Pinning God down

Looking at Merold Westphal’s writing on “Atheism for Lent” in his book “Suspicion and Faith” for Pete Rollins 2020 Atheism for Lent, I start by being put off by Westphal talking of Freud, Niezsche and Marx as the great modern theologians of original sin; original sin is not a term which I’m fond of, particularly given that it’s very Augustinian, and Augustine seems to have been the originator of the Church’s preoccupation with sex, which these days seems to be just about all the Church really IS concerned with (given that “pro-life”, i.e. anti-abortion, is really anti-sex in its deepest motivation). I don’t myself like to talk of the yetzer ha ra (evil inclination) without also talking of the yetzer ha tov (inclination toward good), thinking that the Jewish theologians did a much better job of interpreting their own scriptures, and that Christians should have left well alone – at least on that point. I do have an idea of something “original”, but it’s original self-consciousness (and so self-centeredness).

The trouble is, just when I’d decided not to like his writing, Westphal then suggests that those three are useful as critics of Christianity, and with that I thoroughly agree. If “the unexamined life is not worth living”, then probably the unexamined faith is not worth having – or, considering that the NT usage is of a verb form, not worth faithing. I’m still comfortable when he points out that all three cast doubt on the utility of substance-dualism, and suggest that religion can be a very material, fleshly thing. What else, indeed, can it be, when metaphysics is relegated by Kant to the sphere of unfounded conjecture (as I interpret him as saying, but then, I don’t claim to understand Kant).

Then, however, Westphal is straight back into “all our righteous deeds are but as dirty rags” and “the heart is deceitful in all things, and desperately corrupt”, and quoting Karl Barth stating that it was not the world which crucified Jesus, but the church. Forgive me, but it was not the church. It wasn’t even the Jewish Temple hierarchy, which I imagine Barth considered to be place-holders for the church. It was the Romans, and they were most definitely the worldly power, and, if we believe Matthew, it was also the mob – empire and hoi polloi conjoined, which is pretty definitely the world. I will grant that in those days the concept of separating church and state was well over a millennium away, and would have meant almost nothing to any faction in the first century, and that one of the issues the Romans obviously had with Jesus was total incomprehension of “my kingdom is not of this world”. Where else could it be? They had the same issue with later followers of Jesus proclaiming “Jesus is Lord”, because, by implication, that meant that Caesar was not Lord. In that day and age, heresy was also treason – and continued to be through the history of the Empire and then of Christendom until at least the Reformation. Let’s be honest, it continues to this day – Catholics have only fairly recently started becoming more accepted because of their allegiance to the Pope, Jews are still attacked for the deeds of the Israeli Government and suspected of split loyalties, and Muslims have to carry the burden of a few of their more extreme adherents – in a way in which, I note, Christians don’t have to carry the burden of some of theirs (for example, the Lords Resistance Army).

Later, however, it becomes clear that Barth was laying the blame at the feet of the church at least in part to avoid it being cast on the Romans or the Jews (because we are not Romans or Jews), so we could accept the blame. In conscience, I think we can do that without this somewhat ahistorical exercise – Christians think of themselves as “grafted on” to the stem of Judaism, so we cannot take the benefit without the burden there, and most Western Christians are the children of Empire, whether it be the English-speaking British and then American empires or the competing ones of the Spanish, Portuguese, French or Dutch. Even the Belgians had their stab at empire in the Congo, and the Italians in Eritrea; the Scandinavians need to look a little further back to Vasa and Vikings… though perhaps the Swiss are exempt.

Westphal, however, then turns in a direction more congenial to me, in using Barth’s criticism of Christianity as transactional, using the example of Salieri from the play and film “Amadeus”; it is all about what God can do for us, apparently. One might more profitably think in terms of “ask not what your God can do for you, but what you can do for your God”. Jesus, after all, said “take up your cross and follow me”; we are not looking there at a transaction, but an exhortation, and one which leads to a death similar to that of Jesus (something which was familiar to several generations of early Christians, but entirely foreign to most today). Paul wrote “I have been crucified with Christ” – he hadn’t, in the strict sense, but in extra-scriptural writing, it seems he eventually achieved that. I think it right that, as Lent points us inevitably to the cross, so we should orient ourselves that way in advance.

