Addressing the real “Project Fear”: eight things that terrify the Leavers, but shouldn’t

The cleverest thing that the Leave campaign has done is to brand the Remain campaign with the name “Project Fear”. That’s clever not only because it makes Remain look weak, but because it shifts the focus away from the fact that the Leave campaign is itself completely built on fear.

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So let’s address some of those fears:

We’ll be forced to join the Euro! No we won’t. I’m no fan of Margaret Thatcher, but the Tory government that she built successfully negotiated an opt-out in 1992. In fact, even if the UK wanted to join the Euro, it wouldn’t be able to until it met five convergence criteria. At present we only meet two of them.

We’ll be on the hook for bailout after bailout! No we won’t. I’m no fan of George Osborne, but he secured a standing agreement that the UK, not being part of the eurozone, has no obligation in the Greek bailouts, or any others that might happen in the future.

We’ll be drafted into an EU army! No we won’t. There is no plan to create an EU army.

Turkey will join the EU! Not any time soon, it won’t. There are 35 criteria that need to be met before a country can join. At the moment, Turkey fulfils one of them. Talks about half of the criteria have not even begun. And even if and when they are all fufilled, the UK (like every other EU member) has a veto.

But our government wants Turkey to join! Only in the same sense that a parent wants a toddler to pass a driving test. In the long term, when toddler has acquired the relevant skills, experience and wisdom, that will be a good outcome. But no-one wants to put a baby behind the wheel of a truck, and no-one wants Turkey as it is today in the EU.

Immigrants will come over here and collect benefits! No they won’t — quite the opposite. It’s now well established that on average, immigrants from the EU into the UK pay more in tax than they take out in benefits. This is particularly true of those from the countries that joined the EU in 2004. (By contrast, on average, British-born people take out more than they put in.)

Immigrants will come over here and take our jobs! They will take jobs; but they will also create jobs. The employment market is a not a fixed-size pie. When more people live in the UK, the UK needs more restaurants, more supermarkets, more construction, and so on — each of them needing staffing. Overall, there are more jobs available when immigrants come to the UK.

Immigrants will come over here and flood the NHS! Immigrants use the NHS; they also staff it. (All three of our sons were delivered by immigrant midwives.) If we could somehow magically get rid of all immigrants, the ratio of NHS staff to patients would be worse than it is now.

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In the end, the European Union is a lot like a marriage. It’s not perfect — what relationship is? — but there is a lot more good about it than bad. The Leave campaign is like a husband who only sees his wife’s faults (and invents some that she doesn’t have). He wants to leave, even though he has nowhere to go, because he doesn’t understand what a good situation he is in. Six months later, alone in a bedsit, he’ll realise what he’s done.

But adults don’t give up on a marriage the moment it becomes difficult. They stick it out, remembering the good things about their spouse even as they work to remedy the bad things. And they try to be better themselves, too.

Ultimately, the choice to Leave or Remain comes down to this: will we walk out on a functional, rewarding relationship because it’s not perfect and because of imagined faults in the other party? Or will we stay in something that works, and work to make it even better?

24 responses to “Addressing the real “Project Fear”: eight things that terrify the Leavers, but shouldn’t

  1. We’ll be forced to join the Euro

    No, we won’t. But on the other hand, the Eurozone countries will have to integrate more tightly together, or the whole thing is going to fall apart. The UK, not being a member of the Euro, will not be a part of that. That means that the Eurozone countries are going to become a major power-bloc within the EU, and therefore will be able to get their way on things like financial services regulation which will not be in the UK’s interests. Imagine if they were mad enough to try to implement a financial transaction tax, and the UK couldn’t stop them because by QMV they could overrule us!

    And that’s even before you remember that France wants to make Paris, and Germany Frankfurt, into rivals to London as financial capitals, and so have an incentive to push through regulations which advantage them at London’s expense (eg, they could make it harder for Euro-denominated transactions to take place in non-Eurozone countries).

