The elephant in the next room is Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. For a graphic proof, look at the media, TV, and newspapers lately. The European Parliament met in Strasbourg for the first plenary session of its newly-elected members. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”—a title engrafted by the EU upon the last movement of the 9th Symphony, making it the European anthem—was played, a stirring and uplifting salute to the greater glory of the EU. All stand in homage. But what is this? Twenty-nine upstanding Parliamentarians turn their backs upon the forum! They are photographed in regimental unity and discipline. All are members of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, whose sole aim is to leave the august assembly of which they are temporarily part. Hence the performance art of the mutinous MEPs, and its open mockery of the assembly’s pretensions. Their specific objection is not to Beethoven but the miscalled “anthem” which, they allege, belongs to a nation and not a heterogeneous group of people implausibly titled a “Union.” The effect of their protest is to ridicule the claims of the EU priesthood that the worshippers are part of a quasi-religious ceremony. A congregation that turns its back on the central mystery is something other than serious. The hooligans have invaded the temple, and will stay there for a while in plain sight. As Shakespeare’s Volumnia says, “action is eloquence.”
Meantime, the priesthood makes its arrangements. They are a triumph of guided democracy. France and Germany split the two top jobs, while Italy and Spain are headed for two more. All those nominated have been touched by questionable financial dealings, which in America would finish their careers. A fifth position will be granted to one of the East Europeans, that ever-slighted group whose views on immigration sit poorly with the pensée unique of the EU overlords. The Potemkin parliament in Strasbourg does not fool the people of Britain, and the raucous UK contingent is the outrider of Brexit.
The 29 MEPs cannot believe their luck. Four months ago they were merely beachcombers on the shore of politics. Britain was due to leave the EU on March 29. And then, a few days before that fatal date, it was announced (not by Theresa May; the passive or impersonal voice is the true speech of Government) that it was all off, and the EU would kindly grant an extension. So Britain would have to send its quota of MEPs to Strasbourg even though no plans had been made. Into this yawning vacuum Nigel Farage leapt: in mid-April he formed a new party, whose cohorts were at once filled with eager volunteers, all of them intoxicated by the prospect of a reserved first-class seat on the Orient Express, that gravy train to the EU heartland. The EU elections in May confirmed their hopes and dreams. They know it will not go on forever, but at present they have a privileged, well-upholstered seat on which to recline, and they intend to enjoy every moment. This is as good as it gets for the Brexit Party—and the Conservative Party should be very worried.
Ralph Berry writes from England.