The British people cast their votes in little over a week, and most indications have the Conservative Party in line to hold the largest number of parliamentary seats — which may or may not amount to a parliamentary majority. If, as the thirteenth December morning thaws, a Tory victory is declared, it will be owing to a mass thoughtlessness abetted by a campaign of evasion and howling lack of detail — alongside misinformation. This is not to scoff at the common electorate. It is an observable phenomenon.
The Conservative Party campaign pushes the slogan “Get Brexit Done” as its key (pseudo)promise. The discourse is simple, ideal and abstract; it is an impoverishment of language and a deprivation of thought. The outcome being that even those otherwise opposed to Tory policy become willing to vote Conservative. As such, it is a device of power, and it functions as follows:
To begin with, there is a legitimate yearning for a resolution to Brexit, arising from fatigue and the need to shift national efforts and resources to other areas — social care, for example. Brexit is a painful and protracted procedure hindering the progress and prosperity of the country. Thus, there is in the first place a basic motivation shared by many and, in turn, an openness to corresponding political messages.
If the primary motive to settle the UK’s departure from the EU is to embark on a more promising future of prosperity and social progress*, then it follows that only a resolution at least undamaging to these ends would be acceptable. It is not, therefore, sufficient to simply get Brexit done in any form under any circumstance. Brexit must be done properly, on terms conducive to progress and prosperity, resolving, not exacerbating, national problems, and if it transpires that remaining in the EU is more conducive to these ends then the UK should remain.
This demands the issue be a live one and that both voters and legislators reflect on detail and purpose before giving support. The ‘Get Brexit Done [full stop]’ mantra, however, obscures detail and precludes thought — with grave consequence.
The discourse appeals to public sentiment (by virtue of its demagoguery) yet it is static and simple; complete and abstract. As such, these three words — Get. Brexit. Done. — declare the matter closed and relieve us of the need to be critical. Through repetition, the three words become sacred and absolute, but empty of content. The Tory voter need not say what she thinks nor even think it at all so long as she recites the prefabricated mantra — Get. Brexit. Done.
At this point, Brexit becomes an end in itself. It is Brexit for the sake of Brexit, and all other political and social goals are either forgotten or willed to be sacrificed. The primary motivation — progress and prosperity — slips away and the Conservative Party comes under no obligation to explain or justify their terms of departure from the EU, neither must it defend a whole package of unjust, ideological policies. In light of this link between language and power it is clear why the mantra has been thrust front and centre of the Conservative campaign. The discourse has induced a great portion of the British electorate to entirely overlook all negative implications of a Tory government, on the sole condition that they get [any form of] Brexit done sharpish.
Observed here is an acute case of thoughtlessness that may ultimately permit those in power to do as they please.
*I leave the term ‘progress and prosperity’ undefined. It is for the individual voter to come to their own idea of what constitutes progress and prosperity, and then use this as the evaluation criteria for political policies.