Maggie Lennon may have stumbled on the blueprint for Johnson’s recent actions. In 1997, the father of Jacob Rees-Mogg co-authored a book called The Sovereign Individual, addressed to the super rich which stated that from around 2000 a new age would dawn, one in which sovereignty would pass to super rich individuals and that the nation state would die.
When I hear the phrase post-Brexit I can’t help thinking Post-Apocalyptic. And like all post-apocalyptic futures we are rapidly moving to the dystopian model.
If ever there was case of knowing what we know, knowing what we don’t know, or not knowing (or recognising) what we do know, or even (and it’s just getting silly now) not knowing what we don’t know, then this is it.
Though what we do know is that it WILL happen. We can’t keep our fingers in our ears singing lalala go away. It now only a matter of to what degree will it happen, over what timescale and for how long will we have to measure the fallout, possibly, indeed most likely, in decades.
The British State is on the brink of a disastrous isolationist leap in the dark and to the right, and into the arms of Trump’s America with all chlorinated chicken you can ask for and all the privatised healthcare nobody wants, except Cabinet Ministers with shares and off shore investments in private health care.
The result? Well if I knew that I’d be a very smart cookie indeed. Without doubt at some point (and I’m not hedging my bets) it will see the break-up of Britain, not least because the current constitutional arrangements and devolution across all the devolved administrations isn’t working—quite literally in the case of the North of Ireland.
But the situation, as they say, is fluid, and until last week, the British state was balanced on a precipice as the rise of right wing populism looked set to push us over that cliff. With Johnson’s flagrant disregard for the constitution (yes, it’s not written down but we do have one, it’s just that it’s nigh impossible to re-enforce); possibly the law (and certainly its spirit if not the letter) and the very basic rules governing representative democracies, we have now tipped over the edge. Once Parliament is deemed irrelevant, even for a brief period, precedent suggests it will become so again until maybe that’s becomes its default position.
When the Brexiteers said they wanted to take back control, we now realise they meant for their own small cabal.
The triumph of what is claimed as the will of the people (however narrow a triumph) over the idea that you elect people to represent the best interpretation of that will, has led us to this sorry state.
But Power To The People is a catchier, sexier chant is it not, than Power In The Hands Of The Elected Representatives Who Are Elected By The People. But then right wing populism in all its forms is an easier and simpler message to sell than left wing populism. Not least because for those proposing it – white middle class men of money, privilege and entitlement, whether new or old money, the establishment – are the ones who benefit for its outcomes. They have a vested self-interest in promoting it. While they always know we are most not certainly not all in it together, unless you mean the shit, they are in fact best placed to take advantage of deregulation, of tax tricks, of neoliberalism, of othering people to distract from the harsh economic realities of the policies they push. And they are the ones in charge. Unlike the working class women and men who have been taken in and who will at some point in the not too distant future – witnessing the erosion of their rights – begin to wonder what all that talk about the will of the people was. There’s a lovely scene in the film version of Doctor Zhivago when on discovering that the country estate has been sequestered by the will of the People’s Government, the old aristocrat picks up a shovel intent on smashing the lock and shouts “Well I’m one of the People now”. But just as Nikolai Nikolayevich discovers, the will of the people, doesn’t belong to the people any more. It’s been misappropriated for nefarious means.
Left wing populism on the other hand, which has in the past appealed and should appeal again to the masses, is targeted at exactly these bastions of establishment. So it’s fairly self-evident that an ideology that promotes the state over greed, that promotes wealth distribution rather than iniquitous wealth gain (that NEVER trickles down) is never going to get the support of the establishment especially an establishment who now more than ever have their grubby little fingers in the pies of the media, industry, offshore tax havens, self-interested policy making; in effect controlling how society works. So in times past in the UK, when the left have made advances, it’s been despite of the odds stacked against them. And so I really fail to see how we would ever see a socially democratic UK again, let alone a socialist one.
But I digress and let us be clear, rather like Theresa May (remember her) used to say she was……
Brexit isn’t new; it isn’t even a result of a hard core of nanny boys in the Tory party rattling their sabres. It’s not about giving anything back to the people who voted for it, if it is about sovereignty it’s not about the sovereignty of the State and I’ll return to that in a minute.
There are 3 things that have driven this:
Firstly Brexit is the inevitable result of a project in certain parts of these benighted isles that goes back at least 80 years, with its toxic relationship with Europe. Because while we may have won the war, we most certainly didn’t win the peace and that is just not cricket. And if you want a definitive guide to that relationship and to fully understand the relationship and all that has led to where we are today please read Fintan O’Toole’s masterly book Brexit the Heroic Failure
Secondly, it’s the inevitable outcome of the rise of neo-liberalism with its creed of deregulation, free market capitalism, individualism and the shift away from the “big state”; and if you want to learn more about that try Naomi Kline’s The Shock Doctrine, if that doesn’t make you angry, you best check you are still breathing. There’s even a chapter on Brexit!
And thirdly that old chestnut sovereignty. I turn to a little known book – outside extreme right wing think tanks – written by William Rees Mogg, father of Jacob, and hirer one presumes of the infamous nanny. In 1997 he co-authored a book called The Sovereign Individual, addressed to the super rich which stated that from around 2000 the big millennium projects weren’t going to be dome stadia or other legacy projects but in fact a new age, one in which sovereignty would pass to super rich individuals and that the nation state would die.
“The nation state will not endure in anything like its present form it will starve to death as its tax revenues decline because the new elite have declared itself sovereign and thus are no longer taxable Mass democracy and citizenship will be left behind; it is only a matter of time before mass democracy goes the way of its fraternal twin Communism.”
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what Johnson has been up to, it’s the opening act of this Brave New World.
While Teresa May attacked citizens of the world as being citizens of no-where, that is in fact what the super-rich elites are, who run our economies. They operate outside of political and certainly tax jurisdiction boundaries
And there’s no room in the Rees Mogg vision for the workers, or for you and me. Just as gated communities are springing up as children from social housing in some parts of London are not allowed to play in some playparks, so the masses the citizens will be walled out…or walled in.
So when people say BREXIT is all about sovereignty and democracy remember what they really mean is it’s the shift of one and the death of the other. Boy that’s one millennium project with some legacy. Because if by some magic and the wishes of Unicorns BREXIT were to get stopped in its tracks, the threat of this dystopian vision of William Rees Mogg and co. won’t go away, it won’t go back in the butler’s pantry. We are the head of a juggernaut, it’s going to happen, BREXIT just makes it happen quicker and pulls off that most brilliant of political shape sifting….it’s made the electorate believe it’s what they want, its giving them what they say they want, it’s giving them the illusion of control while in fact taking ALL the control back to themselves. The turkeys literally are voting for Xmas
So far so disastrous. Have I told you anything you didn’t know? Maybe? Maybe not? But at least I’ve given you some suggestions for a good read in the cold evening ahead when power cuts mean only reading by candlelight will be open to us as entertainment. You know what they say: You can take the girl out of bookselling, but not the bookseller out of the girl.
The British State is going rogue. It’s eating itself, and I for one, don’t want to be on the menu.