There are two common views among people who wanted to stay in the EU that I think are mistaken. One is that David Cameron made a foolish and unforgivable mistake in promising the referendum. The other is that the result was obtained by a campaign of lies.
My contentions are that Cameron was forced to promise a referendum by the very democratic pressure that produced the vote to Leave, and that the referendum was about as fair as the rough and tumble of democracy usually is.
And Rentoul is quite right, I think, to state that with the rise of UKIP, never-ending power grabs from an increasingly tone-deaf EU and the systematic crises (euro, migration) facing the union, a referendum was ultimately coming, one way or another, regardless of whatever David Cameron did:
Cameron knew that if he didn’t promise a referendum, his party would become even harder to manage and it would lose votes to Ukip. As it turned out, he had a choice between cutting his throat and slitting his wrist: he could lose the election in 2015 and be thrown out of office or he could lose the referendum a year later and be thrown out of office. Being a politician – that is to say, human – he chose to maximise his chance of winning in 2015 and hoped that winning in 2016 would take care of itself.
Rentoul accurately notes that euroscepticism is hardly a new phenomenon in Britain. While we may not have been asked our opinion on the matter since the 1975 referendum, there has always been a significant chunk of the population opposed to our EU membership, even before mass immigration from eastern Europe or the euro crisis were factors:
It may be objected that polls did not find that the EU was a priority for voters, and that support for leaving became significant only after the 2008 banking crisis. But there has been a majority in the British public for leaving or for reducing the EU’s powers since 1996, according to the British Election Study (page 6), and immigration has been named as one of the three most important issues facing Britain since 2001, according to Ipsos MORI.
But even more encouraging (from a Brexiteer’s perspective) is Rentoul’s refusal to fall back on lazy Remainer self-delusions that the Leave campaign had a monopoly on lies and misinformation, and that it was this uniquely one-sided dishonesty which somehow tricked a gullible population and swung the referendum:
The second complaint by many Remainers is that the people voted to Leave on the basis of disinformation. There is an implication that journalists failed in their duty to fact-check the post-truth politics – a criticism that must sound familiar in America.
But I don’t think the argument holds up. One of the surprising things about the referendum was that we didn’t hear that much about Eurosceptic press barons dominating the debate. This may be because they didn’t. The media landscape in Britain has been utterly transformed by the internet – as I know well, working for the first national newspaper to go online-only.
If you look at the readership of British newspapers, print and online, not only does The Independent have more readers than The Sun – not many people know that – but the total readerships of newspapers advocating Leave and Remain were about the same (of the 13 weekday newspapers, the Mail, Telegraph, Express, Star and Sun advocated Leave, with 95m monthly readers; the Guardian, Mirror, Independent, Standard, Times, Daily Recordand Scotsman advocated Remain, with 97m monthly readers; the Metro had no position). There are other new news sources online, Buzzfeed and other rivals of The Independent that I won’t mention, but overall I think the media was fairly evenly balanced.
As Rentoul points out, the Evil Murdoch Press doesn’t have quite the vice-like grip over the minds of the British people as many a Corbynite (or even a New Labour centrist) likes to believe. People consume their news from a variety of sources, and exist in social media bubbles of all kinds – pro-EU as much as eurosceptic.
All the same, there were claims made in the campaign that were – I prefer not to call them lies – not absolutely evidence-based. The most prominent was the claim by the Leave campaign that the UK sends £350m a week to the EU. We don’t. It’s about half that. The Leave people justified it by saying it would be £350m if we didn’t have the rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1985. Their argument is that politicians will be tempted to negotiate the rebate away in future – Tony Blair, for example, allowed it to be diluted when new countries joined the EU in 2004.
Most journalists reported that it wasn’t true. The trouble is that saying, “It’s not £350m a week it’s £180m a week,” didn’t really help the Remainers. It drove them mad because the Leavers kept on using the £350m, and the Remainers kept saying it wasn’t true, drawing attention to it, and reminding voters that we send a sum of money too big to be understood to the EU every week.
Besides, the Remain campaign was putting out leaflets claiming that for every pound we put into the EU we got £10 back. I wouldn’t describe that as absolutely evidence-based either.
Many of us – this blog included – campaigned long and hard and angrily about Vote Leave’s disingenuous “£350 million for the NHS” pledge, pointing out that it was false and that it served as a greater propaganda tool for the Remain campaign with which to attack Brexiteers than as an argument for leaving the EU. But Rentoul is quite right – the true figure of c. £180 million is just as impactful, and quantitative scaremongering claims by the Remain campaign were no less manipulative and deceitful.
This blog has been busy handing out awards for grotesque Brexit catastrophisation with some relish, so it is only fair to acknowledge times when those from the political Left exceed the low expectations which have too often been set by politicians and the media class. Rentoul’s overall assessment is quite right – the EU referendum campaign was cacophonous and messy, but it was in no way tilted in favour of the underdog, insurgent Leave campaign, and would never have succeeded if it had not ignited already-latest anti-EU feelings among entire swathes of the British people.
So credit where credit is due: John Rentoul is one of vanishingly few prominent left-wing commentators to broadly accept the result of the EU referendum with no ifs, buts or asterisks. If only other left-wing politicians and commentators found it within themselves to do the same, their political movement might not now be facing unprecedented unpopularity and rejection by the British people.
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Yes, the BBC let the public down with their spineless, uninquisitive EU referendum coverage. But this only benefited the Remain campaign, not the Brexiteers, and to suggest otherwise is absurd
Disappointed Remain activist Hugo Dixon takes to the pages of InFacts with with a sullen litany of the many ways in which the (ahem) notoriously eurosceptic television news media supposedly hindered the pro-EU camp’s chances and aided the fact-free Brexiteers at every turn.
The BBC has rightly been criticised for its weak referendum coverage. If the broadcaster had done a better job of challenging interviewees, informing the public and making room for a variety of viewpoints, voters would have had a better chance of sifting fact from fiction. The BBC, after all, dominates our news coverage: 77% of the public use it as a news source, according to Ofcom.
