This began life as a Facebook comment to a post from a friend who felt that:
“the police’s handling of the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations (not to mention the 2011 riots) provide a pretty good answer to anyone who says ‘Brexit has to happen or there’ll be riots’
If the police can handle a large-scale, relatively co-ordinated series of mass actions by people of all ages, I reckon they can take a few Septuagenarians called Gary getting pissed, draping themselves in a union flag and smashing up a WHSmiths in Doncaster”
I can’t speak for other Leavers who had their own reasons for voting as such and thus their own feelings on the matter, but I can say that watching this ongoing story, I can have sensible, considered, intellectual thoughts about democracy and sovereignty, but also increasingly emotional reactions to the constant efforts of Remainers to undermine every step any government takes to get us to leave and declaring ultimate victory after every meaningless but time-consuming setback.
How did that “vital work of Parliament holding the government accountable” work out? Did *anything* useful or interesting related to Brexit happen as a result of Prorogation being overturned by a politicised ruling from the Supreme Court and Labour’s spiteful refusal to adjourn the House for the Conservative Party Conference? Anything at all to justify the apocalyptic rhetoric about the end of all democracy if Boris Johnson was allowed to go ahead with it? How ’bout that Article 50 Supreme Court that was going to change everything, took months, and was legislated away in an afternoon?
After three years of this I’ve gone from thinking “Gosh, I guess in the event of a second referendum between Remain or No Deal, I’d have to vote remain, ugh” to “Burn literally everything and every national institution down, unite Ireland and ban the Labour Party if that’s what it takes, yeah, that’s fine, where’s my blue passport, mate, bollocks to Remain”. MPs with mixed constituencies are aware of this rising level of feeling far more than people who hang out with people of like mind, hence their responses to each twist and turn are far more complicated than people who do not need to keep their finger on the political temperature. People deride them for wanting to keep their jobs and never think about the significance of what it means to keep your job when you’re an elected official who needs to win a majority vote of a population in a FPTP system.
I’ve never marched for Brexit. I’ve never demonstrated against People’s Vote, I’ve never written to my MP about it or even signed a petition. But I was one of the five million who voted Brexit Party in June to be super clear about what I think of ditherers, and I’m one of the unknown but I believe is in the hundreds of thousands of instinctively left-wing voters who has absolutely no intention of voting Labour at the next election because I think they’re a bunch of untrustworthy losers who couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery. Remainers are super vocal and point to their own political activity as a sign that they are winning the argument but at the end of the day, the government has consistently affirmed that we’re leaving and made febrile efforts to do so, so why would Leavers do anything other than watch suspiciously? We show up in the stats every time it matters and Remainers are thrown into frantic rhetorical gymnastics to explain how, actually, if you just include everyone who never voted (and do not matter), or combine all of the votes of everyone who voted for a party that stands for things that aren’t Brexit (36% of SNP voters voted Leave, but you didn’t know that, did you?), actually, everyone has repented of their sin and we should just revoke Article 50 and forget about it, no majority for no deal shutupshutupshutup.
I will tell you how I felt when I read the headlines that Boris Johnson had secured a deal his party could support – I felt gratitude. It’s all nonsense – the deal hasn’t passed, the DUP don’t like it, they still haven’t resolved the border, there’s no guarantee it’s going to get through the House and the over-arching objective is to achieve a trade deal that is going to get caught up in years of wrangling between business and labour groups just like TTIP did. Many, many references were made to the Canada trade deal in the ensuing debate, but everyone also forgets that CETA took seven years to negotiate not just because of the complexity of negotiations but because its provisions were highly politically controversial. I’m not looking forward to that fight.
But nonetheless I felt *relieved*, like the torturer had taken his foot off the rack and a flood of warm fuzzy feelings washed over me. I want to leave the European Union for many, many reasons I’ve expressed before. Boris Johnson has brought us meaningfully closer to that goal more than Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have ever done. I felt like he had got it done despite all the best efforts of Guardian columnists and PV activists to stop him, and I had a train of thought where I actually considered voting Tory at the next election, out of gratitude, before reminding myself that the Tories are in fact Tories and that is not acceptable. The only good Tory is a suppository.
There’s going to be a whole load of voters who have no such ideological brake on their inclinations. These are the people that are all to play for in this election. These are the voters who are quite possibly going to see Oliver Letwin stop this deal being passed, and Brexit delayed further, who are going to respond to that by marching down to the polls to give Boris Johnson the majority he needs to Get Brexit Done. Public services will continue to suffer as a result, and will continue to do so until this massive political gordian knot is resolved and people are able to vote without one’s position on Brexit permeating everything. But on Brexit, we now face a real choice at the next election.
I was berated by some Labour activists for mocking Labour, which I was, but underneath it is a sincere point. If you don’t really care about Brexit, you can vote Labour. They don’t really care either. But everyone else does, which is why Labour were hammered into third place at the European election and lost half of their MEPs. Labour are banking on Corbyn’s messaging about social justice and housing policy focussing minds when the endlessly trailed election is finally here and we have to decide what’s important, and who should be in charge of it. I’m skeptical of this strategy. I can honestly say that I have never had so many of my friends say that they do not know who they are going to vote for, usually with a grimace. I don’t know who to vote for. People who are clear that they want to vote for Brexit, however, are going to have a very clear choice, and man, are they going to be annoyed if they don’t get it.
So, if we end up with a government that doesn’t commit to leaving, or holds a second referendum that is narrowly lost to remain? I’m probably not going to join a riot, but there are essentially no circumstances in which I would, because that is not something I do. But I’m definitely going to be quietly hurling money and resources at the very next organisation that promises to pick up the fight, which is what I do. I’m not letting this go.
(I joined Open Britain the day after the referendum in 2016 because they claimed their goal was to keep Britain in the single market, which I supported. They explicitly said that you didn’t have to want to reverse the result to support that goal, and I’m now stuck on a mailing list that sends me endless People’s Vote Remainer propaganda, so I won’t be making the mistake of believing any of those people again.)
In such circumstances, I would imagine that for people whose response to volatile political situations is to get out on the streets and smash stuff up, that’s what they are going to do. It’s not going to be organised, and it’s not going to have middle class police liaison officers and people dressed as trees handing themselves into police stations because they banner dropped Big Ben, it’s going to be incoherent rage frustrated by the betrayal of the political class expressing itself in civil unrest and that’s happening in multiple countries literally right now, and the police are not responding by kettling papier mache octopodes. Spot the odd one out.
Brexit has to happen, or there will be riots.