Who do you think said these words three days after the 2016 UK Brexit referendum, in an attempt to explain the result?
“Waves of migration and globalised culture washed among us, eroding our sense of self. Whole communities changed colour and language, leaving older people cut off... but the self-confidently multi-ethnic, liberal, urban class… barely noticed.”
It’s more than a bit surprising but the person who spoke these words looking directly down the camera on public television is not a candidate for an ultra rightwing political party. His name is Andrew Marr and since 2005 he has been the host of his own hour-long BBC TV news and current affairs interview show.
In fact, his program has long been a part of my family’s Sunday morning routine. (We are usually eating my wife’s wonderful, home-cooked crepes at some point when his show is on.)
Like almost all of the entrenched British establishment, Marr is a graduate of Oxford or Cambridge universities. He has the general appearance of a quite shy and usually polite man, especially so when speaking to royalty and Hollywood film stars. Recently, though, he has seemed increasingly excitable at times.
I recently saw his post-Brexit piece-to-camera again and realised that his excitement was genuine this time. What viewers originally saw back then on this particular edition of his show was a man taking sides after a profound event. The words he used were deliberate and showed up his true allegiance. Marr was siding with the conservative racists, some of whom are clearly new-style fascists.
In other words, he was lining up with those who are — underneath all the polished British smiles — in love with power. They are power worshipers: one accurate definition of a fascist. The most important element in their outlook is having someone to hate and this is always a minority group. Even better if the minority is easily recognised in public places.
Historically, these lovers of power have come from all social sections of society but have always favoured supporting the strong over the weak, the poor, the disabled, the unemployed. In the UK, they have always trumpeted the ‘Parliament and rule of law’ argument as a fundamental ‘British value’, then ignored it or broken it when it suits them.
Of course, in modern Britain and the wider world today (and probably for a long time in the past) there is no law. There is only power. This is what George Orwell said about totalitarian societies like the one he imagined in his novel ‘1984’. In my opinion, it is a phrase that perfectly describes our time. The law does not exist, except the ability to enforce it. Andrew Marr knows this. He is a frightened man. So am I. I am frightened of the exact same thing as him: a rule of brute force in Europe.
In Britain now, the rule of law has been shown to be a hollow claim. Rule by those with the ability to compel others to do their will, by force, has now begun. The courts and prisons are more than full. Police numbers are now so shrunken by conservative government funding cuts and station closures that they are at times unable to defend one person or group against another. The peaceful are being attacked by the violent, some of whom are fascist criminals, others are just criminals.
Broadcast all across the nation, watching Andrew Marr’s rant almost three years later, I realised something critically important. This wasn’t the moment Britain changed. It was the moment I realised it had started to completely change.