The most common criticism aired against the BBC is one of phoney balance – namely that it gave equal airtime to experts and their opponents’ unsubstantiated bluster. But this is probably not the most serious charge. After all, it would not have been fair to deny the two sides of the referendum equal airtime or to keep off the air campaigners who were telling fibs or spinning fantasy.
However, what the BBC could and should have done was grill its guests more vigorously – and make more space for coverage that didn’t fit into the tired Punch-and-Judy style battle between spokespeople put up by the two official campaigns.
Dixon is also admirably on-point when he criticises the media’s reliance on the sanitised, focus-group approved media grids of the two opposing lead campaign groups, effectively suggesting to their viewers that these incompetents and nepotism beneficiaries represented the full spectrum of eurosceptic and pro-European thought:
This wasn’t the BBC’s only failing. It also allowed too much of its coverage to become a Punch-and-Judy style battle between the official campaigns. The broadcaster, of course, had to give a lot of airtime to Vote Leave and Stronger In. But it allowed its coverage to be virtually dictated by their agendas.
I know the Remain side of the story better. Stronger In had a “grid”, on which it set out what stories it wanted to push on particular days and which people it wanted to push those messages. It coordinated this grid closely with Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s director of communications. Indeed, Stronger In was effectively in Number 10’s pocket. It rarely put forward people who weren’t on message with its Project Fear strategy.
The BBC should not have allowed itself to be manipulated in this way, particularly since it was aware of the potential problem. Its guidelines said: “Where there is a range of views or perspectives, that should be reflected appropriately during the campaign.” They went on to say: “The designated Campaign Groups – whilst offering spokespeople to programme-makers and other content producers – cannot dictate who should or who should not appear on BBC output.”
But the broadcaster didn’t do enough to resist the pressure. As a result, Downing Street and its puppets dominated the Remain camp’s share of airtime, and people who wanted to make a positive case for Britain’s involvement were edged out. Even Gordon Brown – who was trying to argue that we should lead Europe, not leave Europe – found it hard to be heard.
So on both of these complaints, Dixon is on solid ground. But to go on and suggest that intellectually lazy journalism which impacted the Leave side every bit as much as the Remain campaign somehow decisively swung the outcome of the referendum is to venture into the realm of fantasy.
For every such example, the BBC could presumably come up with a counter-example. But when its senior figures search their souls, do they really think they fulfilled their mission of informing and educating the public well during the referendum? And, if not, what are they going to do about it? How about an independent, public audit of how the BBC fared during the referendum backed up by recommendations on how to do better in future?
The world is not getting any simpler. Hard, honest thinking about how to cover often very complicated questions could stand the BBC in good stead. Audiences and license fee payers definitely deserve it.
The underlying assertion, carefully left unsaid, is that these various journalistic failures added up to a succession of “microbiases” which somehow cumulatively tipped the referendum result, and that if only BBC and other television news presenters had challenged guests and demanded more “facts” then the British people would have come to their senses and realised just how star-spangled awesome the European Union really is.
And maybe in an alternative universe that was the case – that there simply weren’t enough highly credentialed experts, both hysterical and sober, using abundant media platforms to lecture the British people that seeking freedom from the EU would be an unmitigated disaster.
Why oh why were these noble voices, these latter-day Cassandras so cruelly shut out of the national debate, swamped by a relentlessly pro-Brexit television media amplifying the Leave campaign’s monopoly on falsehoods and scaremongering?
But that’s not how I remember the EU referendum campaign.
Hugo Dixon inhabits an interesting parallel universe, and no doubt a comforting one for disappointed Remain campaigners so deeply invested in their failed euro-federalist dream. But it bears no resemblance to the real world, where the plucky, haphazard, incoherent and almost terminally disorganised Leave campaign triumphed against the arrayed forces of the establishment and a television news media which only amplified rather than diminished their influence in support of the status quo.
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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.
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.
52% is enough to win a referendum, but not enough to make a guaranteed success of Brexit
In closing this live-blog of EU referendum result reaction (and before normal business resumes), I want to close with an email sent from the German office to the London office of a certain multinational company the day that the referendum results were announced.
The email was entitled “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, and reads (with redactions to protect anonymity):
On this truly disturbing day, we want to send you our greatest empathy and heartfelt solidarity to London and the whole UK [company] Team. Although troubling times maybe ahead of all of us here in Europe, the whole team of [company] Germany keeps on believing in the European idea and the future of peaceful and prosperous unity for Europe with the United Kingdom and all the wonderful people living there.
So for us this is not the end of the road. Our friendship with you will be stronger than ever and we will get through this together.
Big Hugs from Germany
Please share with the whole office
This text is followed by a picture of the entire German team making heart shapes with their hands as they hold aloft the German, EU and UK flags.
This is what we have to contend with as we try to navigate Brexit and secure a prosperous, independent but interconnected future for Britain outside of the European Union – whole offices full of undeniably smart people who legitimately view the events of the past two weeks as a nearly unspeakable calamity with no redeeming features.
The author of this email (and the senior person who authorised it) clearly had absolutely no doubt that their sentiments would be shared by every single one of their colleagues. There was no recognition that smart, professional people might come down on different sides of the argument on the great question of Britain’s future place in the world. On the contrary, there was only the arrogant but utterly genuine assumption that everybody working for the company (both in Germany and the UK) shares this view. Certainly no Brexit-supporting employee would dare to openly admit their own political views in such a one-sided, hostile climate.
I’m delighted that we won this referendum and finally have the chance to build the positive, enterprising and independent Britain that this blog longs to see. But while 52-48 is a firm victory, it cannot be denied that we have been helped over the line with the support of some retrograde, even unsavoury supporters and ideas, while we convinced too few of the professional class to join with us. It simply should not be the case that the entire staffs of any organisation (save perhaps the EU itself) view Brexit as an unmitigated calamity. That this is currently the case is a failure on the part of Brexiteers – despite the unwavering effort of many of us to present the progressive, internationalist case for leaving the EU.
