As an immigrant Remain voter, I am starting to worry about my fellow members of the metropolitan elite. Some of those whose cause I share dutifully attend protest marches, attack people whose political views they don’t share and talk cheerfully about the rise of fascism.
The madness of this supposedly liberal cause is in plain sight, yet it continues to thrive, boosted supposedly by Remain’s performance in the EU elections. We were told by some that Remain won the election in which a six-week old Brexit Party captured first place, a third of the popular vote and 40 per cent of seats. It rather reminded me of how we do elections in Russia: first you vote and then someone comes along and explains who actually won.
Bouncing from her party's resounding victory of coming second, Lib Dem leadership contender Jo Swinson went on Question Time to bang the drum for Remain. ‘Nigel Farage should not be in British politics at all,’ she proclaimed, revealing something fundamental about the Brexit debate: it's not just about the EU – it's a battle for the future of our democracy.
I voted Remain because I was worried about the economic disruption that leaving would bring. I worried about embroiling ourselves in a decade of instability which our adversaries would use to sow chaos and discord in the West. I worried about the potential breakup of an organisation that has brought us seventy years of peace on a continent historically ravaged by war.
I still worry about those things and I'd rather we left with a deal that prevents disruption and keeps the UK intact. I have a far, far bigger worry now, however. Put simply, there seems to be only one side which cares about the future of our democracy and, ironically, it's the side that keeps being labelled ‘fascist’. In 2019, hurling milkshakes at your opponents makes you ‘tolerant’, while voting the wrong way makes you a Nazi.
A curious example this week was Sadiq Khan posturing against the evils of Donald Trump. In 2016, the mayor told Londoners that the threat of terrorism is ‘part and parcel of living in a big city’. Apparently visits by the leader of the free world are not.
The same commentators who delight in Sadiq Khan’s praise for Trump’s political opponents complain when the US president endorses Boris Johnson for Tory leader. An endorsement, by the way, which needn’t be taken too seriously, given that it’s based on the fact that Boris is the only contender Trump has ever heard of. At least he has that in common with the majority of the British public.
The double standards of an increasingly radical fringe are becoming too many to list and too mundane to ridicule. There is something deeply rotten at the heart of the metropolitan elite, a kind of ingrained superiority, a deep-seated belief that no matter what people say, the liberal show must go on.
The one thing I have always loved about this country – and one of the many reasons I’ve made my home here – is the British sense of fair play. The idea that win, lose or draw, both sides can walk off the pitch with their dignity preserved and their mutual respect enhanced.
Which is why it pains me to see so many in the Remain camp argue that Brexit is purely the result of cheating and foreign interference. ‘It was the Russians – they’re responsible for Brexit!’ As a Russian, let me tell you – if we were responsible for Brexit, Brexit would be done. We’d be out, and we’d have taken a chunk of France with us.
The vote in 2016 was the product of decades of brewing discontent. One of the biggest drivers of the decision to leave was the complete unwillingness of the political class to acknowledge people's concerns about the pace and scale of immigration. Instead, half of the country was smeared as thick, bigoted racists in order to shut them up.
As a comedian, I have travelled the length and breadth of this country. I have lived as far north as Edinburgh and as far south as Hastings. I can say unequivocally: there are very few places in the world I’d rather be an immigrant.
When I came here in 1995, just three per cent of the British public thought immigration was a major issue. Why? Because it wasn’t a major issue. But by the peak of the Blair immigration boom, during which time more people came to this country than had come from 1066 to 1950, almost 50 per cent of the British public thought immigration was a major issue. Why? Because it was.
Ignoring people doesn’t work. Democracy is not about elections and referendums. Democracy is when the people who lose those elections and referendums accept the outcome. If we try to sabotage the 2016 result we will end up with a harder Brexit than anyone, including many Leavers, originally wanted. Worse still, if we succeed in sabotaging Brexit, the impact of destroying people’s faith in democracy will reverberate for generations.
Konstantin Kisin will be performing his debut hour, ‘Orwell That Ends Well’, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. For tickets, see here