Brexit and the language of the barrow-boy

Britain might leave the EU. A foolish move.

One of Britain’s most charming characters is the East-End barrow-boy. After all, who doesn’t love Arthur Daley? A little dodgy maybe, but in the end, he’s all right. Who could possibly dislike Del Boy Trotter, that vulnerable rogue always on the look-out for the main chance and ever-willing to take a prat-fall for the laughs? What a fackin diamond was Del Boy.

The Brits love their villains.

They loved Ronnie Biggs even though he bashed a poor bloke’s head in with an iron bar.

They loved Reggie Kray and his brother Ronnie cos you see the Krays and the Richardsons was always ‘avin’ a bit of an argy-bargy, but still they was always ready to take their old Mum down the Frog and Nightgown on the Roman Road for a good old knees-up even after Jack the ‘At got what was coming to him.


Gawd don’t the Brits love their fackin villains? And don’t they love their fackin spivs? Who hasn’t been down Brick Lane on a Sunday morning as the Arthur Daleys and the Del Boy Trotters get rid of their goods?

I’m not just givin’ you one set of china.

I’m not just givin’ you a block of knives.

I’m not just throwin’ in this ‘ere portrait of the old Queen Mother.

I’m not gonna give ya a mop, an ‘oover and an engine for a modified Ford Capri.


For twenty nicker, you can ‘ave the deeds to Buckingham Palace! Come on then! Letsby Avenue!

Now, as it happens, Brick Lane is but a stone’s throw from another den of spivs: the City of London. A rather grandiose term, I always thought for a place teeming with crooks and chancers. Did I mention that I once worked there in an august financial institution? It’s true, and I did the same lunchtime drinking as said crooks and chancers, but I had other ambitions in life that didn’t involve being a reptile, so I left.

The City of London is a place where the worst reptiles in Britain — perhaps in all of Europe — gather to bask in the sun we call Money, and they are truly vile, not to mention truly cold-blooded as befitting a reptile.

A young lad of 18, a descendant of immigrants, entered this reptile pit and did quite well for a few years, selling not pots and pans, not floor sweepers, not magic kitchen scrubbers but commodities. Metals, to be precise, much like the East London scrap dealers but with a more acceptable accent. He was good at it, being a natural barrow boy and so he prospered for twenty or more years until he saw a chance to make even more money.

Nigel Farage BrexitThat was Nigel Farage.

Nigel understood full well that the British public loves a barrow boy. After all, Nigel had grown up in the era of Kelvin MacKenzie, the thuggish editor of the Sun, and he knew that the utter stupidity of the nostalgic classes should never be underestimated.

What do I mean by nostalgic classes?


All countries that once operated a great empire have them. It takes centuries to create them and even more centuries to decommission them. These are the people who continue to believe in the empire’s greatness long after the empire is dead because without a belief in the greatness of empire they have no belief in anything — not even in themselves.

These are the people Nigel Farage has targeted successfully.

These are the people with a belief in their own greatness despite any supporting evidence. These are the people who believe Britain can be great again, echoing Trump’s mantra at the other side of the ocean, even though there is no evidence to support their view.

And thus it has been possible to persuade working-class Brits that they’ll be better off without EU protections for workers, better off in more dangerous working environments, better off with longer working hours, better off with no protection for their minimum wage.

Thus it has been possible to persuade Brits that they can kick out immigrants without thinking that all the Brits living in EU countries will have to go home and become a burden on the British economy.

Of course this has been possible. After all, didn’t the same Fleet Street red-tops persuade the same working-class Brits that Thatcher’s police should baton-charge their fellow workers off the streets?

Why? Because in modern Britain, the politics of the barrow-boy spiv wins the day.

In today’s Britain, people like Farage are seen as leaders instead of hucksters.

Tonight, Farage and Dave Cameron debate the issue on national television with Farage no doubt waving a pint and grinning like an ape. We’ll see what the people truly believe, but I suspect it will all be decided by Farage’s choice of beer.

18 thoughts on “Brexit and the language of the barrow-boy

  1. In a few years time they will be saying, “Their imbecility knew no bounds.”

  2. I see Blair & Major in NI today reminding the electorate of the consequences to the border of a leave vote. The French would solve the Calais migrant problem overnight.

