Gina Miller’s nasty elitism sums up the Remoaner lobby
How dare you plebs question us experts? This is the cry of Remainers.
It’s not often I say this, but we should be grateful to Gina Miller. Ms Miller is the wealthy businesswoman who says the Brexit vote made her physically sick and who is so barren in the category of self-awareness that she once gave an interview to a fawning New Statesman hack in which she gabbed about the problems facing 21st-century Britain while ‘spread across a velvet sofa’ in a ‘high-ceilinged drawing room’ while her ‘multimillionaire husband’ acted as her bodyguard. So Caligulan! These are the people the left now loves. Anyway, we should nonetheless be grateful to Ms Miller because her latest outburst has really shone a light on what is driving elitist Brexitphobia.
On Friday, Ms Miller and a host of other female members of the great and good – lawyers, professors, peers, the daughters of filthy-rich capitalists, etc – wrote a letter to the Guardian – where else? – in which they opined that women’s rights would collapse post-Brexit. Because before the EU came into existence in 1992 – the year of Wet Wet Wet, John Major and Damien Hirst’s shark, in case you’re one of those people labouring under the illusion that the EU has existed forever – British women basically had no rights, right? It is only thanks to the grey, stale, quite male oligarchy in Brussels that British women were able to shake off the shackles of oppression. What an insult to the generations of British Suffragettes and libbers who spent decades struggling for freedom before the EU was even a glint in the eye of scheming bureaucrats.
Not surprisingly, Miller and Co’s ridiculous letter – long on initials after the signatories’ names, short on facts – caused annoyance. Not least among some of the millions of women who voted for Brexit. Ms Miller, incredulous that such inhabitants of the plebeian sections of society would presume to question her and her friends, all of whom are well-educated and read broadsheet newspapers, fired back at these little people on Twitter. ‘People responding negatively to our letter [regarding] loss of women’s rights post-Brexit know more than the top women signatories?’, she asked. Then she listed some of these ‘top women’. ‘Jessica Simor QC, Caroline Criado-Perez feminist activist, Cherie Blair QC, Helena Kennedy QC, Shona Jolly QC, Susie Courtault rights campaigner…’
We get it, you know a lot of QCs! And QCs count for more than you and me. This is what Miller is saying. She knows this is what she is saying, we know it is what she is saying, so can we cut to the chase here? Ms Miller is really asking, in the tone of a 17th-century monarch, or 19th-century boss, ‘Do you think you know more than me?’. And we should be glad she is, because this Twitter freakout, this rage of a businesswomen who puked over our vote, this listing of people who are better and cleverer than the rest of us, captures the essence of elitist Remoanerism – which is the belief that some people’s political views are worth more than other people’s, and therefore should carry more weight. Autocracy, as some of us might call it. Whatever it is, it isn’t democracy, which is a system in which everyone’s views, regardless of our racial, gender or educational background, are meant to impact equally on the fate of the nation.
Miller’s unguarded snobbery, her probably accidental exposure of her belief that lesser citizens should stop criticising people with letters after their names, confirms what lies behind Remoaners’ deification of expertise. It is a belief, as old as politics itself, that the well-educated and well brought-up are better placed to make political judgements than the rest of us. Right from Plato’s ‘Philosopher Kings’ to the complaint that was made about women demanding the vote in the late 19th century – as one misogynist politician put it, women ‘lack the expertise… which is necessary for informed political activity’ – there has always been this idea that some people, us, are better at thinking and deciding and doing politics than other people: them. You know them: the kind of folks who vote for Brexit or who outrageously clog up Ms Miller’s Twitterfeed with – brace yourselves – negative comments.
This is the tyranny of expertise. This is the thing Michael Gove was dead right about – and you could tell he was dead right because his comments sent the chattering classes into a political tailspin – when he said people have ‘had enough of experts’. This public bristling against the elevation of expertise in political and social matters isn’t philistinism, as the elitists claim it is, and nor is it a folk-wisdom that prefers the diagnosis of a witch doctor over the insights of Western science. Rather, it is part of a great and democratic growing discomfort with the way in which the beatification of experts grates against the ideal of ‘one person, one vote’ by suggesting, or outright arguing, that some people and some groups should have more say than us.
The populist revolt against experts is a wonderful and positive moment in British politics. This is people saying, ‘Our views count as much as yours. When it comes to politics, our say is absolutely equal to your say, even if we might be poorer than you and have fewer PhDs’. This is in keeping with virtually every stab for the expansion of democracy in history, all of which have relied upon a scepticism about elevated expertise and a conviction that ordinary working people have just as much to contribute to political debate as lords and ladies and business owners do.
In fact, I’d go further: in answer to the question Miller is really asking – which is, ‘Do you lot think you know better than us?’ – we should say ‘Yes’. Yes, by dint of the fact that ordinary people really live in society in a way that bureaucrats and businesspeople often don’t, and therefore are very often more sensitive and alert and thoughtful about the difficulties facing that society, they know more than you. They are better than you at making long-term political decisions that will benefit everyone. They are more politically trustworthy than those who have vested interests, narrow experiences, and a sometimes jaundiced view of society and its inhabitants. But don’t worry, we are democrats, which means we won’t let the fact that ordinary people are better placed than the elites to make sensible political decisions get in the way of your rights. So you’ll still have a vote. That’s all, though. One vote. Like the rest of us.
Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked. Find him on Instagram: @burntoakboy
Picture by: Getty