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What Lies Behind the Brexit Vote?

EU_ballotI am proud to be a sixth-generation New Zealander. But I am also gratefully aware of my British heritage.

All eight of the families of my great grandparents came to New Zealand, from England, Scotland and Wales, and had settled here by the mid-nineteenth century. I had the pleasure of returning to the UK as a student and spending a substantial part of my working life there.

My involvement in British politics meant that I took more than a passing interest in the referendum on whether the UK should remain in the European Union. I was surprised, but pleased, at the result, but I have been even more surprised – and less pleased – at the reaction to that result, not least the reaction of some prestigious organs of opinion whose opinions I normally respect.

To hear it the way they tell it, one would think that the vote in favour of Brexit was a calamity brought about as the consequence of the bigotry (not to say racism) and ignorance of those who knew no better. Their task now, it seems, is to show them the error of their ways, and find some way of reversing or overriding what was a democratic decision.

There is no recognition of the perfectly rational considerations that might have led many voters to say of the EU “enough is enough”.  For many citizens, British and European, membership of the EU has meant joining an economic zone specifically created to allow powerful corporations to bypass elected governments and to achieve what they want by dealing directly with unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.

For Britain specifically, it has meant a massive trade deficit, particularly in manufactured goods – a deficit that has decimated British manufacturing, destroyed jobs, especially in the regions, and made it impossible for the British economy to grow for fear that the deficit will get worse.

For many workers, it has also meant an unstoppable inflow of cheap labour from Eastern Europe – a tap that cannot be turned off. To express concern at this might look like racism from the leafy suburbs of southern England, but it looks rather different to those whose jobs are at risk, whose wages are undercut, and whose housing, schools and hospitals are put under pressure.

Yes, the Brexit vote may have been partly a protest on the part of those who felt that their interests had been ignored. But there is more to it than that.

Many of those most likely to bewail the Brexit vote do so from a position of assumed cultural superiority. Outside the EU, it seems, they will suffer a deprivation not endured by lesser mortals; they will be denied access to European culture, food, holidays – a loss that may not matter to others but is important to them.

The paradox is that this manifestation of supposed superiority is entirely misplaced. There is nothing that – whether in or out of the EU – can deny the centuries-old British involvement in or access to Continental Europe. Britain has always been historically, geographically, culturally, economically and in every other way a part of Europe and has often played a crucial part in its affairs – something for which Europe has been at times very grateful. The question is not – whether Europe, but what kind of Europe.

And on that issue, it may well be that the instincts of the Brexiteers are more reliable and culturally authentic than those who profess themselves to be the most committed “Europeans”.

The British have always feared and opposed the emergence of a dominant European power. The Spanish launched their armada and were defeated by Francis Drake; Napoleon made his attempt at European domination and was stopped at Trafalgar and Waterloo; and the Germans had two cracks at it last century and it took two world wars to halt them.

It may not be appropriate in polite company these days to recall these aspects of past British involvement in Europe. But these events leave their imprint – and the British preference for a Europe at peace with itself but not subject to domination by any one power remains a strong element in the British cultural identity.

The British have always valued their independence – and, translated into modern terms, that means the value attached to self-government and democracy.  That is the element that, in their keenness to emphasise their “Europeanness”, is overlooked and misunderstood by the Brexit critics.

Much of the impetus behind the decision to leave the EU came, in other words, from that long-standing British commitment to running their own affairs, without interference from Continental powers. They wanted to regain “control” – perhaps an abstract concept but one that mattered to many Brexit voters.

Those who condemn those voters for their ignorance and bigotry might ask themselves whether it is not the critics who reveal their ignorance.  Even at 12,000 miles distance, I fancy that I understand what those voters were seeking to achieve.  The drive to achieve and retain the right to self-government is not to be derided; it has served both Britain and Europe very well in the long history they share.

Bryan Gould is a former Labour MP and former member of the Shadow Cabinet.


  1. Bryan – like many people on the former soft left, you are missing the big picture. The vote was progress versus reaction, and reaction is what won. As with Trump in the USA, and it is no accident that Farage, the master of the false politics we now live in, has seen Trump three times.

    In 1933 The Germans voted for Hitler believing he had the solutions – narrow nationalist solutions on the same model as Brexit – and the result was the second world war. The Germans had good reason to want a better deal than the Weimar republic and the Great Depression offered them, but the democratic decision – and no one has ever denied this was democratic, rational within the limits of the system, and supported by the majority of parties inside the National Coalition which Hitler put together as the Nazis did not have an actual majority in the Reichstag, was entirely legal.

    no one is accusing the Brexiteers as a whole of being Nazis, any more than the National Coalition was Nazi. But the direction of travel is clear AND both Holland and France could elect far right candidates this year. Austria only avoided this fate by a slim margin earlier this month.

    To line up with Brexit is to line up with the far right. The tories are split on precisely this line. And as for wanting ‘control’ and ‘self determination’ – Hitler wanted precisely those things. We learnt from the second world war that this is illusory, and if that is the logic then abandon NATO and adopt Splendid Isolation – which Britain did 1895-1904 and then joined in the entente system. There is no self determination in the modern world. The future is international co-operation or there is no future.

    You may be 12000 miles away from the action, but the furthest distance you have to go is inside your own head. You have handed over the future to the far right, unless they can be stopped and the vote- mainly carried by old people over the heads of the young – is reversed

    Trevor Fisher.

    1. OhIoDavid Jameson says:

      It is this attitude /stereotyping / political superiority and correctness that has given political oxygen to scumbags like Fararge and Trump. You ignore the part the treaty of Versailles played in the origins of World War 2. Maybe you and your attitude could be part of the problem ? Have you ever thought it through ? Maybe you are to blame for the rise of Fararge and Trump.

    2. Tim Pendry says:

      Trevor – I think you really have missed the point here. The reactionaries have simply moved into a vacuum left by the abandonment of the population by a Left run by self-regarding intellectuals and public sector special interests. A Labour Party which appeals now to only 26% of the population has got something seriously wrong and it is not enough to blame Corbyn or the media. This decline started from the high point of 1997 and has never stopped.

      The progressive core of the Left Brexit position is precisely what Bryan suggests – a socialist variant of ‘take back control’. The question is one of taking back control from whom and for whom.

      The ‘from whom’ is shared with the populist Right and we should make no bones about it – from a failed elite whose neo-liberal economics cannot be moderated by some fantasy of global regulation, whose cultural politics are now openly contemptuous of the working class population and whose social policies collapsed into manipulative managerialism made worse by the incompetence that led to the 2008 crash (yes, the Clintonist Left was responsible for that through negligence).

      The ‘for whom’ is what differentiates Left Brexits from national populists and, since history is with the attack on elite liberal failure and incompetence, it is time for the Left to stop whining and trying to reverse the tide of history and take on the rightists where they are most vulnerable – their inability to undertake the redistributionist and economic development strategies required to give the people what they need and want.

      The accusation that we Left Brexiters were ‘lining up with the Right’ was always insulting. We really believed and believe in the cause. It is existential. Only 15% in latest polling of Leavers are inclined now to vote Labour and yet a good proprtion of Remainers were Tories. Do the math.

      The attitude of party apparatchiks and activists has alienated me from my local Labour Party. My renewal of membership (which I did through gritted teeth) was highly contingent on some respect being shown for the substantial number of socialists and social democrats who voted for Brexit and are not ‘fascists’.

      Of course, the future lies in inter-national co-operation but the clue is in the word inter-national – collaboration between functional nation states, not imperial rule by supra-national bureaucrats and ‘fixers’. Democracy was absolutely central to the Left Brexit position.

      The round of incompetencies by the post-globalising imperiums within the Atlantic system is probably not over but we really cannot carry on in believing that the great and the good who push their way to the top of party apparats are competent to run anything more complex than a whelk stall or a think tank.

      Nor are you right to perpetuate the myth of young versus old. In fact, most young people simply did not bother to vote and did not care, although still minded to the Left. Many young people also felt bullied by the group-think of activists in the universities and it took a lot of courage for a young Left Brexiter to say what they felt. The real fascism in that vote was often in the bullying of Left Brexiters.

      The Labour Party is in danger of dying on the altar of Brexit because it has missed the point – democratic socialism is both socialism and democracy. Many Labour activists clearly now despise democracy openly because it came up with the ‘wrong answer’. Socialism has been boiled down to the passions of eager young dreamers who think Corbyn is the ne plus ultra of politics and whose politics derive from the universities and not the community or the work place.