    This is a very real risk. Getting out means that no matter what regulations they propose, the City of London can operate under a looser regulatory regime, and therefore continue to out-compete its Eurozone rivals.

    We’ll be on the hook for bailout after bailout! No we won’t. I’m no fan of George Osborne, but he secured a standing agreement that the UK, not being part of the eurozone, has no obligation in the Greek bailouts, or any others that might happen in the future.

    But that agreement has already been broken: the EFSM, to which the UK contributes, was supposed to not be used for bailouts, but it was used (thanks to a creative interpretation of the terms) in 2015 to provide a bridging loan to Greece.

    Basically, when Eurocrats give guarantees, you should not believe them: they have been proven to lie in the past and will lie again in the future.

    There is no plan to create an EU army.

    No, there are no concrete plans, but it’s no secret that most of the Eurocrats would like there to be a European army, eventually (along with, for example, direct European taxation, folding all the individual member states’ seats at bodies like the UN into a single EU seat, etc etc). They just don’t see any practical way to get there from where we are now. But you can be sure that the moment they can see a way to get there, perhaps by expanding the remit of the EU border force which is now under discussion, they will not hesitate.

    This is in the same category as, ‘There is no plan to create an EU foreign minister’. There wasn’t, until suddenly there was and it popped up in the Constitution — which, remember, was rejected more than once at the ballot box but them implemented anyway.

    The ultimate goal of the EU always was, and remains, a federal United States of Europe. That’s not a ‘secret plan’, it’s right there in the treaties, and successive of the various Presidents of the different bits of the EU have been clear that this is their end goal.

    I do not want the UK ever to be just a state in a United States of Europe, to see Westminster relegated to something like Sacramento to Brussels’s Washington, D.C.. To have our Prime Minister become just a state governor, and to have to implement federal laws made by a Parliament with members voted for by foreigners — the EU is fundamentally undemocratic, not because of the Commission, but because of the Parliament, because you can’t have a democracy without a demos and there is no European demos.

    I want to bequeath to the next generations a sovereign, independent Britain carrying on the proud traditions of the last thousand years; not a mere administrative area run by a government which has only what powers are delegated to it from a Parliament elected by foreigners.

    That is why I’ll be voting ‘Leave’ tomorrow.

  2. Well, H, I have to admit that is the most convincing Leave argument I have seen. Essentially (if I read you right) voting to remain while staying out of the Euro may mean that we are still subject to European regulations while having less say in determining what those regulations are.

    I still don’t buy it: effectively, any trade with the EU will be on its terms, because it has such bargaining power — so it’s still better to be in than out. But thanks for an interesting perspective.

    (BTW., a bridging loan taken from a pre-existing fund is very different from being required to donate fresh oney to a bail-out.)

  3. Essentially (if I read you right) voting to remain while staying out of the Euro may mean that we are still subject to European regulations which having less say in determining what those regulations are

    That’s one point, yes.

    I still don’t buy it: effectively, any trade with the EU will be on its terms, because it has such bargaining power — so it’s still better to be in than out.

    Trade will be on mutually-agreed terms. The UK is not an insignificant economy — we are not Guernsey. The EU can’t just dictate terms to us.

    But, that’s not the point. The point isn’t about trade with the EU, it’s about trade with other countries outside the EU. If we are in the EU, then the EU can impose regulations on us that we have to impose on customers from outside the EU.

    For example, if the Eurozone were to have a Financial Transaction Tax, then they could impose it one London such that we would have to charge it on any transaction which takes place through the London Stock Exchange — even if that transaction was a company in New York selling shares in a South African diamond mine to a company in China.

    This would instantly hurt London’s global competitiveness, as I’m sure you can see. American, Chinese, South African, companies would all start looking for alternative ways to do their business to avoid the tax — perhaps moving operations to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore or New York.

    If, on the other hand, we were to leave, then yes, we would have to trade with the EU on EU-agreed terms; but we would be free to ignore EU regulations when trading with, or when providing services for, customers outside the EU. And remember that’s where the customers are: the only continent whose GDP is currently growing more slowly than Europe’s is Antarctica.

