Brexit: the great betrayal

Rod Liddle's witty, passionate polemic strikes at the heart of the Remainer elite.

Joanna Williams

Rod Liddle is angry. He’s angry that three years after voting for Brexit we have still not left the EU. He’s furious that Leave voters have been ‘told that they are stupid and racist for wishing to leave the EU, stupid and racist for wishing for lower levels of immigration, stupid and racist for liking the idea of the nation state and possessing a pride in being British’.

In his new book, The Great Betrayal, Liddle lets rip. His target is not the EU, although the likes of Jean-Claude Juncker come in for some well-deserved stick: ‘I do not think that the UK should be told what to do by a regularly half-cut superannuated Luxembourgish bureaucrat who couldn’t even make a decent fist of running his own microscopic satrapy.’ No, the betrayal angering Liddle lies much closer to home: it stems from London, not Brussels.

The Great Betrayal details all the ways the referendum result has been rejected, contorted beyond all recognition, ridiculed and ignored by our own political class. Liddle then demolishes each one. Take the Remainer old chestnut that a majority of the British didn’t actually vote to leave the EU: ‘No, indeed, they didn’t. But we have a habit, in this country, and in most democracies, of counting up the votes of PEOPLE WHO HAVE VOTED – not the ones who didn’t. An odd arrangement, but there we are.’

Those who have followed every twist and turn in the slow strangulation of Brexit will find few revelations in The Great Betrayal. But what is new, and what makes this book worth reading, is Liddle’s capacity to cut through the waffle that too often passes for analysis with straightforward common sense. There have been numerous explanations offered as to why people voted to leave, each more patronising or insulting than the last. But as Liddle says, ‘The only definite conclusion we can reach is that 17.4million British citizens voted to leave because they did not much like the European Union’. It’s hard to argue with that.

This same blunt common sense is applied to the interminable wrangling over the Irish border and, specifically, the idea that customs checks on goods travelling between north and south might reignite the Troubles: ‘It is a ludicrous hypothesis. The British had never envisaged border checkpoints with barbed wire, landmines and British soldiers armed with machine guns. Nor was there the slightest suspicion that we would need to return to that state. Why would we?’

Liddle is clear about his own reasons for voting Leave, although he acknowledges it wasn’t a decision he arrived at easily. ‘The stuff that really compelled me to vote Leave was the nature of the EU and its aspirations, and my belief that the nation state is a preferable means of government – for us – to any other.’ That this even needs saying shows how widely and automatically the nation state is now disparaged by the commentariat.

Here we land at the source of the great betrayal: our very own cultural, social and political elite. Obviously, first and foremost among this contemptible bunch come politicians of all stripes. Many of them, Liddle notes, are perfectly clever but have no knowledge of public opinion and ‘too little faith in their own principles, if they have any’. This combination of cowardice, incompetence and belligerence shaped May’s disastrous deal and her determination to push it through a reluctant Commons.

But, as Liddle makes clear, it is not just parliament that is out of kilter with the rest of the population: 96 per cent of the ‘creative community’ voted Remain, as did 93 per cent of the academic community. ‘The liberals also run the BBC, our universities, almost all government quangos, academia and the teaching profession’, he says. At the head of every social, cultural and political institution the same type of people share the same outlook on the world. And it does not encompass leaving the EU.

Liddle really gets into his stride when it comes to finding fault with the BBC for its partisan, liberal output. He’s delightfully scathing of the ‘reality check’ operation, ‘used by the BBC to deliver a verdict on everything’, which he writes off as a ‘patently absurd and insultingly simplistic confection’. ‘The uncomfortable truth’, he continues, ‘is that there is no single discernible truth – and certainly not when we’re dealing with predictions for the future made by institutions with skin in the game’. The problem for the BBC is that the people in charge don’t think they are being political at all; as everyone they encounter thinks the same way, they assume their view is simply the norm.

Liddle gets away with being angry because his rage is directed at the right people. His target is not the millions of Remain voters; it’s not even those Remainers who signed a petition or turned out for a march to stop Brexit. His ire is firmly directed at ‘that hard core of Remainers impervious to argument, aloof from discussion, perpetually furious’. To be even more specific, Liddle is taking aim at ‘the three to five million elite who have done everything in their power to overthrow Brexit with no idea why people voted for it’.

It helps that throughout The Great Betrayal Liddle’s anger is matched by humour. John Major is described as that ‘perpetually snippy Goliath among statesmen’. Everyone’s favourite constitutional democrat, Gina Miller, ‘slept for only thirty-six minutes’ the night of the referendum result, Liddle tells us, ‘so aghast was she at the result’. On noticing her grief the next morning, one of her children apparently said to her: ‘But you’ll do something, Mummy – you always do.’ Liddle retorts, ‘I’d have liked the kid more if he’d said: “Never mind, Mummy. It’s the will of the people, democratically expressed. Now pass the fucking cornflakes.”’

What makes this book such a pleasure to read is that Liddle’s anger is tempered by humanity. He has a genuine warmth for people who are outside of the political elite – and who don’t work for the BBC. Friendship is offered to those who voted Remain, and still want the UK to remain in the EU, but who think the referendum result must be upheld. Liddle opens a window on to the views of people who are usually either ignored by journalists or patronised in anthropology-style, field-work observations. Many Leave voters will now be asking themselves what the point is in voting, Liddle tells us: ‘We did vote. And look what happened. That is what I hear in my home town, in Middlesbrough, all the time. What is the point?’