      The Party is not yet dead but it will be dead if people like me are continuously insulted, treated as if we are idiots and lessons not learned. Has the only party to offer a Second Referendum (the Liberal Democrats) got beyond 10% of the vote? No. There is a lesson in that. The people want control over their own lives and not the assumed superiority of academics and officials.

      1. dear tim

        you are not an idiot and you know that I do not think you are. But the wider point is where the brexit vote takes the left, and the current phony war does not give an indication of where that is likely to go. But there is no doubt that once Article 50 is triggered, the phony war is over.

        The young, incidentally, did not sit on their hands. 67% voted, which is disappointing but not far off the general election (66% overall voted across age groups in 2015). But the decisive vote in a closely run referendum was the old, 90% of pensioners voting. Which I suspect is why the Britexiteers do not want a second referendum.

        But the key issue is what happens after Article 50 is triggered, and I have put down a bet with Karl Stewart on a different thread that in 5 years time Britain will still be in the EU. I think he has accepted. There is now a real political choice.

        In making it, the two camps have to be examined. Mine includes the Social Democratic (currently) SNP, Labour (If it holds to its position), the left wing of a divided tory party including John Major, the Lib Dems and I think the Greens.

        Your camp includes the right wing Thatcherites of the Bruges, described by John Major over 20 years ago as ‘bastards), UKIP, and what remains of the fascist and Nazi right. Allegedly Farage called off his demo against the Supreme court because the EDL and other nutters of the hard right might turn up. UKIP is not of course a far right party. But what the Home Office select committee said about the tendency of his politics to legitimise is worth looking at.

        Certainly it is wrong to argue that the Britexit left has accepted right wing ideology. I accept that the aim is to reclaim national sovereignty. To carry out a left programme. Its simply not possible to have socialism in one country, as the USSR proved with disasterous results. But the CPSU had no choice but to try it. We have a choice, hard though it is, through the EU. Nothing else is available.

        Just to clarify, I do not think that all the people who voted or supported Leave are on the far right. But the tendency in British and world politics for thirty years has been to the right, and the Brexit vote is opening more and more doors. Homophbia and arguable racism are not linked to the EU as such. But both have risen since the vote.

        As you know, I blame clintonisation for most of the problems facing the Labour party and have done since 1995.

        Whether Labour will survive I do not know. And if only 15% of Leavers would vote Labour so be it. But reality will kick in relatively soon. My belief is that the issue will take 5 years to resolve and the Remainers will win is unshaken. So why not support a second referendum if you think that LEave can win it?

        Trevor Fisher

        1. Tim Pendry says:

          Again, you insinuate that we Left Brexiters are connected to fascism by default. This is really no longer tolerable. It is alienating us from those who purport to speak for the Left but who seem to be no more than liberals in fancy dress. It infantilises us by removing agency from our decision-making. It seems that we are now either Rightists by default or deluded.

          We’ll agree to disagree but I do not think in terms of ‘camps’ but only of what is right and what is wrong. To fight the Nazis, Churchill allied with Stalin and he was right to do so. To fight undemocratic regulatory capitalism, I will ally with any democrat … the numbers of real fascists on the other side is absolutely tiny despite the Goebbels-like exploitation of the murder of Jo Cox.

          I suggest, instead of reading what Varoufakis says to get us to roll in and meet his ambition of a European Socialist Movement, you actually read the DIEM Manifesto with great care. It is an absolutely devastating critique of the nature of the European Project on which is then overlaid an utterly utopian notion that it can be reformed through popular direct action. The way Greece folded should tell you all you need to know about the forces at play. Look at the difficulty Corbyn is having as we debate. Naive does not cover the Left Remainer position.

          In this case, people like me are being pushed out of one ‘camp’ and we may find ourselves existentially choosing to join the other because we believe profoundly in some core values that are non-negotiable – one of which is democracy because we think accountable democracy within the nation state collaborating with other nation states is the only means of working towards first social democracy and then socialism. Trying to compare our model implicitly with Pyongyang’s regime is pure agit-prop. Personally, I am not afraid of drawing the conclusion that camps might be switched if that is what is necessary to maintain core values.

          Where YOU may end up is with a coalition of centrists in which Tory big business Remainers hold sway as the lynch-pin of an alliance that it is clear Tony Blair and Nick Clegg are working towards – power at all costs for a professional elite. Fine if they are competent at governance but they are not. There is no point in being a top-down corporatist if the system you oversight is failing. At least that bastard Mussolini got the trains to run on time – these people were and are incompetent at war, economics and social care alike.

          If you think that we will still be in the EU (as it is now) in five years’ time, you really are in fantasy land. Anyone observing what is actually happening in Government will see that it is moving steadily towards a much harder position based, in part, on the refusal of Remainers to accept democratic reality and work to make a successful soft Brexit. Any ‘soft-ness’ now looks like a way station to a Remainer recovery and there are enough of us to fight that tooth and nail.

          The second reason lies in what our Marxist friends call ‘social forces’. The liberal professional upper middle classes are going to be hit far harder by new AI systems than the so-called working classes in an already de-industrialised Britain and the freedom agenda really does appeal to a lot of people. Labour has a mission to help the poorest and most vulnerable in society as well as provide solid service provision to the ordinary middle class. Being the agent for the theoretical idealisms of the highly educated urban middle classes is no longer a feasible strategy if ever it was.

          The third reason is that the European Union itself is imploding because national governments are finding that the Lisbon Project is in danger of making their own nations ungovernable. Even if populism fails to seize power in three successive elections of importance next year, the challenge it presents must and will force national governments to demand and get major changes in the conduct of affairs – especially in relation to free movement of peoples. If we are members of the EU in 2021, it will be an EU far more right wing in all essentials than the British Tory Party.

          Fourth, whether we like it or not, Trump’s victory changes everything. It shifts the new world order from top-down regulatory capitalism in partnership with banks to networks of regionally-based national capitalisms. As the EU goes to the right, only the most dreamy of Leftists will be able to justify British Left association with it. As the new world order multiplies new free trade arrangements and deals with Trump’s neo-Keynesianism, the British will find themselves quickly locked into that growth and uninterested in the restrictions forced on a trading nation by the EU.

          Yes, the young tend to snowflake idealism and the old to narcissistic self interest but that changes when the former leave university, get housing and have decent well-paid jobs because our economy is back on track and has adjusted to our global trading position. People are pragmatists and few values are such that people will die for them – I see no one prepared to die for Europe. The commitment, on the other hand, to national democracy and inter-nationalism is, however, truly existential.

          In two months, Article 50 will be invoked and it will happen unless Labour is stupid enough to cut its own throat by allying with a few Remainer Tories and raggle-taggle bunch of minor opportunists. Failure to invoke Article 50 because of Labour will mean a form of political war in which Labour could no longer rely on a very significant proportion of the English working and lower middle class. If you want to take that risk … as the Americans say, ‘bring it on’.

          Your assumptions BTW on the youthvote are not quite proven – The situation remains unclear as to what actually happened. As the BBC summarised the issue: “In the meantime, the best advice is to examine critically any claims that young people were particularly likely or unlikely to have voted this time around.”

          1. as far as I can see, Labour voted for triggering Article 50 and there is no evidence they will vote against it. Then its game on.

            The bet stands, but you will need to look on the other thread dealing with Post Truth to find the details. It is only with Karl Stewart but if Karl decides not to do it then I am happy to transfer it. But only to one person.

            Trevor Fisher

  2. Terry McCarthy says:

    With respect perhaps a study of British Labour history might explain to you why, comrades like Tony Benn Dennis Skinner and the morning star were for out

    1. They were living in the past, save the Morning Star was following the old Moscow line which wanted fragmentation in Western Europe to allow the Soviets to advance beyond the limits agreed in the 1944 agreements, always in Stalin’s mind a temporary arrangement as the events in Berlin in 1948 showed.

      Benn and Skinner were merely deluded into a C19th view of politics. All serious thinking after the disasters of 1914 and 1939 understood that Britain could not stand alone. Even A J Balfour understood that Splendid Isolation – the policy of his uncle and previous Tory PM Lord Salisbury – was dead by 1904 as he formed the entente cordiale with France.

      Benn was genuine in his commitment to yesterday’s politics, and I recall Ken Coates of the Institute for Workers control and a sometime MEP telling me he could never get Benn to understand that progressive opinion had to be involved in Europe

      Skinner simply followed the politics of the old left. He is currently and rightly pointing out the Brexit vote of his constituents. But the lesson is that Reaction has won in the minds of many workers, and needs to be fought, not appeased.

