'Internal exiles are still agitated by political ideas. They have little in common with the apathetic citizen who takes no notice of the news. Internal exiles back away from public life because they see no chance of their ideas ever winning, however much energy they devote to the fight. They are not apolitical but anti-political. Their former campaigning energy has diminished to sitting in front of the television and swearing at the news.'
-Nick Cohen, The Observer
Nick Cohen has an interesting point on the idea of 'internal exile' and how it differs from gormless idiotic apathy. There are those who don't vote who are very alive to current ideas and politics . But they regard themselves as permanently alienated from the absurd and outdated two and a bit party politics Britain has.
Cohen's an internal exile from the Leave referendum result, Brexit and the way both political parties have accepted the verdict. He lumps Corbyn together with 'radical Islam, Trump and Putin as illiberal threats to Western civilisation from within and without, the better to position himself and the centrist liberal consensus as 'rational'.
The problem is that it is not clear it was 'rational'. Cohen thought Tony Blair was rational when he launched the Iraq War with George Bush, because no matter the divisions between a liberal-left PM and a right-wing President, both were united in defending the principles taking out 'new Hitlers' such as Saddam Hussein.
Cohen is convinced Brexit and Trump's election saw the victory of post-truth politics. But his own obsession with spinning it this way is mostly about veiling his own role in supporting the irrational politics of Blair in the run up to Iraq, putting forward a fictionally simplified comic book world of global and baddies.
As John Gray has pointed out, post-truth politics preceded Brexit. It was in overdrive in the run up to the Iraq War with the WMD pretexts for invasion, the '45 minute warning', portrayal of the oil rationale as a 'conspiracy theory' and Blair's declaration in 2004 that 'I only know what I believe', that intuition and beliefs mattered, facts less.
The spin and deception accompanying the Iraq War was replicated numerous times thereafter. The Libyan War and Syria policy of aiding 'moderate rebels' ( Sunni jihadists ) is a piece with the idea of wish thinking, sincere at times, replacing intelligent fact based calculations and decisions. What mattered was the will to believe.
Britain has an infantile political culture that works against the idea of unwelcome truths and reality being faced. The majority of politicians have every self interest in colluding with illusions of either a resurgent UK as Global Empire 2.0 after Brexit or else as one that under Corbyn could End Empire and transition to a socialist commonweal.
Corbyn has surged as it appears as a genuine alternative and because this would have been on offer years ago in Britain at the time of the Iraq War in 2003 had Britain a proper representative democracy for the 21st Century. That way his ideas and party manifestos would have had proper scrutiny and he would have had to take responsibility.
As it is, his past positions that do not fit in with the image of a responsible statesman in waiting to be PM have been consigned to Orwell's memory hole. Corbyn's support for Hugo Chavez's 21st Century Socialism experiment has been disappeared from his website and his role in the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign ignored and downplayed.
With proportional representation, the Brexit referendum as a revolt against the Westminster elites would not have happened or, if it had, there would have been a more sensible and informed debate and a more effective representative democracy taking into account those not in favour of Leave. As it stands, millions feel disenfranchised.
Proportional representation would have ensured Corbyn was leader of a Socialist Party in Parliament. Farage would have been with UKIP instead of being the free floating political wing of the tabloid media, using his MEP status as part of a 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' act and resigning from leader of UKIP once it he'd used it to get Brexit.
Britain has an absurd nineteenth century system suitable for empire and a vanished period when Prime Ministers had to be global leaders. It produces absurd figures such as Tony Blair, dramatic ham actors obsessed with their 'decisive' and 'tough' political 'interventions' as shoddy mini-me versions of the US President.
Increasing numbers are fed up with the entire system and the childish lack of maturity it encourages. Few, even Tories, take seriously the absurd pantomime version of Dame Judi Dench's 'M' that Theresa May is playing. Though it's heresy to say it, those who are not fans of Corbyn are alienated from his secular saint status.
Those 'Corbynites' behind Him are so desperate for the socialist millennium, that any criticism that isn't demonization is seized upon and slammed as if the critic had a mental illness, is a 'secret Tory quisling', a 'crypto-Blairite', a relic of the past about to be 'beaten' and thrown into the dustbin of 'History' along with the 'bloody Tories'.
Cohen himself might want to go into 'internal exile' but many have been in such as place since the Blair regime was established in 1997. The contribution of this regime, one Cohen was critical of for its venality, to the current discontents on both populist right and left is clear, not least for its contribution to post-truth politics.
Progressive liberals bemoan Brexit and post-truth politics hypocritically when once they aligned behind 'the master' who was Blair. The Iraq War wasn't just a 'mistake' by Blair but the necessary consequence of his Presidential style of government, the use of spin and of 'shaping the media narrative' and other mechanisms.
The Brexit revolt was, amongst other factors, a rejection of the idea of that the electorate could be cajoled by fears and threats if they did not choose to align behind what their elite betters were telling them to do-or else the alternative would be a disaster. It was a rejection of this 'either/or' form of manipulation.
The snap General Election proved much the same. May was attempting to fight for an elite led populist Brexit by appeal to some non-existent centre ground that no longer exists as once it did under Blair. Cohen senses this has disintegrated, that the centre no longer holds but he simply blames it on politicians playing with populism.
Again, Britain has polarised between rightist and leftist populisms but populism is being used as if this was new and that Blair's regime was not based on populism either when it's clear it was, as evinced in the weird political cross dressing of the Millennium period, as with 'left-wing cases for neo-conservatism' and so on.
The result of the Blair era and successive incompetence in foreign policy and a failed economic order hitting home in the last decade, has been the desire for a new purified creed to identify with and baddies to fight. In this sense, Corbynstas are quite similar to those like Cohen with the baddies and goodies reversed around.
The Coming War with Iran as New Higher Cause of Western Unity.
Cohen might despair that the old control levers are snapping in elite hands. But the next shock to the existing system is going to be the looming prospect of a US war with Iran. Trump's administration is escalating the war in eastern Syria and heading towards a clash with Iran that could trigger off a direct confrontation.
The summer could end with stormy confrontations within Britain. If the UK could sit it out, the better but it has a special relationship, much of the PLP is Atlanticist and Corbyn is anti-war and, it is thought, pro-Iran. Both parties could be split over whether to align with Trump over Iran. Interesting, if bleak times.
It would be grimly amusing to witness how columnists who advocated the Iraq War, such as Nick Cohen, would then swing back around to the idea of backing another war against Iran as 'radical Islamist threat' as the IS Caliphate crumbles through Russian and US bombardment and Iranian backed militias seizing its territory.
Cohen is already toying with the idea he needs a higher cause to fight and write for, one linked to his his need to 'take a stance' and defend Civilisation as he knows it ' I should end with a rousing call to fight. I could do it because with Brexit, radical Islam, Trump, Corbyn and Putin, I have never felt a more urgent need to write'.
It's hardly as good as George Orwell's Why I Write. All these seamlessly integrated illiberal evil forces conspiring as one against the good and decent once more. What Cohen needs is a War that would It's always like 1939, in fact it's been like we've been stuck in 1939 since 2003 or 2001 on the brink of a Global War against Evil.
Cohen need not worry too much. There is a war with Iran coming, so there's going to be a need for a new War of Civilisation, even if it's led by Trump, it should be possible to rummage around for some stock clichés such as 'a stopped clock is right once' or some other phrases calling for alignment with the US against 'Islamofascist' Iran.