Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Giles Fraser: Families for Brexit, “the ability to stay put and care for each other.”

with 12 comments

Said to be Featuring on “This Time with Alan Partridge”.

“….one of the most common—and strangest—ideas found in the Labour-left anti-Market movement was that of Europe’s being somehow more capitalist in nature than Great Britain and the British State.”

Tom Nairn.  The Left Against Europe. 1972. New Left Review. 1/75.

In Nairn’s 1972 broadside against the nationalist anti-EU left, he cited the German sociologist, Ferdinand Tönnies.

Tönnies was concerned to define and contrast two ‘ideal types’ of human society. Society typified by Gemeinschaft or community is natural human society, founded upon the ties of family, kinship, shared labour and territory. It is based on ‘naturally rooted’ relationships, which issue in instinctively accepted common customs and traditions, and are voiced in a natural language or ‘mother-tongue’. Natural community is in this sense the village, the society of a stable neighbourhood—at most, that of a small town. It is rural rather than urban. It is (like the family) not necessarily democratic, and relies on common experience and shared values to balance its inequalities. It rests upon ‘natural will’ (Wesenwille) expressive of real human nature, and laws ‘in which human beings are related to each other as natural members of a whole’. Gemeinschaft stands (so to speak) for the concrete and personal, the ‘fully human’, as against the abstract and impersonal; for habit and instinct, as against artifice and calculation; for the close, the familiar, the inherited, as against the remote, the intrusive novelty, the alien way of life; for the tribe, as against the metropolis.

This is contrasted with “Gesellschaft” in which (as the common definition goes) “relationships arose in an urban and capitalist setting, characterised by individualism and impersonal monetary connections between people. Social ties were often instrumental and superficial, with self-interest and exploitation increasingly the norm.”

Nairn, who was to pay his own penance on the road to a nationalist Canossa, continued.

The politically crucial point is the identification of romantic Gemeinschaft with the nation. This, surely, is the shared terrain of the left and right wing oppositions to Europe.

Echoes of this distinction can be found in the present Brexit literature, Roger Scruton’s contrast between the impersonal rationalist European law, and the organic British common law, and  Maurice Glasman’s Blue Labour (which re-teweeted the above and published Fraser, Giles Fraser on People’s Vote: what will they say to Walsall’s people?)

Blue Labour ‘s ideas include the following:

The family is the fundamental social institution. It nurtures us from the start of our lives. It is where we learn about love, relationships, and the give and take needed to live good lives. Inspired by the effort of feminism to broaden our idea of worthwhile work, Blue Labour recognises the struggle families face to combine work and car

We want Britain to be a nation of energetic cities, towns and villages, each of which is free to develop its distinct identity. When people feel rooted they can achieve their potential; if power is dispersed, we have the freedom to take greater responsibility for our communities.

The eminent Germanist and thinker Giles Fraser is, in his spare time, a  Canon and Vicar of St Mary’s Newington. 

Fraser’s  political career spans backing for Occupy! at Saint Pauls, floating the idea of a new party, or not (Liberalism has broken us – we need a new party to call Home) and a friendly visit to Syria:

We need to talk about Giles, as a well established rumour has it that he will appear on next week’s Alain Patridge Show.

The priest in residence at Unherd, begins his latest missive.

Why won’t Remainers talk about family?

Last week the Evening Standard – now, of course, a propaganda rag for George Osborne’s Remain-inspired end-of-the-world fearmongering – led with the following front-page headline: “Who’ll look after our elderly post Brexit, ask care chiefs”.

I’m still spitting blood at the arrogance and callousness of that question. It summed up all that I have against the Osborne neoliberal (yes, that’s what it is) world-view. And why I am longing for a full-on Brexit – No Deal, please – to come along and smash the living daylights out of the assumptions behind that question.

Skipping the immediately following ill-wrought paragraph, which include a swipe at Luciana Berger, we come to this.

Fraser opines,

This is the philosophy that preaches freedom of movement, the Remainers’ golden cow. And it is this same philosophy that encourages bright working-class children to leave their communities to become rootless Rōnin, loyal to nothing but the capitalist dream of individual acquisition and self-advancement.

From where I was sitting it is these people – and not George Osborne swanning off to his new £3 million chalet in Verbier – that have got it right. For the attraction of socially conservative and traditional values are that they constitute a highly successful form of mutual care. Indeed, these are the values that have formed the basis for the most effective form of social security the world has even known: family and community life.

The idea that this form of life constitutes “lost earnings” shows how far the Remainer free-market, free-movement philosophy is a threat to the web of support on which the poorer and the most vulnerable especially, have to rely. Remain is all about ever new opportunities for the rich. Brexit seeks a reclamation of something we have lost. The ability to stay put and care for each other.

