Who’s really the “elite” here?

A group of people on a demonstration in London with a noose hanging from a wooden gallows being carried by one demonstrator. Another demonstrator is holding an American flag, another a banner saying "BBC: fake news, fake views".There was an anecdote I forgot to insert into my previous entry about the stereotype of the “liberal elite”. Back in the early 2000s I was working as a van driver for a major UK hire shop company (the sort that hires out electrical building equipment, generators, heavy lighting, that sort of stuff) and was delivering to a branch in leafy Surrey where there were two young people, a man and a woman, behind the counter. Also behind the counter was a copy of a tabloid, either the Sun or the Daily Star (but definitely not the Daily Mirror which, if I remember rightly, was in its black-top ‘serious’ phase then). The two people behind the counter expressed some anti-immigrant views which would have surprised nobody familiar with the attitudes commonly expressed in the paper. A few weeks later, I emailed Jon Gaunt, then the presenter of the morning show on BBC London (whose website for the show was headed “What’s got Gaunty’s goat today?”) and mentioned this incident and described the paper as “the Scum or some other low-rent rag”. He read this out, and a few minutes later some guy came on the phone and said that I must be someone who really looks down on van drivers. The stereotype that anyone with opinions that differ from those of commercial tabloids, or who despises such papers, cannot possibly be in a working-class occupation is not new.

The story sprang to mind as I read a tweet that warned the so-called élite of the riots in Paris, the populists being in charge of Italy and a few other signs we are supposedly missing, as if to warn us of the dire consequences of back-pedalling on Brexit. Meanwhile, “Tommy Robinson”, the far-right rabble-rousing football hooligan (former leader of the English Defence League, mortgage fraudster etc) held a demonstration in London (at which the noose in the attached picture was displayed) which was as ‘massive’ as a number of other EDL or related demonstrations. It seems only about 600 people turned up to this according to social media reports and was outnumbered by the counter-demonstration, as has been the case at many previous such demonstrations such as in Liverpool. They conveniently ignore that the cause of the demonstrations and now riots in Paris are local — principally fuel tax rises — and although one list of demands by a group claiming to represent the ‘movement’ mentions leaving the EU and NATO, it was not the cause of the demonstration.

Threatening ‘warnings’ about the ‘dangers’ of not respecting the “people’s will” on Brexit are legion; there was one in the Sun newspaper only last week. That one reminded us that a Labour MP was murdered in the run-up to the 2016 referendum, as if the same could happen again. However, she was killed by a lone Nazi who shouted “Britain first”, the slogan of a small group of bigots who made a big splash on social media but never were a mass movement. There simply is no movement in this country with the resources to mobilise to generate major unrest in this country over something like Brexit, for the simple reason that the country will still be a democracy whether it happens or not, that the economy will improve if there is no Brexit because companies will know that our links with our major trading partners remain intact, and because the only groups with a tendency to violence are those rooted in football hooliganism and the average middle-class Brexiteer wants nothing to do with them, and the Northern Irish paramilitaries, and there, the ones with a history of attacking the UK mainland oppose Brexit. Maintaining the current border arrangements to avoid a return to violence is the reason for the backstop arrangements, and a major argument not to leave the EU at all.

That leaves the British political élite and the media barons and their editors who have had the prospect of untrammelled power, of a return to the days when power meant power and nobody could tell Britain’s parliament that its laws had to be revised or struck down because they were incompatible with fundamental rights, dangled in front of them. They are the people with the most to lose from a withdrawal from Brexit. That situation was unlike what happens in any other representative democracy, of course, but was the case here until very recently — a Parliament dominated by a House of Commons itself dominated by one party could change the ‘constitution’ or abolish ancient rights. The European Court of Justice is not the court that oversees the human rights charter, which is part of the Council of Europe, not the EU, but the right-wing media and both main parties have blamed the HRA and the European Convention on Human Rights (or just ‘Europe’) for everything they cannot do and usually the claims are exaggerated. The right-wing media want a government unchecked by any charter of rights so that they can do their bidding and freely serve the interests of their corporate backers and anyone they identify as deserving to be thumped, the government can do it.

The political and media élite assume that “the people”, meaning the average white person, does not mind losing these protections because they assume that the government is on its side rather than that of illegal immigrants or whoever. People must understand that they really are not; they care only about keeping themselves rich and powerful and their long-term plan is to chip away at protections for workers’ rights, environmental standards, welfare protection for the unemployed and disabled and so on until all the progress made since the 19th century is washed away and they own the land we walk on and the air we breathe. So the exposure of the Tory Brexiteers’ vested interests, and their double dealing and hypocrisy, must be exposed so that people know who will lose from Brexit the most and who will lose the least, or gain. We must not be cowed by the empty threats made by gas-bags in the commercial press, and if anyone knows of real threats to the rule of law following Brexit or its cancellation, it is their responsibility to say so and it is the duty of any journalist confronted with such threats to challenge them, to demand evidence, to ask for names to be named. The political and media élite are not “the people”, they do not represent “the people” and do not have the people’s interests at heart but only their own. Their claims to all of this must be challenged so that nobody is afraid to stand up and say that the madness of Brexit must be stopped for the good of the country, and of everyone.

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