    Anyway, that’s by the by. Even if it weren’t the case I’d be voting ‘Leave’ for the main reason I set out above: the EU’s end goal is a United States of Europe, an idea which fills me with horror. I will not stand by and let the UK be absorbed into such a thing.

  4. [Meta-comment, H. Because you used a different fake email address from last time, WordPress didn’t recognise you as the same person whose comment I moderated through earlier. That’s why this one, too, was held for moderation. I’m completely cool with you using a fake email address, but I’d advise using the some one each time: then your comments won’t be held in moderation.]

  5. One of H’s big concerns is that the EU might make it more difficult for London to market itself as having unusually lax financial regulation. It seems to me that there are generally reasons for financial regulation, and that e.g. the Great CDO Cockup was at least partly a consequence of underregulation. So “We must get out of the EU, so that no one can impose regulations on the financial dealings of the City of London” is not a terribly convincing argument to me.

    (This should not be taken to constitute support for any specific bit of regulation you can imagine the EU imposing. Of course there are bad things that they could do as well as good ones.)

    By the way, why the concern about QMV in particular? Any system of voting allows some parties to be “overruled” (inevitably, since people and nations disagree) so why blame the fact that the UK could get overruled on a financial transactions tax, or anything else for that matter, on QMV in particular?

    (I have a theory but it’s a nasty uncharitable one and I hope it’s wrong. If Brexiteers just said “… and then other European countries could overrule us” then it would be *transparent* that their objection was to the very idea that the UK might not control everything. But adding “… because of QMV”, even though it doesn’t actually make any sense, makes it *look* as if there’s something more principled going on. It’s like the research that showed that if there’s a queue to use the photocopier and you say “excuse me, can I cut in front of you because I need to make some copies?” you’re much less likely to be refused than if you just say “excuse me, can I cut in front of you?” even though “because I need to make some copies” conveys no information at all. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not blaming H for this — I’ve seen the “because of QMV” line elsewhere and I assume it comes from some pro-Leave lobbying organization.)

  6. By the way, why the concern about QMV in particular? Any system of voting allows some parties to be “overruled” (inevitably, since people and nations disagree) so why blame the fact that the UK could get overruled on a financial transactions tax, or anything else for that matter, on QMV in particular?

    Simply because the EU uses two voting systems, as I understand it: on some issues, unanimity is required, so those things cannot be imposed on Britain without her consent; on others, QMV is used.

    It’s not that there’s a problem with QMV in particular: as you say, any other system which stopped Britain being able to veto regulation that is against her interest would be as bad. I just wrote QMV as that happens to be the one that is used.

    If Brexiteers just said “… and then other European countries could overrule us” then it would be *transparent* that their objection was to the very idea that the UK might not control everything

    Yes, that is exactly my objection. Well, not exactly ‘control everything’; I don’t want us to be able to control what regulations are imposed on other countries. But to have an absolute veto over any regulations being imposed on us, yes, absolutely.

    Democracy means rule by the people, ie, the people of the UK. You can’t have a Europe-wide democracy because the entire population of Europe is not a single people, rather it is composed of many peoples: the German people, the French people, the Italian people, etc etc. We shouldn’t have a say over the affairs of the Germans any more than they should have a say over our affairs.

  7. This should not be taken to constitute support for any specific bit of regulation you can imagine the EU imposing. Of course there are bad things that they could do as well as good ones

    Right, and this is exactly the point. There are good regulations and bad regulations. Who is more likely to propose and implement good regulations for the City — the UK government, in whose interests it is that the City does well, or the French and German governments, in whose interests it is that the City is less attractive to customers, compared to Paris and Frankfurt, than it is now?

    To me it seems obvious that the UK government is the one that has the UK’s interests at heart. The French and German governments will, quite rightly, act with their own interests at heart, which may or may not be aligned with Britain’s and on some issues (such as those were we are rivals) will be directly opposed to Britain’s.

