Would you sooner have a Nigel Farage, or a John Key?
I was delighted by the fact that when, as Convener of our 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand movement, we first launched this democratic campaign – (the off-shoot of the Summer Sounds Symposium (www.summersounds.co.nz) – one of the first names that appeared as a website subscriber was that of Nigel Farage. A shared a contact, a close UKIP supporter, had previously provided a weekly commentary on international affairs for the then Canterbury on Air, when I was providing a weekly round-up on national affairs. The Australian initiative, Give Us Back Our Country, co-founded by the greatly respected Professor David Flint, with Jai Martinkovits, cites our 100 Days movement and my book, 100 Days Claiming Back New Zealand – what has gone wrong, and how we can control our politicians, as its inspiration.
A correlation has been drawn between the surge in Brexit support and Obama coming over to the UK with instructions on how to vote, including barely-veiled threats. The English don’t like being told what to do – possibly especially by Barack Obama. The reaction was considerable and immediate. Another little-known fact is that a senior campaign adviser to Cameron’s Conservative Party was Jim Messina, who was also Obama’s campaign adviser, and heads the biggest pro-Hillary super PAC. Crony capitalism no longer has a good press. Who believes the trickle-down theorizing any more? It has by no means resembled anything like a genuinely free market.
Many of us will have watched the Brexit outcome with special interest. One of the most heartening things about its victory, which so many of us here also hoped for, is that it has been a triumph of hope – and imagination.
In contrast, one of the most deplorable things has been the basic spite voiced against Nigel Farage by prominent figures here and overseas in the media in-groups. We are used to words like “populism” being used, deliberately designed to disparage ordinary people, those in whom the brilliant Christian writer GK Chesterton placed so much trust – when it comes to a showdown between their values and those of the moneyed establishment.
Uncharacteristically, given The Spectator’s support for the Leave campaign, its editor, Fraser Nelson wrote an unpleasant blog. He also got wrong the meaning of the word tangential. We undoubtedly owe the Brexit campaign victory first of all to Nigel Farage, but Nelson attempts to diminish his legacy. E.g. “Nigel Farage has been a tangential figure in the Brexit campaign, but he’s the only one prepared to do a victory lap with the votes still being counted, so we see him on the TV. What he says is disgusting. ‘A victory for real people, a victory for decent people’ he says – and what about those who voted for Remain? One of the many advantages of a Brexit vote would be to put UKIP, and Farage, out of business.”
This is not only unfair but basically nasty. To attack Farage for pointing out that the majority of the people England and Wales stood up against the fear-mongering of the establishment, calling them real people, decent people, was a thing of the moment, praising them for their courage – which is hard enough to draw upon for so many in these politically correct times.
It also been a characteristic of the Left, in particular, to keep invoking a right-wing bogeyman against all those wanting Brexit – which is just nonsense. On the whole, the venom has come from (of course, by no means all) Bremain spokesmen. We were treated to a very good example of this when Boris Johnson was booed when he emerged to speak, once the results were known. The point is that this mob waited outside his house to do just this. Hardly appropriate, let alone generous.
At home, from New Zealand Herald columnist Toby Manhire came, “And yet all three of them – Johnson, Cameron and Gove – have proved comfortably less outrageous, scaremongering and odious than Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, who produced a billboard with the words “Breaking Point”, showing, in what some saw as an echo of Nazi propaganda, a queue of refugees winding into Slovenia, and has pressed every available xenophobic button, playing to Britons’ basest fears.”
Ah, the word xenophobia, designed like other clichés of the bien pensant among our commentators – such as racism and homophobia – to be thrown at those who are considered too incapable of doing their own thinking… The catch is that the so-called ordinary people did think through all this. And they thought that they had enough of their own freedom, independence, and the directions of the own country being wrested away from them.
While too many quasi-intellectuals among the journalists were vaporising at the thought of “the odious” Nigel Farage, the majority of English and Welsh were celebrating …Cometh the hour, cometh the man – the individual who stands up to be counted, inspiring others – never the leaders – but other individuals – to rise and stand beside him – or her.
What is apparently too obvious for Toby Manhire to understand is that the view of refugees winding into Slovenia was a snapshot of reality. Reality often makes things uncomfortable for those not keen on facing it. The virtual invasion – by no means entirely of genuine refugees, but also of those (understandably) anxious to improve their lot in economic terms – (among whom are now estimated to be thousands of radical Islamists, many deliberately planted, and groomed for terrorist activities) is a huge threat to the stability of Europe. The sheer numbers who have poured in, and are still on the move, present an unprecedented threat to countries far from able to sustain such a demand on their economies, their housing, and their social services.
The EU has shown itself utterly incapable of providing a realistic solution to these mass migrations, which are essentially a grave threat to countries they are targeting. When Manhire, without any attribution, calls Farage’s important warning “what some saw as an echo of Nazi propaganda,” – we should ask – Who saw? Where are your sources? Is this simply a piece of Manhire propaganda – or a quote from those, as ever, fearful of facing the truth?
In the UK itself, as the pundits; the pollsters; we-know-best-economists; the trust-us-we-are-the Establishment: the I-know-best-Barack Obama: all were confounded by so-called ordinary men and women turning their backs. Instead, they listened to the man who inspired them with the courage to face up even to the fact that economic uncertainty would undoubtedly lie ahead – and might even disadvantage some of them.
