In April, I posted the following anticipated timeline on Facebook regarding Brexit. Looking at it now makes me laugh, sort of, in a hysterical kind of way.
1: Tories tell angry right-wing voters that they will A: insist on a change to the relationship with Europe. B: Hold a referendum.
2: Tories mop up votes and win election.
3: Tories create fudged Europe arrangement with no real change.
4: Boris aligns with angry right-wing voters to capitalize on fury after staged referendum.
5: Tories announce referendum, list reasons to be afraid.
6: Public told ‘leave’ and ‘stay’ support almost perfectly balanced.
7: Now. (As in April 18th)
8: Labour effectively compromised by appearing to support Tory government position.
9: Staged referendum returns ‘stay’ vote of surprising strength.
10: Tories use apparent mandate to promote unpopular social programs held in reserve for after result.
11: Boris capitalizes on the fury generated by social programs to hijack Tories.
12: Weakened Labour now faces panicked, furious right-wing re-aligned under Boris in next election.
Wow. How wrong I got that! Really. But despite that, I’m still proud of that post. Here’s why.
1: The referendum was staged
Only now is it becoming clear just how staged it was. The market expected a Remain win. So did the Conservatives. So did Boris. Everything was designed that way. But things did not run as planned, and so now we get this morning’s stunning reveal that Boris won’t run for prime minister after all. Why? Because it’s one thing to capitalize on a nation’s fury. It’s quite another to be responsible for cleaning up the mess that fury causes. I don’t believe for a moment that Gove has somehow pushed him aside. That’s a ridiculous interpretation. Boris has run for the hills.
2: The result did look balanced before the vote, as intended
This is the new pattern. Politicians don’t even have to work at this one—the media does it for them. They sell more clicks if they can make a political contest look charged and close. Which the politicians then use to whip up the appearance of public engagement before tipping the result in their favor.
What’s darkly hilarious about the Brexit outcome is that this time, Britain had lost so much faith in its politicians that they actually did press the death button, rather than shying back in fear. Wow.
3: Labor was handed a sucker’s choice, but Corbyn didn’t take it
The Conservatives presented Corbyn with a heads-I-win-tails-you lose scenario. He could either get up on stage with Cameron and vote Remain, and look compromised, or he could avoid doing so, and look weak. He was supposed to get up on stage, but Corbyn saw that one coming and refused to do so, much to the frustration of the Conservative political machine, I’m sure.
The irony here is that in the wake of Brexit, it’s clear that Corbyn is as out of touch with his own electorate as the Conservatives are. Traditional white working class voters in the UK aren’t so bothered about international compassion or grand federal visions at this point. What they want is their standard of living back, their jobs, and their culture as it was before immigration started to ramp. Corbyn finds himself at the helm of a voter-base of would-be national socialists. That’s not all Labor voters, of course, it’s just far more of them than anyone wants to admit.
The extra irony here is that none of those who’re looking to tear down Corbyn seem to have clued in to this yet. They still think the answer is more Blairism, but that ship has well and truly sailed. You can’t even see it on the horizon any more.
4: Unpopular measures were being held in reserve
The unpopular measure in question, I strongly suspect, was TTIP. Who knows what’s going to happen with that now?
5: I also, in another post, predicted a looming surprise
We had inklings of this outcome before the vote. I smelt trouble in the wind in my last post. I just didn’t put two and two together. I wasn’t spending enough time in the country. I underestimated was how close Britain was to the clifftop of its own rage.
Ironically, I was in the UK for the day of the vote, as it turned out, as my father was having open-heart surgery on the exact same day. His condition was extreme. We half-expected him to die. As it is, he’s making a stunning recovery. My birth-country, not so much.
Maybe the Leave vote will lead to a golden dawn for England, released from the shackles of Brussels, and forging ahead into the future on its own terms. However, I’m not holding my breath.
Why I got it wrong
I think the reason I misread the tea-leaves on this subject was the same reason why many others did. We overestimated the placidity of the British people. We should have known better.
Human beings are designed to seek out low-risk opportunities to exact social punishment, because punishing others is dangerous. It is a form of violence. And the best way to reduce the risks of an aggressive act is to surprise the one being punished. What this means is that human beings don’t become predictable when they’re angry, though that’s what many would like to believe. In some ways, they become easier to organize, but only so long as you’re providing them with an outlet for their rage. Stop doing that, and you become the target. The French Revolution springs to mind.
On top of that, Northern Europeans are past-masters at mutual punishment. It’s built into our cultures. Furthermore, the British identity features a strong through-line of collective refusal to cooperate. That’s been obvious since the Romans. In retrospect, maybe we should have expected the first break in the current oligarchical regime to happen right here. In a way, a Leave vote is about the most English thing that could have happened.
So what happens next?
Regarding Britain, I suspect that nobody is going to really want to claim leadership when what’s on offer is so likely to be a disaster. Britain will either end up with a leader who is massively opportunist, or someone who the oligarchs deem suitable for the task of cleaning up the mess.
Because I believe that that the current crop of leaders is unimaginative, weak, and pre-selected by Britain’s shadow-rulers for their predictability, no opportunist will arise. My best guess is that they will hand the PM job to a woman for the worst possible reasons. I am guessing Theresa May. Either that, or they will hand the job to Gove as a sacrificial animal and use it to destroy him.
Regarding the bigger picture, as per previous posts, I still think the West is involved in a bank war with China. However, rather than being fixated on China’s limitations, I’m now concerned about the West. Increasingly, that bank war reminds me of the Cold War.
At the end of the Cold War, America simply spent the Soviet Union under the table. This wasn’t, as some American Conservatives like to hilariously imagine, a stroke of genius by Ronald Reagan. Rather, it was that Reagan was involved in a self-defeating psychotic spend-fest for reasons of his own.
Now, the tables are turned. The West and China are over-investing in property and financial instruments rather than nuclear weapons, but the stakes are the same: global dominance. China is wildly overbalanced, but so, as it turns out, are we.
And the cracks are appearing in the West first. The bank war cannot last. Something has to give. So what cracks next? The US, with an alarming Trump victory, or China, involved in minor resource wars with its own neighbors? Who can say?
When a tightly-coupled system gets close to self-organized criticality, each crack in the system increases the probability of the next occurring, in a pattern of escalating cascade. Chances are, we won’t have to wait long for the next exciting installment in our global political adventure. Tune in stochastically-soon folks, the future is now!