      Trevor Fisher.

  3. Karl Stewart says:

    What a thoroughly revolting post by Trevor Fisher – ironically, expressing exactly the right-wing, neo-liberal, anti-democratic and downright insulting attitudes rightly criticised by Bryan Gould in the article.

    People voted ‘Leave’ for all manner of reasons, and from all parts of the political spectrum – just as people voted ‘Remain’ for all manner of reasons and from every part of the political spectrum.

    As a nation, we voted to leave – and we’re leaving, end of. Stop your whining, stop your insulting, stop your pathetic attempts to reverse the democratic will of the people.

    And no, there’s absolutely no similarity between people voting by a clear democratic majority to leave the EU and the people of the USA voting by a clear democratic margin of three million votes for Hilary Clinton to be president rather than Trump. No comparison, none.

    Trevor Fisher – go and join your fellow Liberal Democrats in the political wilderness. The serious left, whatever way they voted back in June, is uniting around fully recognising and accepting the result and moving forward to build a robust Labour Exit programme.

  4. Karl Stewart is making no political points of substance, but the comment on my political affiliations has to be countered. I am a member of the Labour Party, and do not line up with the Farage and UKIP factions which is where the allegedly serious left are lining up. Serious about what?

    Trevor Fisher,.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      The main point of substance is that the clear majority voted to leave the EU in a democratic vote. So, therefore, we are leaving.

      Neither you, nor your Blairite and LibDem, Tory, neo-liberal, capitalist, big business allies will prevent this. It’s happening.

      The second point of substance is that your lazy and unconsidered comparison with the electoral victory of those who want to leave the EU with the electoral defeat of Trump is utter nonsense.

      Firstly, Trump lost the vote by three million. Leave won the referendum by over a million.

      Also, the EU vote was simply that – a vote to leave the European Union. No-one can say why everyone voted as they did and it’s the height of arrogance to make that assumption.

      Everyone voted that way because of completely different reasons. Just as everyone who voted remain also did so for entirely different reasons.

      On the other hand, people in the USA who voted for Trump – the 46 per cent – voted for him and his racist policies. We do know why they voted as they did – they support racism.

      This is not surprising. The USA is a nation founded on the pilars of white supremacism, genocide of indigenous peoples and aggressive unresricted capitalism.

      So it’s not surprising that a lot of USA voters voted for an aggressive capitalist spouting racist rhetoric.

      What was pleasantly surprising was that the majority – the 48 per cent who voted for Clinton and the remainder who voted for the other candidates – voted against him.

      If there is a comparison to be made, it is you and your fellow undemocratic allies who are similar to Trump, in that like him, you lost the vote, but you want to still have your way.

  5. Ric Euteneuer says:

    Bryan Gould to an extent echoes the Bennite soft left “concensus” against the EU that was frozen in time when he left the UK – and I say this as a Corbyn-supporting Bennite. But, as Trevor Fisher points out. When Gould states “one would think that the vote in favour of Brexit was a calamity brought about as the consequence of the bigotry (not to say racism) and ignorance” – he actually encapsulates the argument as a whole – most of the Brexit vote (barring a small percentage of misguided Lexiteers) WAS based on antipathy to immigration, supported by petty racism and bigotry, and a feeling that, being born in a country should provide you with preference in access to services irrespective of the role you played. To claim that Remainers deem themselves “culturally superior” to Brexiteers is to miss the point entirely. We don’t feel better or more well informed than Brexiteers – we have the opinion that Brexit will be catastrophic to the economy and, as has already been seen, has validated a huge rise in racism and bigotry in short order across the country. Frankly, comparing the EU to the Spanish Armada and Napoleon is beyond pathetic.

    1. James Martin says:

      If you want to find racism and bigotry Ric look to the EU, there’s plenty of it in any number of EU countries, and much of it as a result of the EU itself.

      Quite why many on the British left share the middle class illusions in the EU is beyond me, even if you closed your ears to the shouts of the Greek working class against what the EU has done and is doing to them, even if you closed your eyes to the 60% of Spanish youth who have never worked thanks to the EU, then perhaps it can help a little, but only then by abandoning genuine internationalism in favor of binding yourself to the EU bosses club.

      To disparage Tony Benn as being old fashioned is laughable. But perhaps I missed the creation of democracy within the EU project since Tony was around? Perhaps I’m not up to date when it comes to the negative effects of the liberalisation of labour markets that is at the heart of the EU economic policy? Perhaps I imagined the role of the EU in supporting the fascists in Ukraine? Or the integration with NATO, the role it played in the privatisation of state property in former-Yugoslavia, the role of unelected technocrats and bureaucrats (perhaps you and you alone voted for Catherine Ashton even?), perhaps I missed the fact that elected MEP’s are only allowed to talk about what unelected EU bosses tell them?

      But I tell you what I haven’t missed. The sneering middle class la-di-da’s who constantly look down their noses at me and Labour Party members and voters in places like Lancashire where I live that overwhelmingly voted top get out of the bosses club and who tell us that we are racists and bigots. Who the feck do you think you are? To say I, and others like me, are angry and your Guardian reader hand wringing insults is an understatement, you and those like you make me want to vomit.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Excellent point James. There is way, way more racism in France and Spain than there is here.

        I visited there with my family back in April and the casual, mainstream and institutional racism is reminiscient of what it was like here back in the 1970s.

        Black people get served last. Black people are treated without respect by officials. They’re clearly discriminated against in all walks of life.

        Racism certainly exists here. But on nothing like the same scale as it does over on the continent.

        It’s the EU that’s racist. And we made the right decision to leave.

        What the left needs to do now is seize the political initiative and put forward a serious socialist programme as set out by JohnP in another thread on this site.

        What the whining remaoners should do is join the LibDems.

    2. John P Reid says:

      Having got out 50,000 labour leave leaflets in Bryan’s old ground of Dagenham,much to Jon Cruddas bemusement,and Jon acryer(from a distance amusement) I can say immigration didn’t even come up apart from a few White Ukip supporters who said with a brexit,there would be more Commonwealth immigration to equlise the drop in Eu immigration.

      Most of the swing voters, said it was either Siverignity,or they felt the EU was ‘crooked’,

  6. John Penney says:

    Excellent article by Bryan. Hits a lot of the key issues. The hackneyed “line” being pushed by trevor fisher, is essentially that of the “Guardianista” privileged self identifying “liberal progressives” , who have subsumed the undoubted huge personal benefits this , small, but highly ideologically influential, elite, has derived from the EU, into an exaggeratedly one sided one dimensional caricature of “brexiters” as knuckle dragging racist neo fascists to a man and woman.

    Yes, the “liberal” middle classes will miss all the cronyist career privilege openings the various EU structures and programmes provided for them and their children , from the Erasmus Programme to intern placements in the EU machine, to the career opening jobs in the bureaucracy. Plus the career end sinecure jobs for the political class. A look at the comfy EU interwoven careers of the Kinnock clan is an good exemplar of why the middle classes love the EU.

    For the middle class hyper pro EU “liberals”, unlimited labour supply just means handy access to Polish plumbers, cheap and plentiful nannies, and “uberised” low cost taxis and other services. Whereas the supposedly delusional “ignorant knuckle dragging lower class untermensch” who so ignorantly voted to leave the balmy neoliberal EU , have actually experienced the impact on their wages and conditions , and the impact on local services and housing, directly consequent on the influx of a historically utterly unprecedented unlimited labour supply from Eastern Europe over the last ten years in particular.

    The largely middle class , now strangely uncritically pro EU Left seem to have bought in wholesale to the self serving caricature of both the “entirely beneficial , progressive, nature of the EU, and the entirely racist, nay proto fascist, nature of the entire pro Brexit vote. The neoliberal enforcement purpose of the entire current EU project is forgotten. The very recent deliberate destruction of the Greek economy for the German banks, and the destruction of the Syriza government’s anti Austerity programme , by open economic sabotage, is also forgotten.

    The reality is , that despite the undoubted petty nationalist, widespread racist, nature of a significant potion of the pro Brexit vote, there is also an underlying perfectly rational pro working class , recovery of democratic sovereignty, anti capitalist Left, component to the pro Brexit vote too.

    We are leaving the EU, unless the pro EU political class keep the UK in the Single Market, and within the unlimited EU Freedom of Movement rules, and therefore create the political conditions for an explosion of support for a radical populist Right party exploiting the narrative of “national betrayal”. And the quicker the Left leaves behind its apparent ideological capture by the self serving illusions of the arrogant middle class Guardinistas, and the Labour Right creatures of Big Business and EU sinecure jobs , and start to work to connect with the progressive potential of the UK recovering the national sovereignty to pursue a progressive Left agenda, the better.