But what strikes me most in this email is the way that its author describes Brexit – the prospect of Britain regaining the kind of democratic control over its own affairs enjoyed by every other developed country in the world outside Europe – as “truly disturbing”. We currently live in a country where many people are consumers first and conscientious citizens a distant second; where the elimination of the smallest short-term risk is seen as more important than safeguarding the long term democratic health of Britain.
But it is not enough to rail at pro-EU professionals for voting for their own short-term economic self interest, just as it is not enough for disappointed Remainers to berate Brexiteers for supposedly voting against their own. We must go out and convince people, rebuilding the proper respect and reverence for democracy in the hearts and minds of the people. If we fail to do this, it is only a matter of time before we barter our freedoms away again, for some other shiny new trinket.
It is simply not right – and not sustainable – for Britain to be a country where so many urban professionals continue to hold democracy in such low regard (or not even consider it at all). Bright, educated young professionals should be the biggest enemy of an elitist, antidemocratic anachronism like the European Union, not its loudest cheerleaders.
And until that changes, securing our ultimate freedom from the EU and a prosperous new independence will continue to be an unnecessarily punishing, uphill slog.
4 July – 11:15
Airbrushing Brexiteer women from history
Brendan O’Neill makes a really good point:
Liberal commentators are always saying “Don’t airbrush women from history!” Yet their moany depiction of Brexit as the handiwork of Boris and Farage utterly erases Gisela Stuart, Andrea Leadsom, Kate Hoey, Women for Britain, Dreda Say Mitchell, and those thousands of Brexiteer nurses and female trade unionists and workers and mums. Seems wiping women from the historic record is cool if those women did something Guardianistas don’t like.
3 July – 11:25
Pity the young and their lost “European identity”
The New York Times, which distinguised itself with one-sided and incredibly biased coverage catastrophising Brexit at every turn while utterly failing to even consider the democratic case for independence from European political union, is back with a “won’t somebody please think of the children!” lament for Britain’s youth.
In an incredibly narrow-minded article entitled “Brexit Bats Aside Younger Generation’s European Identity”, the NYT opines:
You could say theirs is the Generation of Three E’s.
There is Erasmus, the European Union program that organizes and subsidizes student exchanges among universities across its 28 countries and elsewhere. There is easyJet, the budget airline that lets them hop between European cities as simply and cheaply as it can be to trek across town. And there is the euro, the currency used in most of the member countries.
Young adults are now grappling with what Britain’s vote to exit the European Union means for their profoundly European way of life. For them, it is perfectly normal to grow up in one country, study in another, work in a third, share a flat with people who have different passports and partner up without regard to nationality.
“It means that we are not going to be sisters and brothers of a big project,” said Antoine Guéry, 24, a Frenchman whose résumé and network of friends provide a crash course in European geography.
“At best, we are going to be allies” — friends, but no longer family. “It feels less like home.”
Waah waah waah. Of course, Erasmus will continue to exist (no doubt with British participation) despipte Brexit. Low-cost airlines will not suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke now that the British people have voted to free themselves from unwanted European political union. And the euro was never a reality for Brits anyway. Yet all of these things are cited in an attempt to catastrophise Brexit, to make it seem as though the granular details of peoples’ lives is going to be irrevocably harmed in some way.
The NYT goes on to cite the sob stories of exactly the kind of people who make up the modern metro-Left, utterly oblivious to the fact that these people in no way represent the majority of the youth (most of whom did not even bother to vote in the EU referendum):
Mr. Guéry works at a public-relations firm in Paris but had been looking for job opportunities in London — an exercise he shelved immediately after the “Brexit” vote on June 23. His degree is from Sciences Po University in Paris, but he also studied at Stockholm University and Germany’s University of Potsdam.
It was in Stockholm that two German women, Carolina Leersch, now 26, and Kim Seele, 28, joined his inner circle. In Berlin, Mr. Guéry lived with Ms. Seele’s aunt, had an Irish boyfriend and befriended Lauren Muscroft, who is British, and Marion Desbles, who is from Rennes, France.
This group and others like it are, to be sure, a subset within a subset, part of a fourth E — the elite — who studied at the Continent’s top institutions and took advantage of the Pan-European doors open to them. Splitting Britain from the European Union may put a damper on future changes important to this globalized generation, like the move toward a single European digital market for movie and music streaming, and the end, by next year, of cellphone roaming charges when crossing European Union borders.
Days before the British referendum, Mr. Guéry, Ms. Muscroft and Ms. Desbles jokingly wondered, while waiting in the passport lines at the airport in Barcelona, Spain, whether Britons like Ms. Muscroft would soon be kicked out of the European Union lane.
The New York Times – and the modern, metro-Left (or “middle class clerisy”, to use the term coined by Brendan O’Neill) for which it is a mouthpiece, simply cannot conceive of a world where not all young people enjoy this upper middle class jetsetting lifestyle. The fact that most young people do not routinely hop on aeroplanes – even easyJet ones – to visit university friends from Norway and Spain simply does not compute.
This is a problem because while it would certainly be great if everybody had the same international career and leisure opportunities that the New York Times apparently thinks is the case, in fact many do not. And hand-wringing about Brexit while completely and utterly ignoring the “minor” question of democracy only provides more evidence that the elite are dramatically out of touch with the wider country, and specifically with the less privileged demographics whose interests they so sanctimoniously claim to care about.
In their haste to catastrophise Brexit by soliciting the tearful opinions of PR professionals and lawyers, the NYT never bothered to interview for their piece a single one of the millions of young people in southern Europe who have been doomed by the EU’s ruinous policies and failing currency union to a life with may now never include the joys of a fulfilling, international career.
Since the Brexit was announced last week, there has been outrage, protests and emotional social media posts a plenty.
But some students claim the UK’s decision to leave the EU has left them in a ‘depression’, adding that they feel like they’re ‘grieving for the loss of cultural enrichment’ that the European Union provided.
‘I’ve felt so down all day because of this, and just have this constant sick feeling in my stomach. I genuinely feel like I’m grieving.
