The Highlander and the Peasant

If you want a snapshot of the weird lies and distortion of elites posturing as ‘the common man’ through the self-induced Brexit crisis, you can do no better than witness Fraser Nelson and Brendan O’Neil in action.

Nelson this week declared himself a “Highlander” and announced that Scotland was firmly against Freedom of Movement. O’Neill famously recently declared himself from “Irish peasant stock”.

Like some kind of contemporary kailyard Maeve Binchy novel The Highlander and the Peasant are joined in their commitment to ending immigration and attacking multi-cultural Britain.

Koch sucking O’Neill this week wrote a confused rant in Nelson’s Spectator (“What Jon Snow meant when he talked about ‘white people’):

“In recent years we’ve witnessed the racialisation of snobbery. It is no longer acceptable to say ‘underclass’ or ‘scum’ and so instead we have seen the emergence of phrases like ‘chav’, ‘gammon’ and the far broader but very selectively targeted ‘white people’. All these terms play the same role that phrases like ‘white trash’ once played.”

They really don’t.

In a line of divisive patter straight out of the Bannon-Breitbart playbook O’Neill suggested: “White people’ is increasingly PC code for the lower orders.”

He said: “I was one of the speakers at Friday’s protest, and both before and after the event I met many, many people. Yes, most of them were white but there were people from minority groups too.”

The Spiked editor didn’t pause to illuminate Spectator readers just why there wouldn’t be more “minority groups” at a rally featuring himself Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage, and shrouded with Union Jacks and with people trailing an effigy of Sadiq Khan. Presumably that would be too PC.

In the frothing shambles that is Brexit Britain Channel 4 was forced to apologise for Jon Snow’s remarks.

As Frances Ryan has commented:

“It is essentially an apology for offending people with facts. This is where we are now: a white person in trouble for calling other people white; a news organisation apologising for telling the truth.”

Ryan wrote:

“That Snow’s remarks caused such a fuss is a perfect display of how race inequality works. It is a reflection of white privilege that white people like me are so rarely defined by race that being referred to by our own skin colour is perceived as a personal affront. We are used to being seen and spoken about as individuals rather than a homogenous group — a privilege ethnic minorities are much less likely to enjoy in day-to-day life. There is also a fragile double standard to it. Did all the people claiming white people’s race is irrelevant in an anti-Brexit march kick up a fuss when Sajid Javid spoke of “Asian paedophiles” or when Catherine Blaiklock, the former Ukip activist, said that black men are violent due to high testosterone? (In fact, Farage worked with her.)”

If Spiked is “owned” by Charles Koch the Spectator is owned by David and Frederick Barclay who also own The Daily Telegraph (and used to own the Scotsman). It is part of a coterie of media outlets where newly-emboldened attitudes to race, which a few years ago would have been completely unacceptable, are promulgated. Readers are regularly treated to the likes of Stephen Daisley, Rod Liddle (“ Is it possible to draw Serena Williams without being racist?”) and other charming commentaries on race and immigration all couched in terms of edgy-iconoclastic free-thinking.

The “Highlander’s” own comments came in response to the SNP’s Pete Wishart who had asked him: “What do you make of the impact of ending free movement on your home nation of Scotland? All our population growth is predicted on it and nearly every sector tell us its removal could be disastrous. Huge impact for our demographic issues and economy.”

Nelson’s comments seem to be ignorant of the historic depopulation of the highlands, or its contemporary dependence on people from across the EU coming to live and work here in an economy (over) reliant on food and tourism. But it’s also reminiscent of an incident from a few years back when another right-winger objected to Wishart’s comment that “We welcome asylum seekers and refugees”.

Back in 2015 Nick Griffin posted this image online saying “Keep Scotland Scottish”.

The image backfired spectacularly with people appreciating some tartan-style backing Wishart and rejecting Griffin’s attempt to kindle racism.

Let’s hope the same fate doesn’t befall the Highlander and the Peasant.

With people like Mark Francois calling a vote in the House of Commons an “attempted coup” and Jacob Rees-Mogg quoting Alice Weidel, leader of the AfD, a German far-right party whose senior figures have called for refugees to be shot, Britain is a tinderbox of hatred.

The AfD, whose candidates have declared that Islam is worse than the plague and that refugee boats should be sunk, marched alongside neo-Nazis last year, leading to some of its members being put under formal state surveillance.

As the mask slips from the right wing of the Conservative Party and the “respectable” face of the Brexit movement becomes more exposed, its essential that people in Scotland defend common values and rights and articulate a different model based on human rights, anti-racism solidarity and internationalism.

Originally published at on April 2, 2019.


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