  7. Graham Burnby-Crouch says:

    I am on the left of politics and voted Leave, I see an EU that is not working in the interests of ordinary people but as the guardian of the interests of big business. I also see an EU that has very limited democracy, I see a left in Britain that is lacking confidence, that might see some flaws with the EU but are scared of the alternative

  8. C MacMackin says:

    While I’m no fan of the EU and do think may Brexit voters have been unfairly portrayed, this piece takes a rather rosy-eyed view of the situation. It may well be true that most Brexit voters value their independence and it may be true that they see the EU as “the emergence of a dominant European power”. However, despite jokes that the EU is just Germany’s third attempt at conquering Europe, this is not an accurate view. The EU is a (capitalist, neoliberal, ad hoc, rather undemocratic) attempt to fashion a new state, not to have one existing state dominate the others. Misrepresenting this in this manner and glorifying British “independence” is to write off any attempts to build a democratic socialist European federation. Given the globalised nature of capitalism, it seems unlikely that any attempt at socialism can have long-term success without such an institution. We must not write it off by embracing parochial attitudes which would preclude Britain being a part of such a federation.

  9. Most of this debate is fact free from the anti EU point of view, but where I can check the facts the Brexiteers are (a) wrong and (b) not willing to accept this, and should remind everyone that Oxford dictionaries have declared “post truth” to be the word of the year. However where Penney describes me, someone he has never met, fantasy has to come to an end. Before we start consulting lawyers.

    I have no connection to the GUardian, a paper I do not subscribe to. I have no benefits from the EU apart from those anyone living in the town of Stafford has, and those are few. I have no career priveleges, and I do not have children. I don’t have a job still let alone a sinecure, as I am a retired teacher. Ex NUT and NATFHE, I don’t have a polish plumber – mine is british – I don’t have a nanny, and I have never used an uber taxi.

    I do not forget the neo liberal aspect to the EU project but it is historically recent, and was not offered when the first referendum was staged, and consequent on Clintonisation, which has affected not just the Labour Party but the US democrat party as well.

    I am opposed to the Free Movement of Labour and support the attempts by John McDonnell and others to stop it. Including Theresa May. THe real debate has moved on, though I think Diane Abbott and others on the old left still support it.

    National sovereignty is a myth, beloved of nationalists, and socialism is an international movement. But we are back here on political analysis.

    As far as caricaturing me as concerned, Mr Penney and company should try finding out who I am. Ah – I must end now to go and get into the Uber taxi that has just pulled up at my front door.

    Which is odd. The street outside is pedestrianized.

    Trevor Fisher

  10. Jim Denham says:

    I see Farage, Putin and Trump’s pro- Bexit useful idiots on the nationalist, nativist fake-“left” are at it again, desperately trying to put some sort of progressive gloss on the anti-working class programme that was Brexit and the racist carnival of reaction that has followed.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Breaking news….Trump LOST the vote. I know it’s totally irrelevant to this discussion, but JimD and his pal TrevorF, for soem reason, are totally obssessed by Trump.

      Guys, he benefitted from a rigged process – the people didn’t elect him, the rigged system did.

      On the other hand, the UK’s vote to leave the EU was a totally democratic majority vote.

      Get over it – and stop bringing up irrelevant issues.

  11. Jim Denham is right, but it is not just racism which unites this reactionary shower. It is not well known that homophobic attacks rose 140% in the three months after the Brexit vote, and the anti gay lobby is prominent through Trump’s cabinet, Putin’s open hostility to gays, and the reactionary elements of the brexit lobby.

    The full agenda of the far right is more than Brexit, though trump and farage are in cahoots. The anti-feminist, anti gay and openly racist elements of the international movement now emerging are clear across all territories. Those on the left who collude with this will find they are not welcome at the bonfire of books and much else that will follow.

    Trevor Fisher.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Still banging on about your hero Trump. Just keep remembering that your hero Trump LOST the vote. He LOST by OVER THREE MILLION VOTES.

      As for the EU, the left was absolutely right to vote leave. Leave won the vote. And we’re leaving. End of.

      If you want to spend the rest of your life whining about that, then go ahead – but no-one’s listening.

      Parliament voted to hold a referendum. The referendum decided we’re going to leave. And Parliament has voted again that we’re going to formally being the process of leaving before the end of March 2017.

      That’s what’s happening. So keep on living in your fantasy world if you like, but everyone else has moved on.

      And the only reason your hero Trump has been awarded the US presidency is because of a rigged system that was brought in during the slavery era to keep the slave owners happy,


      1. while there is no point in discussing the post Karl Stewart has put down bar pointing out Trump won the presidency, as a question of fact when did parliament vote to formally begin to leave by March 2017? Guardian today has May refusing to give parliament a vote, and there is a legal action before the supreme court to compel May to give parliament a vote.

        If Stewart is right, as he is suggesting he is on all other issues, the political class has completely missed a vote in parliament. Mr Stewart needs to provide the missing fact in his contribution. When was the date of the vote?

        Trevor FIsher.

        1. James Martin says:

          Trevor, I know remoaners have a reputation of being dimwitted sore losers but do you really have to play to that stereotype quite so much? Here is the very clear vote to trigger Article 50 by the and of March 2017:

          Hansard 7th December 2016:

          That this House recognises that leaving the EU is the defining issue facing the UK; notes the resolution on parliamentary scrutiny of the UK leaving the EU agreed by the House on 12 October 2016; recognises that it is Parliament’s responsibility to properly scrutinise the Government while respecting the decision of the British people to leave the European Union; confirms that there should be no disclosure of material that could be reasonably judged to damage the UK in any negotiations to depart from the European Union after Article 50 has been triggered; and calls on the Prime Minister to commit to publishing the Government’s plan for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked, consistently with the principles agreed without division by this House on 12 October; recognises that this House should respect the wishes of the United Kingdom as expressed in the referendum on 23 June; and further calls on the Government to invoke Article 50 by 31 March 2017.

          Ayes: 448 Noes: 75

        2. Karl Stewart says:

          Hey Trevor, you try knocking on doors of Labour voters – most of them voted leave – and telling them they’re nazis. You’ll get a well-deserved puunch mate.

          By the time you’ve explained you don’t “actually think they’re Nazis, just the people who allied with the nazis” you’ll already be on the floor pal.

  12. Peter Rowlands says:

    A poor piece from Brian. blaming the state of the economy on the EU rather than Thatcher, and invoking a sort of xenophobic nationalism that no socialist should.Trevor is broadly right in what he says, as is CMac. Labour is rightly committed to a soft Brexit, a hard one would be a disaster, but it is a fantasy to think that there can be a viable independent socialist state in the UK. That can only be built on a European basis.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      Don’t take my comments to be an endorsement of a soft Brexit (beyond what is absolutely necessary to avoid economic catastrophe) or of remaining in the EU. My desire for democratic socialist European federalism is a long term goal. I’m afraid in the short term any movement towards socialism will require a step back from Europe, with the clear statement that should any other European (or non-European, for that matter) countries choose to take a similar left-wing path then the UK will be happy to work with them.

      If we are to build a successful European federation, then what is vitally important is the establishment of a European demos. To date that has not occurred–perhaps deliberately, as it open the door to populist EU governments. Somehow we have to find a way of building this while also saying very clearly that, until such an institution is built, a return to the nation-state is necessary as this is the level at which democratic institutions exist. This will be incredibly difficult but I still think it’s our best bet. One way I can think of to try build a European demos would be to build pan-European trade unions which would bargain as a single unit. To start with this would be extra-legal, but so was just about all trade union activity when they started. If successful, this would not only increase the bargaining power of unions but would lead to the sort of cross-border solidarity and common struggle needed for a European federation to work.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        I also think that a fully developed European socialist federation is a long term goal, but that attempts to move leftwards on a national basis, even though I agree that that is where the focus for most people is, are doomed to failure. I think that Germany, which I think has more of a European demos, is crucial here,and could be the key to left advance elsewhere, although sorting out or dismantling the Euro makes our own Brexit look simple. On unions, ETUC does , or indeed aspires, to function along the lines you suggest.Their website is quite good, when I last looked atit – more fulsome, I thought ,than that of the PEL in terms of policy.