The Great Betrayal is an acerbic polemic with a large heart at its centre. Liddle plays to the choir rather than to those who are most likely to disagree with his thesis. But as it’s a choir that has, for the past three years, been ridiculed and insulted, it is well deserving of a tune.

Joanna Williams is associate editor at spiked. Her new book, Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars, is out now.

The Great Betrayal, by Rod Liddle, is published by Constable. (Buy this book from Amazon(UK).)

Picture by: YouTube.

Rod Liddle and Brendan O’Neill in conversation at Podcast Live!

Rod Liddle and Brendan O'Neill
– live in London

Podcast Live

Podcast Live, Friends House, London, NW1 2BJ – 5 October 2019, 2.30pm-3.30pm

To get tickets, click the button below, then scroll down to The Brendan O'Neill Show logo on the Podcast Live page.

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12th August 2019 at 2:03 pm

Liddle conveniently ignores the fact that neither Scotland nor Northern Ireland voted for this thing. In order for the votes of the people of Northern Ireland and Scotland to be respected Scotland and Northern Ireland must remain in the EU. In order to facilitate this, Scotland and Northern Ireland must be hived off from the UK, NI returning to the Republic of Ireland and Scotland forming its own independent polity.

Neil McCaughan

22nd September 2019 at 5:48 pm

So what? Islington didn’t vote leave either.
Just more irrelevant twaddle.

Fred Shred

26th July 2019 at 9:00 pm

Liddle is probably a very nice chap, but he’s extremely inconsistent:

Paul Robson

2nd August 2019 at 4:57 pm

The world’s most dishonest newspaper, written by the terminally stupid.


12th August 2019 at 2:00 pm

I doubt it’s more dishonest than the DT or DM. It just peddles a different form of dishonesty.

Amelia Cantor

26th July 2019 at 10:57 am

Just look at that photo of Liddle. What a perfect symbol he is of Brexit: a white-haired, unhealthy cisgender white male who can’t even keep his head upright!

He smokes and drinks, of course. If only more Brexiteers would follow suit. Then the vibrant intersectional future would be here even sooner, as Brexiteers disappear underground even faster than they already are.

Brexit = racism = xenophobia = death = the past.
The EU = progress = universalism = life = the future.

Simon Morgan

26th July 2019 at 3:09 pm

Brexit = Freedom = Common sense = Prosperity
EU = Totalitarianism = Communism = Gulags = Failure

-There, fixed it for you Amelia.

PS – FYI – Half of Europe hates the EU now, so I guess they must all be ‘racists’ right? From Italy to Greece, from Hungary to Poland – they’re all fed up to the back teeth with it. And fed up to the back teeth with cretins like you calling them ‘racists’.

Amelia Cantor

30th July 2019 at 1:09 pm

Prosperity? That’s a funny way of spelling “guaranteed economic collapse”.

Anyway, now you’ve got the Bullingdon Buffoon in No. 10, it won’t be long before your glorious fantasies are realized. I mean, just look at how successful Bozza was in the Foreign Office!

Jim Lawrie

29th July 2019 at 5:27 pm

As usual Amelia, long on name calling, invective and moralising but stultifyingly short on content.

Unless a deathwish on those against whom you cannot argue is your idea of substance. May you sleep like a clubbed seal.

Amelia Cantor

30th July 2019 at 1:07 pm

The “deathwish” is yours, and your tribe’s Jim. That’s why you’re dying out so fast and why communities of colour are getting younger and younger in terms of their demographic profile.

But, as ever, don’t let reality impinge on your fantasies. You need some comfort as you speed towards oblivion. Besides baccy and booze, that is.

Paul Robson

2nd August 2019 at 4:58 pm

She’s right about the economic collapse. What she doesn’t understand is the EU and ECB are responsible.

Marvin Jones

1st August 2019 at 3:56 pm

Remainers: sensitive, subservient, a lust to be enslaved, followers of any orders from their masters and cowardly to stand on their own two feet.

Terence Ballard

13th September 2019 at 1:03 am

Amelia Cantor is a parody right?

Neil McCaughan

22nd September 2019 at 5:52 pm

Look up “her” comment about “women of colour like Elizabeth Warren and Rachel Dolezal” and draw your own conclusion. My money is on AC’s middle name being “Gethsemane”.

Alex Cameron

23rd July 2019 at 6:59 pm

At the anti-Brexit, antiBoris rally in London at the weekend, campaigner Shola Mos-Shogbamimu opened proceedings on stage at Parliament Square: “I want to make sure you know why you are here, I’m not sure you do!”
Its good to know leading remainers are as partonising and insulting to their own as they are towards us.

James Knight

23rd July 2019 at 6:26 pm

Spoiler Alert! if you didn’t vote your opinions are not counted.

Andrew Mawdsley

23rd July 2019 at 2:22 pm

Had this book delivered over the weekend. As ever, Rod Liddle is a voice of reason amongst the strident. I can’t help hoping that he’s wrong though.

Hana Jinks

23rd July 2019 at 11:02 am

Cheers. I was only explaining to Peeved Gobbett’s a few hours ago about how the fascists have made British nationalism seem like a nazi thing.

Jerry Owen

23rd July 2019 at 8:09 am

I can’t read this article .. not because i don’t want to, but because i bought it on Saturday and started reading it last night.
I hope it ends happily ever after !

Stephen J

23rd July 2019 at 11:51 am

Methinks you will have to wait for the second edition Jerry.

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