One further thought came to me in contemplating this passage in a somewhat cruciform frame of mind, and that was that the stress on challenging our notions of God is very appropriate. I’m a mystic; I rest what faith I can manage (what faithing I can achieve) on a number of powerful mystical experiences, and we’ll come to that a couple of weeks hence. Pete rightly identifies the mystics as criticising any too-definite statement about God, and I have to agree that that is a characteristic of mystics reporting their experience; the words we have, the concepts we have, are inadequate to convey the fullness of that experience of God. The generality is to affirm something about God but immediately to negate it, the cataphatic way (way of denial), and the image which comes to me is that every time we make a definite statement about God, we are trying to pin God down to some specific definition (I wrote a whole post about this, the title of which “The heresy of all doctrines” prompted someone to ask if I’d encountered Pete Rollins work, as it was reminiscent of some of this titles – I hadn’t, but here I am embarking on a fourth dose of Atheism for Lent).

Pinning God down could be a description of the crucifixion…

What can Rejoiners do now?

The UK is now over a fortnight into not being a member of the EU, something which has not yet really impacted most of us all that much, despite a raft of insolvencies and factory closures already. We are, until 31st December, still in the “transition period” during which all the previous trade and regulatory provisions still apply, the only actual difference being that we don’t have any say in what EU laws, rules and regulations are. Those setbacks to the economy (including Axminster Carpets and Norton Motorcycles) are just the tip of the iceberg, as one commentator ably indicates in this video.

To be honest, I cried when we left on the 31st of January, and kept bursting into tears again on a regular basis after that for several days when I saw some British people crowing about our leaving, with a stack of xenophobic comments, but equally saw many Europeans, including prominent politicians, regretting our departure and holding out a hand of friendship for the future. One thing which does warm my heart is to find that the UK now has the largest and strongest pro-Europe movement in Europe, and there are around half a dozen vociferous grass roots groups starting to construct a campaign to re-enter the EU, a couple of which I’ve joined – because I am absolutely sure that if the country is to have any decent future, it is going to be within Europe, not as a cantankerous island adjacent to Europe which doesn’t really want to join anything.

American friends have asked me why I am still banging on about Brexit, considering that it’s a “done deal”; the Tory majority of 80 makes it impossible for anything I (or any mass movement) does for the next 5 years, bar a revolution, to have any effect on government policy, and suggest that the country will no doubt survive the exercise (in which I notice Paul Krugman agrees – he thinks it’s a huge mistake and will make us poorer, but that we’ll survive). I actually regard it as a true existential threat – because it is very unlikely we will come out of it as “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

Firstly, and particularly considering Sinn Fein’s new status as the largest party in Ireland (and recalling that Sinn Fein are the political wing of the IRA), I think there’s no doubt that we’ll soon be seeing a referendum in Northern Ireland on Irish unity, and the fact that quite a lot of Unionists really want to stay in the EU and that they’ve now experienced sharing power with the Republicans means that they’re prepared to vote in ways which were never in contemplation previously; a majority of NI MPs are now from parties supporting reunification. If opinion stays in favour of reunification for a significant period, the Good Friday agreement commits us to allowing NI to join with Eire in an united Ireland – and that’s the end of the UK, which then becomes merely “Great Britain”.

At the same time, there now appears to be a solid majority in Scotland for independence, and there seems to me no possibility that there won’t be another independence referendum, and that that will elect for an independent Scotland which will want to rejoin the EU. Granted, Johnson has said that he will not permit such a referendum, but the SNP are quite capable of calling one anyway, and trying to hold on to an independence-minded Scotland by force seems to me a losing strategy. That will remove the “Great” from Britain, which will at that point be merely England and Wales… which one might possibly still style “Great Britain”, I suppose – but then, two of the three elements of the Union Flag will have gone, and all that will be left is the red-on-white cross of St. George, Wales never having managed to insert green field or red dragon into the national flag.

