Brexiteers Are Not Violent Savages. In Fact, More Brexiteers Than Remainers Strongly Oppose The Death Penalty

Darwin - Evolution of man - EU Referendum - Brexiteers

The BBC uncovers ‘devastating evidence’ linking support for Brexit with being a primitive Neanderthal

The latest act in the BBC’s ongoing effort to catastrophise Brexit and discredit Brexiteers is this delightful article from last week’s News Magazine, exploring the link between Brexit and the death penalty:

Immediately after the vote, commentators said it was about class – about professionals living and working in big cities, especially London (who voted Remain), versus working class people in smaller towns, especially in the north of England (who voted Leave).

So you would think that if you know that someone is working class and has a low income, you’d be able to confidently guess they voted Leave. But according to Stian Westlake, Head of Research at the think tank Nesta, this is not the case.

“If you look at someone’s class status and their income, and you try and use that to guess whether or not they voted Remain, it turns out it’s not that much better than guesswork. It gives you around 55% accuracy, and obviously a guess would give you 50% accuracy,” Westlake says.

His figures come from the British Election Study, in which around 24,000 people were asked about their voting intentions in the EU referendum.

Respondents to the survey were also questioned on their views on other things, such as the death penalty – and this provides a much better indicator of how people voted, Westlake argues.

“If you look at attitudes to questions such as, ‘Do you think criminals should be publicly whipped?’ or ‘Are you in favour of the death penalty?’ – those things are much better predictors, and you get over 70% accuracy,” he says.

“To give you an idea of how good a predictor that is, if you ask someone, ‘Do you think there is too much European integration?’ – which you’d think is a pretty good indicator – that only gets you to the high 70s. So if you can get to 71% or 72% prediction from these questions about traditional values, then it suggests it is that, rather than income or class, that is really driving the vote for Leave.”

So now Brexiteers are violent savages, dangerous authoritarian people who cannot keep their base desire for retribution and “an eye for an eye” under control. Brexit Britain will see a return of the stocks, the scold’s bridle and even the gallows in the town square if we get our way, the BBC is effectively telling its readers.

And of course this fits in with everything that Remainers like to think about themselves, and tell themselves about those who want Britain out of the European Union. To their minds, Remainers are compassionate, progressive, outward-looking, tolerant and fair, while Leavers are sneaky, conniving, closed-minded, inward-looking, highly intolerant and “post-factual”. Remainers want to hug a hoodie. We, apparently, want to bash their heads in with a brick and hang them from lamp posts as a warning to others.

Except that in their haste to demonise Brexiteers, the BBC neglected to mention the percentage of Remainers who also back the authoritarian policies cited in the survey. And there is a reason for this – to some extent, the data actually exonerates Brexiteers, while painting Remainers in an equally bad light, if not worse.

BES - Death penalty - Brexit

This chart plots satisfaction with EU democracy (a reasonable indicator of general euroscepticism given the fact that sovereignty and democracy were given as the primary motivation for voting to leave, according to post-referendum polling) against strength of agreement with the death penalty. The data is taken from the British Election Study, and and can be freely found and researched on their website.

And what we see here is that of those who strongly oppose the death penalty, over 62% are eurosceptic (that is, either very dissatisfied or a little dissatisfied with EU democracy). Of those who disagree with the death penalty a little less staunchly, over 65% are eurosceptic.

Admittedly, more staunch eurosceptics take up a much larger proportion of those who agree or strongly agree with the death penalty. But the europhiles (taken as those fairly satisfied or very satisfied with EU democracy) hardly cover themselves in glory as principled death penalty abolitionists. The proportion of europhiles either against or strongly against the death penalty struggles to break much above 20%.

This would seem to suggest that however much the BBC’s “traditionalist” narrative may play a part, there are also a significant number of very firm eurosceptic death penalty opponents who supported Brexit. That would make sense. This blog is one of them, as is nearly every other Brexiteer I happen to know. But why report on the principled band of anti death penalty Brexiteers when you can just play to the gallery and point at those eurosceptics who want to bring back hanging? It just fits so neatly into the tidy little narrative about primitive, left-behind idiots voting for Brexit against their own supposed interests.

