British Prime Minister Theresa May MP delivered her closing speech to her Conservative Party Conference this past week. One of the most striking passages was an assault on globalism and liberal international cosmopolitanism. Mrs May chided and decried in the manner of a cross between Diana Rigg as Miss Hardbroom from the children's 1986 classic television film «The Worst Witch» and Penelope Keith in the 1970s BBC hit comedy «To The Manor Born». «If you are a citizen of the world,» Mrs May ridiculed, «then you don't know a thing about citizenship. You are a citizen of no where». This captures the essence of what Theresa May and her Government stand for, what Mayism is all about. At its heart is a narrow and insular provincialism which defines itself in opposition to other nationalities, cultures and international cosmopolitan influences such as a globally diverse, multi-ethnic, trans-national and socially liberal cosmopolitan society.
Provincialism versus cosmopolitanism lay at the heart of the result for the shock Brexit victory on June 23rd 2016. It was provincial Britain, or more precisely, provincial England and Wales that tipped the balance and voted overwhelmingly to quit the European Union and so leave all the institutions, programmes and policies of the EU. The more cosmopolitan, metropolitan cities of southern England such as Cambridge, Oxford, Brighton, Bath and the UK capital and preeminent global metropolis London all voted strongly to stay. As did more urban cities in the north such as Manchester and Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland and Belfast in Northern Ireland.
But the small provincial towns and villages and large rural areas of England north and south as well as east and west and also Wales triumphed and rejected membership decisively of the European project and with it a common sense of European destiny. The last time that Britain shirked its responsibilities and obligations as a European nation under the Conservative Governments of Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, refusing to engage actively with the affairs, security and politics of the continent, opting instead to appease fascism and Nazism rather than confront it during the 1930s, Europe descended once again into war. So the historical portents are troubling.
Mayism has embraced this provincialism with «Brexit means Brexit» from the looks of things emanating from the Conservative conference in Birmingham, and a very hard Brexit at that. As if the Tory Party had learned nothing from how Britain got into this mess in the first place. The Home Secretary Amber Rudd's inaccurate and crude attack on a sofa company for allegedly hiring exclusively Polish and Romanian workers was a primitive display of rank xenophobic racism which the May Government has seemed to embraced rather than attempt to face down.
It was precisely the kind of ignorant and false rhetoric of Rudd which helped make the Leave campaign possible and has lead to a massive increase in hate crime and hate rhetoric. Clearly, May, Rudd and her Ministers seem intent on neither repudiating or tampering down the right wing nationalist onslaught, instead doubling down on it and harnessing it to make in roads in Labour held areas in northern towns and provinces, never mind how they achieve this and the damage that is done to the social fabric of the country in the process. This will be achieved by running a hard line on immigration and continuing the xenophobic, Trumpesque demonization of immigrants.
Yet May is playing a dangerous game here. It has been the disingenuousness and dangerous, nationalistic, xenophobic and racist dog whistle rhetoric such as what Rudd dished up on Polish and Romanian workers which has steadily taken Britain away from being a tolerant, accepting, inclusive and internationalist country and into UKIP territory of a UK divorced from the EU and standing alone in splendid isolation controlling its own sovereign national borders. This has whipped up many economically challenged and educationally limited people who live in the provincial areas of Britain. They have taken their cue from Conservative and UKIP politicians.
They have come to engage in massive displacement activity thanks to the bigoted tabloid trash right wing press which together with the Tory Party and Mrs May's Home Office in concert with a press campaign to vilify refugees and immigrants from the likes of the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Sun has fed them a diet of anti-European propaganda ever since Mrs Thatcher blessed an anti-EU campaign with her infamous 1988 Bruges speech. This has unfortunately led many people to believe that EU nationals are some how to blame for the inept and incompetent long term policy making of successive British Government and deficiencies which are of British making.