Krugman may be correct, but I think underestimates the depths of misery into which a hard Brexit would plunge the country, with the collapse of all manufacturing which relies on “just in time” supply chains and guaranteed food shortages (the supermarkets similarly rely on “just in time”, and Kent will turn into a lorry park – just two minutes of delay at Dover produced a 17 mile tailback of vehicles recently, and the delays are likely to be far longer than that, and continue more or less as long as we have no “minimum friction” trade deal). What we risk, at that point, is the one way of displacing the government which I left open, namely a revolution. And I really don’t want a revolution. Granted, I felt a surge of passion when a fellow Rejoiner posted a version of “Do you hear the people sing” (“singing a song of angry men…”) from “Les Miserables” this week, but I couldn’t help remembering that that song is followed not long after by “Empty chairs and empty tables”. Revolutions are chancy things, often fail, and the common thread is that people on both sides die.

However, any campaign to rejoin probably can’t make any serious headway until 2021, when we’ve seen what kind of Brexit we are actually going to have to endure. Boris Johnson’s speech on the morning after the disastrous election in December made me think that there was at least a possibility that this would not be a “hard Brexit”, though every indication in his revised withdrawal agreement indicated that that was his goal; he talked of bringing the divided country together, and the one way that might be achieved is to soften Brexit to the point at which we pro-Europeans can say “Oh, OK, it isn’t a total catastrophe, we can live with this for a while”.

Against that possibility, all his talk since then has been blustering about how Europe is being unfair in their negotiating stance (which is not the case – the withdrawal agreement talks about a “level playing field” as well as free trade, and the EU is merely sticking to what was already agreed there) and promoting the idea that a hard Brexit is, indeed, a possibility, indeed a likelihood unless the EU relax their stance. That is supremely unlikely, as what Boris basically says he wants is all the advantages of EU membership without having to stick to EU regulations ensuring the quality and safety of goods (without which customs checks at the very least will be needed), without any free movement of people and without contributing to the cost of anything. Not only is that asking for a massively unfair advantage, it is something the EU cannot offer, as it would destroy the very principle of the single market. Oh, and at the moment, he’s trying to blame the EU for being unreasonable…

However, this could just be negotiating posturing, and I really hope that it is. Boris is not a stupid man (he is lazy and disorganised, and likes to make things up as he goes along and pull a rabbit out of a hat at the eleventh hour, but he isn’t stupid). If his government does continue after a hard Brexit for its full expected life of five years (and that’s no guarantee, given that he proposes to repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act), we will have had four years of misery, during which any attempt to try to soften the blow by deficit spending will have petered out, faced with steadily declining tax receipts and an international community which will be reluctant to lend money. Against that background, he would stand approximately zero chance of another term, and the Conservative Party might be wiped out for a generation, no matter who was in charge of the Labour Party. It wouldn’t just be those votes in former Labour strongholds he admitted were “borrowed”, a wide swathe of continuencies in the South as well, and probably most of the rest of London would vote “ABC” (anything but Conservative).

Although I think the scenario painted in Prospect magazine this week is probably correct (particularly following the cabinet reshuffle in which most of the ministers appear to be sock puppets), I could envisage a possibility in which he turns round and agrees a regulatory alignment, zero tariff deal at the last possible minute (which the EU has always indicated they are willing to accept), and a substantial majority of the country heaves a huge sigh of relief and even regards him as a kind of saviour – and then, another election within about a year of that gives him another five year term. Even more so if, in the lead-up to that, he loudly sacks Dominic Cummings, who as his advisor has probably become the most hated figure in UK politics. Cummings could well be being set up as a scapegoat, and the manoeuvre might actually work…

