James Wallbank on Fri, 18 Jan 2019 17:06:33 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> notes from Brexania in limbo...

Thanks for this summary David, I'd suggest that it's broadly accurate.

Some of you may have noticed that Brexit has pretty much incinerated my social media presence (which used to focus on the impacts of digital engagement and transformation on the arts, culture, and locality,(plus a smattering of green issues). Now its focus is almost exclusively the madness of Brexit, which I can only interpret as the national equivalent of a nervous breakdown.

Many commentators have suggested that "The North" and "The Midlands" were the seat of Brexit - and they may be mathematically correct, but interpretationally quite wrong. I grew up in The Midlands, and I now live in The North, and in my view the "leave" vote was NOT driven by extreme nationalism, nor hostility to the EU, nor by hostility to immigration - core themes grasped onto by Theresa May, who insists that they are key. Sections of the Conservative party are preoccupied by these ideas.

I believe that the Leave vote was primarily driven by hostility towards Westminster itself. Voters listened to what the vast majority of Members of Parliament asserted, and decided "You people have been running Britain against our interests for years - so we'll vote for the opposite of what you recommend.". That thought was, I suspect, most usually suffixed by the phrase "You scumbags!"

Recently the output of BBC News has not been that of a balanced, reasonable or fair broadcaster. It has been incredibly (almost comically) influenced by Conservative Party advocates of a Hard, or No Deal Brexit. There are numerous examples that I won't review here. How this bias has been introduced is not clear, but it is noteworthy that key senior BBC roles are now undertaken by people who have previously been Conservative activists, or who are known to have extreme neoliberal or nationalistic views.

However, I can recommend a recent, very low-key documentary "Brexit: Bewitched, Bothered or Bewildered" by BBC broadcaster Adrian Chiles. Chiles grew up in The Midlands, and immediately after the Leave vote, went to his home area, Erdington, and interviewed Leave and Remain voters. This documentary is a return to those same interviewees, and other local people, two and a half years later. The interviews reveal surprisingly nuanced views, and I was surprised by the overall balance.

I recommend it.

There's a copy of this documentary on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXy6IwgqZkQ

You can find the official copy of it on the BBC here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0001v00

This brings me to the question of "National Nervous Breakdown".

I think I've said on this channel before that I'm starting to see the roots of Brexit in the supercentralism of the UK - all media, politics, cultural amplification and state interventions are MASSIVELY centred on London. Centred to the extent that, despite London being the richest metropolitan area of the EU, and despite many of the poorest regions in the EU being located in the UK, governmental intervention cultural and infrastructure spending is massively focused on London.

Transport infrastructure PER HEAD of population is massively biased towards London, as is cultural spending. An order of magnitude greater expenditure per head is made on Transport, and the Arts Council spends more than ELEVEN TIMES the amount PER ARTIST on artists and activities in London. These are just two examples - but there are many more. The "anti-regional strategy" of successive UK Governments has been evident for several decades.

In my view, it is objection to this supercentralism, not, perversely, anything whatever to do with the European Union, that motivated the Leave vote. It is worthy of note that the British "First Past The Post" electoral system effectively denies most voters an audible voice, so when a referendum was agreed, voters seized on the opportunity to roar with rage.

There is no other nation like the United Kingdom.

You may imagine that this is a rhetorical flourish - but I invite you, as evidence, to examine the National Flags section of Emoji.

What other nation manages to claim not one, but FOUR flags?

The Union Flag, The English Flag, The Welsh Flag, The Scottish Flag.

Note that this is weird enough, but there is no Northern Irish Flag represented, DESPITE the UK's claim that it is an equally valid one of four nations that make up the UK.

What's going on here? To me, it has become clear that "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" is SIMPLY NOT A NATION STATE in the modern sense. It's an atrophied, shrunken Empire in miniature, with the imperial capital in London. The supercentralism I previously identified is a remnant of imperialism, and regions outside London are treated as occupied dominions.