But perhaps if the data tells us anything  at all, it is that people with strong opinions on either side of the death penalty issue (and perhaps other issues too) tended to favour leaving the European Union, while Britain’s army of vague, wishy-washy and noncommittal people wanted us to remain, guided as always by their dithering uncertainty and fear of change. After all, when it came to strongly disagreeing (or even strongly agreeing) with the death penalty, Britain’s EU cheerleaders are almost nowhere to be seen. That hardly fits with their sanctimonious claim to be more open and tolerant than the rest of us.

But that doesn’t quite fit the BBC’s preferred narrative. Far better to concentrate on the spike and declare all Brexiteers to be violent, vengeful authoritarians. That is the narrative the BBC loves to tell and Remainers love to hear, so that is the narrative which we will continue to get.


Abolish death penalty

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Boris Johnson’s Water Cannon Gambit Proves He Is Unfit For Higher Office

water cannon boris johnson


The sinister move by the Association of Chief Police Officers (or ACPO) to seek government approval for the purchase and use of water cannon as a means of crowd control on the British mainland was met with widespread alarm when the idea was first mooted in January.

Even more concerning now is the news that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has unilaterally purchased three such devices from the German police in the presumptuous expectation that the Home Secretary will agree to ACPO’s request before Theresa May has had the opportunity to make her decision.

This blog noted at the time that the ACPO’s move was a transparent power play, that there were no serious concerns about impending violent protests in Britain and that even if there were a repeat of the 2011 riots, water cannon would be uniquely unhelpful to the police in containing the disorder:

So what is this really all about? One explanation could be that ACPO are politically agitating, and trying to send a message of their disapproval of coalition austerity policies to the public and their elected representatives, essentially saying “we told you that cutting government spending would lead to chaos and disorder and we were right; now we have to take the draconian step of procuring water cannon to prevent the country from sliding into anarchy”.

This is one plausible possibility – as we have seen only too recently with the Andrew Mitchell “plebgate” scandal, there are those in the police force with very hardened agendas who would stop at nothing to discredit or cast doubt on the performance of Conservative ministers.

But in truth, a more convincing explanation is that the police just really fancy having these new toys to scare and intimidate people, that they have decided that building good community relations with the public and doing the hard work of policing large scale events just isn’t worth the effort when they can just bully the public into cowed obedience much more easily.

And so it is. The coalition government’s ‘austerity’ policies have now been in effect for over three years, and have yet to provoke widespread public disorder of any significant kind, other than the usual antics of misbehaving students. Why then does ACPO believe that Britain is a smouldering tinder box about to erupt in an explosive delayed reaction to policies which are old news and have already taken effect?

The Guardian also condemns the Mayor of London’s actions in a stinging editorial, and calls on the Home Secretary to refuse ACPO’s request. This would have the double benefit of standing up for civil liberties and giving the mayor of London a slap in the face for presuming to anticipate her decision:

But this cannot be a matter for City Hall and Scotland Yard alone. The Met has a significance that extends beyond London. Westminster should have a say in what would be a profound decision affecting the rights of the UK citizen and the nature of British policing. The mayor will have his water cannon, but cannot use it without the approval of the home secretary. She should ensure it never leaves the depot.

The Guardian’s second point, that Boris Johnson’s move is of particular concern because the significance of the Metropolitan Police extends well beyond London, is also important. With some chief constables up and down the country agitating for water cannon of their own (though to their credit, some realise their lack of utility in policing normal protests), where the Met goes, others would be certain to follow.

The fact that Boris Johnson (in what he thinks is a conciliatory move) is publicly offering to demonstrate the water cannons supposed safety by being blasted by the newly-acquired water cannon himself  is entirely meaningless, unless he intends to be hit directly with the maximum force that the Metropolitan Police will be permitted to use the machines. This is unlikely.

Johnson will almost certainly only submit himself to a light sprinkling from one of the machines at its lowest power setting, and then appear charming and even more bedraggled than usual in front of the television cameras, assuring us that he got a good soaking but is otherwise perfectly unharmed.

