping’ all distilled into the cheekie  chappie ex-stockbroker Nigel Farage.  In a country where too many people have come to regard immigrants  as parasites, intruders, criminals and terrorists, who give nothing, contribute nothing and take everything that ‘we’ have, the EU is evil empire that lets in too many immigrants, and leaving it offers the possibility – however remote in practice – that immigration can be stopped.

The result is a political phenomenon that represents everything that I fiind despicable about the British and the English in particular when they act collectively  – chauvinism, xenophobia, thinly-veiled racism, nativism, and selfishness.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t regard a Remain campaign led by Cameron and Osborne as a plus to put against that minus.   Nor do I see the European Union as a bastion or guarantor of progressive values.  But I have to choose between the Brexit version of Britishness or Englishness and the EU’s admittedly truncated and increasingly debauched version of internationalism, it’s no contest – I’m voting in. .

I know that the Lexit campaign would like us all to embrace a wider movement of solidarity and internationalism that extends beyond Europeanism, and if that was a realistic choice, then I would choose it.  But in practice, it isn’t.  I accept many of the Lexit criticisms of the EU, even though I think some of them are overstated.   For instance, I think that Lexit – like Brexit – has a tendency to portray the EU as much more powerful than it actually is, and too easily overlooks the fact that EU policy – on refugees for example – is dictated largely by its most powerful member states.

I also find it crudely reductionist to describe the EU as if it were nothing more than a ‘bosses’ club’ that exists solely for the ruthless exploitation of the working class.  That the EU can be ruthless is not in doubt, as in the case of Greece for example – though once again it was the weight of particular states and the absence of pan-European resistance that made that outcome possible.

But the European Union is also the largest and – until recently – the most successful attempt in history to transcend the bordered world that came into existence in the first half of the twentieth century.   Those who underestimate or downplay the significance of that achievement seem too willing to forget the destructive history of European statebuilding and interstate competition that brought about two world wars and countless others.

For sure, that outcome has to some extent been predicated on the ‘hardening’ of  the EU’s new ‘external’ borders and its catastrophic response to undocumented migration from outside the EU,  but freedom of movement within the EU, however much it serves the interests of ‘the bosses’, has also allowed millions of working people the opportunity to change and improve their lives and live outside their own borders.

Many of these people can be found living all over the UK.  What is wrong with them being here?  Why should I support a movement that essentially despises them or regards them as nothing but a problem?  Would I like to see that same freedom of movement, and the mechanisms that made it possible, extended to other countries beyond the European Union?  Yes I certainly would.

But Brexit obviously has no such agenda.  Cameron and Osborne clearly don’t have it either and prefer to bray about ‘Britain stronger in Europe’ than talk about international solidarity or opening borders.

But  Brexit, far more than Remain,  is an explicit rejection of any notion of transnational solidarity, cooperation and internationalism.  It rejects Fortress Europe only because it wants to fortify the UK even more than it already is, and these objectives are only likely to debase our political culture even further than they already have.

In this context, Lexit’s call for a ‘real’ internationalism sounds to me like a pretty chorus trying to sing Kumbaya at a gathering of satanists.   The Lexiters, like the Brexiters,  would like to demolish the entire structure of  the European Union, for very different reasons admittedly,  but the former don’t seem to me to have clear idea of what would replace it except a great deal of optimistic speculation, and – as far as I can see – no real power to replace it with anything.

Do I have any idea of what will happen if Remain wins?   No, not really.  I don’t regard a Remain victory as something to celebrate – except that it would represent a defeat for Brexit – and a demonstration that the British public rejects the shrunken, inward-looking and xenophobic nationalism that drives the Leave campaign.

That would be something to celebrate.   Apart from that, I think that the Tory party would definitely be weakened whether Remain wins or loses – the divisions have been too sharp and vicious for the contenders to miraculously converge.   On a European level, the same challenges will remain that already exist; struggles against austerity; against Fortress Europe; for greater democracy within the EU.

Can the EU be reformed, as Yanis Varoufakis and others insist it can be?  Perhaps not.   And if we get a situation where a coalition of leftwing governments decide it can’t be, and want to leave or create a different kind of union, then I know what side I’ll be on.

I find it touching that so many Lexiters who once had nothing good to say about bourgeois democracy have suddenly rediscovered their faith in parliament, if only to counterpoint it with the EU, which they now say can’t be reformed, whereas in this country we can get rid of our own government in an election.

Well we can – in theory.  But in practice we’ve had Tory governments for more than thirty years now, broken by three rightwing Labour governments.  Even after four years of one of the most extremist governments in British history, after food banks, massive cuts, work assessments, forced academisation and so much else,   the public voted in a Tory government again.

Of course that could change – conservatism isn’t written into any country’s DNA – but I don’t see how a Brexit driven by the hard right is going to make it any less so.  In fact I think the opposite is more likely to be true, and that the political forces that brought about our ‘independence’ will be strengthened and vindicated.   So I may be pessimistic, but more than that I’m alarmed, outraged and horrified by the grim, nihilistic jingoism that is driving this process closer to that outcome.

If we leave, it will be Brexit, not Lexit, wot wun it.   As the English fans in Marseille sang ‘ Fuck off Europe, we’re all voting out’.

They might be, but not all of us are, John Bull will never get my vote, even if he has blonde hair and holds a pint in his hand.