Welcome To Rugby Club Land: Godfrey Bloom & Other Dangerous Buffoons
, August 8th, 2013 07:15
After UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom was recorded making racist comments about “bongo bongo land”, Joe Kennedy argues that he is just one example of a breed of right wing "trollitician" whose buffoonery disguises a dark, potent, English misanthropy
Today, we throw off our chains. Today is the day that, finally, we can say 'no', and to mean 'no'. 'No' to speed cameras, 'no' to overgenerous maternity pay, 'no' to wheelchair ramps and to cushy holidays for juvenile delinquents! 'No' to trendy teachers and the Marxist curriculum! 'No' to new mosques and gay marriage and, especially, to gay marriage in new mosques! 'No' to endless apologising for the slave trade, and for the Empire: after all, everyone's been invaded at some point! And it was ages ago! 'No' to striking nurses and firemen, and 'no' to the union leaders who still – still, can you believe it? - have us by the balls! What's wrong with a bit of sodding common sense? Look, some of our best friends are black! If they can take a laugh and a joke, I don't know why that Owen Jones and Laurie Penny bloody can't. And we'll say 'yes', too. 'Yes' to the property ladder. 'Yes' to golf clubs, to kit cars and the neighbourhood watch! 'Yes' to new, better wedding vows: 'Do you take this fine piece of totty to be your lawfully wedded crumpet?' 'Yes' to the Royal Family – I'm not that bothered myself, but, let's face it, they bring the tourists in and older people like them. Think about it. Think about how happy they make your gran, you wouldn't want to take that away from her, would you? We'll celebrate the Best of British – Churchill and Brunel and Nelson. Dogged, determined, wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, cut through the red tape. Where's all that now? Where's tradition? Where's 'Si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more'? What do we have instead? Communism! Great idea in theory, but it'd never work in practice; people are naturally competitive – Darwin proved this, but try telling that to the schools. All the kids ever hear these days is about how everything we've done is wrong. But it's stopping now. No more, we say, no more of this nonsense. Because today, Rugby Club Land dares to do more than whisper the word, and instead shouts it out loud, proud and British – 'INDEPENDENCE'.
The final years of novelist J.G. Ballard's life saw his work begin to explore a new set of concerns. In Millennium People and Kingdom Come, Ballard began to suss out the dreamscape of an England in which an unusual revolution was in full swing. This uprising was neither a revolt of the oppressed workers or peasantry nor a military coup d'etat but, instead, a radicalised outburst of bourgeois resentment brought on by a growing conviction amongst the middle classes that their beliefs and desires had gone too long unacknowledged.
Reading about the recent remarks of UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom yesterday brings Ballard's middle class revolt back to mind. At a recent meeting of activists for Nigel Farage's anti-EU-and-immigration party, Bloom raged against Britain's provision of foreign aid to 'bongo bongo land' and suggested that this money was spent predominantly on 'Ray-Ban sunglasses' and 'apartments in Paris'. Called upon by Today to account for his behaviour, he dismissed the notion that he had caused any offence and added that his views were simply those of 'ordinary people in the rugby and cricket club'. Somewhat predictably, he chucked in the claim that his 'job is to upset the BBC and the Guardian and I love it'.
To wield a neologism, the right-wing trollitician is an increasingly common figure in these times. The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is arguably one, and Farage may well fit the template too. However, the issue is less that such figures exist in the public sphere than that their real danger is not apprehended. It's easy enough to write off figures like Bloom as – and there's only so many times I can use this word without becoming nauseous – 'buffoons', but in doing so one runs the risk of ignoring the way in which their apparent political illiteracy may well be nothing more than a mask for a considered political strategy.
French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan once identified a key characteristic of the right-wing public figure as their knavishness, or the fact that "when required, he admits he's a crook". Johnson, Bloom, Farage: the trait shared by all is that they appeal to the intuition held by many that conviction, even (or perhaps especially) divorced from its content, is a virtue. It seems a likelihood that certain households would have been banging their hands on the table as news of Bloom's comments broke and praising him on the grounds of his unabashed mind-speaking, particularly given the current consensus – and it does seem to be a view held from left to right – that most politicians are pure careerists in it for the free lunches, apartments and duck houses.
This in itself, though, is not what ought to make us do more than chuckle indulgently at the buffoons. The real issue is, firstly, the snowballing of a myth regarding what constitutes 'popular' opinion and, after that, where that myth takes us. Populist, conservative politicians have, in the wake of the liberalising of European politics in the 1990s (around 85% of EU members were governed by social democratic parties in 1998) manufactured a new, and increasingly successful, grand narrative about the sufferings of the 'ordinary' middle classes at the hands of the so-called 'left'. Now, it's essential to state that this 'left' is purely nominal – Tony Blair, Lionel Jospin and Gerhard Schröder may have represented parties which were socialist in theory, but those parties had all been shoved into the centrist pragmatism of the Third Way by the end of the last millennium. The consequence of this was, and is, that all mainstream political discourse has been dragged rightwards, resulting in the left's horizon of plausibility receding from the end of capitalism itself to tactical goals such as (in this country) the continued existence of the NHS.
The altering of the dimensions of the argument is where the likes of Bloom become significant. Their work is twofold. On one hand, they consume the energies of the left through irritation: while we know what they're saying is essentially dumb and contradictory, we still feel obliged to respond (as I'm doing here). For conservatives – from the rabid right to the parish council – they serve to stoke a sense that it's the dominant sections of society (the white, the male, the heterosexual, the middle class) who are getting it in the neck. If one read nothing but the Daily Mail it would be easy enough to become convinced that Britain really was a country in which it was possible to be oppressed and persecuted for being a straight bloke with a Lexus. The new mythology states that the left are dictating the political sphere and, in doing so, hammering the "ordinary people in the rugby and cricket club."
To some, this will sound harmless enough, and Bloom et al will seem like nothing but anachronistic moaners. But the people who advocate and are swayed by such beliefs form a pretty broad spectrum, and the grumblers down at the local rugby club are at its most benign end. At the other one finds the likes of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, whose cut-and-paste manifesto ranted at obsessive length against so-called 'Cultural Marxism' and presented, unequivocally, the idea that the very existence of white, heterosexual, European Christians was under threat by an almost comically unlikely conspiracy between socialism and Islam. Bloom's defence of the pseudo-ordinary folk of the rugby club bar - which is based on the absurd idea that they need defending in the first place - may seem relatively benign, but it's merely the thin end of the wedge.