Trudging across muddy fields in harsh wind and rain, the Brexit Betrayal marchers have committed to a hard slog. Although it would be trite to liken this epic journey from Sunderland to London to the desperate circumstances of the Jarrow Crusade, the symbolism is strong. Men marched in 1936 for jobs; in 2019 they are marching against disenfranchisement, as the political establishment defies the largest mandate in British history.
Yet these fairly ordinary men and women, part of the majority that voted to leave, the EU, are ridiculed by the Remain-addled mainstream media. One prominent writer has gone further, attacking them, without any justification or evidence, as ‘far right’. His name is Nick Cohen.
I have followed Cohen’s work over the years. In his incisive book ‘What’s Left’ (2007), he raised his head over the parapet to decry the antisemitism and nihilistic nonsense on the fundamentalist fringe of the Labour Party. A columnist for the Observer, Cohen burned bridges with many readers, but stands his ground against ideological absolutists.
Although definitely left of centre, Cohen’s writing reaches across the spectrum, through his regular contributions to Spectator and Standpoint magazines. This pluralism is more evident in conservative publications, which afford space for opposing views in a way that would be anathema for the New Statesman or Guardian. Readers of Tory inclination tend to regard leftist opinion as interesting but mistaken, while left-wingers see right-wing perspectives as immoral. Brexit clearly demonstrates this phenomenon: the Leave-supporting Telegraph employs Remain writers, but Brexit gets scant sympathy in the pages of the Guardian.
Regrettably, Cohen has turned out to be as uncompromisingly hardline as the Corbynites and Momentum types that he eviscerates. A severe case of Brexit derangement syndrome, he catastrophises and vilifies in escalating tones. For Cohen, Brexit is a protofascist movement, initiated by vainglorious old Etonians but now mounted by darker forces.
Writing on the destructive influence of ‘fake news’ in the Spectator, Cohen’s latest target is this very website. I came across Politicalite when activist Tommy Robinson was jailed last summer. It was necessary viewing, because the mainstream media maintained a blackout on this diabolical miscarriage of justice, long after the reporting restriction was lifted. For a while Breitbart covered the story, until the outlet received heavy-handed warnings by the authorities. And so a tiny operation in Manchester suddenly became massive. It was the only reliable source of news on Tommy Robinson, while all other media imposed a blackout, interspersed with standard-issue hatchet jobs.
If you’re looking for fake news, Nick, you’ll find it in the politically-correct outlets such as the BBC (and, these days, the Daily Mail). It was widely stated that Tommy Robinson, after his summary imprisonment at Leeds Crown Court for reporting on convicted child rapists, had interfered with a trial, and that he had pleaded guilty to contempt of court. Neither was true, but whatever allowances are made for the strict information control imposed at the time, we are yet to see any apology by these outlets since.
Tommy Robinson’s sentence was quashed on appeal, but no concerns about this scandalous and vindictive treatment of a citizen journalist were raised by the BBC or Guardian, as would normally be expected (e.g. jihadists in Guantanamo Bay). These hitherto respected sources, informed by supposedly liberal values, have shown themselves to be unprincipled and biased – choosing an agenda-driven narrative over fact.
This is the context in which Politicalite thrives (despite efforts by tech companies in collusion with government to suppress it). Politicalite tells the news that the mainstream media doesn’t want you to know. Not surprisingly, many of its articles gain more readers than the miserable fare on Mail Online.
We should invite Nick Cohen for an interview with Politicalite. Is it too working-class for his taste? And on the Brexit Betrayal marchers, are they really beyond the margins of acceptable political opinion? Heaven help Nick when so-called populists overcome the metropolitan elite, of whom he is a fully-fledged member, and give the people what they want – Brexit’n’all.