The bigotry of Stop Brexiteers
Vince Cable and his ilk are far more hateful than the Leavers they despise.
Brexiteers are supposed to be the bigots. This is what Lib Dem leader Vince Cable was getting at on the weekend when he told his party’s spring conference that Brexit was driven by the ‘white nostalgia’ of the elderly, a longing for ‘a world where passports were blue, faces were white and the map was coloured imperial pink’. He has since denied his comments amounted to him calling Leavers racist, before going on to repeat them.
But listening to this self-hating septuagenarian cast his generation as a bunch of irredeemable Alf Garnetts made clear that if anyone has a premium on ugly, almost unthinking contempt today, it isn’t Eurosceptics: it’s the Rearguard Remain set, whose tirades against Brexit so easily slip into tirades against Brexiteers, whose visceral hatred of one democratic vote so easily slips into a visceral hatred of the Leave-voting demos.
The language has at times been borderline 1930s. Before the referendum, a piece in a Remain-backing broadsheet said the Leave campaign had ‘lifted several stones’ (it’s not just Katie Hopkins comparing people to insects). Another said ‘the sewers have burst’. (Translation: we, the EU-disliking public, are little more than effluent.) The contempt for ordinary people we always knew was there stepped into the light, and Cable’s speech suggests it’s getting more explicit than ever.
The idea that the Leave vote was just pure, unfiltered Faragist rage with the Other has always been for the birds. The collapse of UKIP after the referendum made that clear, and spiked was among many organisations arguing for Brexit in the name of more freedom and openness to the world. But even the most anti-immigration corners of the Leave campaign wouldn’t dare be as open in their supposed prejudices as elite Remainers are often in theirs.
There’s no dog-whistle politics here, it’s full-blown megaphone hatred. And this reminds us of how cocksure the losing side in the referendum now is. In Cable’s speech he said he at first thought Brexit was unavoidable, that the decision had been taken – but that he has since changed his mind. And that’s the story of the Stop Brexit set in recent months. Where not too long ago they were at least a bit cowed, wont to hold back, or at least dress up their arguments in euphemism, now the gloves are off.
Vince Cable and his ilk may not have much electoral sway (he is currently leading just 12 MPs). But that no longer matters. The public have been sidelined. Now anti-democratic MPs and unelected Lords (of which the Lib Dems have 99) have their moment to intervene in parliament, to soften up Brexit or bring it down altogether. And given the state of Theresa May’s feeble, infighting Tory Party, they’re pushing at an open door.
We need to remind them who’s really in charge.
Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_
Picture by: Getty