Could he do that with his 80 majority? There are, after all, only around 20 members of the extreme Brexiteer ERG. Maybe not without some preparatory work – and that’s where I think the direction of the Rejoiners is perhaps being wasted (and yes, I think that continuing pointing out the failures of government policy is still an important thing, but possibly not the most important). That’s a big enough majority for the cracks to be showing within the Conservative Party, and we could all do our bit by barraging our Conservative MPs with pleas to avoid a hard Brexit. Politicians tend to notice those constituents who should the loudest and oftenest (I know, I used to be a politician at a local level!) Maybe, indeed, we could hope to arrive at the position (a historical difficulty for all prime ministers with a large majority, particularly Conservative ones) where infighting in his own party ends up removing him (and with him the threat of “hard Brexit”)? The weak point, if we are to do this, is the minds of Conservative MPs. Relatively small numbers of constituents in every Conservative held area could monopolise MP’s post bags and surgery time…

Let’s face it, however much they initially stood because they wanted to get something done, MPs are vulnerable to the lure of wanting to stay in office as long as possible. We can spend the next few months trying to persuade them that a hard Brexit would completely demolish their chances of doing that… and in the process help to create a Conservative Party which is divided against itself. We could hope for a massive back bench revolt which forces a soft Brexit; we could hope for a replacement of Boris and all his minions and a return of the Tories to a less hardline extreme right stance.

Yes, I grant that this is all based on hope, and there’s precious little evidence at the moment that that hope might be justified. The thing is, there’s a groundswell of people aching to do something, and railing against government actions and working within existing political parties to ensure a pro-Europe pro-PR stance pro-broad centre-left front (all are needed) is not going to use up all that energy. Here’s something which people can be doing (and no, I don’t think creating yet another political party is useful – viewing the debacle of Change UK, it would merely split the pro-EU vote even further).

And, let’s face it, even if it doesn’t work, it’ll make Conservative MPs uncomfortable!

Some arguments of Brexiteers

Someone with the facebook handle “Howlin Wolfe Tone” came up with the following, which I thought worth repeating (and recording):-

There was a post from a troll making ten arguments. I have given these arguments and their refutations.

‘1. Ditching EU tariffs means tariffs are dropped on all goods, we can import cheaper eg food and clothes from outside the EU. The EU is a protectionist trading bloc which imposes over 13000 tariffs on imports.’.

1 The EU tariffs average at 2.8% which is about par with the rest of the world, so it is no more protectionist than any other region. Food tariffs are quite high, but, then again they amount to roughly the same degree of support given to farms in other regions. Food security is vitally important, which is why most regions and countries choose to support domestic supply either by tariffs, or subsidy.

Claiming that trading under WTO rules is specious, since the UK as a member of the EU also traded widely under these rules.

‘2. We can stop paying £11 billion (net) to the EU – at worst this offsets any economic downturn. At best it’s £11 billion more we can invest in Britain.’

2 The mean, five year average net contribution 2014-2018 (incl.) was £7.8bn.

Source: ONS:…/theukcontributiontothee…/2017-10-31

The most conservative value for a downturn is 5%. Since the GDP of UK is £2.86tn, of which 5% is £143bn, so, no, it would replace only 5.5% of a downturn. Furthermore, given the misuse by successive Conservative governments of QE that led to an unprecedented capital flight from the UK, and for which UK tax payers footed the bill, it seems more likely that the same would happen to any saving from leaving the UK.

‘3. Withdrawn from CAP , apart from the fact the EU misallocates (sic) resources – eg 40% of the EU budget goes to agriculture which only accounts for 1% of GDP across the EU – we would see a double benefit as we stop paying into it and it will reduce food prices (CAP keeps food prices artificially high).’

3 ‘Not paying into it . . .’ This suggests that the CAP incurs additional costs, which it does not; it is part of the £7.8bn. The proportion of the EU budget stated is roughly correct:…/common-agricultural-po…/cap-glance_en

It is also true that it contributes very little to the EU GDP, but food security is a strategic tool and is vitally important, not just as a bulwark against fluctuations in food commodity prices, but also as a bulwark against others that might want to pressure us by restriction of access to food.

About 25% of the CAP budget is not concerned with food subsidies, but with rural development, protection of the environment and issues surrounding enhanced climate change.

Without the CAP, or similar subsidies food would either be much more expensive, or our rural environment would decline. Most other countries support their farmers to roughly the same degree.

