British Conservatism and the role of the media in the EU referendum

Wednesday 6 April 2016

For David Cameron to be “lifelong Eurosceptic” and someone who does not “love Brussels” is completely different to being Brexiteer. A bit of perspective. Let’s not forget Cameron’s reasoning for announcing the referendum in the first place. Was it to finally give people a say who had been nourished daily for years on a diet of manipulation and misinformation by a powerful minority? No. It was clearly to neutralise the UKIP threat and win the 2015 election. Cameron may not be a firm believer in the European ideal because it is anathema to Conservatism’s well hidden genetic blueprint: that of an orderly, well managed and well maintained unequal and divided society. This is the only way to maintain power and influence, and when your ideology is borne out of the concept of being “born to rule” there is no alternative. A fair and equal society with equal opportunity for all, with the fair distribution of resources, education and employment opportunities, with fair taxation and regeneration and long-term rebuilding of the nation where people are treated as equal citizens that are valuable utilities instead of a substandard subspecies to exploit would be political, social and economic suicide to Conservatism because it would no longer guarantee their position at the top. They would have to compete on a truly equal footing, and this they would never do. Conservative history and Dickens tells us this. And this gets to the true core of the debate, and not just the EU referendum debate. The referendum has opened a great British debate about what sort of country we want Britain to be. Do we want to be truly great or merely to have the mirage and carefully crafted illusion of greatness? Who is really to blame for the problems of our country? The EU, or is it a scapegoat that can’t be fully exonerated for self-serving ideological reasons?

Cameron has known all along that remaining in the EU is hugely in Britain’s interest, but Conservative interest always comes before the interests of the nation. Conservatism today is exactly the same as it was in Victorian Britain: poverty, slums, deprivation and inequality, with a rich social and political class watching with callous and amused indifference (Hogarth). You only have to listen to some of the comments in the Commons to see that. But you can’t leave it like that. The French Revolution was a huge shock to Conservatism, as was the Gordon riots and the London riots of 2011. You have to be seen to talk up equality, but people with vastly greater opportunity and vastly greater life chances don’t work hard to have to give their money away to enable inferior people to have the same opportunities and life chances. This is where the media comes in. Because you cannot have an equal debate: that too is anathema to Conservatism. The press must be free. And any wealthy individual with Conservative beliefs must be free to purchase multiple newspapers and media organisations that act as conduits to these beliefs and spin the nation into perpetual division and turn them against themselves. Classic divide and rule. The BBC is muted, terrified of offending Brexit sensibilities, and this should alert us to the great peril facing the nation. Though it could also be accused of politicising its coverage for self-preservation. A kind of Conservative media protection racket: “Play up the ‘we just don’t know’ and ‘nobody knows’ or we’ll put your windows through”.

The EU an undemocratic neoliberal monolith? Cameron knows this is the opposite of the truth. The EU has its roots in the principles of the French Revolution, not British Victorian inequality. The problem is he also knows that the European ideal is also an enemy of traditional Conservatism, hence deep-rooted Conservative vehemence. And here the liberal left banging on about the TTIP are just as wrong as the conservative right when it comes to Britain’s future in or out. This is a dangerous crossroads for Britain and if we take the wrong turn the people will pay the price as they always have done. It’s time to break the cycle, at the referendum and beyond.

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