Brexit, British Nostalgia and Selling Biscuits

Today The Telegraph reported how the Tory government will make sure that Great Britain will remain prosper in the face of the impending exit from the European Union. The article reads like a pastiche, an irony laden story book from a hundred years ago. And perhaps that’s all what Brexit was about from the get-go

Brexit is a power fantasy. A conservative dreamland of Victorian patriotism and chauvinistic bigheadery. Brexit is a fairy tale, an idealistic fantasyland for right wingers fuelled by colonial nostalgism.

Nostlagia is the syrupy and deceivingly pretty coating that the message of the far right is delivered in. Not only conservative politics exploit this human weakness, it’s a method in commercial advertising and sales too. When I was a student I earned a little extra as telemarketer for a while. I had to make appointments for pension plans. Our sales-pitch was based on a simple principle: in the older days everything was great and everybody could enjoy retirement. But now everything is bad and gloomy and dreadful and we are all poor and the future is bleak and uncertain. But we have the solution! We will find you the best plan ever so you can be safe and make sure you can enjoy your twilight years.

In the Netherlands, where I currently live, the same sentiment is utilised by the right wing to win over the disenfranchised. The sacred 1950s are the holy grail for every conservative politician. The times before the immigrants, the times after the war when there was a sense of community and everyone helped each other. When we had our neighbourhood policeman, the local grocery store and we said our prayers before potatoes and beef.

The typical Brexit supporter, the personification of the Brexit sentiment if you want, I picture as some sort of combination of Basil Fawlty, Jeremy Clarkson and Baden Powell. A pair of milky pale legs sticking from a corduroy knickerbocker, whistling Campton Ladies as they read the newspaper and scoff at the labourers and politicians. Theresa May-like ladies slurping Earl Gray and masticating on a toffee flavoured scone while finishing that 2000 piece Winston Churchill jigsaw.

Brexit is largely embedded in a lazy, xenophobic white privilege. A longing for times when that Etonian minority, that sheltered middle class, could live out their British idyll over the backs of the working people and the exploit of the colonies. Of course those are not the people that actually voted in majority for leaving the EU. The voters in numbers are the the Hyacint Buckets of Britain. Ordinary people in ordinary houses and jobs like you and me, but that live inside their head like Lord and Lady Carnarvon. They are the ones upholding that toxic identity of British Imperialism, racist nursery rhymes, the fox hunt and singing Rule Britannia.

The plans by the government to save the economy by selling tea, jam and biscuits sound like the idea of a child. The idea that there’s world out there begging to get British gin, scones and beef Wellington is such naive and embarrassing thought that it’s hard to imagine it’s an actual proposal of a sitting government. Not to mention the biting irony that a majority of these ‘typical’ British products are from overseas territory.

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