‘I feel like I’m grieving for our growing economy. I’m grieving for our loss of cultural enrichment. If we weren’t a part of the EU I’d never have met people from the likes France, Norway, Germany, who have so much to offer to our country. We have so much to gain from these cultures,’ one person posted on The Student Room.
‘Can I class Brexit as a traumatic event when fail my exams next week? Because honestly I’m so distracted now because of it?’ another chipped in.
One person replied: ‘I relate. I somehow survived an exam while still panicking the whole way through.’
Because of course “cultural enrichment”, foreign travel and cultural exchanges are only possible within the stultifying confines of regional political union…
1 July – 00:25
Brexit calculus and the Tory leadership
Dr. Richard North’s cold hard calculus as to which Conservative Party leadership candidate would offer the most promise to small-L liberal Brexiteers of a Flexcit mindset leads in a rather distressing direction:
There is not much to fault with Theresa May’s speech.
[..] Gove was less impressive, offering only “in the next few days” to lay out his plan for the United Kingdom. But behind Gove is the poisonous Dominic Cummings: the two go together. That is not a happy choice.
At least though, we are freed from the possibility of Johnson as Prime Minister. I’ve not made any secret of my dislike for him, a loathsome creature who has made a career out of lying, and fronted a disastrous “leave” campaign which was centred on a lie. We are well rid of him.
In the Vote Leave campaign, however, Gove also supported the lie. On that basis alone, he cannot be trusted to manage our exit negotiations. That he is totally opposed to continued participation in the Single Market, in my view, further rules him out.
Perversely, I think the exit negotiations are probably better off in the hands of a “reformed” remainer such as Theresa May. After all, the final arbiter of the settlement is not the Prime Minister, but Parliament. Let those who spoke for a return of Parliamentary sovereignty now hold Parliament’s feet to the fire, and demand that it does it job of holding the Executive to account – if it can.
And, on that basis, the best candidate for Conservative Leader seems to be Mrs May.
I don’t doubt Dr. North’s logic for a moment, but my goodness – what an exquisitely high price to pay in order to give the interim EFTA/EEA Brexit approach maintaining our present single market access the best shot of success.
While this blog came to detest and deplore David Cameron for his utter lack of conservative principle, Theresa May embodies all of the worst authoritarian and paternalistic instincts of the Conservative Party which repel more liberal conservatarians such as myself.
A Britain led by a Prime Minister Theresa May would be a land where ancient civil liberties, already crumbling, were put in the blender and liquidised once and for all, and where the state – acting in the Common Good, of course – controlled and surveillance ever more of our lives, all the time.
Furthermore, Theresa May is a politician who not only supported Britain’s continued membership of the EU during the referendum but who lacked the political courage (less cynical people might say had the strategic smarts) to take a prominent role in the campaign. On the most important political question to face this country in a generation, the long-serving and highly authoritarian Home Secretary effectively hedged her bets and stayed silent. That may well have been politically smart. But it was also rank cowardice. And this is the person best placed to lead Britain to independence from the EU and prosperity without it?
As I said, I take no issue with Dr. North’s assessment of the Tory leadership situation as it affects Brexit, which is by far and away the most important issue in this blog’s estimation. But personally, I’m not quite there yet. Having always been firmly of the opinion that I would sooner be dead in the cold ground than see a flinty-eyed authoritarian like Theresa May in 10 Downing Street, potentially being forced into a 180 degree U-turn to save the precious Brexit cause is an exquisitely painful price to be paid (to the extent that one holds out desperate hope that an alternative may yet emerge, against the odds).
In fact, at present the only bright spot for this blog in a future Theresa May premiership would be watching the preening, virtue-signalling Social Justice Warriors of Britain short-circuit themselves trying to hate on May despite the fact that she is a woman (though surely a self-hating one, according to the current intersectional feminist school of thought).
But the prospect of these delicious moments of humour does not make up for the lasting damage a Prime Minister Theresa May could feasibly do to our country, constitutional settlement and civil liberties, not to mention the already-sullied Conservative Party brand.
1 July – 00:05
My Conservatives for Liberty colleague Martin Bailey hits the nail on the head with his diagnosis of the multiple personalities currently occupying the Labour Party host.
Commentators are talking about the existence of two Labour Parties– On one side the soft left Centrists, the Blairites, the Gaitskellites, the social democrats and on the other the hard left, the Corbynites, the Trots, the Bevanites, the socialists. The accepted narrative casts these two tribes as locked in a permanent battle for the soul of the party, creating a natural equilibrium, ying and yang. This is no longer the case. There is now a third Labour party.
The third Labour party is the largest of all. It exists not in the drawing rooms of effete London suburbs but in warehouses and Wetherspoons across the land. They care not a jot for ideology or dogma or political correctness or Palestine and have voted Labour out of resentment of the establishment, class prejudice and the belief that it was the best way to protect their marginalised communities.
The working class have supported the Labour party in their millions for nearly a hundred years, a political identity passed down through generations, but they are starting to realise that neither the Blairites nor the Corbynistas articulate their views and are in fact happy to dismiss them as ignorant racists.
The disconnect between Labour’s professional political class and the traditional Labour voter was the real talking point of the referendum. Who can blame the common people for giving a great big two fingers to those who have taken them for granted for so long? Once again the Labour party has learnt nothing, with contempt for the working class reaching new heights in the aftermath of the vote with Guardian columnists writing about ‘Crappy’ Northern towns and David Lammy calling for parliament to ignore the democratic will of the nation.
Lammy’s position is as understandable as it is indicative of the status quo. A London MP who sees the coming typhoon and in an attempt to save his own behind at the next election decides to voice the concerns of the delicate snowflakes of the big smoke, without any thought of the repercussions his words will have in places like Rotherham, Blackburn or Burnley.
UKIP has become the lightning rod for working class anger and malcontent and thanks to Labour’s continuing, indeed increasing, inclination to treat the people as an irrational, immature inconvenience, a party that should have been declared obsolete post-Brexit looks likely to go from strength to strength.
This chimes exactly with my own thinking. Listening to the howls of outrage from centrist, metro-left MPs anguished at being “dragged out of Europe” against their will – the very thing that many of Labour’s traditional working class voters were celebrating – has been an instructive real-time case study of the death of a major political party.
