The authoritarian legacy of the Remain campaign

The Remoaners’ distrust of democracy has had a baleful influence on the younger generation.

Patrick West

Patrick West

Topics Brexit Politics UK

One of the most repeated truisms of today is that much of the youth have given up on democracy. This was reinforced by a recent article in The Times headlined, ‘Third of the young “think dictatorship is good idea”’. It related findings by the Open Society Foundations that only 52 per cent of Britons aged 18 to 34 think that democracy is a force for good, compared with 79 per cent of people aged 55 and over. The research also found that 29 per cent of young people feel that a ‘strong leader’ who does not hold elections would be ‘a good way to run a country’.

This trend is usually attributed not only to political immaturity, myopia and ignorance, but also to genuine disillusionment with our ‘dishonest’ politics. Or it’s blamed on a broken economic system that has left so many young people without long-term employment and without the prospect of ever being able to afford a house. It is perhaps no surprise that in these precarious, insecure times the young would exchange freedom for safety – which is the eternal promise of the dictator.

Not everyone agreed with the conclusion that this is specifically a youthful problem. As one Times reader, Peter Hill from Sheffield, wrote in response: ‘It is not just the young. At a recent supper party, four guests out of six thought democracy should be abandoned – “because people vote for such stupid things”. All were retired teachers.’ Another, Elizabeth Longrigg from Oxford, wrote: ‘As a long-term chief examiner for O-levels and GCSEs I became disillusioned with democracy when it became increasingly clear that the majority always gets things wrong.’

Such anti-democratic sentiments have been made patently clear ever since 2016. We have been constantly scolded by a certain section of the population that 52 per cent of the UK voted the ‘wrong’ way in the Brexit referendum – supposedly out of sheer ignorance. The masses had apparently been duped by the media or by a number on the side of a bus. There shouldn’t have been a referendum in the first place, snobbish Remainers continue to crow, as important matters shouldn’t be left to the ‘low-information’ masses. We must hold another referendum, they say, but this time the great unwashed need re-education in order to vote the ‘right’ way.

And vote for what? To re-enter an organisation that is itself anti-democratic. The European Union has repeatedly ignored national referendum results on treaty ratifications over the years. If anything epitomises the technocratic, anti-democratic essence of our times it is the EU. You can’t even vote out its unelected rulers.

Non-democratic rule has been accepted or enthusiastically championed by many adults for years. So perhaps it’s no surprise that kids these days are suspicious of democracy. They’ve grown up in an era that distrusts the people. So rather than castigate the youth for their cynicism towards democracy, maybe we should start blaming the parents.

How snobbery killed the sitcom

The British sitcom is being killed off by the snooty middle classes. This is the verdict of Lee Mack, the comedian behind BBC One’s Not Going Out, the UK’s longest-running sitcom since Last of the Summer Wine.

Talking to The Sunday Times, Mack says that middle-class commissioners and journalists simply don’t understand the ‘working-class art’ of the sitcom. The sitcom ‘is a unique thing’, he says, ‘because it comes from that farce / music-hall tradition’. And although it is a hit with mainstream audiences, ‘Since Not Going Out started in 2006, broadsheet snobs have been asking, “How can this show be on television in this modern age?”’.

The statistics back up Mack’s parlous diagnosis of the British sitcom. In 1984, there were 60 newly commissioned studio sitcoms. By 2004 there were seven. This year, the number was zero.

Ever since 1980s alternative comedy The Young Ones lampooned the more traditional The Good Life, TV comedy has increasingly sought chiefly to be clever and knowing, rather than straightforward and family friendly. The gradual disappearance of canned laughter is also telling. It is deemed too obvious, too unsophisticated by modern commissioners. And whether you love them or hate them – I’m afraid I do hate them – the likes of Miranda and Mrs Brown’s Boys did and do command a great audience and affection.

My own taste, of course, is not the point. Nor is the fact that Not Going Out has always been far smarter and wittier than critics give it credit for. The point is that it should be the BBC’s job to produce comedy for the licence-paying masses – not to sneer at their tastes.

Why Die Hard really is a Christmas film

Much time and energy has been expended over the decades discussing whether Die Hard qualifies as an actual ‘Christmas film’.

The reason it does qualify is not just that it is set during Christmas – it’s also because it’s a true feel-good movie. Yes, despite all the blood, guns, explosions, bad language and general carnage, Die Hard really can be described as such.

The first clue is in one of the most memorable killings in the film – that of the bearded creep working for Nakatomi Corporation. After seeking to betray John McClane (Bruce Willis) and ingratiate himself with Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), he ends up being shot by Gruber, the pitiless, lip-curling German. From here on, we are treated to a tale of good versus evil, in which the former gradually emerges victorious.

Gruber eventually meets his own spectacular end. The terrorists with terrible haircuts lose. The hostages are saved. A street cop sergeant, who is haunted by having shot a teenager years back, finds redemption by shooting dead one of the last bad guys. The unctuous television journalist meets his own ignominious disgrace by being punched in the face by McClane’s estranged wife – who in the end is estranged no more. She and McClane are driven off into the moonset to the sound of ‘Let It Snow’.

With its themes of the triumph of good over evil and of redemption and resolution, Die Hard might as well have been made by Steven Spielberg. There is no moral equivalence or ambivalence in the film, tropes that have been a familiar presence in movies ever since the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s. Despite having violence, gore and swearing in abundance, Die Hard is the very opposite of a Quentin Tarantino film.

It portrays a world of moral certitudes. It is comfort viewing. And that’s why it is worth showing this time of year. So yes, Happy Christmas. And Yippee-Ki-Yay, motherfuckers!

Patrick West is a spiked columnist. His latest book, Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche For Our Times, is published by Societas.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Brexit Politics UK


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