    2. Karl Stewart says:

      No he isn’t “broadly right”. He’s posted one of the probably sheer nastiest posts I think I’ve ever read on here.

      Look back at what he posted. He said us leaving the EU was “like Hitler” – absolute rubbish. The left and the working class voted to leave the EU – Hitler aimed at conquering Europe and wiping out the jewish people.

      How dare this idiot state such totally insulting nonsense.

      Then he steps back but only just a tiny bit, and st brexitays that “I’m not saying all leave voters are nazis, just they’re like the people who allied with the nazis.”

      Pete, do you honestly think any of that is “broadly right”.

      And he doesn’t call for a “soft brexit” – that’s a perfectly reasonable point of view, (albeit not one I’m personally convinced about.) TrevorF isn’t calling for that. He wants to ignore and reject the whole referendum vote.

      Pete, have another read of TrevorF’s opening post.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        Karl, I think you are reading in to Trevor’s posts things that are not there. Brexit and the anti EU movement in the EU can only benefit the right, we must defend our people against its worst effects.
        On Trump and the vote, it reflects the electoral college system in the US, but can happen wherever there isn’t a PR system. In 1951 Labour got 230,000 votes more than the Tories, but 26 seats less, and the Tories were back in power.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          No Pete, I’m reading exactly what TrevorF wrote. He explicitly compares leave voters to those who allied with Hitler.

          That’s exactly what he wrote.

          I ask you again, do you seriously think that kind of insulting, offensive, and inflammatory rhetoric is “broadly right”?

        2. Karl Stewart says:

          No, the USA electoral college system is unique. Every otger country in the world which elects a head of state, does so by direct popular vote.

      2. David Pavett says:

        It always helps to make an effort to understand what an opposed interlocutor is saying. Trevor did not say that the Brexiters are Nazis. In fact he was rather explicit about this “no one is accusing the Brexiteers as a whole of being Nazis”. What he said was that the justification of Brexit on the basis of majority will is not a sufficient argument and that if it were then it would support horrendous policies such as those of the Nazis. The majority can be wrong and no one who has understood that “the ruling ideas of the epoch are the ideas of the ruling class” should be surprised by this.

        Trevor made no personal insults as to individual failings. Rather, he expressed his disagreement with Benn and Skinner but on the basis of their commitment to a political view.

        You, on the other hand, have seen fit to describe Trevor’s contribution “thoroughly revolting” and to describe his position as “right-wing, neo-liberal, anti-democratic and downright insulting”.

        So where is the ‘nastiness’ coming from in these exchanges?

  13. David Pavett says:

    The left was divided over Brexit although it was clear that the majority of Labour voters voted for Remain while the majority of voters for right-wing parties voted for Leave. Given that it is reasonable to expect that comment from the left, either way, would recognise the seriousness underlying the view taken on both sides. Any such expectations will not be met by Bryan Gould’s article.

    What does BG tell us about those arguing for Remain “not least the reaction of some prestigious organs of opinion whose opinions I normally respect”? He tells us that opponents of Brexit ascribe its success to the “ignorance of those who know no better” and that the task now is “to show them the error of their ways” in order to override “what was a democratic decision”. He also assures as that the critics of Brexit show ” no recognition of the perfectly rational considerations” that might have led many voters to reject the EU, that they argue “from a position of assumed cultural superiority” and their concern that outside the EU “they will suffer a deprivation not endured by lesser mortals; they will be denied access to European culture, food, holidays – a loss that may not matter to others but is important to them”.

    Having thus absurdly trivialised the argument, and all that without a single reference to the case actually made on the left for Remain, BG goes on to give us a potted history of Britain and its proud independence from mainland Europe. This stuff seems to have been lifted from the Michael Gove school of historical thought.

    Beyond that we are told that ” Even at 12,000 miles distance, I fancy that I understand what those voters were seeking to achieve”. What they wanted was “their independence – and, translated into modern terms, that means the value attached to self-government and democracy. … Much of the impetus behind the decision to leave the EU came, in other words, from that long-standing British commitment to running their own affairs, without interference from Continental powers. They wanted to regain “control” – perhaps an abstract concept but one that mattered to many Brexit voters”.

    The result achieved is one in which those same people of BG’s imagination presumably will no longer be ruled by faceless bureaucrats, no longer have their futures determined by global corporations and will live in a society in which they have taken back control of their own affairs.

    This is such an astonishingly bad argument that it is really a wonder to see all the praise in the comments from people just glad to hear someone make a case for something the agree with irrespective of its quality or substance.

    And then there is the reaction to anyone who says anything contrary. Trevor Fisher made a number of reasonable points (disregarding for the moment whether they are right or not) for which the response was that his post was “thoroughly revolting” and an expression of “right-wing, neo-liberal, anti-democratic and downright insulting attitudes”.

    This is all completely ridiculous.

    We can discuss whether or not leaving the EU was the right thing to do but let’s do so in a reasoned manner. Contrary to BG’s assertions many of those who argued for Remain recognised the strength of many of the criticisms of the EU. Indeed that was clearly the case with many of the pro-Remain articles here on Left Futures. A reasoned debate will not be had, however, so long as the EU, or anything else we care to discuss, is discussed in isolation as to whether it is a good thing or not. Clearly the EU was conceived of as an institution to promote the interests of Western European capitalism. It has many grievous failings. But then similar things can be said of most international and nation institutions including our own Parliament. That, by itself doesn’t determine whether of not it is right to participate in those institutions. That involves serious consideration of the extent to which working within them can be an effective way of promoting the interests of the great majority. Thus our Parliament for all its many defects and its clear role in promoting and defending the interests of the ruling class, is still an institution in which most of us feel serious battles for an alternative society can and should be fought (albeit ones linked to activity outside Parliament). There is not a trace of such considerations in Bryan Gould’s article nor in the responses supporting him.

    1. Rob Green says:

      `Thus our Parliament for all its many defects and its clear role in promoting and defending the interests of the ruling class, is still an institution in which most of us feel serious battles for an alternative society can and should be fought (albeit ones linked to activity outside Parliament).’

      I don’t think any serious socialist thinks that. Parliament is the bastion of UK imperialism. Of course we participate in bourgeois elections and Parliaments but only in order to get our programme across, mobilise the masses and to expose these institutions as false, fake and in no way offering the proletariat a route to power and socialism.

    2. Karl Stewart says:

      Response to David Pavett at 6.38pm 20th December:

      David, it’s not “ridiculous’ to attacl TrevorF in response to him invoking Hitler and accusing leave voters of being similar to Hitler’s allies.

      If someone wants to make arguments, that’s fair enough, but if seome immediately descends into that kind of rabid insulting and offensive crap, then they richly deserve all the criticism they get.

      PeterR has refused to criticise TrevorF’s inflammatory rhetoric, but what do you think DavidP? Do you also think accusing leave voters of being Hitler allies is OK?

      1. David Pavett says:

        @Karl Stewart. You haven’t understood what Trevor said. See my response to you above. As far as I can see, the inflammatory rhetoric here is coming from you.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          TrevorF has compared leave voters to the allies of Hitler – have a read, that’s EXACTLY what he states.

          Why are you so keen on sticking up for him?

  14. I wonder why Bryan Gould cannot see that the Brexit vote was also a vote against the political class. OK, that’s not true, I can obviously see why. Bryan was very much part of that political class. The middle class gentrification of the Labour Party didn’t start with New Labour, but it certainly strengthened. To not see the above as part of the reason would mean you wouldn’t be able to see any similarities with the Trump vote, the Italian referendum, the loss of Scotland by Labour and even Corbyn winning the leadership. Best you stay in NZ methinks Bryan.

  15. Rob Green says:

    What lies behind the Brexit vote is the complete and utter failure of UK capitalism or at least its domestic and petit varieties. It can no longer compete in Britain let alone the ESM or as the hyper-neo-liberals would have you believe the world market. Remaining in the corporate capitalist imperialist EU alliance was never an option which means of course that either Brexit means `Red, White and Blue’ as the far right are saying or it means Socialism as unfortunately the left are not because they are too busy bleating over their beloved EU and preparing a corporate capitalist Unpopular Front to include Major, Blair, Osborne, Clegg, Geldof, Branson and of course Corbyn. A joint ticket of Vlad the Impaler and Adolph Hitller could beat that in an election.

    The left urgently needs to present its radical socialist vision for a post-Brexit Britain and a New European Settlement that leaves the wretched EU behind. Instead it is demanding continued access to the ESM and so-called Free Movement. It is more concerned with markets where capitalist slavers exchange the stolen labour and used up bodies of workers for money and profit than it is with socialism. Labour is finished. Corbyn had a chance to save it but he instantly ditched forty years of left labour opposition to the EU and its predecessors in order to campaign for Remain and capitalism.