    Therefore, decisions about regulation of the City (and indeed all decisions) should be taken by the UK government alone. Just like decisions over regulations in Frankfurt should be taken by the German government alone: I don’t want us to have any say over their regulations, just as I don’t want them to have any say over ours.

  8. Well, H — all I can do now is hope that you’re right.

  9. I hope so too. It’s a scary step into the unknown.

  10. “You can’t have a Europe-wide democracy because the entire population of Europe is not a single people, rather it is composed of many peoples: the German people, the French people, the Italian people, etc etc.”
     
    What are we supposed to make of this? That the peoples of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is a meaningful concept but the peoples of France and Italy are not? I’m guessing you must really have it in for the United States. But what I’d really like to know is what definition of “people” is being used here.
     
    ”We shouldn’t have a say over the affairs of the Germans any more than they should have a say over our affairs. “
     
    Where I live, my neighbours do have a say over my affairs. Because my affairs have an effect upon them. They have the right to expect me not to play loud music at four in the morning, or tip my rubbish over the garden fence. If we have to have countries (and personally I’m opposed to the whole idea), the same thing applies. Polluting industries if located on the north coast of France could affect southern England, and a thousand other examples. It would be neat to pretend none of that happens, life would be tidier. But it would be entirely false.

    ” Who is more likely to propose and implement good regulations for the City — the UK government, in whose interests it is that the City does well, or the French and German governments… To me it seems obvious that the UK government is the one that has the UK’s interests at heart”

    This is so at odds with what we know to have actually happened in the financial crash that it doesn’t seem much worth bothering with. It’s pretty much like if Michael Fish had said there wouldn’t be a hurricane after the hurricane had happened.

    Instead, what I really want to focus on is the way the British right defaults to this idea that the EU is all about imposing regulation. (And it seems fair to say H is using rightist arguments here.) In times past, the Soviet Union provided the always useful bad counter example. We just needed to do the opposite of them, eschew planned economies for deregulation and ‘free markets’. Now that has gone, they are stuck with painting the EU in the same colours. And the colours don’t apply at all.

    If the EU wanted to “burden the City with regulation” (as it’s often phrased) they have had since 1973 to do it. And of course, in that time the very opposite has happened – the financial sector successfully lobbied to be less and less regulated. When, as a result, it crashed in on itself that crash happened across Europe Because the deregulation had happened across Europe.

    If they were really trying to steer Britain away from its dangerous over-reliance on the financial sector I’d be in favour of it. But there’s no sign of that whatsoever. The EU has a neoliberal, austerity-imposing, privatisation agenda, and has had for a long time. Just ask the Greeks about the gifts they got…

    The main reason they spin it otherwise, IMHO, is because they know it to be populist. Boris Johnston told what were often outright lies in the referendum, because he knew they made for his best shot at Downing Street. But a secondary advantage is that it gives them someone to blame when things inevitably go wrong. “We tried that free market stuff and it failed us.” “Oh no, that was the interfering EU again.” It’s one of the ways in which the failures of deregulation are metaphorphosised into arguments for further deregulation.

  11. But what I’d really like to know is what definition of “people” is being used here

    A coherent group with a shared history, culture, character and mythology. Something that people identify themselves as belonging to, an idea that inspires loyalty. An ‘us’.

    As opposed to a population, which is just the collection of human beings who happen to live in a particular geographical area.

    If we have to have countries (and personally I’m opposed to the whole idea)

    Then it seems, given you apparently have this blind spot, that you are unlikely to understand; I could continue trying to explain, but it would be like trying to explain the concept of blue to a particularly stubborn blind man.You simply don’t perceive it, and therefore refuse to believe it exists.

  12. Europe has a shared history, culture, character and mythology. I’m not quite sure how H can deny that. And I know plenty of people in the UK who identify themselves as belonging to Europe and loyal to it. (And are feeling pretty screwed right now.)

