Saturday, March 03, 2018

Ian Jack on The Causes of Brexit

Embed from Getty Images
England has been in a dreadful state for some weeks. Lord Coodle would go out, Sir Thomas Doodle wouldn’t come in, and there being nobody in Great Britain (to speak of) except Coodle and Doodle, there has been no Government. It is a mercy that the hostile meeting between those two great men, which at one time seemed inevitable, did not come off; because if both pistols had taken effect, and Coodle and Doodle had killed each other, it is to be presumed that England must have waited to be governed until young Coodle and young Doodle, now in frocks and long stockings, were grown up. 
Charles Dickens skewered a certain school of political journalism in Bleak House, but that school is pre-eminent today.

It's all about who's up and who' down among a small cast of players. Hot takes are filed on the hour. And, though I have always had a weakness for gossip myself, it's almost all instantly forgettable.

At my more thoughtful I prefer commentators like Neal Ascherson and Ian Jack who can bring a historical perspective to bear on contemporary events.

In today's Guardian Ian Jack sets out The Causes of Brexit (as he had to The Causes of the First World War as a schoolboy) and identifies eight of them:
  • Deindustrialisation
  • Immigration
  • Cultural dementia
  • The Dam Busters
  • English exceptionalism
  • The playing fields of Eton
  • The newspapers
  • Complacency
He writes under this last head:
During the Scottish referendum campaign in the summer of 2014 I met a painter and decorator on the island of Bute who said he was voting for Scottish independence. “You have to.” Why? He knew people in Sunderland, “and every one of them wants to leave Europe”. Sunderland, with its big car factory that exported cars to the continent? Surely not. “Yes, they want to leave.” He laughed at the daftness of it. I didn’t believe him.
And there was a lot of complacency about.

David Cameron and George Osborne had convinced themselves they were political geniuses. So what if the right wanted to limit who could vote in the referendum to skew the electorate in favour of Leave? They were bound to win it anyway.

Who was put in charge of the Remain campaign? Jack Straw's son, whose life had hardly been one of political struggle, and the mastermind of the Liberal Democrats' 2015 general election campaign.

And if half the passion that has been put into Remain since the referendum had been evident during the actual campaign the result might have been different. That said, much of that passion has been devoted to laughing at or demonising the people who voted Leave, which is hardly likely to win them over.

Anyway, read Ian Jack's piece for yourself and read him in the Guardian every Saturday - there is an archive of his columns on the paper's website.

No comments: