‘Brexit is a fake revolt’, writes Paul Mason in the Guardian this week: ‘Working-class culture is being hijacked to help the elite.’ A withering article in Vice agrees. ‘Brexit is the upper classes in revolt’, writes Sam Kriss. ‘They see an undemocratic and unaccountable EU elite ruling by diktat and an unfounded sense of their own superiority, and they think: hey, that’s our job.’ Among nominally metropolitan, left-wing Remainers – or, in Mason’s case, Abstainers – this has become the overriding narrative: that Brexit is the establishment.
It’s also utter balls. Let’s run through the list of those who back Remain: there’s the prime minister; all the major political parties; every major world leader; the IMF; the Bank of England… Oh and, after this morning, we can add to that the entire British capitalist class. In a letter in The Times, 1,700 of the UK’s leading business leaders back Remain, and prominent among them are the CEOs of JP Morgan, HSBC and Goldman Sachs. You know, those fatcat bankers we hear so much about.
It doesn’t get much more establishment than that. And yet for all the Remain camp carping about the ‘post-fact politics’ of the Leave side, metropolitan lefties, those most passionate about staying in the EU, have long departed from reality on the question of who is establishment. After all, the Guardian, the in-house paper of the Hampstead set that formally backed Remain this week, still likes to pose as the radical voice of the people. This is despite the fact that the people don’t read it, nor care much what it thinks about anything.
In the final few weeks of the referendum, the chasm between these pro-prole posers and the actual working class has been stark. Not only do a majority of skilled and unskilled workers want Out, but left-wing Remainers seem incapable of making their case without appealing to the opinions of experts, technocrats and the mega rich. The front page of yesterday’s Guardian carried both its plea for a Remain vote, in the name of a ‘free people in a peaceful Europe’, and a headline bearing business magnate George Soros’s warning that Brexit would bring on economic oblivion.
Left-wing Remainers’ recourse to cheap, Project Fear tactics speaks to a fundamental prejudice: they think the masses are so irrational that they must either be encouraged to defer to the wisdom of the experts or, better still, spooked into making the right decision. Even their more leftish pro-EU appeals to workers’ rights reveal their paralysing fear of the public taking politics into their own hands: according to them, workers’ rights must be protected by the Brussels elite because thicko Brits will just give them away by voting Tory at the ballot box.