Vote Leave’s Stupidity Echoes On, Threatening To Undermine Brexit

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The flimsy, amateurish lies told by Vote Leave are coming back to bite, and threaten to undermine and unnecessarily complicate Brexit

Two weeks after the astonishing vote for Brexit in the EU referendum, and the sheer amateur stupidity of the official Vote Leave campaign is still causing problems, exactly as this blog and others predicted that it would.

The Guardian reports:

In a separate development, Anthony Eskander, a criminal barrister at Church Court Chambers in London, has posted an opinion arguing that politicians supporting the Vote Leave campaign might have opened themselves up to legal action for alleged misrepresentations over claims that quitting the EU would allow an extra £350m to be spent on the NHS.

It claims politicians might have committed offences of misconduct in public office by promoting the £350m claim. The figure has been called “potentially misleading” by the independent UK Statistics Authority, for failing to take into account the UK’s rebate from the EU. Vote Leave denied during the referendum campaign that it was misleading the public.

We’ve heard this charge that politicians’ claims should be vetted by some kind of Ministry of Truth levelled by lots of people, including an audience member on last night’s Question Time. But this is the first time I have seen it translated into legalese, and even if nothing comes of it (as is likely) it further chips away at the legitimacy of the Brexit vote, further dividing the country and encouraging pro-EU supporters to dig in and calcify their positions rather than accepting the country’s verdict and coming together to make the best of Brexit.

Now, of course if they were not hung up on the false £350 million claim they would have found something else to moan about. Many prominent Remainers (and those in the general public) have shown themselves to be exceedingly sore losers in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, seizing on the slightest fault, misstep or constitutional ambiguity to claim that democracy should be suspended and the result of the referendum overturned.

But still, there was no need for the supposed grown-ups in charge of Vote Leave to make it quite so easy for them. There was no need to persist in publicly airing a patently false and comprehensively debunked (by activists on both sides including thinking Brexiteers, incidentally) claim about how much money the UK stood to save from leaving the EU.

The true figure – closer to £160 million once the UK rebate and EU disbursements back to Britain are taken into account – is still a lot of money, and would have looked just as effective plastered on the side of a bus. But no, the Boris/Gove/Cummings triumvirate decreed that £350 was the magic number, and far too many prominent Brexiteers squandered their credibility by repeating it in some form or another over the course of the campaign.

It is now becoming crystal clear that rather than accepting the result of the EU referendum, many disappointed Remainers are determined to wage a guerilla campaign of attrition against Brexit, a last-ditch rearguard effort to prevent the UK from leaving the European Union. They will use the claims of prominent Brexiteers against them (while sweeping their own dubious claims and falsehoods under the carpet, naturally), explore legal loopholes, use delaying tactics and throw every procedural obstacle they can find across our path out of the EU.

None of this is remotely surprising. All of it could have been predicted – and was predicted by this blog. But still the shining ones at Vote Leave persisted with their strategy, handing the pro-EU crowd more ammunition with every new over-hyped soundbite.

That’s why it is good that both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are now no longer in the running for the Conservative Party leadership, however dubious the choice before us now is. Remainers (and their celebrity chums) talk about the unravelling of Johnson, Gove and Farage as being akin to the captain abandoning ship after steering his vessel onto the rocks. But the Brexit vote was achieved in spite, not because of, the campaigning of Vote Leave. The fact that some of their leading lights have now been snuffed out is cause for satisfaction, not concern, because it increases the chances of a mature adult taking the reins and negotiating Brexit like a grown-up.

I don’t want somebody who stubbornly persisted in broadcasting a patently, risibly false claim – like a petulant child caught in an obvious lie – to represent Britain in the coming difficult secession negotiations with the EU. I don’t want anybody leading this country whose antics during the referendum and in its immediate aftermath make Brexit any more complicated than it needs to be.

And regrettably, that rules out many of the people most closely connected with the official Leave campaign.


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Vote Leave: An Unhinged Fifth Column, Leading Brexiteers To Ruin

It’s time to declare open warfare on the malevolent idiots in charge of Vote Leave, if we are to minimise the further harm that they can yet inflict on the Brexit cause

Apparently the super-intelligent, well-connected, savvy people running the Vote Leave campaign think that this political broadcast, which aired today on national television, is a key part of some winning strategy to deliver 50%+1 votes on 23 June.

It certainly has a lot going on. There’s the slavish idolatry of “Our NHS” for a start, which actually might not be a bad tactic in NHS-obsessed Britain but for the fact that the Vote Leave campaign is mostly full of Tory types who didn’t exactly make a name for themselves by protesting their local A&E unit closure or otherwise worshipping at the altar of St. Aneurin Bevan of Tredegar. In other words, it strains credibility to think that Boris Johnson & co are fighting for Brexit because they are desperate to shower the health service with more money.

Ah yes, money. Then we see the flagrant, unapologetic repetition of the false £350 million claim, a number which does not take into account the UK rebate or EU funds disbursed back to Britain. Quite why the more accurate figure of £161 million could not be used is a mystery – perhaps because £350 sounded like a nice round number, and because it conveniently tallied with the cost of building a new hospital. And so the official Leave campaign goes charging into the last month of the referendum waving a headline figure which can be instantly disproved and mocked by any Remain campaigner with a functional brain, tarring the entire Brexit movement with their shameful idiocy.

I cannot stress this firmly enough – at this point, Vote Leave may just as well be part of the Remain campaign. They are essentially operating as a fifth column, actively doing more harm than good. They are wasting precious time and resources simply to ensure that their heavily eurosceptic base vote for Brexit even more emphatically than they already planned on doing, while appearing so shifty and unserious to undecided voters that they destroy our credibility – and with it, our chance of winning.

Therefore, the next month must be spent firing over, around and through Vote Leave. They are not our allies. They may as well be working for David Cameron and George Osborne. In fact, some of them quite possibly are doing just that.

At this late stage, Vote Leave will do nothing other than continue to burble unbelievable nonsense about building a brand new hospital on every street corner in Britain in their fantasy Brexit world; there is nothing we can do about that. But we are not powerless.

We need to go out there and talk about sovereignty and democracy.

We need to talk about the unappealing, authoritarian future of the EU.

We need to talk about the revolution in regulation and the emerging global single market, in which a free Britain can play a leading role.

But most of all, we need to get out there and do something, anything, to distract from the utter FREAK SHOW of an official Leave campaign being orchestrated by BoJo the Clown and his trusty sidekicks.

Glad as I am that they all seem to be having a roaringly fun time on the campaign trail, allowing the children to take the wheel unfortunately means that they are now running over the life’s work and dreams of many a committed eurosceptic and Brexiteer.

And they can not, must not be allowed to continue unchecked.


Postscript: This ad is even more idiotic. The cretin who put it together failed even to draw a link between the subject (possible future Turkish membership of the EU) and the conclusion (vote Leave to Save Our NHS), ensuring that the spot ends with that grating non sequitur. It’s almost as though the entire operation is staffed by not-very-bright nepotism beneficiaries and Westminster hangers-on…


Apparently the only reason now for wanting Brexit is to “Save Our NHS”. When did that happen? And when will the person who signed off on this strategy be made accountable for their utter incompetence?


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Now Boris Johnson Is No Platformed – For Being ‘Disrespectful’ To Barack Obama

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UPDATE 26/04/2016 – See postscript

Preening, virtue-signalling student activists have now ‘No Platformed’ Boris Johnson in a prissy act of reprisal and censure for the London mayor’s response to Barack Obama’s intervention in the EU referendum debate

The way things are going, someone should establish a sweepstakes in which people can bet on which perfectly mainstream, household name celebrity or politician will be next to be “No Platformed” by censorious students aghast at the prospect of having to hear ideas contrary to their own.

And on this occasion, anyone with money on Boris Johnson would be collecting a handsome payout right now, for apparently the Conservative MP and serving Mayor of London is the latest personality to be deemed simply too dangerous and uncouth to pollute the sensitive ears of fragile, puritanical students.

This stems, of course, from the furore over Boris Johnson’s response to US president Barack Obama’s intervention in the EU referendum debate. Johnson, writing in the Sun, mentioned in passing the fact that “some said [Obama’s decision to remove a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office when he became president] was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire”.

And so the student censors in charge of the King’s Think Tank, who can see into the hearts of all men and determine good or evil intent with unswerving accuracy, judged that Boris Johnson wrote these words as a coded racist dog-whistle, and that he should therefore be disinvited from giving a planned speech as part of their “EU Referendum Event Series“.

(Anyone who actually bothered to read the Sun article would see that not only was Boris Johnson merely stating a fact – that some people did indeed say that Obama’s Kenyan heritage was behind his decision to remove the bust of Churchill – but that he then went on to dismiss this as the likely reason. But the League of the Perpetually Outraged are never ones to let facts get in the way of a good hissy fit).

The chiding email which the King’s Think Tank leaders sent to Boris Johnson informing him of his “punishment” is a tour de force in the kind of self-importance and finger-wagging authoritarianism in which the current generation of students so masterfully specialise:

Dear Mr Johnson,

Given your inappropriate comments and inferences toward President Obama’s Kenyan heritage, of which he is rightly proud, and your general tone of disrespect over the past few days in relation to the President of the United States of America, we are now formally withdrawing your invitation to speak at Kings College London.

We are looking forward to providing a forum for both sides in the EU Referendum Debate to argue their point of view without fear or favour. The level of discourse over the past few days does not meet the bar we set for these events nor do we feel does it help the British people in making the most momentous decision of our lifetime. Furthermore we believe it does not reflect the true greatness of the United Kingdom, a land of tolerance, respect and fair play towards all.

Mike Molloy (Director of EU Referendum Events at Kings College London)

Margot MacDonnell (President of Kings College London Think Tank)

Erica Arcudi (Vice President of Kings College London Think Tank)

Behold the new generation of student radicals, fearlessly standing up in defence of the American president, the most powerful man in the world! How edgy. How counter-cultural. How brave.

This case is particularly disturbing, for this act of No Platforming is true, unapologetic censorship as punishment. At no point in their petulant email to Boris Johnson did the student leaders of the King’s College London think tank suggest that Boris Johnson’s words and conduct had caused (or were likely to cause) any actual “harm” to the debate attendees, in the way that student activists typically claim that hearing ideas with which they disagree will cause them actual mental harm.

On the contrary, Boris Johnson was No Platformed simply because the student directors of the King’s Think Tank disapproved of what he said (or rather, the sentiments which were attributed to him), and decided that he ought to be punished for his free speech transgression.

Note the hectoring, chiding, schoolmarm-ish attitude evident in the phrases “your general tone of disrespect” and “the level of discourse over the past few days does not meet the bar we set”. In other words, now speakers can be summarily disinvited from participating in an event not because of something that they say, but merely the “tone” in which they say it.

This is authoritarian behavioural policing layered on top of thought policing. This blog has absolutely no respect or affection for Boris Johnson, but this disinvitation is absurd. Johnson dared to push back forcefully against Barack Obama’s intervention in the EU referendum debate, and for that crime the King’s Think Tank apparently plan to deny event attendees the opportunity to hear the mayor of their own city and a prominent voice in the Brexit campaign speak on what they themselves admit is the “most momentous decision of our lifetime”.

And why? Simply because three self-righteous students took exception to the tone (repeat: not the content but the tone) of Boris Johnson’s comments, wilfully misinterpreted an article he wrote in the Sun, and decided that the correct course of action would be for them to “discipline” the London mayor by rescinding his invitation to speak – their equivalent of docking his pocket money.

Imagine how proud Mike Molloy, Margot MacDonnell and Erica Arcudi, leaders of King’s Think Tank, must feel now that they have high-handedly scolded and dismissed such a high profile figure as Boris Johnson. Just think of all the social justice kudos points that each of them has accrued by casting themselves as the concerned, ever-watchful Defenders of the Oppressed, bravely riding to the rescue of the President of the United States – an oppressed and marginalised man who was “harmed” by the cruel words of Boris Johnson and clearly needed their help to redress the yawning power differential unfairly favouring the mighty mayor of London.

