If you’re in favour of Brexit (British exit from the European Union) it probably means you’re an oik like me or Michael Gove rather than a proper posh person like David Cameron. Brexit is our Peasants’ Revolt.
This is what I argue in the Spectator this week and I must admit it wasn’t a conclusion I expected to reach at all.
Seriously: all the pukka chaps with their big houses and stables and undergardeners and so on; all the hedge funders with their third houses in Monaco – I’d thought they’d all be instinctively for Brexit because it’s the obvious, intelligent and right thing to do. Patriotic, economically astute, socio-politically necessary, liberating, sound.
But talking to most of my socially smart friends, I’ve discovered that the opposite is true. Posh people may sympathise with a lot of the arguments for Brexit, but they’re still going to plump for Remain because they’ve decided being in favour of leaving is just a bit common.
For further evidence of this, see also Sir Nicholas -Soames — who recently assured us that voting to remain is what his grandfather Winston Churchill would have done; Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, who promoted his Europhile views in the letters pages of the Financial Times via a high-minded personal attack on Boris Johnson; and those previously Eurosceptic Conservative MPs who have decided, on second thoughts, to vote with the Prime Minister: a significantly higher proportion of them were privately educated than among the Tories campaigning for ‘leave’, who tend to be of a more below-the-salt grammar, state or minor-minor independent school persuasion, such as Chris Grayling, Steve Baker and, of course, Michael ‘Oiky’ Gove.
Had I thought a bit harder, though, I oughtn’t to have been so surprised. There is, after all, precedent from the Thatcher era:
Who were her greatest loyalists, the ones most in tune with her radical programme? Why, they were grammar-school types with slightly suspect accents, such as Robin Harris and Norman Tebbit — not the plummy-voiced grandees such as Heseltine et al, who were the ones who eventually did for her.
As well as more recently:
This is also true, I think, of the upper social echelons’ attitude towards Nigel Farage. It’s not that they disagree with much of what he says: how could they, when he’s so refreshingly candid and reactionary and un-PC? But they’ve persuaded themselves that, like Ukip, he’s just a bit too spivvy and downmarket to deserve their open affiliation. This enables them to have their cake and eat it: privately enjoying his every home truth but never being tainted by that awkward, embarrassed feeling which tends to accompany frankly expressed views on matters like immigration.
Our upper orders have always been overburdened with physical courage and decidedly short on moral courage. This is perfectly understandable because their ultimate interest is the long term survival of their family’s social position – and if you want to achieve that, then the last thing you want to do is rock the boat. If you’re at the top of the pile, then anything other the status quo is too much of a risk.
But what it does mean is that their interests are not necessarily Britain’s interests. Think of all the Whiggish toffs who were happy to treat with Napoleon: they’d happily have allowed Britain to become a French satrapy so long as they got to keep their estates. Or think of Lord Halifax virtually caving to Hitler in the Second World War.
Please don’t use this as an excuse for your immensely tedious class rants. I went to public school and Oxford don’t forget – and I’m absolutely bloody sound on everything. Rather, I just wanted to raise your awareness of just how hard the struggle to escape the EU is going to be, even though we have all the arguments on our side. There are layers and layers of vested interests – including many people who ought to be with us but aren’t – who are going to resist Brexit at every turn, not because Remaining is the right thing to do but because they have too much personally to lose.
It’s the same with Quantitative Easing, by the way. I think the asset price inflation cynically and deliberately orchestrated by George Osborne, using his imported Canadian monkey Mark Carney, and applauded by pretty much the entire City (which we’re all encouraged to love because our economy depends on it apparently) must be one of the most wanton, unjust and socially divisive policies ever pursued by a British government. And they’ve got almost clean away with it because all the same sophisticated posho types who are going to vote Remain have been happy to hold their noses and look the other way because their house prices have gone up and because they’ve sufficient spare cash to play the markets which have also gone up, again, largely as a result of money printing.
You need to be instinctively radical and brave and contra mundum not to get sucked into the corruption of this establishment. I’ve managed it. Most of you reading this too, I imagine, have managed it. But it hasn’t been a recipe for an easy life, has it? Nor was it for those 14th century Peasants. Just look at what happened to Wat Tyler…