And still, they stood up to be counted. In fact one of the most interesting aspects of the Brexit vote is that there would undoubtedly have been Remain voters who would like very much to have joined them, but who, in the face of all the scaremongering and the threats, were too worried about their jobs and financial futures – but who would otherwise have voted to go.
On the other hand, human nature being what it is, there is always jealousy – and this came not only from among the very supporters of Nigel Farage who would now like to take over to lead UKIP, saying their leader has achieved what he wanted and it’s time for him to go. (Shades of the Conservative Party’s turning on Margaret Thatcher – there are always Judases.) Just as un-edifying, among the breakaway Brexit supporters from the Conservative Party there was anger when Nigel Farage, instead of one of their own, was chosen to lead an important Brexit BBC debate – even though it is thanks above all to this one man that England has shaken off the shackles of an arrogant, virtually fascist EU.
Moreover, too much praise has been heaped on David Cameron, as if he heroically granted the people of Britain a referendum, to correct the situation in which the country has found itself – or, rather, in which their politicians had landed them.
On the contrary, Cameron did everything he could to avoid a referendum. As The Spectator illustrates, “Unable to make a positive case for staying in the EU, he instead tells us that Britain is trapped within it and that the penalties for leaving are too severe. His scare stories, peppered with made-up statistics, have served only to underline the emptiness of the case for remaining. It also represents a style of politics that many find repugnant. The warnings from the IMF and OECD and other acronyms have served only to reinforce the caricature of a globalised élite telling the governed what to think. See http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/out-and-into-the-world-why-the-spectator-is-for-leave/ Moreover, according to The Sun, the reason why David Cameron is now primed to resign is that he is asking why he should “do all the hard **** for someone else, just handed over to them on a plate?”
The Spectator columnist Peter Orborne’s May 28 article, “The new dodgy dossiers”, illustrated how “The Chancellor and PM are using every dirty trick in the Blairite book to win a Remain vote. “ His conclusion? That what Cameron and Osborne were doing was not only morally wrong; it was politically disastrous.”
It would be good to be able to respect politicians more, both for their language – and for putting the interests of their country first. This was not happening under Cameron’s leadership, where his Chancellor, George Osborne, employed the sledgehammer of fear-mongering tactics so much the Bremain campaign resorted to concocting figures – such as “his now notorious claim that households would be 4300 British pounds worse off.” And still the people had courage to vote NO. Chesterton would have been proud of them.
Moreover, “Michael Gove revealed how, as a cabinet member, he regularly finds himself having to process edicts, rules and regulations that have been framed at European level. Laws that no one in Britain had asked for, and which no one elected to the House of Commons has the power to change. What we refer to as British government is increasingly no such thing. It involves the passing of laws written by people whom no one in Britain elected, no one can name and no one can remove.”
“Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s chief strategist for many years, gave an example of this institutional decay. A few months into his job in No. 10, he was dismayed to find his colleagues making slow progress, because they were all bogged down by paperwork that he didn’t recognise. He asked for an audit, and was shocked by the results: only a third of what the government was doing was related to its agenda. Just over half was processing orders from Brussels. To him, this was more than just a headache: it was an insidious and accelerating bureaucratic takeover.”
David Cameron basically did not want a referendum. But then, what leader ever does – except, as with John Key, because he thought he was popular enough to get his own way – removing our country’s flag?
There is one great lesson to be taken from this rebellion by the majority of the English and Welsh. (Scotland, which has received far more in the way of financial advantage from its association with England than it has returned, and which appears is due for a reality lesson, can be discounted here.) The lesson is the folly of allowing a country to be dominated by a leader and his or her cabal – which is what a too-obedient cabinet basically is. As is ours, in New Zealand.
The corollary – the importance of the individual standing up to be counted – as Nigel Farage as done – has its echoes right down throughout history.
It carries an important lesson for New Zealanders dismayed at John Key’s virtual takeover of the country, exercising apparently near-complete authority over his cabinet, none of who whom are showing the moral courage to stand up to him. However, the deterioration in hope on the part of so many New Zealanders who have seen the collapse of social standards and the lack of accountability for this from recent governments, means the anti-establishment tide is turning in this country, too.
The lamentable lack of any real action to make sure that New Zealanders are basically able to access affordable housing; jobs which provide a decent living wage – without mothers being forced to dump their babies in crèches to go out to work; the influx of immigrants putting pressure on all social services – with no comprehensive action at all by the government to prioritise the interest of New Zealanders over those moving to acquire our land, our farms, our most productive businesses and our housing stock? John Key has basically ignored the needs of so many. His tenure as Prime Minister has been highly damaging.
The Swiss know, as did the Roman Republic, the danger of letting one man retain power for more than a year. It is time to move towards annually rotating what should be basically the chairmanship of a political party in Parliament – rather than retaining our present system of a dictatorial leadership digging in for the long haul.
These are now precedents for New Zealanders themselves to stand up to be counted. The Australians are already doing so, with their Give Us back our Country movement.
Every individual who supports us, helps to make this possible. And if there’s one thing that Brexit has taught us, it’s the importance of individuals.
It’s been said that “One man with courage makes a majority.” Nigel Farage did.
© Amy Brooke
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© Amy Brooke, Convener. See my book “100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand …what has gone wrong, and how we can control our politicians.” Available on Kindle, or through www.copypress.co.nz and HATM Publishers.