Peasants’ Revolts tend not to work out too well in this country, for the peasants. I suppose that is why we have so comparatively few of them. There is a flurry for a while and then normal service is resumed. It is often said that Wesleyan Methodism helped to quell any uppity tendencies among the working classes during the Industrial Revolution, but I suspect it was more a case of the proles understanding that whatever they did, they would not win. Too much ranged against them, marshalled by people who naturally knew much better about what was good for them.
And so it is with our latest Peasants’ Revolt on 23 June 2016 — a mass outpouring of anger at the ruling elite in Britain and Brussels, a passion for the nation state and sovereignty, a long weariness over immigration and a great disdain for the well-heeled liberal establishment that believes Leave voters are all ill-educated racist scum who should shut up and get back in their boxes, to their call centres or wherever it is they work these days. If they work.
What we voted for does not matter, because they will not let it happen. We have endured two years of hysteria, bed-wetting and tantrums from our masters, our defeated masters. There have been threats, dire predictions, spiteful calumnies flung at those who dared to vote in a way with which they did not agree; columnists suggesting that democracy has maybe gone too far; shrieks of fury and temper strops; continued attempts to use unelected bodies to overturn the vote; demands for a new vote which would be a ‘People’s Vote’ (different from the original vote because that allowed feral animals into the polling booth); allegations from ninnies that Poles and other foreigners were being set on fire or spat at in the street, that racism is rising; lectures every evening from pencil-necked berks on the BBC about how Brexit is ruining us or will ruin us.
We’ve been told that we will starve and won’t be able to fly anywhere and industrial production will cease. We’ve had big companies screaming they’ll go out of business because they can’t employ some benighted Romanian for 40p an hour. The IMF and, of course, the EU have been insistent that we’re headed for suicide — despite the fact that their statistics suggest the opposite.
Hell, you think that stuff about £350 million a week to the NHS was a lie? It has nothing on what we’ve been told since by the people who lost the vote: the multitudes of the well-heeled mobilised on their marches, waving their EU flags, packing out the Albert Hall for Last Night of the Proms, all of them insisting that the morons who voted Leave have now changed their minds and citing polls which show precisely that — much, in fact, as polls, showed a desire to stay in the EU on the evening before the actual referendum, when Remain had up to an eight-point lead.
And we ought to face it: these voices of the establishment, the liberal establishment, have won. It’s as brutal a victory in a way as that which saw Wat Tyler stabbed to death in Smithfield in June 1381: a continual fugue of outrage, disinformation, lies and chicanery, broadcast by those with vested interests. And, of course, a grotesque betrayal, intended all along.
Because there are no palatable options on the table now for those who voted Leave. It is either back a deal which ties us to the European Union, except without even a vote in return for our continued subjugation, or back no deal which stands no chance whatsoever of getting through Parliament. Or maybe accept another referendum, because they didn’t like the result of the first one — and which will be gerrymandered so that the Leave vote is split.
None of this is the consequence of the rights or wrongs of Brexit. All of it is a consequence of a failed government and a majority in the House of Commons that does not actually want the UK to leave the EU.
Sure, for a year or so the politicians of the two major parties paid lip-service to the notion that the people’s voice ‘must be respected’. But the passage of time is a wonderful thing and nobody seems to think that any more. Not the Labour party, which has apparently resiled from its original stance and will vote against whatever hopeless arrangement is presented before it by the Prime Minister. Not the Remainers within the Conservative party either — perhaps the primary villains of the piece, capable of trotting out with bovine sincerity the injunction that the People’s Vote must be honoured, while doing everything they possibly can to weaken the government’s hand in negotiating with the EU.
Time and again, the hapless May would trot off to meet Michel Barnier or Jean-Claude Juncker while at home cabinet ministers would brief about the calamity of a no deal, and how it must be avoided at all costs. Thus she would stand at the crease and even before the first ball was bowled would find that her bat had been broken, to borrow an analogy from that dead sheep Geoffrey Howe.
And yet May was also a Remainer. And so too was her Chancellor. Their hearts are not with leaving the EU, their hearts are for staying within it as far as is possible. May’s sole purpose at the moment is to stay in power — although, frankly, why she should want to eludes me entirely. But imagine what a government with confidence and imagination might have done, secure at home and therefore immune to blackmailing. Leaving a trade organisation is not, in reality, a terribly troublesome business. Nevertheless, we have made it so.
I am told quite frequently that a failure to leave will lead to riots on the streets. No it won’t. It will lead only to a sullen acceptance that once again, you can’t beat the establishment. It will always win in the end.