After the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump, an awful lot of bad articles and books poured forth. Among the worst were those that claimed we had entered a “post truth” era. Oxford Dictionaries — never missing an opportunity to look like the cheapest publicity hounds — declared “post truth” to be their Word of the Year for 2016.
In fact, as I have pointed out here before, it is more true to say that we have entered an era in which (to borrow a phrase from the Irish writer Kevin Myers) the truth becomes “whatever you’re having yourself.”
The aftermath of the European Elections in Britain has provided a fine example of this. Of course the fact that Britain had European Elections this year is in itself something to marvel at. Three years ago the British people voted to leave the European Union. But thanks to the ineptitude and malfeasance of nearly an entire political class there we were again last week, invited to the polls to vote on who we would like to represent us at a body the majority of the public voted three years ago to leave.
But what a response. By any honest analysis the night belonged to Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit party, which won 31.6 percent of the overall vote, winning 29 seats. The next-largest party was the Liberal Democrats, just over 20 percent of the vote and 16 seats, which is quite a lead for Farage. The runners-up of Labour (ten seats), the Greens (seven seats), and the Conservatives (four seats) struggled to make their performance look like a success. But the most striking thing about the reaction to the results was the effort to claim them as evidence that Britain wants to remain in the EU.
For instance, the BBC was caught claiming that the night was a wild victory for Remain parties. In full-on Pravda mode, the BBC reported that the night had seen “Anti-Brexit” parties out-perform “Pro-Brexit” parties. Indeed, it claimed the Anti-Brexit had beaten Pro-Brexit 40.4 percent to 34.9 percent — a figure arrived at by, among other means, including the Conservative party as an “Anti-Brexit” party. The Conservative party has certainly had its problems of late. And there is very little reason to trust them with anything in terms of promises or delivery. But the party’s stated stance remains that it is committed to ensuring Britain leaves the EU. It is certainly not an explicitly “Anti-Brexit” party.
Other claims were equally strange. In recent years the Conservative-elected MP Anna Soubry has emerged as a poisonous and zealous figure in national political life. Earlier this year she jumped from the Conservative fold to join a new party called “Change UK.” Ms. Soubry did not do what Conservative MPs in the last Parliament who jumped from Conservative to UKIP did. That is, she did not offer herself back up to the voters of Broxtowe in a by-election. So she continues to sit in Westminster as the representative of a party that the voters of Broxtowe did not vote for. Perhaps Ms. Soubry intuits that putting herself before the voters would not result in her being returned to Parliament?
The results of last week’s elections suggest her fears are founded. As a party devoted to keeping Britain in the EU, “Change UK” performed rather outstandingly badly. They won just over 3 percent of the vote, and so won absolutely zero representatives in the European Parliament. To recap: A party with only one policy failed to get anywhere in an election that was only and singly about that one policy.
But Soubry was not deterred by the zero-seats performance of her party. Indeed, she took to Twitter to thank her most recent party’s voters and declared that Change UK had “polled better than any genuinely new UK Party.” A strange claim, and one that makes the words “any,” “genuinely,” and “new” do an awful lot of heavy lifting. For of course two parties have arisen in recent months in the U.K. One is Nigel Farage’s genuinely new political party called the “Brexit party.” The other is Ms. Soubry’s very own “Change UK.” So genuinely new is Mr. Farage’s party that it ran against his old party (UKIP) and included members (who are now MEPs) who used to be members of the old Left and the old Right of British politics. Nigel Farage’s party got exactly ten times the number of votes that Soubry’s party got. And while “Change UK” has zero MEPs, the Brexit party now has 29.
There are always sore losers in elections. And parties that have done badly in elections always have to find some way to put a brave face on it. But the results of the U.K.’s Euro elections of 2019 show one thing above all. Those who want to not accept the results of democratic elections no longer have to accept them. They will continue to create their own special narrative, explaining why an entirely false view of events is true. It isn’t post-truth. It is post-reality. And plenty of people seem to have no problem at all with inhabiting that place.