Others who have come face to face with the full power of water cannon have not been so fortunate as the Independent notes:

Dietrich Wagner, a German pensioner, remembers the exact moment he was knocked over by a water cannon, in Stuttgart in 2010. It felt as though he was being punched. He fell backwards, lost consciousness, and when he woke, blood was running down his face. “I couldn’t open my eyes,” he says. “I only saw black.”

The former engineer, who turns 70 this year and has had six operations on his eyes, is still almost completely blind. He is in London to warn Home Secretary Theresa May not to authorise the use of water cannons on the streets of mainland Britain.

But the devastating injuries sometimes inflicted by water cannon and the potentially chilling effect on the rights and willingness of people to assemble and protest are already known and much discussed.

Of equal concern is the fact that this draconian, illiberal and presumptuous step was taken by a politician with a fair chance of becoming the next leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore also a potential future prime minister. How will Boris Johnson’s unilateral move to acquire draconian new policing weapons in response to a nonexistent threat affect his already somewhat inexplicable popularity?

The simple fact is that Boris Johnson purchased the water cannon before approval for their use has been given by the Home Secretary. Either he is attempting to strong-arm the government into giving him what he wants in the belief that the Home Secretary will rubber-stamp his decision, in which case he has no respect for the democratic process and the deliberations of government, or he has made a huge gamble and is willing to potentially lose taxpayer money by investing in capital equipment that may not be authorised for use at all, in which case he has committed a major strategic blunder and is terrible guardian of the public purse.

Worse still, if this is about forcing his rival for the future leadership of the Conservative Party into making an illiberal and politically damaging decision that he can somehow later use against her, as is also being suggested, then he is also playing political games with the cherished civil liberties of our country.

None of these possibilities or their associated character traits are desirable in someone who has their sights set on the highest political office in Britain.

With Water Cannon In London, The Police State Inches Closer

Coming soon to a demonstration near you.


Coming soon to a British town square near you: trigger-happy and power-corrupted police officers, newly armed with water cannon, ready to hose you down with a cooling blast of high powered icy water if the authorities do not approve of the cause or tone of your protest.

The Association of Chief Police Officers, or ACPO, is submitting a request to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to authorise the use of water cannon in any town or city across England and Wales. They are doing this, they insist, to bolster their ability to control anticipated protests from what they call “ongoing and potential future austerity measures”.

The Guardian reports on this unprecedented move against the public:

The Association of Chief Police Officers says that the need to control continued protests “from ongoing and potential future austerity measures” justifies the introduction of water cannon across Britain for the first time.

The London mayor, Boris Johnson, has already announced a consultation on the introduction of water cannon on to the streets of London ready for use by this summer.

A new Acpo/College of Policing briefing paper makes clear that chief constables across England and Wales have also been asked to discuss water cannon with their police and crime commissioners and “it is anticipated that the home secretary will be approached in early 2014 in respect of water cannon authorisation”.

This attempt by ACPO to raise the spectre of an implausible large-scale breakdown in public order is complete and utter nonsense, a risible and transparent excuse to bring draconian tools of crowd control to the streets of a generally calm and peaceful liberal democracy.

This is not Ukraine or Greece. And even if we were, like Ukraine, in the grip of large-scale civil disturbances, there is every chance that the fault would rest primarily with the fictitious government and not the fictitious protesters; so why further tilt the odds even further in favour of government power to suppress dissent by arming the police with water cannon?

But the really chilling disclosure comes next:

The police envisage using their water cannon to “exert control from a distance and critically to provide a graduated and flexible application of force ranging from spray to forceful water jets. The mere presence of water cannon can have a deterrent effect and experience from Northern Ireland demonstrates that water cannon are often deployed without being employed.”

Behold the power of the deterrent effect on freedom of speech and assembly. The ACPO will make it widely known that they are purchasing some new, state-of-the-art water cannon, weapons capable of blasting 9000 litres of water into a crowd in just five minutes at potentially deadly force, and sit back and watch the anticipated protests about this or that suddenly fail to materialise – or so the theory goes. But here the enemies of civil liberties may have underestimated the level of public opposition to their scheme.

