The extremism of the Independent Group

Defying the democratic will is not ‘centrist’, it is reactionary.

Antigonos Sochos

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Topics Brexit Politics UK

The charade of last week’s Labour and Tory resignations, and the formation of the Independent Group, reminded us of the blatant contempt for democracy among those committed to the ‘European project’. Not only are the MPs of this new anti-Brexit grouping striving to reverse the 2016 Brexit vote — they are also abusing British democratic processes in order to do so. They are promoting a ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit, yet they are evading by-elections.

The Independent Group reminds us how neoliberals impose their will on the people. They are trying to hijack people’s concerns and turn them into empty rhetoric. Politics is broken, cried the resigning MPs last week. But there is nothing more likely to break people’s trust in politics than the Independent Group’s political aim – the reversal of the democratic decision to exit the EU. Misrepresenting, manipulating and tainting democratic institutions is the establishment’s preferred strategy.

The eight Labour MPs and three Tories who make up the Independent Group say that Labour has been corrupted by anti-Semitism and the Conservatives have been held hostage by the ‘hard right’. But their real aim for breaking off from their parties is clear: they seek to bring the UK political crisis to breaking point. They are pushing for Article 50 to be extended, and for a second referendum.

They say they want to ‘reclaim the centre ground’. Implementing even the mildest form of Brexit is presented as extreme politics, supported only by the anti-Semitic Stalinists of the hard left and the xenophobic ultra-nationalists of the far right. The wise, well-balanced approach of the middle, they argue, is to love the EU. Being at odds with the EU, let alone leaving it, is presented as unthinkable.

But upholding a democratic decision is not extreme politics. Extreme politics is showing disregard for democracy and consistently deceiving the public. Extreme politics is supporting an institution that devastated the Greek economy with austerity and continues to damage the entire European periphery. Extreme politics is refusing to see the obvious: that the fanaticism and narrow-mindedness of the EU is destroying the continent and seriously hurting solidarity and mutual respect among its peoples.

Extreme Remoaners are blinded by fear, deep-seated conservatism, and lack of respect for ordinary people. They are unable to see that engineering the reversal of Brexit will, in the end, further damage their own project, as well as British society. Characters like Tommy Robinson are waiting around the corner to attract voters who feel the democratic process has failed them. Reversing Brexit would have knock-on effects across Europe, too. It would strengthen the position of the far right in France, Italy and Hungary.

Subverting democracy and popular sovereignty will fuel anger and social unrest. The formation of the Independent Group has confirmed what many were already well aware of – the political, intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the ‘European project’.

Antigonos Sochos is senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Bedfordshire.

Picture by: Getty.

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