  3. Re-imposition of ” border controls” between the original raping & pillaging, colonial criminals and us ….

    Up with that sort of thing. .

  4. I think you’ll find that the Irish contributed to the raping and pillaging of the colonial criminals.

  5. Can’t remember our red coats, bayonets and ridiculous hats.. they are much better at the raping and pillaging. .much more practised. Still doing it out east and still can’t differentiate between what belongs to an ndigenous people and the English sovereign

    The French FA. would celebrate Brexit now.

    Can’t follow the money on this one…though guarantee that behind the exit crowd is some serious organisation who will clean up big time if they go…..

  6. General Philip Sheridan, known as Little Phil, was the son of immigrants from Cavan, I think.

    This was the man who masterminded the extermination of the Plains Indians.

  7. sorry , sorry , you’re all talking about the “pure as the driven snow ” British Empire .

    No, no … I was referring to the one where the sun never set – the “red all over me school atlas ” one ….. that raping and pillaging empire ,

    sorry for the confusion

    are they gone yet ?

  8. I hope they stay in the EU. It’s mostly racist fantasists like Farage and Johnson who want out anyway.
    But this IS the same EU that railroaded the Euro currency through despite knowing a lot of countries weren’t ready. Greece was one of them and they knew it. But they still harshly punished Greece even though they were partly responsible. We in Ireland bailed out a dead bank to save the European finance system.
    TTIP is being foisted on us and any dissent is seen as “tin-foil” conspiracy nonsense.
    Sure we have our common markets, free travel and human rights courts which are all good. And I’m the first to acknowledge that without EU subsidies, Ireland would not have prospered.
    But there are many problems in the EU I can’t see being acknowledged let alone fixed during my lifetime.

  9. This also the EU that foisted employment law on the Brits, forcing their employers to limit their working hours. It’s the same EU that deregulated airline charges, sending them to the Costa far more cheaply. When they get there, it’s the EU that’s eliminating the savage roaming charges we used to have.

    Luckily for the Brit exiles in Spain though, they won’t have to worry about roaming charges or airline costs, since they’ll all be going home to draw the dole in the UK instead.

  10. That doesn’t negate what I described. The bank bailout caused hardship in Ireland. The Greeks are punitively punished while simultaneously being criticised for not doing more for refugees. Where can they physically get the money to help more refugees? I read UNICEF had to ask the ECB to give Greece financial help! TTIP wants to undo the labour and environmental laws.
    I’m very cynical. When the next global meltdown comes and the financial markets and corporations come knocking, I’ll gladly say I’m wrong if the EU don’t throw all that out of the window.
    I want to be in the EU. We’ll have to keep them on their toes.

  11. its sorta like the Luas strike – affects a place which never cared much for Limerick .

    Looks like they’re gone – so we’ll have to queue in Newry whenever there’s a bargain to be had up North … although schengen hints that we might not ( have to queue)

    a brexit silver lining has a sneaky enriched eire bonus – apparently any number of foreign direct investment firms currently domiciled in engerland will have to leave cause of EU tariffs – so where they gonna go ?

    lill ol Eire, that’s where – and bring them to the starving south west please . ( limerick = Ireland’s Detroit)

    we’ll have to roll out the punt again of course … special arrangement to decouple from the bad euro ….all the time remaining a good EU citizen – which will keep Larry Goodman & Co’s brit exports competitive and also keep them in the manner they’ve become accustomed to .

    scaremongers everywhere – fascists everywhere – making me more paranoid than usual – but i just can’t get enthusiastic about holding onto the butchers apron in the EU .

  12. If customs huts are again placed near Newry after Brexit we’ll have to use the ‘unapproved roads’ that were deftly used by butter/pig/fireworks smugglers down the years. Retired IRA guerrillas can have new careers as road guides, double rates for late night work.

  13. Question to all and sundry:- Are Boris Johnson and Nigel Forage the new unofficial leaders of the UK?

  14. I see Nige resigned as UKIP leader today, his job is done, Brexit has been achieved. He’s not resigning as an MEP for another two years. His principles don’t stretch as far as giving up a salary, expenses and an EU funded pension.

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