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30th January 2020

“Got Brexit Done”: resisting Johnson’s culture war

Important arguments in the ongoing post-election culture war are becoming overshadowed by celebratory Brexit merchandise, argues George Walker
“Got Brexit Done”: resisting Johnson’s culture war
Photo: Derek Bennett @Flickr

This week Boris Johnson’s government laid their emphatic electoral victory on thick with the unveiling of a commemorative Brexit 50p coin, Brexit mugs, teatowels and magnets emblazoned with a reworking of their victorious slogan “Get Brexit Done” to “Got Brexit Done”. It’s safe to say that these acts have provoked waves of hell and fury from professional Remainer celebrities such as Alastair Campbell, who has claimed that upon being given a Brexit 50p he would demand it be changed by the cashier into two twenty pences and a ten. Campbell truly embodying that age old means of political resistance: haranguing minimum wage shop workers over the engraving of a coin.

In a similarly sneering move, writer Philip Pullman has suggested that somehow the coin be ‘boycotted’ by all ‘literate people’ as it misses a comma. As if those who dare not be so resoundly offended as he, are simply illiterate, or to paraphrase another transatlantic political failure are part of a ‘basket of deplorables’. This was met with condemnation and mockery from right wing culture war harpies such as Darren Grimes, and Julia Hartley-Brewer, who claimed that fury over the coin meant she is living in ‘Remoaner Central’.

Before this starts to sound like a Spiked-online thinkpiece, I will stake my claims to the significance and cynical ploys of the Brexit merch war. Alastair Campbell et al. are predictably walking right into the culture war trappings laid out by national expert on dividing a country into ruin, Dominic Cummings, the architect of 2016’s Leave EU campaign and Boris Johnson’s electoral victory. Like a depressing but all too real episode of Tom and Jerry, Cummings and Johnson have enticed people into rage over the jingoistic imagery of the pride and triumph of the ‘Got Brexit Done’ iconography. When Campbell and Pullman react with such fury and condescension, they serve to prove and fulfil Cummings’s narrative of an anti-democratic London-Centric sneering liberal elite; a sociopolitical invention so powerful it helped turn the red wall of Labour seats in the North and the Midlands blue last December, right.

Also, remember that this is a culture war long in the making by Cummings and the Leave cabal, take for example the outrage over the British passport turning from red to blue to commemorate Britain’s departure from the European Union. At the time Nigel Farage was triumphantly doing the rounds on big national media platforms, claiming the colour change to be a ‘Brexmas present’ in spite of the ‘remoaners’. 

So long as these orchestrated stunts generate this traction, the efficacy of Johnson’s narrative ‘for the people’ will continue unstirred by the hot-takes of the Twitter timeline. After all, some things are much more important, so long as Johnson and the Conservatives occupy the political, social, and even psychological guts of the country, the lives of people and the sanctity of Britain as we know it is at risk. Ranting into the abyss about the misgivings of a tea towel is the political equivalent of taking a sword to a gunfight. And Boris Johnson know it.

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