Brendan O’Neill

Brexit-bashers like Blair and Branson are the real enemies of the people

Brexit-bashers like Blair and Branson are the real enemies of the people
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Here’s a tip for judges, businessmen, peers, politicians and former PMs who don’t like being called ‘enemies of the people’: stop behaving like enemies of the people. This week it is reported that Tony Blair is polishing his toothy grin to make a comeback into British politics, potentially as thwarter, or just tamer, of the ‘catastrophe’ of Brexit. It’s also reported that Richard Branson, the Brexit-bashing billionaire, has offered ‘tens of thousands’ of pounds to a gang of the great and good who want either to reverse the result of the referendum in which us dumb plebs made such a grave error, or at least insist that a second referendum be held so that we have a chance to redeem ourselves by giving the right, EU-worshipping answer this time round.

An email written by arch Blairite Alan Milburn, leaked to the Independent, suggests this new group is making ‘substantial progress’. It is winning ‘heavy financial, political and corporate backing’, the Indie says. Branson reportedly wants to give it office space and cash. Bob Geldof is in talks with it. Geldof, of course, thinks Brexit voters were an ‘army of stupidity’, part of a ‘distracted populace’ that is ‘loath to accept or acknowledge’ basic political truths. We’re ignoramuses, basically, and need clever people and celebs to put us straight.

The group has also reached out to Freuds, the public-relations firm founded by Matthew Freud, a buddy of Blair’s. And it’s been talking to Nick Clegg, Chuka Umunna and David Lammy, all loud-mouthed opponents of Brexit, and by extension of the silly little people who voted for it. Lammy has previously said he wants to ‘stop this madness’ — by which he means Brexit — because we ‘cannot usher in rule by plebiscite which unleashes the 'wisdom' of resentment and prejudice’. Those are his scare quotes around ‘wisdom’, because of course we aren’t wise at all: we’re resentful, prejudiced, awful, stupid — a whole army of stupidity.

What a motley crew. What a bunch of elitists. They have no shame. These are the kind of people who harp on about post-truth politics — Umunna has said the Vote Leave campaign ‘epitomised post-truth politics’ — yet they're reportedly cosying up to Tony Blair, global overlord of post-truth, who destroyed an entire country on the basis of a pack of lies. Recent reports make it sound as if Blair, panicked by Brexit and unimpressed with both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, wants to save Britain; not like he saved Iraq, I hope.

Let’s speak plainly: what we have here is a pissed-off oligarchy keen to temper or ideally reject the will of the majority; a coming together of political cliques and corporate heavies who want to water down the people’s say or at least make us think again and vote again. They join other angry wings of the elite who are agitating to stymie or slow down Brexit: hedge-fund millionaires pursuing court cases against Brexit; shady figures in the House of Lords (when are we getting rid of this abomination?) who want to ‘bring more facts’ to the British people to make them ‘review their decision’, in the words of Baroness King of Bow; the celeb-backed protest movements that openly say, ‘[W]e can help delay Brexit further and ultimately defeat it altogether’.

These are the kind of people who flipped when the Daily Mail called those three Brexit judges ‘enemies of the people’. That was ‘apoplectic vilification’, said Clegg. And yet they spend their time wondering how the people’s idiocy might be tamed. How the ‘madness’ of Brexit, the ‘catastrophe’ of Brexit, the ‘stupidity’ of Brexit might be halted, or at least shaped more by their wise counsel than the public’s low prejudice. What should we call that? How should we refer to the elite disgust for the demos? What words is it acceptable to use to describe this alignment of corporate bosses, cultural players and unelected peers against ‘rule by plebiscite’? Their bristling at the term ‘enemies of the people’ is a case of protesting too much.