There is a short response by Steve Peers on the issue of the family:

Family values and Brexit: a reply to Giles Fraser

Fraser’s argument – such as it is – is that children should look after their parents as they get older. To that end, interspersed with three random anecdotes, he criticises “that much over praised value of social mobility”.  The problem is people leaving their communities, in particular in the form of free movement within the EU. But furthermore “it is this same philosophy that encourages bright working-class children to leave their communities to become rootless Rōnin”. I was the first Peers in a thousand generations to be able to go to university. And it seems Fraser would like me to be the last.

In his view, “No amount of economic growth is worth sacrificing all this for”, because “robbed of their most go-ahead young people, working class communities become ghost towns of hopelessness. And this nirvana of social immobility takes a very familiar form: “It is the daughter of the elderly gentleman that should be wiping his bottom”. The rich man in his castle; the poor woman at her picket fence.

The blindingly obvious omission here is that EU membership enhances family reunion for those who exercise the right to free movement. There’s a right of admission for spouses, children under 21 or dependent, and dependent parents or parents-in-law. This literally matches the extended family in one of Fraser’s anecdotes (and see the actually relevant anecdote of how free movement can facilitate care for elderly parents here). The EU withdrawal agreement would preserve this position in a limited form, but the position would be more difficult for families in the no deal outcome that Fraser says he longs for. As for future relationships, while some people will still move between the UK and EU, family reunion rights will be more restrictive, not less. With friends like Fraser, family values don’t need any enemies.

More vehemently,

A shit argument for Brexit 

The broader point Giles was trying to make, the one I am struggling to get to through the crap, is that freedom of movement breaks down families because it makes it easier for people to move away. There was of course not the slightest recognition in his piece that ending freedom of movement breaks up families. Neither was there any awareness that the Brexit fetishisation of tackling immigration has led to thousands of children being separated from a parent, many thousands of spouses separated from their significant other, countless grandparents separated from their grandchildren.

But no, in Brexitland we can all be stuck in the towns and villages of our birth, trapped by a lack of opportunities and the newly valueless nature of a British passport. And then we’ll be able to wipe our parents’ backsides when they become frail and incontinent because the arse has been ripped out of social care services by the very same right wing politicians who are so keen to foist the hardest possible Brexit upon us.

Brexit supporters once promised us the sunlit uplands. They promised shedloads of cash for the NHS. Now they’re reduced to making the argument that suffering is good for us, that we should be nostalgic for antiquated gender roles, and telling us to restrict our horizons and not to dare to dream of spreading our wings and flying.  Now they’re reduced to sophistry and telling us that Brexit is good for you because you too can get to wipe the arse of an infirm relative. Giles’ article is quite literally and in every sense of the word, the shittiest of arguments for the shitshow of Brexit.

Apart from being fucking well said, this should put an end to all the gobshite about a Hard Brexit Britain being some cosy Gemeinschaft.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2019 at 12:48 pm

12 Responses

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  1. Nice one, Andrew! But it remains a mystery as to how and why this (at best) half-educated ex-SWP buffoon and god-botherer is taken seriously enough by the BBC for them to regularly feature him on Thought For The Day and The Moral Maze.

    Jim Denham

    February 23, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    • I had forgotten the SWP bit…..

      Oh dear…..

      Andrew Coates

      February 23, 2019 at 5:42 pm

  2. Giles Fraser is crook and a liar. He took £2000 from Lutfur Rahman to chair a Fairness Commission in Tower Hamlets. The conclusion was that if you are poor life is unfair! He then disappeared with his two grand and hasn’t been seen in the East End since. I’ll dig up a total pack of lies he wrote in The Guardian for which he was paid by the East London Mosque.

    Dave Roberts

    February 23, 2019 at 4:45 pm

  3. More from the replies above:

    “It’s telling that Giles in his piece felt it was the role of a daughter to wipe her father’s arse. Not a son. Those antiquated gender roles are symptomatic of the regressive nostalgia that characterises the entire Brexit process. Asinine and insensitive doesn’t begin to describe it. I don’t know if Giles has ever been put in the situation of having to wipe the arse of a loved one, other than a small infant. Judging from the tone of his facile article, I’m guessing not.

