In this week's newsletter, the right has predicted that 'the end of Britain' is night because a pub in Devon renamed the ploughman's sandwich.
In a week where the cost of living crisis is starting to hit home, with energy bills rising from April 1, right wing media commentators were particularly interested in meaningless culture war nonsense that requires them to have a meltdown about a sandwich.
In #RightWingWatch news, I covered movements among Conservative pressure groups in Parliament, with both the Net Zero Scrutiny Group and the Conservative Environment Network increasing their support among Tory MPs amid a tug of war over green policies which could have wider implications for us all
I also looked at another Steve Baker group (he’s behind the Tufton Street Net Zero Watch and Net Zero Scrutiny Group), the Thatcher fan club, Conservative Way Forward. Baker announced he was relaunching the group in December, but it’s been delayed until April because they can’t seem to decide what their raison d’etre should be.
Getting very mad about a sandwich
Nigel Farage is angry because Disney has decided that 50% of roles in its productions will be from underrepresented groups, like ethnic minorities and LGBTQ people.
GB News is angry because a single pub in Devon renamed the ploughman’s sandwich the ploughperson’s sandwich, in a tongue in cheek nod to female farmers.
Daily Mail hack Andrew Pierce is upset that people receiving NHS care have to fill out a generic form which asks if they’re pregnant, even if they’re a man.
When did the right get so angry all the time at such tiny things? Has it always been like this? This isn’t normal behaviour, they’re losing their minds at a sandwich.
Nile Gardiner, the British mascot of US right wing think tank the Heritage Foundation, called the gender neutral sandwich ‘the end of Britain’. Wow, they’ve cancelled Britain now? Why? Oh, just because someone renamed a sandwich.
I really never knew that the ploughman’s was such a core part of British identity, but presumably that’s because I live in London, which is not part of Real Britain.
But it seems that the fear of progressive sandwiches is actually a global contagion. In Australia, right wing politician Mark Latham was forced into publicly soiling himself over a ‘vegan rainbow sandwich’ sold in the New South Wales Parliament.
These days, it seems that if you mention colonialism even happened, you’ll be accused by the frothing nationalists at places like GB News and Breitbart of attempting to literally destroy your own country.
Which in a strange way is actually a frank admission that a lot of Britain was indeed built by the dead labour of millions of exploited colonial subjects and the wealth extracted by their masters.
A couple of weeks ago, Breitbart London claimed that the National Museum Wales was trying to ‘cancel’ the steam train, after it launched a BLM-inspired review of its collection with the intent of decolonising the museum’s production of knowledge about the past.
Admitting that items in its collection were historically linked to colonialism and slavery isn’t what I would call ‘cancelling’ the steam train. The steam train still exists, after all, but it appears that it’s the reassessment of past history which troubles the Defenders of Empire over at these right wing publications.
Because the museum was inspired to reassess its collection by the Black Lives Matter protests, they also decided to include placards from the 2020 BLM protests in its collection. And would you guess who was annoyed at that? That’s right, Nigel Farage.
Farage against the machine
I’ve been reading Michael Crick’s biography of Nigel Farage, which contains some rather juicy interviews with some of his contemporaries at school. I already knew the story about how he once marched through a Sussex village shouting Hitler Youth songs, and used to love the fact that his initials were the same as those of the National Front.
But there are accounts from a number of other pupils, one of whom said he suffered “frequent anti-Semitic verbal abuse by Farage.” Another Jewish pupil said Farage would walk up to him and say “Hitler was right”, or “Gas ‘em”.
“He was a deeply unembarrassed racist”, another pupil said, who “relished rubbing people up the wrong way”. Like a lot of modern internet trolls, he would brush off his frequent use of racism as just a means to troll other pupils or the teaching staff who he considered to be too left wing.
Getting mad at BLM placards or a sandwich may seem bizarre behaviour, but it’s just what Farage has always been doing. Provoking, trolling, seeking attention. But I think the difference now is that the culture he represents is on the back foot.
No longer can you hide your racism among the generalised prejudices of 1970s Britain. Nigel Farage’s views in the 70s may have not been so remarkable because many more people held them. Now you can’t go around saying ‘Hitler was right’ on GB News, so you have to dog whistle about a sandwich, which looks pathetic and ridiculous.
Farage and co are still schoolboys trying to provoke a reaction. The difference is that now, people like him are in charge of the government and a lot of the media, and so they can’t get angry about any of the things they’re responsible for, like the cost of living crisis, wage stagnation and poverty.
With the start of April and energy prices skyrocketing, I’m sceptical about how many people will be convinced that a sandwich in Devon is really the main problem facing Britain.
John Lubbock leads on the Right-Watch project at Left Foot Forward
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