B**locks to Brexit

You have reached the headquarters of the ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ campaign.  I’m sorry we can’t take your call right now; please leave your death threat after the tone.


I’m pleased to report that yesterday’s ‘New European’ was much more sensible than last week’s extended vitriol from Will Self.  The letters page shows some readers agree with me and I have heard from at least one reader of this blog who considers it a ‘self-indulgent rant.’

But this week sees a return to form, with intelligent contributions including a page by Mitch Benn in which he channels Spooner by coining the word ‘fustercluck’ and other contributions on various aspects of our daily deepening hell-hole.  The cover shows a detumescent Big Ben and several searing cartoons express satisfactorily the anger and despair most of us are feeling right now.  I would of course order my Bollocks to Brexit mug, t-shirt, coaster and front-of-house banner, but for the fact that such things are deeply divisive and likely to provoke little except ire.  For the same reason I have not signed the petition for a second referendum (or to revoke article 50 or whatever it was) because, much as I would love a second referendum, it would prove horribly divisive and lead to millions of leave voters feeling utterly betrayed.

I can’t remember a time when we as a nation were so divided.  During the Thatcher years it was sometimes hard to talk to people on the other side; but that was a walk in the park compared to this.  And there’s no solution in sight…


I don’t know how much this has to do with social media: certainly the ‘echo chambers’ everyone talks about seem real enough to me (at any rate I have very few friends on Facebook who are not politically on the left) and unquestionably what passes for debate on there consists of people lining up on one side and slagging the other side off.  I’ve been off Facebook for six months now: I honestly thought I’d never make it this far, imagining that when the original month was up I’d be champing at the bit and rushing to log on again.  But no.  The more time goes by the less I feel the pull of its blue pages and the more acutely I become aware of the effect it was having on me.

Basically to scroll the news feed is to experience whirlpools of emotion; one image, one story after another all demanding React!  React!  React!  Here’s a variety of emoticons you can use if words fail you!  React!  What with angry political items and heartwarming photos of cats it’s like being alternately slapped around the face and offered chocolate.  There’s very little genuine interaction (less and less all the time in my experience) even with people I know in real life, so that the reason for ‘doing Facebook’ in the first place, ie to have some social intercourse in what is essentially the solitary life of a writer, has gone.  I guess I’ll have to resort to meeting real people in actual cafes now…

Kirk out





10 thoughts on “B**locks to Brexit

  1. I’m not sure I’ve ever had social intercourse in a cafe before… although I do chat in them more these days and in not-quite-facebook-but-similar-online-circles less and less.

  2. The argument against revoking A50 because it would be ‘divisive’ is a Brexiter one. You should be very wary of ending up on the same side as those people, regardless of your reasons. If Brexit goes ahead IN ANY FORM, it will be a victory for fascists, racists, xenophobes and all other varieties of reactionary. I suspect you know this, but you are taking your lead from Corbyn who is himself a Lexiter and hopes to create his own socialist utopia outside the E.U.’s ‘capitalist club’. What Corbyn fails to understand (largely because he lives in a North London left-wing bubble) is that right-wing populism will always trump left-wing populism – Brexit will do nothing but create the conditions for generations of right-wing populist rule by people who want to drag the clock-hands back. I draw no distinction between the adipose bar-room rent-a-gobs who fill the pubs of ex-mining towns and the ‘British patriot’ who stabbed and shot Jo Cox while screaming ‘Britain First!’ Do you really want, by your passivity, to facilitate this clusterfuck (a very old phrase, btw)? If you don’t, then get that petition signed. I signed it, and I don’t normally signed petitions.

  3. Another option would be to make the EU more accountable democratically and ultimately to convert it to a federal republic. If this can’t be done, being in the EU is a compromise which renders the nations of these isles potentially vulnerable to being manipulated by the forces of global capitalism. But I’m wary of phrases like “right wing populism will always trump left-wing populism”. If we’re socialist, we may believe in the improvability of human behaviour and that right wing populism is a contingent fact, rather than something we will always have to live with. What are human beings after all? Are we naturally selfish in this way? Many people with that view support the Right because they don’t see these things as mutable. This is not my main point though.

    Looking at vaccination as an example of a contentious issue, the main problem with the argument is not the case for either side, but the fact that there are two polarised sides and little mutual respect and will to listen. Whereas either way, according to each pole, terrible damage could be done if the other side prevails, that damage is trivial compared to the harm done by reality tunnels and failure to empathise. This is the source of the current “conversation”.