It is this weirdness, this lack of coherence, this failure to engage with modernity and globalism, that has caused the current breakdown, and until it is resolved, I suggest you will see more and more of it. In my view, only profound and genuine reform, with regional parliaments and true and profound decentralisation, will save the UK. That, however, is, in my view, vanishingly unlikely.

I now (extraordinarily!) fully expect to outlive the UK. Already I am living in the UKINO. (United Kingdom in Name Only.)

Best Regards,



On 17/01/2019 16:28, David Garcia wrote:

My friend Eric Kluitenberg asked for my local view of the current situation in Brexania. It gave me the chance 
to pull some threads together. Some caveats this is a view from the sidelines. The journalists are all suffering 
from as much confusion and exhaustion..as the rest of the population.

I read nearly everything written and watch the parliamentary debates and follow commentators including  
my dear Uncle Fred (who is dead by the way and so should know a thing or two about the after life) and the only 
consistent message that emerges is that "no one knows anything”. 

So this is what I think I know becoming less certain as you go down the bullet points:

* Although Parliament rejected May’s deal Parliament does not know what it wants instead.

* No majority for any plan and so Parliament is deadlocked

* The only Parliamentary majority is to avoid ’no deal’ 'crash out' but no can agree 
how to avoid it as the date is set in law and cannot be repealed without
a new law being passed. 

* May will not take ‘no deal’ off the table as it is her principle means of 
terrorising parliament to get her way on her be-hated deal.

* Though she denies it May is running down the clock till we get so close to
the precipice that parliament votes for her deal out of sheer terror.

* Even after the biggest defeat in parliamentary history she continues to 
pursue this strategy that some called gritty and brave and others (me) 
call rigid and pathological. 

* There is reason to believe that the current ‘consultations’ with
other parties (May in listening mode ha ha) are tokenistic cover for her continued 
pursuit of the ticking clock strategy.. tick tick tick….

* The evidence for this is her refusal to take ’off deal’ off the table.. tick.. tick 

* This is why Corbyn may be right to refuse to talk to her because until ’no deal is 
off the the table’ the discussions remain a tokenistic delaying tactic. But it does
make Corbyn look intransigent…so risky.  

* Corbyn is heavily criticised for not backing a ‘public vote’ 

* It could be strategic.. His calculation may be to let the different options play themselves out 
in parliament until a new referendum is the last option left standing. But it is not yet clear how
these options will unfold sequentially in the way imagined as Parliament has little time and no 
clear method.

If the leave voting working class Labour voters (particularly in the North of England) 
are not to feel betrayed a public vote must be seen as the last option standing. 

Then Corbyn can turn to those constituencies and say "look I have tried my best 
to deliver Brexit on terms that do the least damage but was not possible. So over to you
the public” not my fault gov...

* If I am right this is a high risk strategy.. but maybe political intransigence mean that high risk 
is all that is left-short of backing May’s deal…. aahhh

* Traditional (neo-liberal) transactional politics is dead in the UK some might say good riddens. 
Conservative historian Peter Hennesy described ‘Brexit’ as a kind of secular version of the "wars of religion”. 
But instead of Protestants and Catholics we have ‘remainers’ and ‘leavers’ representing two very different and 
irreconcileable versions of ‘patriotism’.… but thats an argument for another day

* If we do have a chance to fight a third referendum (remember there was a referendum to join the EU in 
1975) it will carry many risks of re-igiting toxicity. So we should keep in mind that enlightenment Philosopher, 
David Hume, wrote "reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions". In other words reason is inextricably 
linked to embodied emotions. In the struggle for the social mind Remainers (like me) should avoid sounding like the 
disembodied and controlling voice of pragmatic reason. We must argue from the heart and engage the passions 
as well as reason in our attempts to change the minds of the millions who voted to leave.. It is be no means certain 
that we will prevail. 



On 16 Jan 2019, at 19:24, Eric Kluitenberg <epk@xs4all.nl> wrote:

HI David,

Hope you are doing fine!

Well, as expected the Br deal was voted down and May survived the motion of no confidence.

I was curious, how do you evaluate the situation right now? Where are we on both sides of canal?

all bests,

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