We may rarely give a second thought to the scenes of plucky, unfortunate foreign demonstrators being blasted off their feet by high power jets of water often shown in television news reports from overseas, but if such a thing were to begin happening in Trafalgar Square or in the shadow of Parliament it would be another matter entirely. The British people will not abide a bully.

Scraping the barrel for recent examples of civil disorder to justify their unprecedented request, the chief police constables produced three very weak cases:

[David Shaw, West Mercia Chief Constable] cites three occasions in the past 10 years when police commanders would have considered using water cannon on the streets of London had they been available.

He names them as the Countryside Alliance demonstration in Parliament Square in 2010, the Gaza demonstrations against the Israeli embassy in 2008-09 and “potentially” the student protests of 2010, when specific locations were targeted.

They would also have been considered during the August riots of 2011 but he concedes they would have had only limited impact on the “fast, agile disorder” seen then.

So apparently farmers and bolshy students number among the most grave threats to law and order currently on the radar of the British police. How heartening it is to know that police chiefs up and down the country are so in tune with the fears and concerns of the communities that they purportedly serve.

More ridiculous still, ACPO themselves admit that water cannon would have been entirely useless in confronting the most recent case of serious civil disturbance in Britain, the August 2011 riots, because the looting and damaging was too fleet-footed and agile. It turns out that people intent on smashing and grabbing merchandise from the windows of electronic goods stores tend not to stand still at the scene of their crime, link arms and form orderly ranks so as to be efficiently mowed down by a hastily-scrambled water cannon.

So what is this really all about? One explanation could be that ACPO are politically agitating, and trying to send a message of their disapproval of coalition austerity policies to the public and their elected representatives, essentially saying “we told you that cutting government spending would lead to chaos and disorder and we were right; now we have to take the draconian step of procuring water cannon to prevent the country from sliding into anarchy”.

This is one plausible possibility – as we have seen only too recently with the Andrew Mitchell “plebgate” scandal, there are those in the police force with very hardened agendas who would stop at nothing to discredit or cast doubt on the performance of Conservative ministers.

But in truth, a more convincing explanation is that the police just really fancy having these new toys to scare and intimidate people, that they have decided that building good community relations with the public and doing the hard work of policing large scale events just isn’t worth the effort when they can just bully the public into cowed obedience much more easily.

They likely pursued this strategy in the belief that vague and nebulous references to potential future instances of moderate civil disorder would be sufficient prompting for Theresa May to roll over and grant their wish in her desire to appear tough on the issue of law and order. The British public can only hope that she has the political courage and commitment to civil liberties to tell ACPO to back off – but based on her record, the signs are not encouraging.

Unwarranted plans to bully and intimidate by the ACPO.
Unwarranted plans to bully and intimidate by the ACPO.


The saving grace of this worrying affair will be the newly-created police and crime commissioners, now in place throughout many parts of the country – officials whose primary job it is to advocate for the local population, highlight their concerns and see them addressed by the police forces.

This brazen move by ACPO will be a good early test of the new commissioners. Do they have real teeth, and the strength to dig in their heels and make the police chiefs focus on local priorities rather than their own private Orwellian ambitions, or will they merely act as a fawning rubber stamp to power?

We may soon find out.

Bring The Police To Heel

Two stories in the media this afternoon, each quite different in nature but both pointing toward the same dark, disturbing and authoritarian shift that continues unabated in Britain today.


The first is from The Telegraph, serving up video footage of a police sergeant in Gloucester threatening a photographer, admitting to swearing at him and threatening him with physical harm:

The officer is heard to say, “we’ll nick you now and I will make your day a living hell, ‘cos you’ll be in that cell all day. What I’ll probably do is I will ask for you to be remanded in custody and I will put you before the magistrate.”

He added: “You’re lucky that I didn’t knock you out. I swore at you, yeah. It got your attention, though, didn’t it?”

Because apparently taking pictures or video of the aftermath of a road accident is now illegal in our country, as is showing anything but the most fawning and servile deference and adulation to the most power-crazed and high-handed officers in the police force.