  13. Europe has a shared history, culture, character and mythology

    Not really. The French, British, and German cultures, mythologies, and histories are very different form each other, and when they do involve the same events they tend to give them very different interpretations (Waterloo, for example; obviously that plays a very different rôle in the French national story, but even between the British and the Germans it’s told differently: they see it as us just managing to keep Napoleon busy until they arrived to heroically save the day, for example).

    And I know plenty of people in the UK who identify themselves as belonging to Europe and loyal to it

    When they polled, though, and allowed people to choose words to describe themselves, only 15% of the British chose ‘European’.

    I suspect the reason it seems more to them is because they all follow each other on Twitter, but really, most British people feel no loyalty to the concept of Europe at all.

    No one would fight and die for Brussels…

  14. Oh, hi SK! How you doing? Sorry, I didn’t realise it was you until you resorted to abuse.

    This claim of course ignores not just most of history, but the way history works. In fact, it pretty much ignores the fact that history does work. But never mind that for a minute, let’s focus on more recent things.

    If this was true, sif people felt so strongly this sense of Britishness, would not the referendum vote have been overwhelmingly in favour of Leave? Rather than split down the middle, like it actually was? The Scottish referendum wouldn’t have gone ahead at all, of course, so massive was the Scottish feeling that they were British. But if it had, shouldn’t that too have been overwhelming? Rather than again split down the middle?

    Asked to justify your original tautology (‘Britain is British and must be British’) you have come up with a piece of feelgood mystification that bears no relation to our lives. I am not saying that you are wrong. I am saying that you are not even wrong.

    Fair enough, many people live in a fantasy world of some kind. Middle-aged guys think they look great in those tight jeans and are a devil on the dancefloor. Terrible musicians become convinced they’re talented. (Sometimes forming the band Oasis.) But to look at a country which is now more divided than it’s been… well, certainly than at any point in my lifetime and impose this homely village green myth on it is advanced delusional.

    Two things about which… First, it seems fairly symptomatic of the mainstream Leave campaign. Time and time again, shown they were dealing in fake facts and meaningless arguments, they would respond “so?” They didn’t care about the accuracy of what they were saying. The point was that saying it made them feel better. They are to politics what New Agers are to religion.

    Second, with all that’s wrong with the EU, it’s astonishing how often they would pick fights over things that were actually advantages. Yes, people from twenty-six other countries could come to Britain. And equally, I could go to any of those twenty-six other countries just by picking up my passport.

    And personally I would like to see that extended to… well, how about the rest of the world? Take somewhere like North Korea. Does anyone imagine it could get away with being that despotic if it’s people could just up and leave whenever they chose?

  15. I didn’t realise it was you until you resorted to abuse.

    There was abuse? Where?

    If this was true, if people felt so strongly this sense of Britishness, would not the referendum vote have been overwhelmingly in favour of Leave?

    No, not really; because while that is a consideration it is not the only consideration, and some people, while not feeling at all European, might have been swayed by economic considerations to vote ‘Remain’.

    I am saying that you are not even wrong

    As I wrote above, you clearly don’t perceive this sense of national identity, and therefore claim it doesn’t exist, so there is no point in explaining further, as it would be like trying to explain colour to a blind man.

  16. (It’s not just you, incidentally; I think it’s a general problem of metropolitan liberals, that they don’t feel the sense of national identity so they just assume it must be fake, and tie themselves in knots trying to work out what someone who says they did something because of it is really thinking: that they must be secretly racist, or self-interested, or maybe just stupid and deluded or hoodwinked by some evil demagogue or the Daily Mail. You see all these kinds of articles in the Guardian or the New Statesman trying to explain just what these people can be thinking, ignoring the simplest explanation, that they actually believe what they are saying and are telling the truth about their motivations. The idea that national identity is real, and that some people are really honestly motivated by it without being racist or stupid or in thrall, but that they [the liberals] just can’t perceive it, never seems to cross the minds of liberals. It just seems to be a complete failure of empathy on this point.

