Richard North, 14/05/2019  
 


Talks between the Tories and Labour are on the brink of collapse, or maybe not. If we're to believe what we're told, there is no agreement within the Cabinet on what to do next, and there is no "plan B" on the horizon other than to turn to parliament again for another drubbing.

Even if Mrs May did manage to agree a deal with Labour, the chances are that her own party would reject it, possibly precipitating the terminal split that has been long expected and is overdue in coming.

Given the political vacuum, it is entirely understandable that some people might turn to a passing demagogue for deliverance, even if history provides endless examples of how this provides no solution at all. But then, people aren't exactly "turning" to Farage. They are having a risk-free punt on him, in a meaningless election. Giving the Tories a "kicking" is flavour of the month, and there is no better way than to vote for the spiv.

After that, it remains speculation as to whether Mrs May will resign in the near future. She has yet to set a date. And for all the frenzy, the general election isn't until 2022. Even though the media's favourite hobby is predicting whether the date might be brought forward, there is no firm indication that we are going to see an early contest.

Meanwhile, the closure of the Swindon Honda plant has been confirmed. According to one source, workers were shunted into a room and shown a DVD confirming the plant closure. They were then told if they had any questions to go to their union rep or HR.

Says Unite regional secretary, Steve Preddy, "Workers have been left stunned by the utter callousness of the company, which has chosen to deliver this devastating news to their loyal workforce first by media leaks and then by DVD". This, of course, is nothing whatsoever to do with Brexit but "is part of Honda's broader global strategy in response to changes to the automotive industry".

With Jaguar Land Rover having a hard time, and Ford preparing to cut hundreds of jobs at its Dunton technical centre, it is perhaps just as well that motor manufacturing seems progressively to be shutting down in the UK. It will save it having to adapt to Brexit changes, when and if they come.

In fact, this opens the way for a new game in town. We can junk years of work and hundreds of thousands of words of analysis on the effects of Brexit, and simply walk away with a seraphic smile because a spiv-in-a-suit is standing up in front of his adoring fans and telling us that no-deal is the way to go.

This is "new politics" with no difference. Such politicians don't need policies. They don't need to get their facts right. In actuality, they don't need facts at all. They can just rattle off a few phrases, like "WTO deal" and they will be guaranteed an uncritical reception from their faithful.

However, if there is a message in this for the "political classes", it perhaps is not one that was originally intended – if indeed there is anything there as coherent as an intention. It says to the politicians that they are wasting their time working up serious policies. They just need to dip into the rubbish bag – any old toss will do as long as it is a crowd-pleaser.

In a very real sense, though, those politicians have brought it on themselves. In their own ways, they've been feeding us any old toss for years. "Brexit means Brexit", our prime minister told us. "No deal is better than a bad deal", she also declared. And everything was going to be "strong and stable".

What Farage has done is pick up this disdain for the truth, amplify it and reflect it back to his own audience, for his own purposes. If the "establishment" politicians are at ease with patronising their audiences, feeding them with undiluted tosh, he can do the same – only better.

Divorced from even the slightest hint of responsibility for what he says or does, Farage is freed from any of the normal restraints that might serve to keep him on the straight and narrow. He can lie fluidly, changing the story to suit the mood and whatever is needed to keep the mob happy.

Interestingly, even critics in the media can be ignored. John Crace can chunter on for all he is worth, but he works for the Guardian, which can be dismissed with a quick sneer.

As for the BBC, this is the "enemy" – a role which it seems to have developed for itself with consummate ease. Anything said there, which does not meet with approval, can be dismissed as "bias". Awkward questions can be turned aside, easily deflected by screams of outrage which will bring admiring plaudits from his fans.

There is no sense, anywhere, that the media is part of the democratic process and that its task might be to call politicians to account. Maybe because it has been performing so badly for so many years that this has given the likes of Farage his opening. The establishment titles have lost support and respect. People are only too willing to see the worst in them.

On the other hand, Farage has his claque, in the Telegraph, in Breitbart and Spiked online, the latter ludicrously dismissed as "right wing", despite its Communist antecedents. For all its detestation of Farage, the left-wing press have never really understood him, or his appeal.

Crace, though, does understand the dynamic. Of Farage's venture up to darkest Yorkshire (and it doesn't get much darker than Pontefract), Crace writes:
Farage acknowledged the applause, his plastic perma-smile stretching into a fixed grin. These weren't really his people, but he needed to make them believe they were. He needn't have worried. The crowd of overwhelmingly white over-50s men and women weren't there to make any demands on him. They just wanted him to sprinkle a bit of stardust their way. Nigel relaxed a little. Though not too much. This was the new, reinvented Farage, not the slightly pissed joker of years gone by. Stay on message. Give them what they want. Then give them more of what they want.
And that's what its all about. Twenty years as a professional politician, and his apprenticeship canvassing for his first Euro-elections in 1999, has taught Farage how to work a crowd, a skill which he has honed and refined almost to perfection. And he knows more than most that rhetoric, not detail, keeps the mob happy.

But the better he gets the worse it gets. If his audience can be palmed off with the low-grade crowd pleasers that has become Farage's stock-in-trade, there is no mileage in expending the effort on research and analysis, to give people a realistic account of the issues they face.

As I have noted before on this blog, when we were working up the arguments for Flexcit, I barely expended any energy on dismissing the WTO option. It was so self-evident that it was not a viable option that I included it for the record, without troubling readers with too much detail.

If, on the basis of next to no research, and even less understanding, Farage can then tour this land promoting this self-same WTO option, to rapturous applause, then we have gone beyond the bounds of rationality. Mere reason is a waste of time when the mob is so easily pleased. Crace picks up on this, describing it as "an all too possible version of the future":
One where nuance and complexity have given way to soundbites and populism. Where lip service is paid to healing divisions, providing it's everyone else who is making the compromises. It was one of the most genuinely disturbing political events I've ever attended. And Westminster ought to be shit-scared.
But we have been there before. The picture shows the Britain First "peace rally" of July 1939, where Oswald Mosley kept a crowd variously estimated between 30-60,000 in rapture for over an hour. And from that speech comes this nugget:
Well, fellow Britons, if a Movement which has been born and has run for less than seven years, a Movement started with thirty two men, without newspapers, without Press, without money, and without resources, with nothing in the world except the English spirit alive and flaming in their souls, if in less than seven years we have driven the Parties together in this corrupt conspiracy to prevent us speaking to the British people, how much longer before we win and they perish?
In eighty years, the rhetoric has hardly changed, and neither is it any harder for the demagogue to fill a hall with his adoring faithful. "Let us make no mistake", Mosley said those eighty years ago:
This Movement is a revolutionary Movement, a Movement which seeks no compromise, a Movement that will stand for no unity with the Parties of betrayal. We stand for union of the British people - yes, we do - the union of the British people in a new system of their own creation, but a system purged and cleansed of this corruption. Our Movement, therefore, is a Movement of revolution, a Movement which will be given its power by the declared will of the British people, not merely with their consent, but with a passion of enthusiasm behind it that the old Parties of Democracy have never known. We are a Movement of revolution in fundamental challenge to everything for which the old Parties stand.
A year later, Mosley was in prison. And if history repeats itself, now might be a good time for it to do so.






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