    I am a reluctant remainer. I believe in socialism in this country, which means reducing trade to avoid manipulation by global capitalism, but sadly the EU is the least worst option.

  4. There is also the argument – excellently put on last night’s QT by David Lammy, despite Fiona Bruce trying to shut him up – that, while there is only one ‘Remain’, there are multiple versions of Brexit. Hard, Soft, Norway+, Canada+, Common Market 2.0, etc, etc. The stupid question that the dreadful David Cameron so complaisantly put to the electorate (‘Do you want to be in or out?’) got an appropriately stupid answer, one he hadn’t bargained on getting. In any case, only a politically naive person would believe that the Frauderendum was about the E.U. – it was all about keeping the Conservative Party together as a political entity and shoring up David Cameron’s leadership. Then Johnson and Gove (the Bialystock and Bloom of Brexit) got in on the act with their red-bus promises. Their aim was not to win but to defenestrate Cameron. As it happened, they succeeded on both accounts. And you seriously think we should have to live the fall-out of this for generations? No. I don’t want a second Frauderendum, I want A50 revoked. A few people might get on their Zimmer frames to protest, but they’ll soon get fed up with it. The more able-bodied, who might cause real damage, can be usefully imprisoned. I think the country is divided anyway, regardless of what happens, and will be for the rest of my (and your) lifetime. But better divided and relatively prosperous than divided and poverty-stricken or an even more obvious American satellite state. Do you really think a dishonestly-won vote should be honoured just so Jacob Rees-Mogg can maximise his pension?

  5. And, actually, there are other versions of ‘Remain’. There is the half-arsed membership that Britain insisted on having up to 2016, with its opt-out clauses, or there is ‘Hard Remain’ – Schengen and the Euro. I’m for ‘Hard Remain’. I travelled through Belgium recently and it was great to get off the Eurostar and not have to go through the miserable passport rigmarole. It would also be great not to have to chance currency when I travel less than a hundred miles across the channel.

    1. You write very wittily and I enjoyed your representations of Gove et al as The Producers. I voted to remain and most days I could happily cut David Cameron into little pieces for throwing this bone so carelessly at UKIP in order to, as you say, unite the Tories (oh irony). It was a catastrophic decision for which he deserves political crucifixion. But we are where we are. Not everyone who voted for Brexit is a flag-waving xenophobe; many are just ordinary people fed up with the lack of jobs and the years of austerity who have been persuaded that independence from Europe is nirvana. These people feel neglected and forgotten and saw this as an opportunity to ‘stick it to the elite’. These are the people who would be furious and feel utterly betrayed if their votes were ignored. God only knows what the answer is: go back in time and don’t do it – or at least do it better. But that doesn’t help. Nothing helps; everything only seems to make it worse. But we can’t just say ‘well, we’ll be divided anyway so we might as well get what WE want because that would only make things worse. I honestly think there’d be riots.
      At the risk of sounding like Mother Theresa we have to think about everyone: not just remainers, not just Brexiteers, not just non-voters but everyone, including xenophobes. Why? Because we need them to stop being assholes and show them that hating ain’t the way to go

  6. I’m pretty sure there would be no riots (again, that is another Brexiter argument and one that Nigel Farage is always trotting out). When ‘the date of liberation’ came and went, what happened? Not a lot, certainly nothing that the (cash-strapped) police forces couldn’t handle. Rioting over a specific issue is not really the British way (though rioting for the sake of rioting – a la London in 2011 is very much the British way). But, hypothetically, suppose these people get what they want – the hard brexit/No Deal scenario that they felt they were signing up for when they cast their votes. The sense of disappointment when the gambolling unicorns don’t appear and the colour and language of the immigrants taking their jobs changes (from white to various shades of black and brown) is far more likely to propel them out of Wetherspoons and onto the streets than any ‘Sorry, dears – Brexit’s off’ declaration. In any case, I think the ‘hardened quitters’ are hard-wired to be angry – ie, they will try to cause trouble whatever happens. They had the opportunity to stick it to the elite in 2015, and what happened? A Tory government was elected with a majority. Blaming the E.U. for Tory austerity is just plain wrong. And, in any case, the Leave campaign broke the law re: advertising. Add to that the fact that the Fraderednum was meant to be ‘advisory’ (though again Cameron screwed up by saying his government would ‘act’ on the result’) and you have ample grounds for revoking. Ultimately, a government will have to come clean with the electorate and tell them that they were conned and such things get harder to do the longer you leave them.

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