From top: Nigel Farage and Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential campaign; Dan Boyle
Oscar Wilde once described fox hunting as the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable. A similar literary formula could be used to describe Brexit. The unbearable seeking the unattainable. The ineffable in pursuit of the incoherent. The graceless looking for honour.
In parallel with the Trump presidency, it and Brexit have been the political realities which never could be described in any fiction, nor lampooned through any satire.
These are the campaigns that have shown there are no depths of hate or ignorance that can’t be plumbed to achieve success, at least in the short term.
Neither phenomenon has been a flash in the pan. Each has been building their coalitions over decades. The Trump coalition a natural consequence of years of softening up the required parts of the US electorate using actual Fake News, purveyed largely by Fox News then amplified, however ridiculously, by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Alex Jones.
No conspiracy has been too cracked, no lie too lurid, to plant as many poisonous seeds into the minds of pliable believers.
The final push has been made possible by WikiLeaks, owned by the once liberally loved Julian Assange, who showed himself no different than many in politics, in putting into practice the maxim that Knowledge is Power, to be used against those you dislike most.
Brexit can best be seen as Margaret Thatcher’s revenge. Her acolytes, shamed at the manner of her disposal, took up her torch striving to stretch her dogmatism to previously undreamt levels. They became John Major’s ‘bastards’ almost scuppering the Maastricht Treaty.
Their failure saw shadow Tories exert external pressure on the party. James Goldsmith, ironically elected as a MEP in France, set up the Referendum Party, ploughing £20million of his money into the venture.
The 1997 British general election was the party’s chosen field in combat. Goldsmith stood against the risible Tory Minister, David Mellor, who lost the seat despite and not because of the intervention.
The Labour landslide meant the Referendum Party’s 2.5% of the national vote had no effect on the national result. Goldsmith died a number of months later. Many who followed his cause drifted into the then nascent UKIP.
Through a succession of European Elections UKIP won 3 seats in 1999; 12 in 2004; 13 in 2009; before becoming the largest UK political party represented in the European Parliament with 24 seats in 2014. This was followed by a number of Tory defectors winning by elections to give the party its first House of Commons seats.
This led Tory Prime Minister, David Cameron, to recklessly promise a referendum in his party’s 2015 general election manifesto.
When held in 2016 that appalling campaign, without any kind of independent oversight, produced the result we continue to live with. Cameron could have reneged, he could have even delayed, and the result would have been so different.
Peak UKIP had already been reached. The party has had four different leaders since the nefarious Nigel Farage stood down in 2016. Its 24 MEPs have been reduced to 7.
Three new political parties have been established in its wake, including the it does what it says on the tin ‘Brexit’ party set up by Farage. One of its former MEPs now claims to represent the re-incarnated Social Democratic party.
Logic doesn’t come into it. While these are the historical facts of how Brexit thinking came into being, and has since steeply declined, they are far from the only factors as to why Brexit exists.
Liberal hubris has also been instrumental. Progress can never progress if too many get left behind. It’s clear with the advent of both Trump and Brexit many have been discarded by what was before.
Brexit isn’t inevitable but it is becoming increasingly unlikely it can be reversed. Maybe the UK needs to live through the inherent contradictions of Brexit before sense and logic returns. We shouldn’t be paying for their mistakes though.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. He is running in the local elections in Cork in May for the Greren Party. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle