Not long before the weekend's election in France, the British public was polled on whether they thought a Macron or a Le Pen victory would be better for the UK. The results were stark. Among Remain voters – airily international sorts who love a vaguely defined Europe of sun-soaked holidays and interesting new forms of sandwich – far more said they thought Macron would be better than Le Pen. Among the Brexiters, it was the reverse: Le Pen led by 31 points. Which should be sobering: there are millions of people, walking among us, looking normal in human-seeming skin, who think that the inheritor of a neo-Nazi political dynasty is great news for them and the ones they at least pretend to love. Part of Britain seems to have floated into an alternative universe: there might be near-invisible ripples in the air stretching up and down this country; walk through and you'll find yourself in a world turned upside-down, where the election of the far-right is good news. Thank God it didn't happen.
The only problem is that they might have been right.
It depends, of course, on what you mean by "better for Britain". If you take it to be a question of whether Britain is better lying off the coast of a sensibly managed country going through a sensibly aching decline, or whether we'd be more comfortable in close proximity to another flaming, flailing ethno-state purging out its internal contradictions through constant repressions and street violence and fear, its furious spittle geysering out over the Channel and into the atmosphere to rain down sordid petty hate over the continent and the world – if that's what you mean, then it's great that Le Pen lost. Great for us, great for Europe, and most of all great for the millions of marginalised people who would have become her victims. But if we're talking about the national interest – that strange and meaningless phrase, that seems to exist only in Tory election slogans, in which the interests of a few politicians and billionaires somehow magically become those of everyone they're crushing – then it's not so clear.
Macron will fuck us. That posh, young, handsome banker whose depthless grin stole the hearts of the middle classes across Britain will fuck us like only a posh, young, handsome banker can. Emmanuel Macron will be our destroying angel; his face will rise vast and cherubic across the sea from Dover, and fire will burst out to scorch every wretched thing on this island. He'll push for a vast severance fee, the destruction of our exports and industries, a Britain set loose from its neighbours, anything to make us suffer. And we'll deserve it. What all those sensible Remain types who instinctively understood that of course Macron would be better than Le Pen didn't get is that Britain is simply not a normal country any more. We're not a responsible member of the family of nations (of course, if you look at our history, we never were), we're not the cousins over the channel; we're a pariah state, a right-wing cause célèbre, a country like Rhodesia or Israel, whose interests are defended only by a deeply unpleasant few.
It should tell us something when our country's greatest defender on the continent is a woman like Marine Le Pen. She loved us – not out of any real concern for a future, but because she thought it'd help hers. She wanted France to leave the EU as well, and while her good wishes wouldn't have saved us from our own stupidity, there'd still be no better advert for her mad schemes than a strong, prosperous Britain stampeding on its own terrible course away from Europe and detached from the world.
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Macron won't destroy us because he hates us; it's hard to say if he feels anything beneath his technocratic gloss. It's not just that he's a committed Europhile, with the EU flag waving at his rallies and its anthem playing out before his victory speech; he would never be motivated by something as illogical as revenge. Emmanuel Macron now has to deal with an increasingly restive country of 66 million people, and he must know that the brutal neoliberal policies he's about to implement will only make them suffer more and bring them closer to breaking point. Like all sunny optimistic free-market regimes, his will be enforced by fear. And there's no better way to instil discipline than by using someone else as an example. Where a Le Pen victory would have weakened and divided the European side in the Brexit negotiations, Macron will do everything he can to make sure that Britain is reduced to shit-stinking misery until we finally collapse into the sea.
The field of politics in general – the idea that there are different ways of organising society, and that we have a choice between them – is fading away. What's left is a stark, bitter, ugly choice: the current system, in all its ugliness and stupidity, thrashing around as it dies, or the void. You can let the liberal world order fade slowly, to be gradually subsumed by its own fascist undercurrents, or you can let the very worst elements take over right now. Declining capitalism, or the political embodiment of its decline. This was the choice we faced in the EU referendum; the same unpleasant dilemma was thrown in front of France over the weekend. Britain chose the void. France hasn't, not yet, and Macron wants to keep it that way. So he needs to be able to point to our failure and say: look what happens to people who choose the void.
It won't be the people who keep talking about the "national interest" who'll actually suffer from this, of course; it'll be the same people who always suffer – the poor, the disabled, the minorities. Despite being bitterly divided on Brexit, Macron and May are apparently looking forward to working together on their "shared interests", which here means the ruthless immiseration of an entire country. As always, these opponents are, in practice, on the same side.
But this doesn't have to happen. The political faded away in France with the defeat of Jean-Luc Mélenchon's campaign, but in Britain it's still alive. We have an opposition party that stands for something different: not the slow death of austerity, or the quick death of nationalism, but the now-strange idea that we could make life better. We need it more than ever. Theresa May, for all her glib stupid promises to be a "bloody difficult woman" during the Brexit negotiations, is already giving the other side everything they want. Her spectacularly inept negotiating strategy so far seems to mostly consist of declaring that Britain can't have single market access, or freedom of movement to Europe, or any of the things that might make life bearable.
The only thing that might save us is a change of government, a clear sign that Britain is stepping back from its idiocy – and we're having a general election in a month. It's a long shot; Britain has always been a country that's very happy wallowing in its worst. But it could be our last chance to pull ourselves out of the void.