It is a bitter pill to swallow, but, on balance it is better to have it than not. Rural income is around 60% that of urban income, so without any subsidy, there would be a flight to cities and unemployment that is already high (don’t believe the government figures; if it really was that low there would be huge upward pressure on wages that has not happened in a decade, or, for that matter, the past two decades.) Subsidies, according to the Thatcher handbag model of economy states that they are dead money, but they are not. While it is true that they are around half as effective contributors to GDP as that generated by labour and production, and that labour and production has to be in the great majority, it is not dead money. On a tax basis of 25%, those subsidies are made back by the time they have passes through seven exchanges.

Without the CAP, or similar subsidy, there will be a death of the British countryside:

‘4. Skills based immigration – we can let in people that we need/want.’

4 Superficially, there is nothing wrong with that, except that studies too numerous to mention suggest that general immigration is good for both countries of origin and destination. Here is just one example:…/how-to-convince-sceptics-of-the…

‘5. Autonomy to make new trade deals -Striking free trade deals directly with third countries – such as the US and Asian economies – would boost GDP and net productivity due to a more global market and reduced trade barriers.’

5 The UK already had trade deals as part of the EU. They take a very long time to negotiate and, with many of of the other players, the UK has a very weak hand. It had a very strong hand in both the Council and Commission and, although to a lesser extent, the Parliament.

See the above for evidence that this is specious.

‘8. An end to the asset striping of Great Britain Plc, and the movement of Britains manufacturing to the EU, using our money to subsidise it. DHL IT Services moves to Prague with and EU grant, Cadbury to Poland with an EU grant, Ford Transit to Turkey with an EU grant, JLR to Slovakia, Gillette to Eastern Europe, Texas Instruments to Germany, Metal Box to Poland etc etc etc.’

8 This is equivocation and lying by omission:

Cadbury was bought by Kraft, which is American. Kraft shafted Cadbury. The EU had nothing to do with it.…/cadbury-closes-british-factory-to…

Jaguar Land Rover built a new factory in Slovakia. No it was not with an EU grant. And Tata is Indian so what’s that got to do with it?…/jaguar-land-rover-factory-slo…

There was no EU funding, but there was a grant by the Slovakian government. This document is a summary of why the EU found the grant did not break EU rules on state aid. Basically, it was a new factory, it was never going to be built in the UK, no jobs left the UK as a result.

Peugeot moved production to Slovakia, but again without an EU grant. There was an investigation as to whether Slovakia improperly gave EU money to Peugeot, but nothing seems to have come of it.…/subsidise-peugeot-jobs-ax…

Ford Transit moved to Turkey 2013 with an EU a loan (not a grant) for Ford’s Turkish plant (which was already building most of the Transits), and, after that their Southampton plant closed. The EU had already loaned money to Ford UK but that doesn’t appear to have saved it.…/10026411.Focus_on_Ford__The__…/

If you really want to know about asset stripping, look at the British record that started with John Slater, Peter Walker (later government minister) and Goldsmith. Then look at the statements coming from the US on a possible trade deal with the UK.

‘9. The EU has inadvertently encouraged regional separatist movements to develop in a number of member states, in the mistaken belief that these regions can become ‘independent’ members of the EU ‘with a seat at the top table’. Current examples are Scotland, Catalonia and Corsica. You could argue that the EU secretly welcomes this fragmentation of the nation state so that it can concentrate even more power in Brussels. It certainly prefers to talk about ‘a Europe of the regions’, rather than ‘a Europe of nation states’.’

9 There is no evidence for this that I can find, except that knowledge, interest and support of the EU has increases markedly in the 27, post Brexit.

’10. the EU is a political project that is fundamentally anti democratic – Jean Monnet EU founding father – ‘Europe’s nations should be guided towards the super-state without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation’

Jean-Claude Juncker ‘There can be no democratic choice against the European Treaties’

I for one don’t like being part of a socio-economic experiment aiming to create a federal Europe, controlled by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats.’