Because that is what this is really about. This is not about trying to prevent a speaker with abhorrent or even mildly unpalatable views from airing his thoughts on King’s College campus. This is about three jumped-up, virtue-signalling student activists trying to get in the news by portraying themselves as so morally righteous that they simply had to take action to scold the Bad Man for saying mean things about Barack Obama. Right now, their phones and Facebook feeds will be filling up with approving comments from their fellow social justice cultists, giving them the additional currency and status within their movement that they so desperately crave.

So mission accomplished, King’s Think Tank. Tens or hundreds of students and members of the public who had been looking forward to hearing the London mayor and quizzing him on his views will now not have the opportunity to do so. But if a few self-aggrandising student “leaders” get to strut and fret their day in the 24-hour news cycle and burnish their identity politics credentials in front of their admiring peers, then it is all worthwhile.


Postscript: According to an updated statement from the King’s Think Tank, the email to Boris Johnson was sent without the approval of either the President or Vice President of the society. Presumably this means that the Director of EU Referendum Events, Mike Molloy, was acting alone and outside of his authority. I have requested explicit confirmation of this from Margot McDonnell, president of King’s Think Tank, and asked whether if this is indeed the case, whether Mike Molloy  is subject to any reprimand, censure or other action for overstepping his authority. I have not yet received a response to my further questions.


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Boris Johnson, Follower-In-Chief

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While many of us rolled our eyes and lost what last remaining scraps of respect we may have had for Boris Johnson after his last-minute, nakedly self-serving decision to spurn David Cameron and back the Leave campaign, others seem to be swooning with delight.

The Telegraph conducted a delightfully unscientific poll of local Conservative Party Constituency Association heads, and found that a handful more local chairs now back Boris Johnson over George Osborne.

Boris Johnson has pulled ahead of George Osborne in the Conservative leadership race after coming out in favour of Britain leaving the European Union, a survey of grassroots Conservatives has found.

The Telegraph contacted the heads of 50 Conservative constituency associations and found that 12 back Mr Johnson, the Mayor of London, while eight support Mr Osborne, the Chancellor.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, have the support of just five of the Conservative Association heads between them after choosing to back the campaign to remain in the European Union.

Priti Patel, the employment minister, had the support of one association head while 24 said that they are undecided.

If leading the Conservative Party in your local geographic area still entitles you to call yourself a “grassroots” member, then one wonders what term should be used for the humble folk who stuff envelopes, knock on doors and distribute leaflets without the benefit of a title. Root vegetable conservatives? Tuber Tories? Surely something deeply subterranean, at any rate.

And leave aside for the moment the depressing fact that the only one of these potential future leaders who might reasonably be described as an ideologically uncompromised conservative – Priti Patel – has the support of only one constituency chairperson.

It is what comes next – the words of one Conservative constituency chairman, praising Boris – which is truly puzzling:

John Doddy, chairman of the Broxtowe Conservative Association, said: “Boris Johnson was needed to make a positive impact on Vote Leave. We needed a big hitter. The only potential leader that has shown considerable courage is Boris.”

The Telegraph picks up and runs with this Heroic Boris theme in the sub-headline to their article:

Exclusive: Grassroots Tories hail Boris Johnson’s ‘courageous’ decision to come out in favour of a Brexit in potentially ‘game-changing’ moment for party leadership race.

Considerable courage? Hardly.

Boris Johnson, Follower-In-Chief, dithered, vacillated and prevaricated for as long as he possibly could, until the Tory Leadership Acquisition calculus shifted around him (as other, more principled colleagues nailed their colours to the mast one by one) to such an extent that eventually there was only one option left open to the London mayor if he wanted to present himself as a viable alternative to George Osborne.