    Well I have. My late partner suffered from dementia, and as his illness progressed he lost control of both his bladder and his bowels. It was a deeply distressing experience for both of us. It’s difficult to reassure your loved one, a once proud and self-sufficient man who is already upset because he has soiled himself, that you’re going to be there for him and are not judging him when you are in fact gagging and vomiting because of the smell. It’s difficult to maintain the dignity of a loved one who is in the advanced stages of a terminal illness when you have to strip off their underclothes and wipe their arse. It’s hard to calm down a crying relative and reassure them that they’re not being a bother when you’ve got their shit all over your hands. You’re not doing much bonding, except with the tears, and the disinfectant, bleach, and the lingering terrible smell. And then wash, rinse, repeat. You’re doing exactly the same the next day.

    As someone who has stood crying as I scraped shit off the bedsheets, as someone who has woken up in the marital bed in a wet patch of someone else’s urine, as someone who has literally vomited as I realised that my clothes were stained and smeared with someone else’s shit, I can assure Giles that this was not a bonding experience. There was nothing positive about it. It distressed my late partner immensely. It distressed me. It is not an experience that anyone who has gone through it would ever for a second consider wishing on others. It is not something that anyone who has lived through would ever for an instant regard as a positive learning experience that others should undergo. To put this forward as an argument for Brexit is crass beyond belief. It’s scraping the bottom of an already shitty barrel.

    Eventually my partner and I started getting social care services. Social care services which are free in Scotland thanks to a Scottish government which doesn’t prioritise profit over humanity. Those angels took over, at least partially, the tasks of undressing, cleaning, and re-dressing my late partner. That was a huge relief to him. He found it a lot easier, mentally and emotionally, to accept that sort of care from a person in a health worker’s uniform whose job it was than to accept it from me. It distressed him far less. It allowed him to maintain what dignity he could, what little dignity that his illness hadn’t stripped away from him. It helped him to come to terms with his declining health in a way that he wouldn’t had he relied solely upon me to do those intensely personal tasks for him. And if it was difficult enough for a spouse to accept that kind of assistance from their partner, it must be far more difficult for a parent to accept it from their adult child. Clearly, none of this has occurred
    t o Giles, because he’s never walked in our shit stained shoe s.”


    Andrew Coates

    February 23, 2019 at 4:48 pm

  4. More from this charlatan:

    Andrew Coates

    February 23, 2019 at 4:50 pm

  5. Explain why Gaffney and Podhoretz are so pro-Brexit?
    Paul Johnson’s Modern Times proclaimed the EU of
    Adenauer, Degaulle and Gaspieri as Carolingian.
    Mind you Hilter and Napoleon were also Carolingian.
    But his son Daniel of Standpoints supported Brexit.
    see https://www.stgeorgessociety.org/events/2019/02/12/brexit-for-transatlantic-business

    Merle Goddard

    February 23, 2019 at 5:53 pm

  6. Andrew. Google Giles Fraser and East London Mosque and you’ll find an article from the Guardian which, if you can give a link, I will take apart and show Fraser to be the liar he is. I didn’t know he was SWP. More info please.

    Dave Roberts

    February 23, 2019 at 7:32 pm

  7. Oswald Mosely was very pro European. He described the SS as the first European army!

    Dave Roberts

    February 23, 2019 at 9:48 pm

  8. So was Charlemagne.

    Andrew Coates

    February 24, 2019 at 12:38 pm

  9. Giles Fraser vs the Remoaner mob. Spiked.

    The backlash to the UnHerd columnist’s latest reveals how thin-skinned FBPE types are.

    Fraser’s piece, titled ‘Why won’t Remainers talk about family?’, in which he makes a case against a footloose model of social mobility he sees bound up in the George Osborne, elite-Remainer worldview, has been severely ratioed on Twitter, and screeched at by much of the great and good.

    You utter piece of filth’, was one tweeter’s take. He, like many others, seemed to assume that a piece about what Fraser sees as neoliberalism’s undermining of rooted family life is a direct insult to him and a denial that he cares about his family.

    Everyone and their mother felt moved to comment. ‘What have you BECOME, Giles Fraser?’, implored Stephen Fry. The BBC’s Evan Davis felt he had to issue a clarification after he originally posted the article along with qualified praise.

    Inevitably, the subtle accusations of racism and sexism, from venerable journalists no less, have also piled in – none of which is sustained….

    But what has ensued is not so much a counter-argument, as a howl. If anyone is making Remainers look bad, it isn’t Fraser – it’s the pro-Remain blue-tick crew who are currently taking one commentator’s arguments so bloody personally.


    Andrew Coates

    February 24, 2019 at 1:03 pm

  10. […] well demolished by Barbra Ellen in today’s Observer  and by Comrade Coatesy, who has also done us the service of drawing attention to two excellent responses to Fraser’s […]

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