So where does this leave Labour? Bailey rightly points out that any SDP-style split of the centrists would only result in “a party without an electorate, a cart without a horse”. Yet if the centrists stay and succeed in forcing Jeremy Corbyn out, the floor will fall out from under the party with no commensurate benefit – the Momentum wing, enraged, would simply sabotage the party, even costing Labour safe seats by running as a new party.
It’s almost enough to make one feel sorry for Labour. But then one recalls their cynical hysteria in painting the slightest hint of fiscal conservatism as an ideologically motivated attack on the poor and vulnerable, and any feelings of sympathy quickly disappear.
30 June – 16:10
The blowback against democracy continues
Garvan Walshe is the latest voice to express his fear and hatred of democracy now that it has dealt up an outcome with which he happens to profoundly disagree.
Writing in Conservative Home, Walshe frets that “democratic fundamentalism is now the most serious threat to freedom in the West”:
Like all fundamentalisms, democratic extremism takes a noble idea, that everyone’s political views should count equally, too far. But if democracy is to endure, voters must inform themselves of the facts, avoid being swayed by prejudice and emotion, and to base judgements on evidence. The romantic invocation of popular sovereignty is no substitute for calm deliberation.
It is not reasonable however for a political elite simply to tell voters they are wrong. The people have every reason to distrust it on the very issue that motivated them to vote to leave: immigration. For more than a decade voters have been told that immigration could be controlled with ease, even though the kind of control they want can only come at enormous economic cost, and by running the risk of stirring up xenophobic feeling across the country. The elite’s greatest error wasn’t, as is often said, to ignore their concerns: but to pretend to address them while doing nothing. Was it asking too much of our political system to try and explain why they were misplaced, and address the real problems that have for the past fifteen years falsely been blamed on immigration?
The remain campaign’s predictions, however disbelieved, are coming true. The pound has had its steepest fall in 30 years. Banks and housebuilders have lost up to a third of their value. $2 trillion was wiped of global stock markets on the day after the vote. Scotland is poised to break away. The mythical “better deal” where greater immigration restrictions could be won without losing access to the single market was immediately rejected by Angela Merkel.
On June 23rd the people voted to take a huge gamble on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations leaves the next Prime Minister trapped. He or she can either sacrifice the interests of leave voters by throwing aside 40 years of business relationships with our largest trading partner, or betray their beliefs by concluding a Norway-style deal that has us formally leave the EU, but maintains economic arrangements more or less unchanged. If they get it wrong, Scotland will secede and UKIP’s rank racism will be almost impossible to stop.
What can one say in response to this preening, hysterical reaction to Brexit? It goes without saying that Garvan Walshe would have no qualms whatsoever if the “tyranny of the majority” had kept Britain in the EU with a 52-48 endorsement of the 40 year status quo. Only when the wrong people with the wrong opinions have heir moment does Walshe shriek like a Victorian prude and reach for the smelling salts.
Walshe is sneeringly dismissive of democracy as a dangerous thing by which the unwashed masses might make the “wrong” choice based on emotion, and presumptuous about the motives of Brexiteers (assuming that they were primarily motivated by immigration concerns when the recent post-referendum ComRes poll showed that democracy was the key issue).
This argument lays bare the arrogance of the Remainers-in-denial. Even now, when their dream of Britain as a subjugated vassal of an ever-integrating European proto- state has been rejected by the electorate, their minds cannot fathom the loss. Instead, the Brexiteers’ victory must be chalked up to “insufficient information” made available to the electorate, while the biggest exercise in British democracy in decades is seen as something to be feared rather than celebrated.
The battle does not end with the EU referendum. People like Garvan Walshe, who believe that the people are incapable of understanding the big issues which affect their lives, and that our job is to be condescended to and have things framed and explained to us by an all-knowing elite technocracy, are lurking under every rock.
And we must fight them every inch of the way if we are to make a success of Brexit.
New Zealand has offered its top trade negotiators to the United Kingdom, relieving the British civil service as it prepares for the strain of seeking new deals with countries across the globe.
The Telegraph understands that the Commonwealth country has made an offer to loan staff to the British civil service, which has few trade negotiators of its own.
Wellington’s olive branch came alongside an offer to discuss a trade agreement with the UK, which would help Britain get out of the starting blocks and begin replacing the trade access lost as a result of the Brexit vote.
[..] Murray McCully, New Zealand’s foreign minister, confirmed to the New Zealand Herald that he had had a discussion with Jonathan Sinclair, Britain’s High Commissioner to New Zealand, on Monday.
We’ve simply made an offer that we as a country that is a long-standing friend … stands ready to be useful in any way we can be,” Mr McCully said. The foreign minister did not rule out providing the UK with the expertise of its trade negotiators.
So much for backward, isolationist Britain standing alone in the world.
In seriousness, though, this is exactly the kind of gesture which we would want to see from our friends and allies at this time. After 40 years of slow submersion into the EU’s political union, Britain’s own skills and competencies in key areas like trade have atrophied with time.
The plus side of the interim EFTA/EEA approach advocated by the Flexcit plan, not mentioned in the Telegraph article, is that trading with the single market through EFTA would significantly reduce the volume of trade agreements which urgently need to be negotiated in the first place, meaning that any seconded staff from other countries could even be put to use helping Britain to chart a longer term course beyond the EEA. And as an added bonus, rejoining EFTA would immediately make Britain a party to the tens of existing trade deals which that trade bloc has negotiated with other countries.
30 June – 15:00
Centrist Labour waves goodbye to reality
Luke Akehurst, writing in LabourList, entertains dreams (echoed by many in the party establishment) of a grand centrist coalition wresting control of the party back from the Corbynites.
Now more than ever Britain needs the Labour values which were notable only by their absence in the referendum campaign.
Now more than ever Labour needs a new leader who can stand up for those values in Parliament, in negotiations with the EU and the remaining 27 member states, and in Downing Street after the coming election.
And now more than ever we need mainstream Labour supporters to sign up as party members, stand up for their values and elect a new Leader.