10 The EU Parliament is directly elected that, together with the Council decides of which proposed legislation by the Commission becomes EU law. The Council is comprised of the directly elected executives of the member states. The Council also determines the composition of the Commission; one for each member state, delegated to serve the interests of each member state. It is roughly analogous to heads of civil service heads in the UK.

It could easily be argued that Winston Churchill was the father of the EU, but that aside . . .

This, so-called quote by Monnet has no real evidential basis. It is referred to quite a lot, and the only real ‘truth’ in it comes from its circuitous, self-referential repetition. There are also quite a few refutations of it.

The Juncker quote is largely out of context. Largely it means that one can’t agree to the rules and then decide, unilaterally to change them.

His final link is this. (actual UK contributions).

Brexit, Festinger and the revolt against domination

This post has been hanging around for a while, as my access to the blog collapsed (due to a glitch in one of the WordPress add-ons, now fixed by disabling it…)

There is a very funny video by Jonathan Pie (well, he’s always very funny) with which I feel I need to take exception. His basic stance is that you don’t persuade anyone by calling them stupid – and I agree, it isn’t the best persuasive technique.

However, Brexiteers have, in effect, been conned. Those who voted Conservative in the most recent election have been conned. Lest you think “oh well, no-one believes electoral hype these days anyhow”, I have heard variations on the following from several people – “You can’t trust anything any of the politicians say these days, but I voted for Boris because he just seems trustworthy to me”. As the link shows, Boris and his cohorts were massively the least trustworthy of any of the leaders or parties. Those saying or thinking this are believing a group of people who, as represented by Michael Gove, say “the people have had enough of experts”.

How on earth do you manage to convince people that they have made the wrong decision when they have ignored all the actual evidence, discount anything which “the other side” says (including experts) and, against all reason, believe that someone who basically lies 88% of the time is the most trustworthy person to lead the country, without at least implicitly calling them stupid?

My really strong temptation is to respond to Jonathan Pie that I’m being charitable in thinking of Brexiteers as stupid, because if they aren’t stupid, they’re either (1) deliberately trying to damage the country (I know a couple of people who voted Leave specifically because, as one of them put it “I want to see the world burn” – my first draft of this option said “maliciously”, but actually, she thinks the only way to get a better world is to demolish what we’ve got now, which may be misguided but isn’t actually malicious) or (2) self-centeredly seeking power, prestige or money from it. The politicians who espouse Brexit are pretty obviously in the last category – they’re getting power and prestige, and a lot of them are probably expecting to make money as well. The big businessmen who are backing them are definitely going for the money.

But that leaves a lot of people, the vast majority of Brexiteers, who are not only not going to benefit this way, they’re going to be damaged by it. Those who voted Tory at the last election also have a history of the last two Conservative governments to look at, which made the majority of us poorer and more desperate, particularly the sick and the poor (I note that the promises of an end to austerity have just been u-turned on by the Chancellor). Why are the turkeys voting for Christmas?

I think the answer might be found partially in Festinger’s famous book “When Prophecy Fails”. This catalogues the behaviour of an apocalyptic group when the apocalypse they predicted fails to arrive. Far from resulting in the dissolution of the group, Festinger found that they doubled down on their beliefs (slightly modified) and, as the link states, Festinger identified a set of criteria:-

  • A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he or she behaves.
  • The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual’s commitment to the belief.
  • The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.
  • Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief.
  • The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence that has been specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, the belief may be maintained and the believers may attempt to proselytize or persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.

If all of those are present, the tendency is for the belief not only to persist, but to intensify.

In the case of Brexit, I might suggest that all the evidence already shows that Brexit will damage the country, but it seems that this has failed to persuade ardent Brexiteers that it is a false belief, rather thay have intensified their support for it. If this mechanism is at work, we can expect people to double down on the belief that Brexit is a good thing more rather than less when it proves to be even more disastrous than it has already.

