Everything they say is true of brexiters is actually far more true of them
The speed with which Britain’s political class has descended into jingoism and anti-foreigner hysteria in the wake of the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury has been extraordinary.
In mere days, before we have proof of Russian state involvement, before we know the full facts of who was behind this attempted murder, virtually every section of our political and media elites was hollering for confrontation, demanding punishment of the Russian beast, and wailing, yet again, about the threat this warped eastern entity poses to Western stability and democracy.
That such an evidence-lite outburst of nationalistic and militaristic fervour has come from those who have spent the past 18 months lecturing the little people about our alleged disdain for truth and our Little Englander paranoia should be lost on no one.
We are living through a desperate, hammed-up re-enactment of the Cold War era. ‘Christ, I miss the Cold War’, said Judi Dench’s M in Casino Royale when one of her missions proved rather more complicated than she had expected. She could have been speaking for much of the 21st-century Western political establishment who, feeling all at sea, and bamboozled by a contrarian electorate that refuses to vote in the way they’re meant to, seem to long to wrap themselves in the comfort blanket of old Cold War certainties from that era when the world was binary and our politicians didn’t have to say much more than ‘I hate the USSR’ to win applause. Post-Salisbury we’ve had Theresa May doing a bad impersonation of M, telling us it is ‘highly likely’ the Russian state was behind this poisoning and that Britain will confront the evil east head-on over this matter. Hey presto, suddenly ‘Maybot’, this PM so ridiculed by the press as flat and uninspiring, looks strong. This is the magic dust of Cold War nostalgia.
For many, it’s not enough. Tory MPs and much of the right-wing press, gabbing in heated tones about Russian menace, Putin’s warped plans to destabilise Europe, and other things that exist more in their heads than in the world of provable fact, have been egging May on to say more and do more. There must be confrontation, there must be sanctions, there must be no cuts to our military resources because, who knows, we may need to go to war, they say, madly.
Fancying themselves as bit-part players in a John le Carré novel, these politicians and observers clearly relish the political and personal momentum, however fleeting and opportunistic it might be, that talking tough on Russia has provided them with. And it’s not just the right. An editor at the Guardian says the poisoning was a ‘brazen attack on a sovereign country’ and ‘cannot go unpunished’. The Guardian cares about British sovereignty now? Wonders will never cease.
Such has been the fever pitch of anti-Russia sabre-rattling over the past couple of days that even to ask ‘Shall we wait for all the facts?’ is to risk being shot down, being accused of ‘Putin apologism’, being branded an enemy of Britain and friend of Russia. Witness the response to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s sensible plea that we remain in a ‘robust dialogue with Russia’ rather than ‘cutting off contact and letting the tensions and divisions get worse and potentially even more dangerous’. A politician calling for calm? For diplomacy? For dialogue? Boo! That cannot be tolerated. He has been branded ‘disgusting’ and ‘disgraceful’. David Miliband compared him to Trump: in short, he’s all but a Russia stooge.
These attacks on Corbyn merely for saying we should speak robustly with Russia rather than get into a needless confrontation with it confirms that this affair has left the realm of measured political discussion and is now a needy, emotionalist search for a foreign evil entity that our political class might feel united in opposition to.
No questioning, no appeals for calm, can be tolerated by the moral beneficiaries of this anti-Russia hysteria and so they seek to shut such things down with slurs and accusations. ‘What’s wrong with you? Do you love Putin. Do you hate Britain?’