    [It’s beginning to seem to me that the real political divide in this country now isn’t rich versus poor, or owners versus workers, but social conservatives versus cosmopolitan liberals.]

    I would recommend reading some G.K. Chesterton, but then that’s just always a good idea.)

  17. H, I still think you’re flatly wrong about Europe not having any shared history, culture, character, and mythology. Taking a leaf out of your book, I might wonder whether it’s just that for some reason you are unable to see it and therefore unable to conceive of its existence.

    What is true, though, is that the shared culture and mythology are mostly attended to by the “cosmopolitan liberals” you seem to dislike so much. The classical musical tradition, for instance. (Which is actually a bit broader than Europe; in particular, Russia plays a substantial role.) The mythology of ancient Greece and Rome. Those cosmopolitan liberals pretty much anywhere across Europe will recognize Mozart’s music and know what you mean if you call someone a “Hercules” or a “Cassandra”. They are likely to have warm fuzzy feelings about the Renaissance and the Enlightenment and see them as part of their past. If scientifically minded they are liable to admire Pascal and Newton and Mendeleev and Boyle and Gauss and so forth, without much concern for which European country each one came from. In literature, a French person is of course more likely to have read Hugo and Balzac than Dickens and Schiller (though there’s a fair chance they’ve read at least a bit of Shakespeare and Goethe) but they’re surely aware of the latter and understand them as part of a shared literary endeavour. Etc., etc., etc.

    Of course, you may discount all that as the culture and history of those ghastly metropolitan liberal egghead snobs. Yeah, I suppose they are. But, you know, those ghastly metropolitan liberal egghead snobs are actually real people too, and if your definition of a demos is a group of people with the same cultural (etc.) attachments then you’ve just declared the metropolitan liberal types not really part of the same people as the “real” Brits. The historical precedents for that sort of move are alarming, to say the least.

  18. I still think you’re flatly wrong about Europe not having any shared history, culture, character, and mythology

    I think we may be slightly talking about cross purposes. While the examples you give are certainly cultural and shared, the point is they do not form part of a general ‘national myth’ of Europe because they don’t create a sense of ‘belonging’ except perhaps to a particular group.

    For example, the classical music tradition. You kind of torpedo that one yourself by admitting that Russia is a large part of it, and surely you’re not trying to claim that Europe and Russia are really one nation? So ‘the classical music tradition’ can hardly be something which can unite the European people and separate them from others.

    The mythology of ancient Greece and Rome again is something that all Europeans know about, but there’s a difference between knowing about something and feeling connected to it in a deep, patriotic way. Brits know about the classical civilisations (well, properly educated ones do) but they don’t (usually) feel that they are deeply connect to, or heirs of them — certainly not in the same way the Greeks do (and are right to do) (you could say that classical Romans did, through the Aeneid, but modern Italians don’t). Same with Rome: it’s the Italians who have Rome as a deep part of their identity (which Mussolini misused), in a way that, say, Germans and French and British don’t.

    And when it comes to literature, again, there’s a difference between what one knows about and has read, and what one identifies with. A British person might have read Cervantes and Dante, but they won’t feel proud of them like Dickens and Shakespeare; an Italian might have read Shakespeare, but they will be (rightly) proud of Dante, and a Spaniard of Cervantes.

    So you see, it’s not just knowledge, it’s connection. One of the things that makes me feel proud to be British is Shakespeare (though, to be honest, I think John Milton was better at blank verse); I have read Dante, and the end of Paradise where he meets God is sublimely beautiful, but I could never feel proud of him in the same way because there just isn’t the same connection. But an Italian would I am sure feel as proud of Dante as I feel proud of Shakespeare, but they wouldn’t feel proud of Shakespeare.

    Do you see?

  19. they don’t create a sense of “belonging” except perhaps to a particular group

    At this point it looks as if you are indeed attempting the “pinko metropolitan intellectual pansies aren’t real people” move I thought you might. (About which I think I have already said all that I wish to.) But then what follows seems like a complete change of direction, even though you introduce it with “For example”. Because suddenly you aren’t arguing that this European culture doesn’t generally create a sense of “belonging”, you’re arguing that the thing it creates a sense of belonging to is too broad.

