The Significance Of That Bizarre Eddie Izzard Appearance On Question Time

Eddie Izzard, Brexit Ambassador

While it was infuriating to watch at the time – I actually had to put down my iPad at times to stop myself tweeting things which I might later regret – Eddie Izzard’s tour de force of ignorance and condescension on BBC Question Time last night will have been a great boon to all Brexiteers.

Here, in one man, is embodied the distilled nature of the entire Remain campaign argument – a child’s level of understanding of the European Union’s history, what it does and how it actually works coupled with an unjustified level of arrogance and assumed intellectual and moral superiority which somehow makes them come off as smug, arrogant, condescending, pitying and self-aggrandising all at the same time.

Eddie Izzard’s strategy for the programme was clearly “Take Down Nigel Farage In A Blaze Of Glory”, and the comedian went at the UKIP leader from the outset. He would have been far better to focus his fire on the others. Nigel Farage is a man who has easily dispatched stageloads of Britain’s leading politicians in a single debate and twice bested Nick Clegg in one-on-one encounters. Coming at him with a paper thin case and the debating style of an over-excited sixth former is never going to work. It certainly didn’t last night.

The shriller Eddie Izzard became, the more he cut across Nigel Farage and make his grandstanding appeals to the audience, the more Farage looked like the adult in the room. As Izzard’s plea for more ice cream became ever more desperate, Farage leaned back in his chair with a look of bemused resignation. Considering that one of the Remain campaign’s key aims is to demonise Farage and then inextricably tie him to the Leave campaign, this was a huge unforced error.

But more than that, it showed the vacuity at the heart of the Remain campaign. Sure, there are a few honourable die hard euro federalists out there – my friend Paddy Briggs is one – but you will scarcely hear from them in this campaign. The only people with a coherent and honourable case for Britain remaining in the EU (and indeed deepening our participation) are shoved in the closet, the Remain campaign’s dirty little secret as they pretend to the rest of us that We Are All Eurosceptics Too.

The rest of the campaign is built on ignorance and fear. Yes of course large swathes of the Leave campaign are little better. But once Remain have dispatched with their meaningless pleasantries about “staying in Europe to reform it” and the importance of “cooperation” (which in europhile land can only take place between countries when facilitated by a supranational political union, for some reason), all they have left are their Armageddon stories about how Brexit would bring us all to economic ruin, or how the supposedly benign and friendly EU would behave like an abusive spouse to a departing Britain.

Pete North agrees:

We’ve heard all the europhile fluff. All the sanctimonious cliches about “not walking away from the table” and “getting in there to make it work better” and “respecting the rules of the club” and when you’re dealing with someone of great charisma it’s hard not to want to buy into that.

These are all positive and constructive sentiments reinforced with words like “cooperation” and “unity”. But sentiment is all it is. Contrivances. And if you hold only a superficial notion of what the EU is, how it works and the actual consequences of it, then that leap of faith is easier to make.

And this perhaps explains the gulf between age groups and voting intentions. Those who have wised up to the EU want out. The youthful ideologues lack the maturity and historical context to see through the veneer of shallow and meaningless rhetoric. This is what the remain camp is banking on.

And this is why I can muster a venomous contempt of Eddie Izzard. Think what you will of him and his politics but he is not a stupid man. Fatuous maybe, but not stupid. He has always been a true believer. He is a europhile to the core. And while they are capable of an extraordinary self-deception one thing europhiles do without exception is lie through their teeth. Up becomes down, black becomes white, dog becomes cat. No lie is too big and any lie will do.

Being a comedian and habitually attuned to audiences accepting a flawed premise in order to relate to the material, Izzard is able to lie with no self-awareness at all. It’s what permits him to lie as often as he does to an extent that even professional politicians would hesitate.

And this is what has characterised the European Union debate for as long as we’ve been having this debate. The attempt by europhiles to frame this as though it were a generational stand off between young progressives and old reactionaries. For one to be against the EU, in the mind of the europhile, one must naturally be a xenophobic, little Englander who could only possibly have selfish motives. This is the deceit that they wish to impress upon those new to the debate.

And this is actually what drives the blood curdling hostility between the two camps. We have a broadly europhile media class. A set of self-regarding luvvies largely culturally and financially insulated from the consequences of EU membership, believing themselves to be the living embodiment of virtue.

People wonder how the country will knit back together after this referendum. I’m not sure that it will. Pete North is certainly convinced that it will not. One thing is certain – there will be no magnanimity from the Remain side if they win.

Sure, a smiling David Cameron might come out of 10 Downing Street and make a little speech about his “renegotiation” just being the start, and how he will continue to fight for change in Europe. I can write the speech in my head already. But it will mean nothing, just as every single one of David Cameron’s convictions is built on sand. The Remain camp will take their gruesome little victory lap and crow about having defeated the forces of “xenophobia and isolationism”, and that will be that. A reconciliation reshuffle? That means nothing.

But the intellectual case for Brexit and the moral case for democracy will not have been defeated. What’s more, those of us who are custodians of these high ideals will not easily forget what has been said about us by sneering, grandstanding, virtue-signalling oiks in the Remain campaign, and their spokesperson Eddie Izzard.

Call someone wrong and they may be angry for a time. Call them morally deficient in some way (as Remainers do with their claims of boomer selfishness etc.) and it will wound a lot more. But call someone stupid and publicly mock them to their face, and you will nurture a resentment and antipathy which are almost impossible to undo. Over the course of this referendum campaign, the Remain camp have done all three.

Fortunately for Brexiteers, the glibness and shallowness of the Remain case become more exposed with every passing day. There is no new layer of complexity once one overturns their false assertion that Brexit means leaving the single market, or that all of the cooperation and partnership they seek can be accomplished just as easily outside of our current political union. The Remainers can hardly wheel out the hardcore euro federalist brigade to make their impassioned case – they would alienate far more people than they could possibly attract with their creepy, dystopian vision.

By contrast, a greater depth to the Brexit case is finally starting to emerge, as more and more influencers in the media pick up on the interim EFTA/EEA (Norway) option as an attractive first step in the Brexit process. Though it has taken an age (and may in fact still have come too late) at least the only thorough, comprehensive and safe plan for achieving Brexit is now finally starting to get a public hearing and an opportunity to allay the concerns of undecided voters.

I still feel that the odds of victory very much favour Remain, no matter what the opinion polls may say two weeks out from Referendum Day. But it is also undeniable that the broader Leave campaign has finally gained some traction – despite, rather than because of Vote Leave.

And if the Remain campaign continues to respond to these turns of events by wheeling out people like Eddie Izzard – who I think probably created a thousand new Brexiteers for every minute he had the floor on last night’s Question Time – then this might be a much more closely run thing after all.

 

Nigel Farage - Eddie Izzard - BBC Question Time - EU Referendum

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Bottom Image: Huffington Post

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