It is also unauthentic and a lie to propagate that immigration is a negative thing for a country. All the statistical evidence demonstrates that on the whole immigration is an overwhelmingly positive factor for the development and health of an economy and society and that immigrants contribute a substantial amount through work, tax, activity culture, education etc. For Britain to remain a global country with a global 21st century economy then the May Conservative Government will have to come clean with the British people and level with them that if they want a dynamic globalised economy then immigration at the level it currently is and perhaps even more is what is required to be relevant in a globalized, not provincial world. If Britain wants to bring immigration very low then it will have to sacrifice the fundamental components of globalization.
Yet it would seem Mayism will not do this and instead will continue to pander to this provincialism such as her vulgar and reactionary attack on the concept of the world citizen. Someone who travels the planet and works and lives in different countries whilst embracing different nationalities can still know precisely what it takes to be a good citizen and can indeed perform that function. Learning about other people and having the courage and humility to live in different countries enhances global understanding and harmony. It is the road we should all be headed on. To become one world.
This lies at the heart of the up coming battle over the ideals and principles which Britain rejected on June 23rd in the debate over access to the Single Market. Unfortunately a majority of British people believe that controlling immigration and keeping as many «foreigners» out of the UK is more important than embracing and accepting the four freedoms of the Single Market: Free movement of people, goods, services and capital. As the British people voted to leave the EU and with it the Single Market, they cannot have access to the Single Market in some special ala carte arrangement without accepting the fundamental four freedoms of movement: people, goods, capital and services which every other European country has to accept. What is it about Britain that makes it so special from the rest of Europe that it can have access to the Single Market without accepting the rules and obligations of that market place? If a majority of the British people cannot accept the freedom of movement of EU nationals into the UK then they cannot expect special access to the Single Market.
I don't see how this can be resolved and probably a massive tariff fee will have to be incurred for the UK to retain some tailored access to the Single Market's provisions for financial services, business, companies and other economic affairs. Yet Britain will have to accept what it can get and it probably will not be full, unlimited access. Nor will the UK play any part in setting and establishing the rules of the areas it will get access to in the Single Market. Like Norway who has to pay a fee to have access to the Single Market yet also has to accept all the rules of the Single Market without having any influence or input into how these rules are made.
The UK will in all likelihood have to pay a substantial fee akin to what it pays into the EU budget now to get some qualified access to certain elements in the Single Market with having no say in the regulations and rules set for these policy spheres. Precisely the same kind of narrow, stupid and small town provincialism of Mayism was at work over her decision to delay the Hinkley Point C project for no good reason since the whole project went ahead in the end with superficial window dressing. Yet the manner in which it was handled and the ignorant smears and prejudices that surfaced in UK Government press briefings was deeply disappointing, though not surprising.
With the pound sterling in free fall and trading against the $ at levels not seen since the 1970s, international investors are signalling that they have no long term confidence and faith in the British economy and they are factoring into their calculations the likelihood of a hard Brexit. Since the British economy is so heavily reliant on services such as financial services and consumer spending, and not the most productive economy, with a small manufacturing sector in comparison to other major international economies, it is difficult to envisage without being a member of the EU Single Market, how precisely Britain will flourish and thrive outside the Single Market. The UK needs all the help it can get when it comes to doing business. Britain is famous for many things; its Monarchy, its boarding schools and ancient universities; its museums and art galleries and theatrical talent and thespian tradition.
But it is not famous or admired nor a world leader for the quality and calibre of its businesses and industry. International investors talk with wonder of the rigour, discipline and innovation of American companies, industrial Germany, corporate Japan and increasingly the work shop of the world, China. No one talks about the brilliance of British business or British industry. Indeed during the 1960s, 70s and 80s British industry and business acquired the nick name «the sick man of Europe» due to the poor work ethic of the labour force, poor management, inefficiency and poor productivity as well as over priced goods and extremely undisciplined and out of control trade unions. Meanwhile customer service in the UK and value for money is atrocious. Mayism seems likely to compound these problems rather than solve them with its closed, provincial mind-set.