Anyone who is devastated by the referendum result and wants to take a step back on the road to serious, progressive politics should now join the Labour Party.
A leadership election is looming and, while Jeremy Corbyn has lost a lot of support among party members in the last few months, we need more to join us if we are to elect a mainstream, credible Leader.
If there is a contested leadership ballot we need to counteract the mass recruitment of Corbyn supporters that happened last year not just by persuading the wing of his previous voters who have been alienated by incompetence, sectarianism, failure to make electoral headway and what increasingly looks like the deliberate sabotage of the Labour In campaign to switch, but also by recruiting hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters ourselves.
All that energy and desire for change in our politics apparent from the referendum campaign and the reaction to it needs to be channelled into a concerted membership drive across every town and city in our country.
Labour is the party of the many, not the few.
And now is our chance to show that the mainstream are many and the far left are few.
The only problem is that vague, wishy-washy people beloved by pandering centrist politicians are by their very nature the hardest to tempt off their sofas to vote, let alone getting them to stump up £50 a year to join a political party and remember to vote in its leadership election.
The plain truth is this: the Labour Party is now reaping what it sowed during its opportunistic period of opposition from 2010 under Ed Miliband. Faced with an utterly bland, centrist and inoffensive not-very-conservative government – in actuality nothing more than Tony Blair’s fourth term only with less money to spend – the Labour Party decided that their quick route back to power lay in portraying the smallest acts of fiscal responsibility and spending restraint as “Thatcherism on steroids”, and sensible reforms to welfare as a deliberate war on the poor, the sick and the disabled.
Unable to run on their own record, which saw Britain uniquely ill-equipped among rich nations to weather the financial crisis, Labour MPs (and they are nearly all guilty) instead pretended that David Cameron was Genghis Khan and that Iain Duncan Smith wanted to reopen the work houses.
Having egged on their own supporters and activists in this way, it is hardly surprising that following Ed Miliband’s departure a large number of them became receptive to a leadership candidate who promised to end the “crippling austerity” gripping the nation, even if this austerity mostly existed only in their own heads.
And now the same bland, centrist, careerist labour MPs who screamed “Tory genocide of the sick!” in a tawdry attempt to drum up votes are now throwing their toys out of the pram because they find themselves led by a man whose far-left politics were deemed by the party membership to be the best antidote to the very phantoms which the Labour parliamentary caucus themselves encouraged. Quite frankly, it’s pathetic.
The Labour Party membership overwhelmingly voted for Jeremy Corbyn to be their leader. One year later, if the majority of Labour MPs don’t like this fact it is for them to find a new party (and new supporters), not to subvert the will of their own members and activists.
29 June – 14:40
Nicola Sturgeon put back in her box
The Telegraph hearteningly reports that EU leaders are spurning self-important Nicola Sturgeon’s attempts to negotiate her own deal for Scotland with Brussels, separate and in contradiction to the UK government’s own negotiations:
Nicola Sturgeon will now meet Jean-Claude Juncker during her visit to Brussels today to discuss Scotland keeping its EU status but she suffered another major blow after receiving short shrift from Germany.
The pair were not originally expected to meet thanks to Mr Juncker’s full diary but talks have been scheduled for this evening.
She is also meeting Martin Shulz, president of the European Parliament but Donald Tusk, the president of the powerful European Council comprising the heads of member states, has refused an invitation for talks.
It also emerged today that a series of member state governments have indicated they will not hold direct talks with the SNP about protecting Scotland’s status in the EU.
The German government told the Glasgow Herald this was an “internal” British issue and declined to comment further when asked if it would engage directly with the Scottish Government.
Denmark said its minister for foreign affairs “will not intervene in the internal UK discussions following the referendum last week”. The Czech government said it was “premature to address the question of an independent Scotland and its relation to the EU.”
The Estonian Foreign Affairs Ministry did not wish to engage in “speculation” but its Slovakian counterpart opened the door to bilateral talks, saying its appreciated Scotland’s pro-EU attitude.
Good. This is right and proper – any other response from our European allies would have constituted a major diplomatic incident and breach of protocol. It is not for other sovereign nations to undertake subversive negotiations with any one province or state of an allied nation, particularly when the putative negotiating partner is operating so far beyond her own remit and authority as First Minister of Scotland.
Nearly all domestic matters are now (rightly) devolved to the Scottish government, and the SNP should concentrate on making less of a hash of those areas already under its control before wading into foreign policy areas which it would have no right to participate in even under an ideal federal UK model.
Perhaps this is a sign of the Foreign Office – so tremulously ineffective under the weak leadership of Philip Hammond – finally reasserting itself and insisting that our European allies play it straight. Or perhaps they are all doing the right thing unbidden, with only EU leaders (excluding Donald Tusk) and not heads of government giving Nicola Sturgeon five minutes of their time.
And so it should be. Were the positions reversed, it would be unthinkable for a British government to enter into parallel talks with separatist parties or assembly leaders in, say, Spain, if Basque or Catalan leaders wanted Britain to pull strings allowing them to remain in the EU if Spain as a whole seceded. This would represent an unwarranted interference in another country’s domestic affairs, which is why no matter how much Scottish MEPs preen and posture and win applause in the European Parliament, they will rightly gain zero meaningful support from the chancelleries of Europe.
29 June – 08:00
Molly Scott Cato, writing in Left Foot Forward, exemplifies the sanctimonious metro-left’s sheer incomprehension that 17 million Britons, including many working class voters, could possibly have voted against what Cato and her peers arrogantly deem (without any consultation) to be their best interests.
I think it may have been the novelty of their vote counting that confused the ‘Regrexiteers’; they regarded their little cross as a gesture and then were horrified when they discovered that they had changed history.
Despite there being no evidence that a significant number of Brexiteers regret their vote (save the smattering of examples gratefully and desperately seized on by a terrified pro-EU media), Cato picks up this idea and runs with it.
