Officially we’re not supposed to speculate on the civil disorder which might ensue if parliament succeeds in its campaign to thwart Brexit.
When Transport Secretary Chris Grayling tried to do so recently, he was loftily put back in his box by the Labour party grandee Roy Hattersley: “I don’t think many people would regard Chris Grayling as an expert on this matter, or, indeed, on anything.”
But now two academics have let the cat out of the bag. David Betz and MLR Smith are professors in the Department of War Studies, King’s College, London, and they know whereof they speak.
“We are expert in these matters. We have for decades studied why things fall apart, how a stable, essentially self-policing, productive society can turn into an ungovernable tumult roiling with rage,” they write in an essay for the eurosceptic Bruges Group.
Their conclusion: all those Remainer parliamentarians who think they’re being terribly clever using devious tricks to stop Brexit are playing with fire. If they succeed, Britain could well find itself plunged into “dirty war.”
“There is a dominant theory of the cause of revolutions, analysed by those like Ted Robert Gurr in Why Men Rebel (1970), according to which people rebel not so much when they are materially deprived or when they are repressed but when a significant gap materialises between the future they have been promised and expect and the reality of their actual circumstance.”
Britain, by their analysis, fits the bill perfectly. A new political establishment — careerist, self-serving, cynical, manipulative — has chosen to “frustrate the democratically expressed will of the people.” It has calculated that it can get away with this “state capture” and abuse of democracy because it believes that, unlike, say, the French, the British people don’t riot.
This is why the Remainer elite — though a minority — have felt able to be so brazen and unapologetic about their mission to defy the popular vote. They have corralled the British population into a “Hobson’s choice between Brexit-In-Name-Only and no-Brexit.” They are arrogant, remote and complacent enough to imagine they can get away with it. But will they?
Professors Betz and Smith think not.
“As Remainers are so keen to remind us, we are not an island whose fortunes and follies are separate from those of our near-neighbours. If people, goods, and ideas flow freely across the borders of Europe why should not the concept of the Yellow Jackets too?”
Besides underestimating the possibility of civil disorder, the Remainer class is also deluding itself about the longer term consequences of its tinkering with the rules and traditions of Parliament.
The Remainer Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has been acting as if the parliamentary rule book is whatever he says it is. While this may possibly enable his Remainer chums like Dominic Grieve to derail Brexit, it will also set the most appalling precedent. Any bunch of chancers who want to tinker with the constitution in the future may now feel they have carte blanche to do so.
The voting public, on the other hand, will lose all faith in a democratic process which they will rightly feel has been rigged against them:
“That the political class was taken aback by the 2016 referendum result, demonstrated that it has only a tenuous grasp of the feelings and aspirations of the wider population. If they miscalculated people’s position on the EU, then we have no guarantee that the gamble on the people’s willingness to remain compliant in the face of further broken promises and the dishonouring of a clear democratic instruction will go unanswered.”
I think they have a point. None of us wants violence. But if it does end up that way it will be entirely the fault of our political class. Their arrogance and complacency call to mind the Bourbons in the 1780s. And we know how that turned out.