With all of his main rivals for the Conservative Party leadership swinging behind David Cameron’s fatuous and empty “renegotiation” and supporting the Remain campaign, the only possible way for Boris Johnson to find himself in the top two candidates selected by MPs for consideration by the wider party was for him to declare for the other side and then hope that his choice is validated with a “Leave” vote in the referendum, casting Boris as the only heavyweight to have been on the right side of the plebiscite.

But even then, one could tell that Boris Johnson was reluctant – that this Hail Mary political pass was the last thing that he actually wanted to do, and that it went against his own far more pro-EU instincts. That much was revealed by the fact that when outlining the reasons for his decision, Johnson initially floated the “can’t we all just get along” suggestion that we vote Leave only to wring a few more minor concessions from Brussels rather than actually leaving the EU, before eventually having to walk back this suggestion in the face of justified criticism and ridicule.

And yet there are some in the Conservative Party – generally those who would smile and forgive Boris if they came home from work to find him in bed with their spouse – whose determinedly superficial thinking leads them to hold Boris Johnson a courageous hero, and others in the media willing to help the narrative along despite its obvious falsehood.

“Considerable courage”? From Boris Johnson? If this is what bold and visionary courage looks like, I would hate to ever behold rank, abject, self-serving cowardice.


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The Media’s Unhealthy Boris Fixation

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We all know that Boris Johnson’s decision to “Vote Leave” is gratuitously unprincipled and self-serving. So let’s just stop talking about him – otherwise, we merely give his publicity machine the fuel it craves

Fraser Nelson gets to the heart of what really matters in the Brexit debate – how long it will take David Cameron to forgive Boris Johnson for his treachery:

Until now, David Cameron had been very lucky in his enemies: David Davis, Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and then Jeremy Corbyn. But last night, the quality of his opposition in the EU referendum campaign rose rather substantially. He now finds himself arguing against not only against Michael Gove, the person he turns to when he’s short of killer lines, but against Boris Johnson, perhaps the single most popular figure in the Conservative Party.

[..] This is a gamble that could either leave Boris in the wilderness, or writing the next set of No 10 Christmas cards. Should David Cameron lose the referendum, he will probably have to resign as Prime Minister given how much of his personal authority is on the line. And who would succeed him? Not George Osborne, who urged the Prime Minister to hold an early vote. The leadership race will be decided by Conservative Party members, who are expected to back “out” by a margin of three-to-one.

[..] Already, there are signs of the Cameron operation closing ranks against Boris. No 10 has a semi-official vengeance policy: ministers with a long-standing opposition to the EU will be forgiven for backing “out”. The implication is that there will be no forgiveness for Boris, who has waited until now to declare his support for Brexit. “The last thing I wanted was to go against David Cameron,” said Boris yesterday. Quite true: what he wants is to come after him – and he is, as of last night, the bookmakers’ favourite to do just that.

This kind of breathless court gossip sometimes makes me despair of the Westminster media. There is a real, existential question before us right now – whether Britain should remain in the EU and follow its winding road toward political integration, or take a bold step toward independence and sovereignty. And a media class that did its job properly – speaking to the people rather than excitedly talking amongst themselves – would focus on the policy, not the personalities.

Does the Conservative Party leadership succession matter? Absolutely. Along with Tim Montgomerie, I have a significant ideological interest in who takes over from David Cameron and (hopefully) restores some radical conservative vision to the party of Margaret Thatcher. But there’s a time and a place.

Fraser Nelson at his best is a thoughtful and questioning conservative commentator – particularly when he focuses on social issues like welfare dependency. Were Nelson to fully engage his engine, we would likely all benefit from his considered addition to the EU referendum coverage. But as of Monday evening, everything Fraser Nelson has written thus far has focused on the tedious subject of Boris Johnson’s career.

I don’t need a poll to tell me that right now, people care more about the arguments for and against Brexit than they do the many fierce little psychodramas playing out between the Conservative Party leadership and Brexit-supporting Tory backbenchers, or between David Cameron and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. But survey the mainstream media and you will find a lot more breathless leadership speculation than deep, forensic analysis of David Cameron’s fraudulent renegotiation, or the arguments for and against Brexit.

I’m sure that better stuff will follow. I hope it follows soon.


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