The Sixth Form Remainer-Left
BY SAM WHITE
British politics, a place of stirring oratory, robust cut and thrust, and an effectively adversarial tradition, between politicians, parties, and the public they serve.
Or at least, that was British politics until about five minutes ago.
Suddenly though, the political arena is highly strung and in a state of permanent, gasping outrage. Anything that comes out of a Tory or a Brexiteer’s mouth is at risk of being branded beyond the pale, or likely to incite violence, or a coded message to some orc-like, racist fringe, lurking in the shadows, enamoured with Priti Patel.
And anyone who has a full-bodied pop at the political class is a thug, and should be kept a close eye on, but that’s if, and only if, they’re positioned right-of-centre.
So, as was well rinsed on Twitter, when Boris Johnson said humbug, it was cause to fall over in shock. He had said it in response to the suggestion that his language stirs up trouble, and reference was made by his accuser to the late Jo Cox, but, with all due respect, what difference does that make? Is the man not allowed to disagree? Can he not refuse to go along with, in this case, a false and opportunistic suggestion? Or does the mere mention of the name Jo Cox mean that the listener must nod and acquiesce, even as a defamatory accusation is hurled in their direction?
I don’t think it would be fair to demand such obedience, and I think of all the possible ways to reject the premise being advanced, humbug is second only to poppycock in its mildness.
Let’s not forget, also, that the initial language that led to Boris being barracked was surrender, as in, his calling the Benn Act a Surrender Act. I mean, come on. If you can’t cope with the word surrender then it’s this simple: get out of politics.
This then leads to Priti Patel’s speech at the Tory Party Conference, in which she used the phrase ‘North London metropolitan elite’. Now, I don’t know precisely the areas of London in which the metropolitan elite live, but I suspect the north is a heartland, and if not, then the stereotype is strong enough that we all know what she’s talking about: the holier-than-though, politically correct, prole-hating Guardian readers who have been forcefully weeping and demanding an end to democracy ever since the tail-end of June, 2016.
But the metropolitan elite doesn’t like people criticising the metroplitan elite, and so on Twitter they ruled with a bewildering level of self-righteous pomposity that Patel’s words were, in fact, an antisemitic dogwhistle.
Yes, this is the same Priti Patel who was famously in trouble for having secret meetings with Israeli government officials. That is, the same Priti Patel the hard-left hate for being too close to Israel. The same Priti Patel who has never, in her entire career, done a single thing to suggest even the slightest hint of antisemitism or any other kind of racism.
In fact, due to her own race, her career success would, were she on the left, be hailed as a victory for diversity. Conservatives tend not to do this, preferring to concentrate on character and policy. I personally think focusing in on someone’s race, sex, or sexuality is crass and small-minded. But the point is that the left would behave that way, were it not for the fact that Patel disagrees with them, leading them instead to actually smear her as a racist, for the crime of… no, come to think of it, for no crime at all. For absolutely nothing.
And that’s the great thing about labelling something a dogwhistle. You can take whatever you like and claim that it’s a coded message, and your accusation, no matter how absurd, is unfalsifiable. In fact, denying that it’s a coded message is exactly what someone defending a coded message would do, so, checkmate, whistlers.
Passing mention must also go to the story of Nigel Farage being reported to the police and bawled about on Twitter, for using the phrase, “take the knife to” with relation to Whitehall bureaucrats. Do we really need to explain that he’s using a figure of speech? Is that the level at which we’re now operating?
This war on metaphor, and on recognisable ways of describing intolerant London ‘liberals’, and on Boris Johnson having a personality, is becoming tiresome.
It’s as if the entire left wing has degenerated into the most obnoxious and irritating sixth form socialist you can imagine. And this regression is affecting very mainstream, relatively famous voices, who like to domineer Twitter and soak up the adulation of their weak-minded flunkies.
The resulting clown show is increasingly off-putting for those who have an interest in politics, but now have to wade through so much pointless sludge, while having fascist yelled at them by some millionaire light entertainer in his fifties, due to having done the unthinkable and voiced dissent.
Something else struck me when I looked at another story. It was about Lady Hale, she of the Supreme Court’s deeply controversial decision to rule unlawful Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament. In direct reference to Boris’ recent jibe at David Cameron, when he called the former prime minister a ‘girly swot’, Hale, speaking to the Association of State Girls’ Schools, reflected that she herself had once been a girly swot, used the phrase, “let’s hear it for the girly swots”, and stood in front of an image of herself on which was the quoted headline,“Spider woman takes down Hulk: viewers transfixed by judge’s brooch as ruling crushes PM”. This is a triumphant description of the Supreme Court decision, referencing a spider brooch Lady Hale wore, and a line referring to The Incredible Hulk that Boris Johnson had used.
As absurd as some of the details in that passage might sound, Hale’s performance points to what Brexit supporters have strongly suspected to be the case all along: political prejudice at the highest level, and attempts at an establishment stitch-up.
As I read about this, I could still remember that the natural left-wing response to such events would once have been justified indignation, and a robust challenge to institutional power and its misuse.
But that is no longer the case.
Nowadays, if you express your contempt for this new aristocratic class—not the elite, but an elite—lording it over you and messing about with your vote, then the left will have you escorted from the premises, while an MP sobs aggressively in your direction.
What’s happened is that the left quite like elitism now. They like their elite, at any rate, but whatever you do, you mustn’t mention the existence of such an elite. These sixth form aristocrats don’t like that at all.
Sam White is a writer whose work has appeared in The Spectator, Quillette and Vice. Follow him on twitter: @SamWhiteTky