Just how morally and intellectually superior does one have to consider oneself to be in order to decide that everybody else – a clear majority of the country – didn’t understand the question put to them in this EU referendum, asking whether we wanted to leave or remain in the EU? Sadly, such Olympian levels of unearned superiority are to be found across whole swathes of the British Left, who having lost all meaningful connection with and understanding of their traditional working class base now seek to justify the gulf of opinion by psychologising working class thought.
The faux rebellion narrative of the Brexiteers has succeeded.
They have managed to persuade a majority of the British people to support them against their own interests and the advice of every breathing expert.
Tory Brexiteers managed to exploit the hostility felt towards politicians – something they themselves have engendered – and presented voting Leave as an act of rebellion.
During the campaign I was reminded of Yeats’s poem The Second Coming when he says that ‘the best lack all conviction, while the worst; Are full of passionate intensity’.
Although the content of the arguments of those arguing for a withdrawal from our own continent was nonsense and their statistics largely bogus, their passion for their cause was compelling.
Here we see every other desperate left-wing evasion deployed throughout the EU referendum campaign, now repackaged to explain the Remain campaign’s defeat. First, the repeat of John McDonnell’s insidious line “Tory Brexit”, trying to paint the decision on Britain’s place in the EU as a partisan affair supported only by the Evil Tories – a direct contradiction of Cato’s later admission that “people on the right and the left voted for Brexit and it implies nothing in terms of domestic politics.”
And then Cato talks explicitly and hysterically of “withdrawing from our own continent”, as though by leaving a dysfunctional and ever-more tightly integrating political union which no longer works for us we are somehow literally cutting ourselves off from the continent and suspending diplomatic relations with our close friends and allies in Europe.
In their rage at being overruled by the working classes whose support they take for granted and whom they fatuously claim to represent while doing no such thing, the coddled metro-left are making themselves look utterly ridiculous.
But these paroxysms of rage directed at their own supposed base (and the Evil Tories who led the simple, uneducated working classes astray) – in this case offered up by Molly Scott Cato, a decadent Green Party MEP – only serve to reveal the festering black hole where the heart of left-wing politics once beat.
28 June – 23:10
Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone magazine has a great rebuttal to the increasing number of pundits arguing that Britain’s vote to leave the EU is a symptom of “too much democracy”:
Were I British, I’d probably have voted to Remain. But it’s not hard to understand being pissed off at being subject to unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels. Nor is it hard to imagine the post-Brexit backlash confirming every suspicion you might have about the people who run the EU.
Imagine having pundits and professors suggest you should have your voting rights curtailed because you voted Leave. Now imagine these same people are calling voters like you “children” and castigating you for being insufficiently appreciative of, say, the joys of submitting to a European Supreme Court that claims primacy over the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.
The overall message in every case is the same: Let us handle things.
But whatever, let’s assume that the Brexit voters, like Trump voters, are wrong, ignorant, dangerous and unjustified.
Even stipulating to that, the reaction to both Brexit and Trump reveals a problem potentially more serious than either Brexit or the Trump campaign. It’s become perilously fashionable all over the Western world to reach for non-democratic solutions whenever society drifts in a direction people don’t like. Here in America the problem is snowballing on both the right and the left.
Whether it’s Andrew Sullivan calling for Republican insiders to rig the nomination process to derail Trump’s candidacy, or Democratic Party lifers like Peter Orszag arguing that Republican intransigence in Congress means we should turn more power over to “depoliticized commissions,” the instinct to act by diktat surfaces quite a lot these days.
If you think there’s ever such a thing as “too much democracy,” you probably never believed in it in the first place. And even low-information voters can sense it.
It is hard to describe just how strongly anti-democratic sentiment is coursing through social media at the present time. This gem came from the timeline of a friend:
Here’s an idea. For our next referendum, let’s settle the question of the correct interpretation of quantum mechanics. Maybe make up for the shortfall in science funding #askamoron
The sneering, snide attitude toward Brexiteers is not going anywhere. Nor is the furious refusal to look at the EU referendum as a question of democracy, but rather as a purely short-term economic question from which the public should take their lead from self-described “experts”. Of course, as Taibbi argues in his Rolling Stone piece, the experts from ancient times, including Plato, were far from agreement themselves as to the meaning and worth of democracy.
Fortunately, while we must do without Plato, we do at least have an abundance of self-righteous, sneering millenials, all furious that their ‘”futures” have somehow been ripped away, and all convinced that democracy is not worth a damn if it means other people (especially the ignorant working classes and selfish older people) having a voice.
Pro-Europeans must learn to see the virtue in retreat. Spurred by the 48 per cent of voters on their side and the British impulse to make the best of things, they want to influence whatever settlement emerges between their country and Europe in the coming years. Conservative Remainers such as Theresa May, the home secretary, still have ambitions to lead their party. The Remain campaign aspires to live on as the liberal conscience of the more probable next prime minister — Boris Johnson — by encouraging his openness to markets and migration against more nativist competitors for his ear.
This is all very plucky, but so is turning up to work after you have been sacked. The British people have instructed their rulers to leave the EU. The execution of their will is the work of years and soul-sapping detail. It cannot be done by a prime minister who believes the instruction was foolish in the first place. It is awkward enough that the technical process of extrication will be managed by reluctant, deflated civil servants.
As a point of democratic principle, the highest offices in government — prime minister, chancellor of the exchequer and foreign secretary — should now go to committed Leavers, preferably ones with compatible accounts of what Leave should mean. A government of all persuasions would be magnanimity for its own sake and a perversion of the referendum result.
None of this is pleasing to say as a Remainer but it is no less true for that. Imagine our reaction if, having lost the referendum by a four-point margin, the other side invoked their hefty vote share to justify a prominent perch in the making of European policy with a view to loosening the terms of membership.
Democracy, like sport, is governed by a cruel clarity. Forty-eight per cent of votes does not entitle pro-Europeans to 48 per cent of their manifesto or 48 per cent of major ministries. Victory and defeat are more absolute than that, and not out of some misplaced machismo. It is for the sake of accountability that winners take all in our system.