    (I don’t think it is. The classical music tradition was, until very recently, basically a European phenomenon. It spread a little further afield — including, as I said, to Russia — but culturally Russia has frequently been part of Europe. When you’re looking at culture and history, the boundaries are always liable to move around a bit.)

    I remark that you move the goalposts again when you frame your objection by saying that this means that this bit of culture can’t be “something which can unite the European people and separate them from others.” May I gently suggest that one characteristic feature of those unpatriotic citydwelling liberal elites is that their idea of allegiance to a nation or region or whatever is not particularly concerned with separating them from others? That if you get such a person to admit they’re proud of their country they will usually add something like “but of course that doesn’t mean embracing any sort of negative attitude to other countries”?

    And then another bit of goalpost-moving. For a group of people to count as a demos, actually having shared culture and mythology isn’t quite the point, it now transpires: they need shared culture and mythology that they feel “as a deep part of their identity”. Which, on grounds you don’t tell us, you seem very confident lines up exactly with national boundaries, so that people from Greece feel the ancient Greek myths to be a deep part of their identity but not people from elsewhere. This all seems rather circular.

    There’s something really weird about your argument, in any case. The EU is undemocratic because there is no European demos because Europe doesn’t have shared culture, mythology, etc., that Europeans feel as a deep part of their identity that separates them from others. Setting aside the etymological wordplay, how does this make sense? I mean, it seems to amount to “one group should not be able to influence the laws that apply to another group if they don’t have the same culture and mythology” which makes about as much sense as “… if they live in different-looking houses” or “… if they have very different levels of wealth” or “… if they disagree sharply about politics”. That is, not much sense unless you’re happy to condemn all possible systems as “undemocratic” alongside the European Parliament.

  20. You know you are reading an SK comment, despite the alphabet soup of acronyms, because it will have more repeats in it than the Dave channel. To wit…

    SK, seeing as you are fond enough of this colourblindness analogy to give us the whole thing twice, why don’t I come back on it?
     
    But first, you need to decide where you are planting those goalposts of yours. Had you said “I feel British, me” I would most likely have said nothing at all. By analogy, sometimes a religious person will say “well, I feel the presence of God.” I might say I don’t feel the same. But I wouldn’t disagreewith them. They are talking about their own feeling, after all! It would be like hearing someone say “my favourite colour is green” and responding “but red is so vibrant. You are clearly wrong!”
     
    You did not say that. You said that there was a British self-identity that was an established fact, in the same way that there is a town called Cirencester. And that it was so significant a force that only British officials, who knew and shared that identity, could make the decisions we’d like them to make. And that was why we had to leave the EU. No to Eurocrats, we need Britocrats. Neither was this to do with enlightened self-interest. Your argument was quite specifically about shared culture and identity.
     
    If I was colourblind… well I expect I wouldn’t be able to see any colour. But I would see the effect of colour working on my surrounding society. I would see traffic synchronising according to lights that looked identical to me. I would see football fans being able to tell teams apart, snooker fans follow matches that were a mystery to me. I would see the results of the information I was missing, at work in the world.
     
    I do not see anything like that here. In fact, I see your mythology as very much a private one. I see Britain is a fractured and divided society. In a vote characterised over and again precisely in terms of British identity, less than half the electorate got up to tick that box. Did half the country vote according to a completely different set of criteria? Yes they did, SK. Yes they did…
     
    In fact the argument is remarkably self-defeating twice over. Firstly, you yourself are very much a symptom of that division. You clearly feel no shared identity with half of the country, and instead of trying to overcome that or even perceiving it as a problem you try to dismiss by labelling. “Oh they don’t count.” You are a counter-example to your own postulation.
     
