The strange death of left-wing Euroscepticism, by Brendan O’Neill. The left in Britain has switched from wanting to leave the EU in the ’70s and ’80s, to now campaigning to stay in it. What changed their mind?
How did being a decent leftie come to mean sneering at Eurosceptics where it used to mean being one? Partly it’s about the politics of fear. Lonely, lost leftists, now more likely to fear ordinary people and their passions than want to stir them up, are desperate to dodge any kind of political and institutional upset, because who knows what would happen as a result. And so they cling to Brussels, viewing it as the political glue of a continent they fear would otherwise be rent asunder by conflict and prejudice and stupidity.
There’s also a strong whiff of virtue signalling. Being pro-EU is sometimes a pretty thoughtless stance, designed to show you’re Good and Cosmopolitan and not like those fat blokes with tattoos who pronounce England with three syllables. It’s like wearing a ribbon.
But more fundamentally, the strange death of left-wing Euroscepticism speaks to the left’s abandonment of the ideal of democracy. The further removed the left becomes from everyday people, the more it views the public as an obese, probably racist blob to be re-educated rather than as political citizens to be engaged.
The left’s turn from hating the EU to at least wanting to stick with it is directly proportionate to its loss of faith in the masses. Democracy is no longer seen as a tool of progressive change. Lefties now trust EU suits more than they do the loud, odd locals of their own towns.
Even more fundamentally, the left did not own the EU institutions in 1980, but now, after the long march through the institutions that began in the ’60s and ’70s, they do. Nowadays leftists trust their fellow lefties running the EU more than the electorate.
hat-tip Stephen Neil