  16. James Martin has misunderstood the vote in the Commons on Brexit.While it triggered Clause 50 on March 31st next year, ending the phony war over BRexit, it did not take Britain out of the EU. Reality will then kick in.

    As in 1938, when parliament voted for the Munich agreement, politics changes when the situation changes. CHamberlain had promised “peace in our time”. IN less than a year, Britain was at war and the tories were re-arming immediately after Munich.

    In preparing for post March 31st, three factors will operate.

    (a) Economic instability and turbulence. Business does not like uncertainty, but there is no simple Brexit exit formula. How the economic implications will play is unclear, but in a globalised world business organisations like the CBI are not positive.

    (b) Political instability kicks in straight away as the SNP is planning for a referendum on independence. Only two of the 4 nations voted for Brexit and Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday she accepted the mandate ran in England and Wales, not Scotland. Its a high risk strategy for the SNP but little doubt they will try it. Northern Ireland is a different case, but in any prolonged Brexit move the stresses within the UK and inside the regions of England will play a role.

    (c) May intends to operate by diktat. Yesterday she denied parliament a say – welcomed by the Daily Express this morning – despite the supreme court still deliberating the issue. Times this morning has the government trying to clamp down on leaks over BRexit. May has little choice but to operate by diktat, but its another high risk strategy for her. The Czech slogan after Munich, ‘About us but without us’ will apply and the wall of silence will have to be broken.

    After March 31st the politics of Brexit will become increasingly fraught and problematic. Up to now Brexit has offered its supporters a painless way to address their problems. That myth is now reaching the end of its useful life.

    Trevor Fisher

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      We democratically voted to leave and we’re leaving . End of.

      It’ s called democracy.

      Nothing to do with the 1938 Munich Conference. Nothing to do with Hitler’s genocide against the Jews. And nothing to do with your hero Trump ( who LOST the vote by the way).

      We on the left voted to leave. We were right to vote to leave. And we’re leaving.

      1. David Pavett says:

        @Karl Stewart. “We on the left voted to leave”. You appear to be saying that the left spoke with one voice on Brexit/Remain even though this was clearly not the case. Unless, that is, you want to ‘excommunicate’ those who don’t agree with you as ‘not on the left’.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          I don’t want to “excommunicate” anyone. But if you’re going to act as some kind of impartial arbiter here, a little bit of recognition of the offensiveness of TrevorF’s arrogant and insulting comments would be appreciated.

      2. Rob Green says:

        Karl Stewart: you say that but in the next breath deny all the implications of leaving, properly leaving. You are literally trying to have your cake and eat it. You are a Bremainer by any other name.

    2. James Martin says:

      Trevor, you have claimed to be a Labour Party member, to not be a Lib Dem. If that really is the case then please, for the love of whatever god you wish just go and join them, it is all you are clearly good for.

      If you can’t understand that Parliament gave the people the choice on whether we stay in the EU, just as we had the choice in 1975 to join the EEC (not the EU you understand, no one in 1975 voted to join the monster EU has now mutated into), and if you can’t understand that MP’s in light of that referendum result this summer then voted this month to trigger the process to leave the EU by March 2017 (something that in fact should have been triggered the day after the referendum result, as Corbyn initially and sensibly assumed) then why are you in a democratic organisation? Why don’t you respect the outcome of the referendum, and why, perhaps far more importantly in relation to the wider Labour Party, do you want to hand over the north of England and much of Wales to the ukips on a plate, just as the Blairites handed Scotland to the reactionary SNP nationalists?

      I don’t even want to be having these debates. If the referendum had voted to stay in the EU I would have accepted that and got on with politics as before and fighting the Tories. But now the country has thankfully voted out of the undemocratic bosses club the last thing we need on our side are people like you acting like the worst Lib Dim anti-democratic eejit. I would much rather we were fighting to determin what kind of Britain we want post-Brexit, what we want to spend the huge net EU budget payment we will gain on within our own country once we leave (in other words let’s fight for an extra £350 million per week for the NHS and hold the Tory and ukips outers to account). But no, we in working class solid Labour areas are having now to waste time on all the spoilt sore losers from the middle class la-di-flippin-da side of town who moan about how we are all nasty racists and worse. Well you can go and stick those insults where the sun don’t shine pal, you (and those like you) are an utter disgrace and a real danger to Labour in my area with your anti-democratic Lib-Dim stupidity.

      We are thankfully coming out of the EU capitalist club (and not a moment too soon), get used to it and now let’s fight for some genuine working class internationalism and socialism in its place.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        If I was to use your rhetoric, I would seek your assurance that you were supporting Labour’s line of staying in the single market, and if not to stop undermining corbyn and join the SWP which is representative of your ultra left views. That is the equivalent of your reply to Trevor, but I wouldn’t say it because it is destructive, childish and pointless.

        What you say is just not true. The bulk of labour voters were for remain, including large numbers of working class voters. While there were large numbers of working class leavers who were Tory or UKIP voters. your heroic working class fighting for an independent socialist uk doesn’t quite stack up. Get real.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          TrevorF didn’t express support for the Labour Party’s position though Pete. He called for the referendum vote to be overturned.

          For some strange reason, both you and DavidP are trying to amend what TrevorF actually said in order to avoid criticising him.

          Here’s what TrevorF actually says:

          “…You have handed over the future to the far right, unless they can be stopped and the vote – mainly carried by old people over the heads of the young – is reversed.”

          That is certainly not the Labour Party’s position Pete. It is the Liberal Democrats’ position. So reading that, one is perfectly accurate to advise the writer to join the Liberal Democrats.

          He makes no mention at all of the UK remaining within the single market as you claim.

          Again, why are you and DavidP so intent on lying about what TrevorF actually wrote?

          What he wrote is there at the top of this thread – we can read it.

  17. David Pavett says:

    We all say we want democratic and informed debate. The reality is rather different. Just consider the invective (nearly all aimed at Trevor Fisher) in this thread.

    “thoroughly revolting post”
    “right-wing, neo-liberal, anti-democratic and downright insulting attitudes”
    “go and join your fellow Liberal Democrats in the political wilderness”
    “Neither you, nor your Blairite and LibDem, Tory, neo-liberal, capitalist, big business allies …”
    “your lazy and unconsidered comparison ”
    “your fellow undemocratic allies who are similar to Trump”
    “sneering middle class la-di-da’s who constantly look down their noses at me and Labour Party members and voters in places like Lancashire”
    “Who the feck do you think you are?”
    “your Guardian reader hand wringing insults is an understatement”
    “you and those like you make me want to vomit.”
    “the “Guardianista” privileged self identifying “liberal progressives” , who have subsumed the undoubted huge personal benefits this”
    “Yes, the “liberal” middle classes will miss all the cronyist career privilege openings the various EU structures and programmes provided for them and their children”
    “And the quicker the Left leaves behind its apparent ideological capture by the self serving illusions of the arrogant middle class Guardinistas, and the Labour Right creatures of Big Business and EU sinecure jobs …”
    “JimD and his pal TrevorF, for some reason, are totally obssessed by Trump.”
    “Still banging on about your hero Trump.”
    “Just keep remembering that your hero Trump LOST the vote.”
    “If you want to spend the rest of your life whining about that, then go ahead – but no-one’s listening.”
    “the only reason your hero Trump has been awarded the US presidency …”
    “I know remoaners have a reputation of being dimwitted sore losers but do you really have to play to that stereotype quite so much?”
    “try knocking on doors of Labour voters – most of them voted leave – and telling them they’re nazis. You’ll get a well-deserved punch mate.”
    “probably sheer nastiest posts I think I’ve ever read on here.”
    “How dare this idiot state such totally insulting nonsense.”
    “rabid insulting and offensive crap”
    “Trevor, you have claimed to be a Labour Party member, to not be a Lib Dem. If that really is the case then please, for the love of whatever god you wish just go and join them, it is all you are clearly good for.”

    Trevor has replied without being drawn into this personal invective and that is very much to his credit.

    The point is that conducting “discussion” by resorting to insults in this way is thoroughly anti-democratic. Trevor is a long-time activist and is no doubt used to it. But what about someone newly getting into discussion? They are very likely to be put off by this gratuitous rhetoric. It is thoroughtly exclusive, anti-inclusive. It would raise the level of our exchanges of the people responsible for this stuff would think about that.