The second article is chilling on an altogether different level, and chronicles the process by which the UK’s anti-terrorist police decided that it would be in any way appropriate and proportional to haul a twelve year old boy out of his class at school to question him about an event that he had organised on Facebook to protest the planned closure of his local youth club:

Wishart said that after the school was contacted by anti-terrorist officers, he was taken out of his English class on Tuesday afternoon and interviewed by a Thames Valley officer at the school in the presence of his head of year. During the interview, Wishart says that the officer told him that if any public disorder took place at the event he would be held responsible and arrested.

Speaking to the Guardian, Nicky Wishart said: “In my lesson, [a school secretary] came and said my head of year wanted to talk to me. She was in her office with a police officer who wanted to talk to me about the protest. He said, ‘if a riot breaks out we will arrest people and if anything happens you will get arrested because you are the organiser’.

The event was organised in the Prime Minister’s home constituency of Witney in Oxfordshire, but in what possible dark, dystopian world is it okay for the police to make a mountain out of a truly tiny molehill and question the intentions of a young boy who was doing nothing but being an engaged and activist citizen? Our country would be vastly better off if there were more children like Nicky Wishart, who actually care about local issues enough to take a stand rather than festering away in front of the television for hours on end.

But it is the next quote attributed to the police that is truly terrifying:

“He said even if I didn’t turn up I would be arrested and he also said that if David Cameron was in, his armed officers will be there ‘so if anything out of line happens …’ and then he stopped.”

If anything out of line happens, the armed officers will do what, exactly? Shoot a twelve year old boy as some kind of sadistic punishment? What reason is there to mention the potential presence of armed officers, other than to imply that they might do the one thing that regular police officers do not?

The truly scary thing is that we don’t even have to worry about our politicians using their power and influence to get the security services to intimidate and threaten the population on their behalf – the security services seem perfectly willing to proactively do so of their own volition!

We must also ask why it was the anti-terrorist police (who apparently have no real serious threats to the nation on their agenda at the moment to be wasting time on routine public intimidation work, for which I suppose we can all breathe a sigh of relief), of all the many branches of our national law enforcement apparatus, who seemingly felt it necessary to bully a small child about his planned political protest. Has GCHQ intercepted terrorist chatter that Al Qaeda intends to infiltrate local community action groups in order to launch their next attack? Whatever next – fears of ricin or anthrax being baked into scones at a Women’s Institute cake sale, and elderly ladies being detained in their kitchens?

The police make the predictable but ludicrous claim that their intention was not to cause distress or to intimidate Wishart, but was simply part of their standard community outreach efforts:

“On Tuesday 7 December, our schools officer for west Oxfordshire attended the school in Eynsham and spoke to a 12-year-old boy in the company of the pupil’s head of year, about a planned protest. This was not with the intention of dissuading him from organising it, but to obtain information regarding the protest to ensure his and others’ safety. As with any demonstration, we always aim to facilitate a peaceful protest.”

Perhaps the police need to apply the “ordinary person” test and reconsider the likely effect of being yanked out of class and spoken to by police in the presence of a senior teacher with no parents or legal representatives present, on the psyche of a young boy. Is doing what they did more likely to “facilitate a peaceful protest” or to stamp out a potential protest before it ever sees the light of day?

David Cameron needs to send a very clear message to the nation in response to this outrage, as a matter of urgency. And through the locally elected police commissioners, he needs to publicly rebuke and call off the police attack dogs currently biting at the ankles of the British citizenry. Cameron and the commissioners must make clear that individual police officers will curry no favour with their superiors by overzealously applying extreme interpretations of public order laws, and that those higher in the law enforcement hierarchy will receive no special favour from their political masters by using their extensive powers to bully and silence any protest that could be politically embarrassing.

Semi-Partisan Sam is quite unequivocal on this matter. The apology from the police to the family concerned is all well and good, but it is quite insufficient. It is high time that the British police are brought to heel once and for all.

Too Big To Jail

A brief segment from the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC, in which Maddow interviews Glenn Greenwald and asks him when it became acceptable in our society to accept that the political and financial elites are often considered “too big to jail”, or even to stand trial, despite being guilty of egregious crimes, while people without power are often imprisoned for the smallest, most inconsequential infractions.


Well worth five minutes of your time.