There was a lot of buzz in Remain circles last week about a Guardian Long Read article on the radicalisation of remain by Daniel Cohen. (I liked Alex Andreou’s take on it.)

Much of the article is reasonably straight reportage of the general landscape of Remain activism, particularly the Twitter side, but the tone is skewed by Cohen’s use of the term “remainist” to make it seem as if hardcore remainers are some sort of extreme fringe. The label “remainer” seems perfectly adequate to me. We’ve had no trouble distinguishing between different types of remainers to date—people have talked about Remain voters versus Remainers, or “hardcore remainers” as the Guardian puts it in the lede of Cohen’s article. “Remainer” means more than just “somebody who voted remain”, because at least some remain voters are now leavers, just as some leave voters are now remainers. It’s also flexible enough to include those who are generally supportive of remaining, through to those who are passionate enough to go on a march, tweet or post to Mefi Brexit threads, through to those who have given up their day jobs to devote themselves to the cause. It’s a broad church, and it isn’t defined by #FBPE.

Nor are remainers predominately people who never cared about politics before, as he implies. The UK is a country where voting is non-compulsory, so if you voted remain, you demonstrated that you care about politics—as did leave voters. Even if you didn’t vote, that doesn’t mean you don’t care about politics, because many people were denied the opportunity to vote in the referendum. Or maybe you thought that the EU was a distraction from austerity and defeating the Tories, the “leftwing critique” that Cohen mentions, and didn’t care what happened in the referendum. Whether or not you cared about Britain’s membership of the EU before doesn’t tell us much about whether you cared about politics before.

Cohen says that “Remainists hated Theresa May by the end”: do we get a prize if we hated her from the beginning? Plenty of us knew what she was like as Home Secretary in the six years before becoming PM, and objected to what she was doing in the role—because we cared about politics.

And there’s some sleight-of-hand in this:

The Lib Dems’ refusal to countenance joining any kind of caretaker government with Corbyn at the helm—even if that could rule out a no-deal Brexit—confirms that remainists are continuing to do politics under the guise of putting politics aside to serve the national interest.

Whatever stance Lib Dem MPs decide to take for their own political advantage says little about remainers as a whole, or even the more activist remainers most of the article is discussing. Remainers on Twitter have been extremely divided on the question of a caretaker government and how it might be formed. Personally, I don’t think we’re going to get one, so it could be helmed by John Smith’s ghost for all the difference it would make.

Is anyone talking about “putting politics aside to serve the national interest”? I’m sure that any of the people mentioned in this article would acknowledge that their support of Remain is a political position. Defining politics as “unquestioning support for a specific political party” helped get us into this mess in the first place.


Get ready to charge EU citizens under no-deal Brexit, NHS bosses told. Get ready to make Windrush look like a blip once people with the “wrong” accent or skin colour start dying on gurneys because they don’t carry proof of residency in their wallets and purses.

Fintan O’Toole on Boris Johnson.

The last three years have been more catastrophic than even the most pessimistic Remainer predicted.

Psychological warfare over no-deal masks a strategic vulnerability.

Democracy: The Fight Back.

18 August 2019 · Politics