    We all think in shorthand including the use of harsh modes of expression. Inclusive debate requires that before jumping in we remove that stuff and express ourselves in comradely terms. How about it?

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      He has described leave voters as allies of Hitler . Why do you think that’s OK?

      1. David Pavett says:

        (1) That is hardly an answer my main point which is not about Trevor.

        (2) It is not true.

        (3) Trevor’s point was rather more subtle than such a silly accusation. It was that the Nazis made use of genuine and justifiable grievances, including a feeling of resentment at loss of control to foreign powers. His point was that the right exploited grievances, some justifiable, over the EU for its own purposes and not because of a desire or intention to “give back control” to the British people.

        All of which leaves unanswered my point about debating styles which are incompatible with democracy.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          DavidP, you’re posing as “Mr Reasonable” here, but you’re only attacking one side.

          TrevorF, in his first post on this thread – the first post on this thread – clearly compared leave voters to the allies of nazis.

          Read his post again, that’s exactly what he says. EXACTLY.

          This outrageous and inflammatory comment quite rightly sparked several strongly worded criticisms.

          But you can only criticise people who have criticsed him and you refuse to appreciate how offensive and insulting his comments were.

          1. David Pavett says:

            (1) Trevor said that there were parallels between the Nazi exploitation of popular sentiment for their own purposes and the use by the right of grievances against the EU. You seem to think that this means that he said that the leavers we “like Hitler” whereas he actually said “no one is accusing the Brexiteers as a whole of being Nazis”.

            (2) Even if you were right, and even if I was one-sided in my criticisms of language used this would still leave my case standing that the language I quoted is no way to conduct an intelligent debate. And on that main point you have not responded.

          2. Karl Stewart says:

            DavidP, you’re so desperate to make excuses for TrevorF that you’re conveniently missing the second half of the relevant quote.
            TrevorF writes: “…no-one is accusing the Barexiteers as a whole of being nazis any more than the national coalition was nazi…”

            That’s a clear comparison to the allies of Hitler.

            Why do you choose to delete the second part of the quote David?

            And no, there is no comparison between one man leading the nazi movement to the genocide of the Jews and the attempted conquest of all Europe on the one hand, and on the other hand, the UK voting democratically to leave the EU.

            Only a lunatic would make such a comparison, it’s transparently utter nonsense.

  18. Karl Stewart says:

    DavidP, do you not appreciate that if someone – TrevorF – chooses to open a discussion (his was the first post on this thread remember) with such inflammatory insults, then that person – TrevorF – is wholly responsible for the tone that the discussion subsequently takes.

    An apology and a retraction from TrevorF would be appropriate.

  19. James Martiin says:

    David, you (and many others in the Party) don’t understand the huge anger the unacceptable and insulting comments that Fisher and others regularly come out with for the same reasons that you and they still don’t understand the huge anger in many working class communities that led to the vote for Brexit in the first place, and that in turn is the reason why Labour is being seen as an out of touch metropolitan middle class elitist party that wants business as usual and for the working class ‘little people’ to get back in their box and be told what’s good for them. The anger is very, very real David, believe me.

  20. Peter Rowlands says:

    Can I fully associate myself with David Pavett’s comments, although I wouldn’t have had the patience to make them, and echo his plea for informed and democratic debate which does not descend to the level of personal abuse or windy rhetoric. What we are trying to achieve is a way forward for the left, isn’t it?.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      So why do you and DavidP refuse to criticise TrevorF’s insulting accusation that leave voters are like the allies of Hitler?

      Just to remind you again of what TrevorF wrote, in the opening post on this thread:

      “…no-one is accusing Brexiteers as a whole of being nazis any more than the national coalition was nazi…”

      That cannot possibly be read as anything other than a comparison of leave voters with the allies of Hitler.

      DavidP, when challenged to criticise TrevorF’s opening of this debate, chooses to alter that quote in an attempt to make it more palatable. But the full sentence is clearly and undeniably a comparison of leave voters with the allies of Hitler.

      Pete, you should address your “call to reason” to the person who set the tone for this discussion with his revolting opening post.

      TrevorF should apologise and retract his arrogant and insulting comment.

  21. On December 20th at 9 40 Karl Stewart invited readers to go back to my original post and read it. This is good, advice, especially as the post has been misquoted and misunderstood. it is on this site in plain sight.

    However as it has been misunderstood, a couple of points of clarification. Firstly, the blog does NOT mention Leave voters. It criticizes Britexiters, who are the people who argued for Leave, and produced propaganda for it. Much of which has now been deleted. I have made no comment about Leave voters.

    Secondly, the blog does comment on nationalist voters, but those in Germany in 1933 who voted for national solutions. Not all voted Nazi, but a majority voted nationalist and they got a regime which promised a Reich to Last a 1000 years. It lasted 12 years as reality kicked in.

    Democracy is fine, but not when it votes for stupidity and and unreality, which is happening now across the world. Reality will kick in, as I have said, when Article 50 is triggered.

    At that point I expect the points I made in the blog to become more relevant. And the overall issue is simple.

    Be careful what you wish for,

    Trevor Fisher.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      That’s not an apology

      1. glad you noticed this Mr Stewart. You could of course apologise for having missed the point of very clear statements, but you really don’t get it.

        Its the Brexiteers who have to do the apologising for lining up with Farage and Trump and the Bruges group

        Trevor Fisher

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          The only person ‘lining up with Trump’ is you TrevorF. You’re the person who keeps bigging him up.

          He was rejected at the polls and then appointed to the presidency by the slave-era “electoral college”.

          The sole, single conclusion one can draw from the shambles that was the USA presidential election is that this is a deeply anti-democratic system.

          The EU referendum has zero in common with that event. Theirs was an election to choose between the various detailed political programmes of the competing candidates to be the next president of their country. (And an election in which the democratic will of the people was thwarted by the rigged system.)

          And ours was a simple and straightforward ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ question as to whether we should remain or leave the EU. No detailed political programmes from either side – just a binary choice.

          The people democratically decided to leave and so we’re leaving.

          But all other related questions remain questions unanswered. Shall we remain within the EEA? Shall we retain the vice-versa travel arrangements? What will future trade tariff regulations be?

          And, most important of all, shall we have a Labour Brexit or a Tory Brexit?

          If you want a sensible comparator with the EU referendum we had, then compare it with our previous EU referendum, or with the two EU membership referenda that Norway held, or the referendum on EEA membership that Switzerland had, or any number of various EU-related referenda that have taken place over the past couple of decades.

          None of those countries suddenly “went nazi” simply because they held an EU-related referendum. Your hysterical attempt to draw a comparison with the rise of Hitler and the nazis is utterly risible. You simply make yourself appear completely ridiculous by trying to do so Trevor.

          And by comparing leave voters – which is both the dictionary definition of a ‘Brexiteer’ and the commonly understood definition too – to the allies and the enablers of Hitler, all you’ve done is compounded your original stupidity with a gratuitous insult.

          As I reminded you earlier, the question of whether we leave the EU is settled. We democratically voted to leave – and we’re leaving.

          All the self-indulgent whining in the world won’t change that fact. You can sulk, throw tantrums, call people all manner of infantile names, accuse all the voters of the UK of being in league with the devil if you want to. But that simple fact – that we are leaving – will not change.

          But, instead of that, you could choose to be part of deciding in what way we will leave. You could choose to be part of determining in which direction we will go.

          Trevor, do you want a Labour Brexit or a Troy Brexit?

          Do you think we should remain within the EEA – as the current Labour Party position advocates?

          Do you think we should substantiate the status of EU nationals who settled here in the UK before the vote?

          There is so much that is constructive that people like yourself – if you are, as you claim, a Labour Party man – can contribute in this present situation.

          So stop the childish tantrum, wipe the tears, grow up and be part of creating a better future.

  22. Eleanor Firman says:

    Gould opens his article self-referentially about being a 6th generation New Zealander. No flies on him for colonialisation then. But plenty of flies set buzzing when he writes about the Spanish Armada. Why does he stop there? Why doesn’t he go back to cavemen and justify resistance to EU equalities directives and protection for part-time workers?

  23. David Pavett says:

    I hate to truncate conversations with mere assertion of opinion and that is something that I almost never do, but after all the efforts at explanation have failed one is left with little else. Peter Rowlands is right, in my view. All the verbal hostility shown in this thread is just childish (ultra-leftist) nonsense. I won’t comment again because this is now clearly a wast of time and a worrying indication of the poor quality of what passes for discussion on the left.

