Nigel Farage has come out of retirement. This comes as news to those of us, approximately 60 million people, who never realised he’d gone away in the first place. Certainly the BBC never got over its love affair with him, and on Friday with his launch of his new Brexit party, the Corporation’s requited love got even more mushy. The BBC must be thrilled that now they have an excuse to have him on the telly more frequently than the SNP. Not that they ever needed an excuse before.
Unfortunately, or perhaps more accurately entirely predictably, the founding of a party whose core message is making life uncomfortable for migrants was mired in the racism which Nige claimed was becoming the hallmark of Ukip. The new party’s interim leader Catherine Blaiklock had to resign after making islamophobic comments and for approvingly retweeting a nazi. Not to be outdone, the treasurer, Michael McGough, had to resign after it was discovered that he had made antisemitic, homophobic, and racist posts on Facebook. Nigel brushed this off as the inevitable teething problems of an infant organisation. Parents all over the land nodded in sympathy. They are familiar with that stage in the developmental process when their toddlers take to spouting lines from Mein Kampf, but thankfully this can be solved with some bonjella and a spoonful of calpol. There is, unfortunately, no apparent cure for Nigel Farage.
However it is noticeable that, just as the Conservatives have a serious issue with Islamophobia and Labour are being accused of having a systematic problem with an anti-semitism, Nigel’s new party went one better and established that it was a home for both anti-semites and islamophobes simultaneously. In doing so the Brexit party has ensured that it has established its intolerance credentials long before bothering itself with trivialities like policies other than “We hate the EU and want to leave without a deal.”
In the imaginations of those who support Nigel’s vanity project, the UK outside the EU is destined to regain the majesty of a lost past. It will once again become a superpower which will bestride the globe like a colossus, making trade deals to the UK’s advantage, all because deep down, they are convinced that not only does the rest of the world owe Britain a favour, but the rest of the world knows that it owes Britain a favour.
Brexit is founded in a deep rooted belief in British exceptionalism. That belief was on full and ugly display at the launch of Nigel Farage’s new party. But really the most exceptional thing about British nationalism is that its core myth is that it is superior to other nationalisms by virtue of not being nationalist at all. That’s because Britishness is a belief in a mythical precious union, one which Brexit has exposed is really England writ large. The union in name serves to provide a figleaf of non-nationalism to cover up England’s unshakeable belief that it is a specially blessed land which has unfailingly been a source of goodness and a guiding light throughout the world. Brexit has foundered on the disconnect between that self-belief and reality, and so has the UK itself.
Today is the anniversary of the Amritsar Massacre. It’s one of the more shameful episodes in the shameful history of the not-so-glorious British Empire which Brexiters seek to rebuild in a modern form. Everyone in India knows about it, about how British troops fired into a peaceful crowd in the Indian city of Amritsar and murdered hundreds, possibly thousands, of unarmed civilians who were peacefully protesting British rule. It’s just one in the long and shameful line of British atrocities committed in the name of Empire. The genocide of the Tasmanians, the dispossession of the Kikukyu, the Bengal famine, the partitions of India and Ireland, the Native Land Act in South Africa which was the forerunner of apartheid, the Irish famine, the Highland Clearances, the Atlantic slave trade, the Opium Wars in China, the carve up of Africa. The list goes on and on.
When the British first established a foothold in India, India was the second largest economy in the world. Its growth rate became zero under British rule as the British imposed a deliberate policy of withholding industrialisation and prioritising the exploitation of Indian resources for the benefit of Britain. When Britain finally left India, it did so leaving millions dead and a divided subcontinent whose economy was underdeveloped and backward.
All this misery inflicted by Britain on the rest of the world had as its goal the enrichment of the British ruling class. That ruling class was quite happy to coopt the ruling classes of other countries into its organised crime syndicate, the Scottish aristocracy were enthusiastic converts to the cause of Britishness.
Despite the long list of crimes committed in the name of Britannia, a Yougov poll in 2016 found that 43% of people in the UK thought that the British Empire was a good thing. Another 25% thought it was both good and bad. Astoundingly, 44% were proud of Britain’s history of colonialism. Almost half the people in the UK believe that stealing other countries, robbing them of their resources, imposing racist hierarchies upon them and making their inhabitant second class non-citizens, was a good thing.
If a country cannot confront its past, it makes itself unfit for the future. The UK cannot be honest about its past. It cannot be honest about its present. It certainly cannot be honest about its future.
The UK denies that its past is one of exploitation, of dispossession, of theft, of slavery, of genocide. Instead it prefers to look back to a glorious empire and to tell itself comforting tales about how an enterprise whose aim was to exploit the wealth, resources, and humanity of millions of people was really an exercise in the spread of civilisation.
The UK is dishonest about it present, about the kind of state it really is. It claims to be a union, yet it acts like a unitary state. It comforts itself with tall tales of how its kept down and oppressed by Brussels, because the British crime syndicate mind set cannot conceive of collaboration and cooperation, only winners who exploit losers.
This is not a state which is capable of being honest about its future. All it has to offer is the fantasies of a red faced Nigel Farage and a Conservative party which apes him. It’s a party which is in denial about Britain’s past, which lies about Britain’s present, and which is deluded about Britain’s future. The future for a Scotland which remains a part of this dysfunctional and dishonest British enterprise is as a subordinate province, exploited and belittled, marginalised and ignored. We can be a normal country, or we can be a tartan bow to tie up a lie, a kilted figleaf to hide the shameful truth about British nationalism. There is no union, and there never was.
Brexit teaches Scotland an important lesson. The question facing Scotland in the independence referendum to come is no longer merely “Should Scotland become an independent country?”, the real question is whether Scotland wants to be a country at all.
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