BY FRANK HAVILAND
As they near the end of their primary school careers, most children have learned the crucial life lesson ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’ Those who have not are rightly treated with a certain degree of exasperation by their teachers. It’s reassuring to note therefore, that the combined output of Westminster over the past 72 hours has been to inform us that wee Owen and Anna have had their feelings hurt, and are now off to tell Miss.
Indeed, if you weren’t British you might think Alas Soubry & Jones were a comedy double-act, touring the media studios with their celebrated ‘everyone’s a Nazi except me’ routine. The trouble is that other comedians have started stealing their material and unfortunately you can’t copyright jokes.
Joking aside, it’s hard to know exactly what the pair are complaining about, or what precisely they want the police to stop. No punches have been thrown, no one has been hurt, no personal space has even been violated; at most it amounts to heckling, but there’s no law against that is there? It is possible that they have felt threatened, though I must confess the subversion of democracy tends to get my pulse racing a little too. And of course the Nazi comparison is a little unfair, but I’m sure any Nazis traumatised by it will find a safe space somewhere at Guardian HQ.
The left have spent the last two and a half years calling anyone even suspected of voting Leave ‘fascist’, ‘racist’, ‘xenophobic’, ‘bigoted’, ‘far-right’ ‘Little Englanders’. If they are now seriously trying to make Nazi slurs a crime, then what exactly are Antifa, Momentum and Hope Not Hate going to do with their time? Perish the thought they might actually get round to debating.
Our comedy duo is not exactly without form in this department either. Soubry herself once famously remarked about Nigel Farage: ‘I always think he looks like somebody has put their finger up his bottom and he really rather likes it’. In general, she appears to favour referring to Leave voters as racists or fascists, or sometimes both for good measure. Whereas Jones prefers the contemptible racial slur ‘gammon’, hiding behind the widely-accepted non-sequitur ‘you can’t be racist to white people’.
The double-standard on this is breath-taking. Taking two comparable figures, the MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, and fellow LBC host and columnist, Nigel Farage, it’s quite clear that we’re talking two different worlds. When Moggy had his home vandalised, was aggressively doorstepped in the presence of his children, or was attacked by hard-left thugs at the University of the West of England, I don’t recall Soubry setting up the hashtag #Standwithmogg.
Nor do I recall Jones’ solidarity when Farage, again accompanied by his children, was chased out of a pub to chants of ‘scum, scum!’ There wasn’t much pity to spare either, when poor old Nigel had to barricade himself inside an Edinburgh boozer, faced with the forces of darkness without, and the forces of Johnny Walker within. It’s quite a testament to the man’s constitution that he walked out of there alive, albeit gently steadied by the long arm of the law.
Leave voters are among the last remaining groups universally-considered ‘fair game’. Whether they reside in Richard Dawkins’ ‘nasty little backwater’, resemble A C Grayling’s ‘vermin’, act like Lord Adonis’ ‘Nazi appeasers’, or display the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ‘fascist traditions’, you can guarantee the police won’t be getting involved. Just as well, we’ll all be dead soon anyway.
What it appears has really got the goat of Soubry and Jones in this case is twofold: firstly, that the plebs have dared to hold opinions they are too stupid to understand, and should never have been trusted with. And secondly, that they have had the temerity to voice those opinions. Everyone knows that Remainers are the compassionate ones; you’re not supposed to say nasty words to them. Even Antifa has anti-fascist in its name, which must cushion the blow somewhat as they beat the shit out of you.
With March 29th firmly on the radar, Westminster is taking more and more blatant steps to thwart Brexit altogether, as today’s no-deal defeat clearly demonstrates. The tension between the people and their ‘servants’ is only going to increase. Leave voters simply want their decision to be honoured: nothing more, nothing less.
Remainers on the other hand not only want to scupper Brexit, but now seek to silence anyone indecent enough to notice them doing so. If you doubt that, consider how quickly Facebook and PayPal have shut down Yellow Vest leader, James Goddard’s accounts. One might have hoped Westminster would have taken heed of last weekend’s protests, sadly it seems they have not.
Surely the very point of democracy and free speech is to avoid conflict by allowing opposing camps the means to resolve issues fairly. And as satisfying an echo-chamber as Owen Jones’ Twitter feed must be, denying your enemies a voice rather decides his course of action for him. As Sun Tzu famously put it ‘When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.’ It appears our MPs may need to go back to school and reread ‘The Art of War’. Brexit can and should be realised without the need for violence, but it won’t be on its current trajectory.