Richard North, 02/02/2016  

There is a telling difference between us lesser mortals and men such as John Redwood. We believe that we need the 419 pages of Flexcit, and something like three years of study, to define how we leave the EU. Redwood believes he can do it in a mere 417 words, contradicting the bulk of what we have to say in the process.

The detail of what Mr Redwood is writing is covered fully by Pete North, and explored further in another piece, and then by Lost Leonardo in his own blog.

Both writers take exception to Mr Redwood's many assertions, including the most egregious of them which have him declaring that "the Leave campaign does not want the UK to seek a Norway style deal", that in order to leave "the UK could simply amend the 1972 European Communities Act" and that, after leaving, we could "simply rely on World Trade Organisation membership to stop tariffs and other barriers being imposed".

Not without justice, Pete describes this as being "stupid to the point of malevolence", while Lost Leonardo writes of Mr Redwood having written a post that is "so anachronistic that one wonders if the man dreams not of taking Britain back to the 1950s but to the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, without pesky big-brained mammals pointing and laughing at them blundering about the place".

Others have sought to challenge Mr Redwood directly, with Mike Stallard questioning his aversion to the Norway option, drawing attention to the fact that it is a "stop-gap". The response has been nothing if not perverse, with Redwood asserting that he has "no wish to end up in some EU-lite arrangement".

Such a facile response would tend to reinforce Pete's assessment that this is a malevolently stupid man writing. There can be little dispute that this is a particularly stupid response. No one with even the slightest familiarity with Flexcit could argue with any validity that it was "EU-lite".

However, of the many things we know about John Redwood, we would not mark him down as stupid. Everything points to him being a very clever man – a graduate of Magdalen College Oxford, a DPhil and a fellow of All Souls College.

The question therefore, is why such a clever man should behave is such a stupid fashion. And discussing this earlier with Christopher Booker, we concluded that the answer lay in the realms of animal psychology. Redwood is performing the age-old ritual of the cock proclaiming his dominance from the top of the farmyard dung-heap.

There is in fact a considerable body of scientific work, including the seminal 1993 work of Carlons Drews, on the concept and definition of dominance in animal behaviour. Drews defines the concept as:
… an attribute of the pattern of repeated, agonistic interactions between two individuals, characterized by a consistent outcome in favour of the same dyad member and a default yielding response of its opponent rather than escalation. The status of the consistent winner is dominant and that of the loser subordinate.
What Redwood is doing on his blog is displaying classic dominance behaviour, often known colloquially as "top dogging", although this is not a term you want to google without qualification, as it can lead you into rather different areas.

Often characterised as "aggression", there are recorded very different attributes to dominance behaviour, where the outcome is defined as much by the submissive behaviour of the subordinate as by the winner's actions.

What it boils down to is that alpha-male Redwood is marking his territory, prior to defending it, and thereby asserting his dominance. 

In a pack animal such as a dog, this might be done by urinating on the bounds of his domain – the scent of which is distinct to that animal. For the likes of Redwood, where such behaviour in the corridors of Portcullis House would be frowned upon and less effective, he relies instead on statements distinct to himself, then inviting agreement with them. This "agreement" he can then interpret as "submission", thereby reinforcing his self-perceived status as the pack leader.

We get exactly the same behaviour from Daniel Hannan, David Campbell Bannerman and even Ruth Lea – the latter establishing that the behavioural characteristic can present in the female. We're also getting it from Martin Durkin, with his misconceived attempt to make a film on leaving the EU.

The essence of the dominance behaviour is that it must, by definition, be egregious – specific to the individual. If it reflects the consensus, or agreement with a competitive alpha-male, it cannot invoke the desired submissive response that the initiator is seeking. The response becomes conformity rather than submission.

Thus, as we see with Redwood, the assertions have to be different - unique to him. But they are different for the sake of being different – they have to be in order to enable him to identify submission and assert his dominance.

In this, however, there is a sad irony. While dominance behaviour is normal in lower order animals – seen even in guinea pigs – in humans it is often a sign of insecurity and weakness. It is exhibited most often by males on the fringes of the "pack", who lack real power. Those who have power assert their dominance by exercising that power. They have no need for artefacts.

In all senses one can see this weakness in the likes Redwood and the others, even in Nigel Farage – all are individuals who have never quite made it and harbour deep-rooted inferiority complexes.

The real sadness, though, is that these individuals, in their quest to demonstrate their own personal status to their peers, are dragging down the "leave" campaign. Insistent on projecting perverse ideas for no better reason than to reinforce their own status, they cause confusion in the ranks and provide material for the opposition.

Dealing with these people is less easy. In the animal kingdom, a more powerful alpha-male will challenge the pretender and force a submissive display, thereby restoring order to the pack.

Humans, on the other hand, who are able to carve out intellectual "territories", don't work this way. They are able to define their territories by the number who submit (i.e., support) them and exclude (block) those who refuse to yield. Unwittingly, this is why Twitter is so successful (and often so unpleasant), as it allows free-rein for alpha-male dominance behaviour.

For the "leave" campaign, this is disruptive and dangerous. We have become carved into disparate "packs", each vying for its own band of supporters, the ultimate objective of leaving the EU having been subsumed into the more immediate need.

Fortunately the answer does not require the pack leader to square off with the challenger, fangs bared. The key is that we are dealing with weak people on the margins. Therein lies the clue – they should be marginalised further, ignored where possible. And their status-seeking nostrums should be ridiculed.

With Redwood, that is extraordinary easy to do. The animal instinct has buried his intellect and all we are left with is stupidity. We can, with ease, let stupid dogs lie.

comments powered by Disqus

Brexit - the first year - New e-book by Richard North
Brexit - the first year - New e-book by Richard North
Buy Now

Log in

Sign THA
Think Defence

The Many, Not the Few