    Secondly, rather then enhance the sense of a shared UK culture, one quite likely effect of leave is that it will spell the end of the UK. Scotland will want to leave in order to stay in the EU. “Vote Britain to destroy Britain!” It has a ring to it, I suppose.

    Another thing, I don’t see how culture can be treated as a collection of heirlooms. Culture is a shared way of life. In other words, it’s not just the shiny stuff on the mantlepiece, it’s also the old buckets under the sink. If we claim to ‘own’ Shakespeare plays through shared culture then we also ‘own’ Jeffrey Archer novels.
     
    In all honesty, life is short and I can’t be bothered to go round the houses on this. It would go something like this… “But English and German are very similar languages, due to our shared Anglo-Saxon…” “Language doesn’t count.” “But for long periods of history, England was effectively part of Northern France while Scotland was…” “History doesn’t count either.” And so on.
     
    Even an outright loony like David Icke knows he needs to argue cause from effects. “There must be shape-changing lizards in charge because Princess Diana died” is an argument. A wrong argument, yes, but at least it is an argument. Whereas this is equivalent to saying “vote leave because the Tooth Fairy says to. And you cannot prove me wrong when I say the Tooth Fairy told me that”.

    And no I can’t. Because you are not even wrong.
     
    (Incidentally, I object to being called a ‘metropolitan liberal’. I don’t live in a metropolis and I don’t support the Liberals. I believe the correct Daily Mail phrasebook term for me is ‘godless commie’.)

  21. I think H/SK is using a definition of “liberal” that means something quite different from “supporter of recent UK political parties called Liberal”; more specifically, I think he means some combination of “socially liberal” (i.e., permissive about some things people have historically moralized against) and “lefty” (as per US usage, though of course “lefty” on the US includes ground we’d regard as “centre-right” in the UK).

  22. David Brain

    [It’s beginning to seem to me that the real political divide in this country now isn’t rich versus poor, or owners versus workers, but social conservatives versus cosmopolitan liberals.]
    I generally feel that this was the post-war Project, and it worked. And the reason the Tories have been more electorally successful since the end of the Second World War was that they were able to pretend unity better than the Labour party (look at what’s happened in the last few days: the Tories are probably going to have a new cabinet in which Leavers and Remainers will co-exist happily. Whereas the Labour shadow cabinet has broken apart in recriminations because they couldn’t do that.)
    One of the key reasons Blair won in 1997 was that the Conservatives made the mistake of winning in 1992. If they’d fallen properly short (a la 2010), we’d probably have had proper constitutional reform. As it was, the victory in 1997 was so huge that it took fifteen years to rebalance the result again, and nobody had any interest in looking at what was happening on the ground during that time.

    So what we have are two major parties that contain two large subgroups of the types you identify (social conservatives and metropolitan liberals), each with their own ideas about other policy issues (a Labour social conservative is not the same as a Tory social conservative) but neither of them can afford to break apart because our electoral systems do not permit them to do so properly without dealing with the LibDem problem.

  23. ”I think H/SK is using a definition of “liberal” that means something quite different from “supporter of recent UK political parties called Liberal””
     
    I was meeting facetiousness with facetiousness. (I am glad now I didn’t go for the gag about not taking pride in Shakespeare because I hadn’t written any of it.)
     
    ”the real political divide in this country now isn’t rich versus poor”
     
    But then that’s scarcely surprising when you consider the poor no longer get any political representation – at least in any meaningful sense. First the Tories said “we don’t need to bother about them, they will never vote for us”. Followed by New Labour saying “we don’t need to bother about them, they will always vote for us”. All, of course, at a time where the social and economic divide between rich and poor grew and grew.

    IMHO, Labour are as least as responsible as the Tories for everything that happened subsequently, including the rise of right fringe parties and the ramifications of this vote. As Tom Ewing said: “Mandelson declared of the old Labour vote that they had ‘nowhere to go’. On June 23, after decades of contempt, they finally went there.”

  24. Oops, incorrect italicising! Hopefully folks can figure out what’s what

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