Those within the press and pundit establishment shilling for the hardest and most damaging Brexit possible have long ago abandoned reason: the shakily-reasoned claims of new riches in a post-Brexit world are long gone, replaced by exhortations to smile and be brave, as in a youngster having to visit the dentist. If we would only do that, all would be well. Faith banishes tooth decay. But it doesn’t provide jobs.
Recently, with the prospect of many of those ordinary voters having second thoughts about leaving the EU, that rhetoric has changed to claims that it was voted for, and so it must be respected - even to the extent of dismissing calls for a second vote as “undemocratic”. Added to that has been the riling up of the electorate, and the suggestion that there would be unrest if Brexit is not delivered. Except there isn’t any.
So it was that contrarian floor-crosser Brendan O’Neill was invited on to the BBC’s Daily Politics to bring forth his mixture of false premise and media bubble ignorance. “What must they be thinking, as they hear these so-called experts, these lawyers, and these judges, and these Parliamentarians, 70% of whom are anti-Brexit, going through all these discussions, how can we prevent a clean Brexit, how can we ensure this doesn’t happen, how can we go back to the people and force them to vote again”. And why?
“Because we think they’re stupid, and racist, and got it wrong the first time round”. False premises there - the judges aren’t preventing anything (they are merely ruling on points of law), there is no such thing as a clean break Brexit, no-one is calling voters stupid or racist, and no voter is ever forced to do anything. Still, onwards and, er, onwards, eh?
“They must be watching this and asking ‘what’s happened to democracy in this country?’” But, as Bren knows, nothing has “happened” to democracy, except in his own mind. But do go on. “I think the introduction of law into this process has been an absolute disaster”. But law has not been “introduced” into the process. It was there all along. Had it not been, the Supreme Court would not have been able to rule on it.
But on he went. “What it smacks of to me is that there is this layer of society that are so used to getting their own way [and of which O’Neill is a part]”. And then he dropped it. “I am amazed that there haven’t been riots - yet. That’s the most amazing thing”. Reality is amazing to Bren. Then Adam Fleming prodded him a little. “Do you think there will be?”
What say The Great Man? “I think there should be … when I look at the Gilets Jaunes”. We should be seeing rioting because someone in another country is doing it, and on a totally different pretext. Many observers had, by now, seen enough.
Owen Jones observed “Imagine I, or another socialist, went on the BBC and called for riots. Just imagine what the reaction would be”. Mehdi Hasan saw Jones, and raised him: “imagine if I, a brown Muslim, went on live TV and said there should be riots”. Quite.
More seriously, former prosecutor Nazir Afzal responded “Brendan O’Neill hear says ‘There SHOULD be RIOTS’. Apart from being indefensible, it is criminal to encourage public disorder and he has crossed the line here & on national television. There is no excuse, nor defence. Police SHOULD want to have a word with him”. He’s right.
By this point, the BBC’s Rob Burley was in damage limitation mode: “on live television people say unpredictable things. O’Neill’s assertion that there ‘should’ be riots if Brexit [is] delayed was immediately picked up on and pushed back … It is for Mr O’Neill to defend his position but given we can’t know what he was going to say in advance, all we can do is push back on air”. His problem is that O’Neill is invited on specifically because he says “unpredictable things”, although it wasn’t quite Peregrine Worsthorne and Nationwide.
There is also O’Neill’s hypocrisy: when there were riots in London, he most certainly wasn’t in favour of those, blaming the welfare state. And as one Tweeter put it, “Brendan O'Neill believes victims of Jimmy Savile should shut up; opposes efforts to combat racism in football; calls Greta Thunberg a ‘millenarian weirdo’. So, naturally, he's invited on the BBC. Here, he encourages the poor to riot on behalf of billionaire disaster capitalists”.
As to where Bren will find his rioters, James Doleman was sceptical. “I've seen the Tommy Robinson mob outside the Old Bailey, mainly washed up ex football casuals, and older racists [but] To start a riot you need a lot of 16 to 18 year olds who are angry enough to not care about the possible consequences of chucking a brick at a police van … I may be wrong here, but don't see a lot of those on the Brexit side”.
Reality and Brendan O’Neill never were such close friends. Perhaps the BBC should also consider whether it wants to carry on being his friend. I’ll just leave that one there.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at