Dogs might not bark because, as Sherlock Holmes observed, there’s no reason to bark when they see their master. Alternatively, dogs might not bark when fear reduces them to whimpers. Which is it for the British centre right? Is it friends with the far right or frightened of it?
Look around and notice what isn’t happening. Last week at the Brexit-day-that-never-was demonstration in Westminster, an effigy of London’s secular Muslim mayor was allegedly dragged through the streets for no other reason than he was a Muslim. Sadiq Khan is a bit player in the Brexit debate, the least of the anti-Europeans’ problems. But the thought of my town having a Muslim leader was too much for some of the protestors to bear. A starring role was also given to convicted fraudster and incessant race-baiter Tommy Robinson. He dominated a corner of Whitehall and no one told him and his thuggish followers their presence was an embarrassment.
I have scanned the Conservative press and listened to ‘the Brexiteers’ in the days since for disassociations and denunciations. None came.
The Brexit Day demonstrations yesterday attracted a range of extremists and ended with the far right looking for a fight – attacking the police, the media, and one another. Share this so people know: pic.twitter.com/u8t54UNYRA
— HOPE not hate (@hopenothate) March 30, 2019
Tory MPs joined Nigel Farage at the demonstration, the same Farage whose Leave.EU is ‘targeting for deselection those Conservative MPs obstructing the people’s will’. Dominic Grieve looks like the latest casualty. He is being attacked by former ‘pantomime producer’ Jon Conway, who actually stood in Beaconsfield as the Ukip candidate in 2017 – not that his comedy or political affiliations seem to matter. In Trotskyist terms, the Conservatives face assault by entryists who take over an established party to subvert it. ‘There is no question of dissolving ourselves,’ Trotsky explained in 1934. ‘We enter as the Bolshevik-Leninist faction, our organisational ties remain the same, our press continues to exist’. The same applies with the Faragists and the Tories. They do not intend to change. They intend to change the Tories.
The dogs aren’t barking. Conservative central office is not suspending local parties or rushing to protect moderate MPs. The Faragists aren’t viewed as alien entryists but as comrades by large numbers of Conservative members. No less a figure than Theresa May told the three Conservative MPs who quit to join the Independent Group that she was not concerned. ‘An open, broad party should always welcome new members and supporters with a range of views, including those who have previously supported other parties,’
The dogs aren’t barking at the Ukip infiltrators because they are jumping up to lick their faces.
Remainers are secretly and sometimes not so secretly laughing at Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab and the European Research Group. Britain could have been out of the European Union today if they and the Democratic Unionist Party had not sabotaged the May administration. As the ‘Brexiteers’ are so fond of conspiracy theories try this one: their leaders are the covert agents of the People’s Vote campaign, paid for by a Soros slush fund to ensure we never leave.
But few laugh for long. Their tactics have guaranteed the breakdown of trust in democracy the far right and far left have always yearned for. First, and to my mind most crucially, the Brexiteers never defined what Brexit was in 2016. I have gone on often enough about Dominic Cummings of Vote Leave explaining why Brexit supporters did not offer an exit plan to the voters. Brexiteers did not agree among themselves, he said (a fact that even the most doltish British citizen must have noticed by now) and in any case, from the cynical point of view of not giving opponents a target to hit, ‘there is much to be gained by swerving the whole issue.’
But the fault lay as much with David Cameron, who despite the heroic attempts of Theresa May to wrestle the crown from him, remains the worst prime minister since Lord North. He did not insist on putting on the ballot paper what a vote to leave the European Union would mean. If he had, the electorate would have known what the leave campaign was asking it to back, and parliament would have been tied to a specific measure.
As it was, Brexit could mean anything, and its loudest supporters have insisted it must mean the most extreme and damaging crash-out from the European Union imaginable. Anyone who said otherwise was a ‘saboteur’ betraying the ‘will of the people’. It is a measure of their success that the media now pins the badge of ‘Bexiteer’ only to the pumped chests of the ultras. Leave aside if you can, the label’s self-aggrandising echo of ‘musketeer,’ as if the Tory right were filled with swashbuckling heroes rather than dangerous fools, and consider that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are ‘Brexiteers’ in that they support leaving the EU. All the MPs saying we should leave and stay in the Customs Union or leave and stay in the Single Market are, logically, ‘Brexiteers’ too.
The Conservatives are falling apart and the country may follow them because supporters of a total break have, like Trotsky, insisted on a pure revolution, and denounced anything else as a sell-out.
Holmes was right. Dogs don’t bark when they hear their masters approaching. But he did not offer a comprehensive solution to the strange death of the Tory party. If you listen to the babbling excuses Raab and Johnson gave for finally supporting a prime minister they rubbished for months, you may detect a whimper of fear. Like revolutions, counter-revolutions devour their children, and I think these gentlemen know it.
The Brexiteers and their supporters in the Tory press have trampled down the divide between the centre right and far right. There is no line of demarcation now, no border posts or customs control. In politics at least we have our Schengen: freedom of movement across the union of the rights.