There is more, however. In a recent episode of the Political Philosophy podcast, Toby Buckle discussed the ideas of domination and humiliation in politics. His thesis was, briefly, that the main thing which people desired was to be free from domination (and the resulting humiliation), building on a previous episode on Machiavelli. Remember my friend who said “I want to see the world burn”? The sentiment is, I think, that we are powerless against political forces and that our votes are irrelevant. This is something I have a lot of sympathy for; I have never voted for a candidate for the UK parliament who has won, and it is only in the most recent European election, when my area actually did elect a couple of Liberal Democrat MEPs, when my vote might have been seen as “winning” in a national level vote, though my area also elected three Brexit Party MEPs… not that that now matters much, as all of them are now unemployed.

My “world burn” friend was delighted when her vote was on the winning side; for a moment, she (and other Brexit-voting people) had WON! In her case, and, I think, for many others, it was an “in your face” revolt against the status quo. I think there are a lot of people in the country for whom things have got so bad, irrespective of who they voted for, that any change was seen as a good thing – it couldn’t get any worse, could it? (Personally I think yes, it can get a lot worse, but that hasn’t actually happened yet…) Suddenly, their vote had counted – and they were impatient to see it carried all the way into reality…

That, of course, also explains the lack of enthusiasm for a “people’s vote” – Leave voters have quite reasonably expected since shortly after the referendum that if it were re-run, the result would be “Remain” – and that would negate their “win”. Current polls seem to bear that out, though the option is now closed to us, as we have officially left (though for most purposes nothing will really change until the beginning of 2021 except, I expect, a continuing closure of businesses and an increasing set of job losses).

So, my Brexit-voting friends, you have now “won” beyond any possibility of us former Remainers reversing that decision. Yes, I will now be campaigning to rejoin, but that is not going to be something which can be achieved overnight (as, up to last night, a reversal of the Article 50 notice could have been). It is, for instance, totally unachievable until we have another general election and no longer have a thumping Conservative majority. Is that “win” enough for you? Apparently, for some 87% of Express readers who want to see it made illegal to fly the European flag, no, it isn’t. They want to fine or imprison me for the flag which now flies from the front of my house as well.

However, as the poll I linked earlier also shows, 86% of us want British and EU companies to be able to trade freely with each other, and that would require a “Norway” type deal (which argues that the Express readers are well under 14% of us). I was saying immediately after the referendum result that I’d reluctantly settle for that, even though I’m a completely committed pro-European, including supporting Schengen, the Euro (with some reservations in that case) and a closer political union, all of which put me towards the extreme end of the pro-European spectrum.

My question is, now you’ve actually won, would you settle for that as well? If you would, please let your local Tory MP know that, as a Brexit and Tory voter, you want free trade with no tariffs or regulatory barriers to trade – and that your future support is dependent on him or her voting for just that. And that that is one thing which might, just might, start to implement Boris’ post-election talk of “bringing the country together”.

My fear, though, is that the Boris government will head inexorably toward the hardest possible Brexit at the end of the year. For a start, if we are to believe his “no extension” talk, he has given himself an impossible task of negotiating a proper trade deal (which tend to take 5-10 years to negotiate), and the ERG proponents of “no deal” are still strong and without many pro-European Tories to balance them. And that isn’t the “we’ve struck a blow against domination” territory, it’s “when prophecy fails” territory. We could so easily slide into a government (and a significant slice of the electorate) in a delusional state similar to that explored by Festinger.

The only thing which might be negotiable within that period and not be a complete disaster for us is, indeed, something like the “Norway” option. I think it would need far less negotiation than a detailed trade deal – and that would probably appeal to Boris, as from schooldays onward, he’s been called lazy.

And yes, I can already hear the cries of “but that’s Brexit in name only”. Yes it is, but it’s still Brexit, it’s still a “win” for Brexiteers, and one in the eye for all us know-alls who said Brexit would be a catastrophe – because it’s possibly the only Brexit which wouldn’t be that bad (although we’ve already lost a significant amount of industry and FIRE sector organisations, and I doubt they’ll come back quickly). Rest assured, we’ll still think it’s a catastrophe, because what we wanted is a closer union with Europe, and we’ll have no part in that any more. Not for quite a few years, at any rate.