    1. The quality of the discussion is indeed poor David, and in the new year we must seek a better web site where the rise of Trump and his cronies is challenged. In the meanwhile what does one make of someone who thinks that Trump is not the President of the USA and that the only person who is ‘bigging him up’ is me?

      Does anyone else on this site believe that Farage is not a promoter of Trump, has been three times to see him, has been recommended by Trump to the UK ambassador to the US and is current leading a charge to smear and damage the Hope not Hate organisation?

      Its not worth replying to individuals but if there is a wider tendency among Britexiters to ignore what a Greek commentator has called a ‘nationalist international’ lets see their colours.

      Because you are right. This shambolic running away from reality has to be challenged

      Trevor Fisher

      1. James Martin says:

        Interesting you mention Greece Trevor, glad you have remembered it given that the Greek working class have probably suffered the most at the hands of the EU. You may therefore enjoy this, one of the many demonstrations of Greek workers against the EU, but in this case it was a demo in *support* of refugees and migrants (it was led by the militant Greek trade union block PAME), I’m sure you will particularly enjoy the part where they burn the hated EU flag (2:40):

        1. the comment is not about Greece, which is an entirely separate comment. It is about the far right.

          When this site starts to focus on what is actually happening on the right and how it is polluting discussion on the left then we will make progress. But it is unlikely to happen on this site and there is little point in continuing to discuss with people who continually use the debating tactic “Have you stopped beating your wife”

          I wait for you to start looking at the progress of the right in 2016, but will not personally spend any time trying to get your tendency to look at the dominant political trend of our time. After the triggering of Article 50 however, your tendency will start to face issues you are clearly wholly unable to understand. Brexit is destructive for Labour, Socialists and PRogressives of any flavor. It only helps the far right.

          Get Real.

          Trevor Fisher

          1. James Martin says:

            No Trevor, you get real, stop your elitist liberal insults and start thinking. Once you have done this tell us where are the biggest numbers of the far-right and organised fascists in Europe (and in fact the world) currently? No, I’ll save you the effort mate, they are in countries who are members of the EU. So please don’t insult our intelligence by claiming that membership of the EU is some sort of a protection from the far right when in fact its very existence, its anti-democratic elitist structures and its pro-capitalist/pro-imperialist policies have led to the creation of serious far-right and fascist threats across the continent.

            But here is a very simple question for you Trevor. On the hope that we will have a Corbyn-led Labour government (and leaving aside your Lib-Dim love-in for a moment) by 2020 or before, would it be possible for a Labour government to re-nationalise the railways and any number of other key industries and utilities we choose to if we were still at that time in the EU, yes or no?

          2. John P Reid says:

            It’s all well and good as saying the white working class are racist, if they didn’t vote labour’s view for remain ,as you put it, but I can’t get over it remembering the millions of votes it cost the Labour Party in the 1987 election, when Diane Abbott said the same

      2. Karl Stewart says:

        I’m not sure I agree with your first point bemoaning the quality of the discussion here Trevor – If I may say so, I thought I made some excellent points in my last contribution.

        Clearly you must think so too, as you’ve ignored every point made and, instead, you’ve invented some arguments that you clearly feel more comfortable knocking back.

        You are, of course, quite right to remind us that Trump is indeed the president-elect of the USA.

        No-one has denied that reality, but you are of course quite right to restate it.

        It’s also factually correct to point out that Trump was not elected to that position. He did indeed lose the vote by a margin of almost three million. And by a percentage margin of 2.1 per cent.

        Trump holds his current position as president-elect entirely due to the slavery-era “electoral college” system. He is, therefore, the USA’s unelected president-elect. And we should make sure he is always known as the unelected president, the president who lost the vote, but was gifted the presidency because of that country’s profoundly anti-democratic system.

        This is all factually correct Trevor and let’s keep on saying it. I of course don’t seriously think you’re an admirer of his, what I meant with my “bigging up” comment was more along the lines of ‘hey let’s not give him the electoral credibility he doesn’t have’.

        You’re also quite right to remind us that Farage has indeed visited Trump – we all saw the photos of the two clowns in the gold-plated toilet together (or was it a lift?).

        Again, no-one has actually denied that reality either, but once again, yes you’re quite right to point out that Farage does indeed admire him and that Farage has indeed visited him.

        So, back to the entirely separate question of the EU, which is the actual subject of this thread.

        Firstly, it’s good to see that you haven’t repeated your bonkers “Brexit means the Third Reich” gibberish with which you opened this discussion, and also good to see you’re now beginning to row back from your gratuitous insult comparing all leave voters with Hitler’s allies.

        That’s progress.

        But you still seem to be arguing that our democratic collective decision to leave the EU can and should be undemocratically overturned.

        I note that you end your most recent comment by warning people about “running away from reality” well I’m sorry, but the only person (not the only person in the whole world – I mean the only person within this discussion) doing this in relation to the EU is, I’m afraid, you my friend.

        The people have voted, Parliament has voted, and we’re leaving. It is a reality. It will happen.

        Given that this is a reality – and that surely you can’t seriously believe that it can be prevented – what I don’t get is your passive fatalism that our leaving will, inevitably prove to be a complete disaster.

        And here, it’s a great pity that you haven’t responded to the points I made in terms of some sensible comparators that can usefully be made between our EU decision and the various other EU-related referenda that have taken place in many European nations over the past couple of decades.

        There are European countries both with varying degrees of EU membership, and some with no EU membership, but with various differing relationships with the EU in terms of trade, movement of peoples.

        There are European nations that have gone through a similar process to ourselves, but have not collapsed into economic crisis.

        What we all should be doing and need to be doing – particularly on the left – is to be discussing and arguing (although not too robustly as we don’t want to upset sensitive souls like your friend and mine DavidP) about what type of Brexit we will undertake.

        Pleas let’s get over the nonsensical hyperbole and start working together to create a progressive Labour Brexit.

        Yes a secondary political conclusion that we can draw is that aggressive white supremacy does have an appeal in the USA – a country which was founded on the principles of white supremacy, genocide against the native people and aggressive and unrestricted capitalism.

  24. Karl Stewart says:

    …apologies about my last par, where I randomly seem to start rambling about the USA. I thought I’d deleted that.

  25. Jim Denham says:

    Labour has to decide whether it concedes to the racism inherent in Brexit and supports tighter immigration controls (as the soft left advocate) or stands firm for working class internationalism: at the moment its doing neither and is simply incoherent:

    1. Jim- this is at last a serious comment and makes a point worth replying to. And as you know we are respectively representing the hard and soft left position, it shows a valuable point which we can debate. Brexit is indeed implicitly discriminatory, though I think xenophobic not racist. Plenty of black and Asian supporters of UKIP.

      However tighter immigration controls are neither. In 1968 the dockers marched to support Powell’s overt racism, Labour legislated to control immigration, and the movement disintegrated leaving Enoch Powell a voice in the wilderness.

      Even in an all white world, if the fantasies of the white supremacists ever happened, there will be immigration controls. Not to mention controls over the movement of living beings of all kinds. Who would want to repeal the anti rabies controls? Free movement of dogs? No chance. I am with the Australians who took action against Johnny Depp’s wife for smuggling in a dog. And wrecked Depp’s marriage as he realized his wife was a dangerous fool.

      In no version of the future can we have free movement of living creatures, including human beings. As the soft left argued, without making the point explicit, the US example is now falling apart even in the US. For two centuries they had no controls. But their continent was virtually empty despite the native Indians. it is no longer. In no area of the world can uncontrolled immigration take place.

      Question now is what makes for sensible immigration controls. the EU position of uncontrolled immigration is doing what Powell failed to do in 1968, make reaction popular. It is time to do what Harold WIlson did in 1968.

      And that means the EU policy is dead in the water. Anthor Europe Is Possible and has to happen rapidly

      Trevor FIsher

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Hello again TrevorF. I thought you’d flounced off in a huff after sparking such ridicule with your “Brexit means the Third Reich” gibberish.

        And now you’ve come back to argue for tighter immigration controls…


        Surely leaving the racist EU gives the left a great opportunity for arguing that entry regulations can now be equalised for all?

        I find it stunning, frankly, that you can, one the one hand, compare all leave voters to allies of Hitler, and then, on the other hand, argue that Labour now needs to pander to the racists.

    2. John P Reid says:

      Intrigued why you use the word racism?,
      as its not in the report, to describe labour’s old working class vote mwho wanted out of the EU, for controlled immigration reasons.

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