Remain’s Project Sneer has laid bare the contempt politicians have for the uneducated riff-raff who elect them
June 22, 2016
Shah Sheikh (1172 articles)
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Remain’s Project Sneer has laid bare the contempt politicians have for the uneducated riff-raff who elect them

The EU referendum campaign, as rough and ugly as it has sometimes been, is the best thing to have happened to British politics in a generation.

Sure, the debates have been lame, the fearmongering out of control, and if I get pestered by one more rosy-cheeked Remain campaigner outside my local Waitrose — they know their target audience, eh? — I might lose the plot.

But never mind all that. For this campaign has done a really good thing, a thing that political theorists have flat-out failed to do: it has revealed the real divide in 21st-century Britain.

It has shown that the most serious schism is not between Blighty and the EU, between Little England and ’Orrible Brussels. No, it’s between the political class and ordinary people, right here at home.

Whatever happens, whether we stay or go, it’s this gaping chasm between an increasingly nasty political elite and a hacked-off public that will define Britain for years to come.

The most striking thing about the referendum campaign has been the sneering of politicians and the opinion-forming set at oiks who are thinking of voting leave. We’ve heard a lot about the coarseness of Ukip’s campaigning on immigration, but that pales into insignificance compared with liberals’ derision for the little people.

Remainers shouldn’t be known as Project Fear (though their doom-mongering game is strong); they should be known as Project Sneer.

They view the white working classes as an inscrutable tribe, possessed of mad beliefs and given to strange flag-waving rituals. There was Labour MP Pat Glass describing “older white men” as a “problem” in the debate about the EU. That is, these past-it duffers have the temerity to disagree with her. Or flick open any Polly Toynbee column of the past few weeks. She has railed with aristocratic gusto against white working-class voters who have “crap jobs” and who are “impervious” to Polly’s facts (opinion) about the EU. They say things like “F––– off Europe”, says outraged Polly. For Polly, such a terrible expletive is only acceptable in a Richard Curtis movie.

The terminology used by some Remainers has been as ugly as anything that’s fallen from Farage’s gob. Toynbee says the Leave campaign has “lifted several stones” and let out some ugly viewpoints. Oof. Various observers are using the Pandora’s Box metaphor to stoke up fear about the oikish views now finding expression in public life. We’re witnessing a “bonfire of reason”, says one columnist.

Apparently, the dumb sections of the public flirting with Leave are just being overemotional. They’re making a “howl of frustration”, says JK Rowling. Their emotions “play a larger part than rationality”, says a writer for the Guardian.

The view of the visceral masses as being one dodgy Ukip poster away from becoming a violent pogrom is summed up in the key argument of the Remain camp: that if we leave the EU there will be mayhem. In the words of former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, a Brexit would “strengthen xenophobia [and] toxic politics”. Basically, without the guiding, calming hand of the EU, the throng will go wild. Remainers see themselves as the lid on Pandora’s Box, and ordinary people as its crazy contents.

Across the media there has been an ugly chuckling at the know-nothing electorate. I’ve never been more ashamed of being a journalist as I have over the past few weeks. Every poll showing that people don’t know all the facts about the EU is held up as evidence of what a folly it was to ask them to vote on it. The public is “wrong about nearly everything”, chortled the Independent. Yet I bet none of these media Remainers could name a single one of the 28 commissioners on the EC. Thickos.

The class divide on the EU is astonishing. The capitalist class loves it, with only 5 per cent of big businesses supporting a Brexit; the working classes don’t: around 60 per cent of working-class voters want out. The university-educated generally support the EU; the non-university educated generally don’t.

So Project Sneer expresses a class-tinged contempt. It’s an elitist howl of frustration, if JK Rowling will forgive me for turning her phrase against her side, against the idiot public. The people will not soon forgive this sneering.

But it’s good that Pandora’s Box has been opened. For it has revealed the true fissure in Britain. It has exposed that this isn’t really a whites vs immigrants thing or a London vs Brussels thing: it’s a Them vs Us thing, it’s the political class vs the people.

And it’s this divide that fuels the existence of the EU itself. Politicos love the EU precisely because it allows them to do politics without always having to consult the throng. And ordinary people are suspicious of the EU because they recognise that it’s the mechanism through which their democratic clout is watered down.

The divide over the EU is one between a political elite that wants to do politics far from the crowd, and a crowd that would rather politics was done out in the open. Simple. How brilliant that this deep, homegrown split over democracy itself is now in the spotlight.

Source | Telegraph