Thursday 23 June 2016

Plutocrats versus racists

I am definitely pro-European. I am a Liberal, and I will vote for Remain when I get home. Bloggers are supposed to predict, and I predict - and have always predicted - that Remain will win by a clear margin.

I was buttressed in this idea by the unexpected cheering of Vince Cable by my neighbours when I interviewed him for the Steyning Festival. They responded to his invocation to vote for the interests of our grandchildren with startling acclamation.

But I fear this blog post should finally torpedo hopes of preferment among my fellow Liberals, because I must admit that - as the prospects of a Remain victory grows - I have been beset by Doubts.

These wobbles have been growing in recent days and I've found myself floating unnervingly. This is a new experience for me. They could pin a Lib Dem rosette on a pig and I would vote for it (and have done many times, come to think of it). Yet here I am swayed backwards and forwards by the last person I listen to on the Today programme.

The reason I will vote for Remain has always been the same. History suggests that, without some kind of shared framework, Europe rapidly unravels into war. I have two sons: I don't want them to have to fight. But I'm equally aware that the shared framework, whether it is the EU or the Roman Catholic Church, grates and frustrates the English.

There is also the small consideration that, if I find myself voting the same way as Nigel and Boris, I am probably wrong. This is hardly a positive affirmation.

My doubts have been about the unspoken, unaddressed flaw in the Remain side, exemplified by the public letter yesterday from some of the biggest companies in the country, including the chief executive of Barclays. I feel nervous about simply voting to endorse the status quo. I still do.

I am nervous about falling into step behind Barclays and the City, simply because it is easier to import cheap foreign labour than it is to solve the basic inequalities and cultural issues that prevent us using our own population effectively.

I am all for freedom of movement, after all. I'm not in favour of a rootless world where people have to move.

Because if behind the Leave side is the unpleasant whiff of racism, then behind the Remain side is the whiff of plutocracy.

That is not such an unfamiliar choice. In fact, it was the choice before the nation in 1939, as set out by William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) in his book Twilight Over England. As everyone knows, he chose racism (more on Joyce in my book about the wireless war V for Victory).

There was a hint of this also yesterday when Michael Gove rejected the idea that the financial markets should decide the future of the nation, with a little swipe at Goldman Sachs.

This is the great unarticulated case for Leave. It is worth considering why they have failed to use it clearly, and I think it is because frontline politicians like Gove have so little time to think, and are so insulated from the ferment of ideas, that they have not thought these arguments through as they could have done. So insulated too from the struggles of ordinary people.

They have put forward no proposals about a different way of organising trade, as they could have done. No proposals actually for taming the financial markets. No coherent case against plutocracy.

Because of that, they will lose. But racism can run a close race with plutocracy, and these are nervous moments. I only wish I could vote with some enthusiasm.

If Leave wins, then the fault will be in the intransigence of the EU leaders, who failed to heed Cameron's plea for help with the flexibility that Europe needs.

If Remain wins, and I believe they will, then we have to take on some of the concerns of those who voted to leave. When that number of people are worried about something, then our own future depends on some accommodation.

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Matthew Green said...

I think you have come down on the right side for now. I think we need better ideas to fight the plutocrats with, and when we do we might well find support from within other Union countries. But the models the current Leave politicians are playing from business-friendly Singapore to closed Japan are not at all progressive, and equally plutocratic. We need more time to build the revolution.

If Leave was built around a coherent, progressive vision, that would be another matter.

David Boyle said...

Thank you, Matthew. I think you're right.

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Oh, la, la said...

The Leave camp don't seem to like to be bogged down by details on how it's going to be great again, a la Trump.
They have the great ideas, the minions will do the heavy lifting. The lies with numbers has been amazing, as has been the willingness to believe them.
Amazed, how part of the Establishment themselves, they are somehow going to stand now for the - rightly angry and afraid little guy.
Globalisation doesn't have a referendum option. Like Attlee said, “the referendum is a device of dictators and demagogues”. Cameron decision to ahead was a folly, one he will regret as Leave might win. Either way, the bad smell will linger.
I need a drink.

Oh la la said...


Fasten your seat belt, it's going to be interesting ride.