George Orwell famously wrote in his essay The Lion and the Unicorn that there’s a certain type of Englishman who loathes and despises his own country.
In 1941, Orwell referred to these people as the “intelligentsia.” Today, you might more accurately refer to them as the “Remainer elite”.
England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during “God save the King” than of stealing from a poor box.
I’m reminded instantly here of the writer and journalist Matthew Parris. Formerly a Conservative MP, Parris now devotes much of his energy to throwing hissy fits about Brexit. He writes the same piece so often that I’m surprised his employers — who include the Times of London and the Spectator — keep paying for it.
The one published in his latest Times column is pretty standard. It’s about how the Conservative party needs to purge itself of all the horrible, evil right-wingers who are ruining everything by demanding that Brexit happens:
“The Tories’ historic mission to contain the forces of populist nationalism and social and cultural reaction is close to collapse. The struggle to keep this faction inside the Conservative family is poisoning the parliamentary party’s sense of collegiality, and distorting government.
It could in the end destroy the whole party and is closer (I judge) to doing so than most realise.”
Note his contempt for what he calls “populist nationalism and social and cultural reaction” — what you and I might call “democracy.”
In June 2016 — you’ll excuse me if I have to keep repeating this point for the benefit of the slow Remainers at the back — the British people voted in a referendum whose decision, they were assured beforehand, would be honoured by the government.
Now Remainers like Parris are trying to rebrand this democratic decision, taken in good faith, as something unhealthy which needs to be contained and, ideally, reversed by responsible moderates like himself.
Does he have any idea what a fantastically arrogant and condescending line this is to take? Well obviously he doesn’t — he’s a Remoaner, and Remoaners live in a weird bubble of Brexit Derangement Syndrome. But suppose, for a moment, he were capable of parsing his own argument – what he would find running through it is a barely disguised loathing for the ordinary, decent British people who voted Brexit.
It’s entirely characteristic of this Remoaner psychopathology that he uses the word “populist” in a negative sense to mean “a bad thing which all responsible politicians should avoid endorsing at all costs.”
Brexit Worse than Suez and the Iraq War, Claims Times Journo and Ex-Tory MP Matthew Parris https://t.co/Po6kqiIijP
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 3, 2018
To show us what an irresponsible politician looks like, Parris’s screed is helpfully illustrated with a picture of Jacob Rees-Mogg.
But hang on just a second. Jacob Rees-Mogg wants to honour the 2016 Referendum result. By Parris’s lights, this makes Rees-Mogg a bad person — one of those “reactionaries” who have no place in the Conservative party. But surely, by any objective analysis, it’s Parris who is the dodgy “reactionary” here.
Parris wants — in defiance of the expressed wishes of the British people — to stop Brexit happening. He preferred the old order, presumably because it suited him better. So now he’s campaigning to preserve that old order — and the people be damned!
There’s another paragraph in Orwell which describes quite well the attitude of Ancien Regime holdouts like Parris:
They had to feel themselves true patriots, even while they plundered their countrymen. Clearly there was only one escape for them – into stupidity. They could keep society in its existing shape only by being unable to grasp that any improvement was possible. Difficult though this was, they achieved it, largely by fixing their eyes on the past and refusing to notice the changes that were going on round them.
In this particular instance, the past that Parris is fixated on is the forty years that Britain has spent as a European Union member-state. Parris sees it as a golden age of moderation and reasonableness.
As someone on Twitter has helpfully pointed out, Parris’s defence of the current EU hegemony has very little to do with love of the EU.
I would say this was pretty Eurosceptic: Matthew Parris in The Times, 2015. pic.twitter.com/G8wdnptPES
— TheBofinger (@BofingerThe) January 19, 2019
Rather, as Dan Hannan quite rightly observes, it has more to do with Parris’s hatred of the people who want to leave the EU: in other words, the majority of the British people.
There is nothing historically unprecedented about Parris’s contempt, loathing and fear for the unwashed masses and their dangerous ideas of autonomy and independence. On the contrary — as Brendan O’Neill often points out — elites have always sought to indulge their own interests at the expense of the people’s. Parris’s views may be repellently snobbish but they are not freakish. As Establishment behaviour goes it’s very much part of the norm.
Today’s Establishment — like Establishments before it, throughout history, from the Ancien Regime of Louis XVI to the George III’s colonial regime in pre-Revolutionary America — will persist in doing everything in its power to thwart Brexit because, for various reasons, it has done very nicely out of the European Union.
But it’s not going to win. Sooner or later, inevitably, it’s going to be defeated because, as Orwell puts it, there are “changes” going on. From Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil to Trump in the USA to Viktor Orban in Hungary and beyond, populism is on the march.
Ancien Regime holdouts like Parris may find this tendency so frightful that they have to cover their noses with their scented handkerchiefs and throw little tantrums. But they’re not going to stop it.
Whatever shenanigans all those Remainers get up to in parliament, the mood of the country is increasingly clear.
It’s a No Deal the people want. They’ll settle for nothing less.
Cheer up, Matthew. Sooner or later, you’re going to lose this one. But think of all the bleating columns you’ll get out of it.
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