That accountability is now everything. Leavers have won what was essentially a referendum and a general election all in one. They must be responsible for the country in the coming years. The economy, the union and the commitments made during the referendum campaign are all theirs to safeguard. A European settlement that simultaneously satisfies Brussels and the 52 per cent is theirs to negotiate.
All very admirable, but I dispute the idea that everything must now be in the hands of the Leavers – particularly if this is taken to mean only Vote Leave apparatchiks, who by no means represent the full depth and spectrum of Brexiteer opinion. This EU referendum was emphatically not a general election. The question before the British people was whether or not we should leave the European Union, and that is the question which was answered. To claim that it was a mandate for anything else is disingenuous. We did not elect a Vote Leave government with our referendum choice, and Brexiteers’ collective support for leaving the EU does not mean that we wish to see a prime minister Boris Johnson – in this blog’s case, emphatically not.
And so while the instruction given by the voters to leave the EU must absolutely be respected, this does not mean that Remainers should automatically be shut out of government. In fact, if the Brexit approach is to proceed along the liberal lines that we hope for, harnessing the desire of Remainers to maintain our preferential access to the single market will be important for building political support for the approaches outlined in Flexcit.
But more than that, Brexit requires the best of all Britons, including those who supported the Remain campaign. Taking their toys and walking away from active participation in the political process as an act of retaliation for having been “taken out of Europe against my will” (to quote the oft-heard whine on social media) is childish in the extreme. Now is not the time for disappointed Remainers to sit back with their arms crossed, hoping for the Leave campaign’s worst elements to fail. That is no kind of citizenship.
Nonetheless, the tone of Janan Ganesh’s piece is to be welcomed. The FT lobbied hard and shamelessly for a Remain vote, making their newspaper virtually unreadable in the process. Perhaps this will mark the start of a renewal.
Perhaps in addition to his gracious words in today’s FT, Ganesh would also now like to retract his assertion that Britain no longer makes history, in light of recent events?
28 June – 10:55
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” – President Abraham Lincoln, annual message to Congress, December 1862
I am not the only one to be having a post-referendum wobble looking at what we have unleashed. But mostly the shockwave is psychological. We are waking up to the enormity of what we have decided. It’s bigger than even I thought.
But what drives that fear is what my good friend and compatriot Sam Hooper calls “catastrophisation”. Many on the remain side are now in apoplexy going full tilt to find any scrap of evidence that supports their dire warnings. It’s pervasive and quite persuasive. They do it because they believe there is, by so doing, a chance of overturning the result.
But we should hold our nerve. We should not cave into second thoughts. What is done is done. If we go back on our decision now and go crawling back we will be treated in the same way as a battered wife who goes back to her abusive husband, begging for forgiveness.
For a moment in time on Thursday, to abuse a cliche, middle England roared with pride at who we are and what we can do. We should hold on to that. If we give way to doubt then we shall be all the more diminished and in a worse position than before. I urge you to continue to trust in you voting instincts, that we prosper because of who we are, not because of the EU.
I freely admit to having had some of the same initial uncertainties the moment it became clear that we were about to win – not least because victory was so unexpected (and I chasten myself for some of my earlier pessimism). When the gravity of what Britain had decided first hit, it was both awe-inspiring and sobering. It is fair to say that Britain has not made as consequential decision as this in a generation, and this one was made not by professional politicians but by the people.
Now, of course, all hell has broken loose. The turmoil in the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the markets was inevitable and hardly surprising, particularly since the doggedly pro-EU British government had spent months pumping out cataclysmic warnings about how the world would end if Britain leaves the EU. This will settle down, particularly once nervous speculators and jittery investors realise that Britain’s economic fundamentals did not suddenly change in the early hours of 24 June.
But developments are moving quickly now, and thinking Brexiteers must be nimble and quick to shoot down threats to the safe, staged and liberal approach to Brexit that we want. First and foremost, that means defending the referendum result against the kind of people (like Labour MP David Lammy) who would overturn the result entirely, claiming essentially that the British people were not in their right minds when we voted to leave the EU.
But future threats are also coming thick and fast. Now we must also be on guard to defend against calls for a second referendum, a souped-up form of “associate membership” of the EU, attempts to end Britain’s current preferential access to the single market or the puffed-up, self-important posturing of Nicola Sturgeon and the denialist Scottish nationalists.
It is heartening that EFTA itself has signalled that it would welcome Britain back as a member, thus allowing us to trade with the single market through EFTA’s EEA agreement. Given the close run vote nationwide, it should not be beyond the wit of even our politicians to promote this as a solid compromise which acknowledges Remain’s victory by taking us out of the EU and political union, while nodding to Remainer concerns by maintaining our single market access and at least nominal free movement of people.
Will any of this be easy? No, of course not. Things worth doing – things that might unleash radically greater freedom or prosperity – are never easy. A vote for Brexit was a vote for hard work, because we will no longer have the EU’s safety net to limit our choices and insultate us from their consequences, at the expense of our democracy. For Brexit to succeed, it is fair to say that we must all become better, more informed and engaged citizens. Having taken the first step toward clawing back power from Brussels it is not acceptable for us to now lazily leave all of those powers resting with the same Westminster MPs who readily gave them away in the first place.
So brace yourselves for more hard work. Achieving the best outcome from Brexit may prove to be every bit as difficult as winning the EU referendum. But there should be no doubt that it is possible.
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
As a country, we in Britain have not attempted anything remotely as inspiring or consequential as sending a man to the moon in the living memory of most Britons. Standing alone against fascism in the 1940s or (some would say) creating the NHS stand as obvious, depressingly dated examples. But now we choose to plot a path as an independent, democratic nation, and reject our current status as a vassal of a deliberately and profoundly antidemocratic EU.
After forty years of slow but steady political integration with the institutions of Brussels and Strasbourg, this will be difficult. Long-ago atrophied skills and competencies will need to be rebuilt at all layers of our government, while the case for democratic (and constitutional) reform in Britain must press ahead if we are to receive the full Brexit dividend.
On September 12 1962, with his country badly losing the space race to the Soviet Union, President John F Kennedy set his country an almost unimaginably ambitious goal. To quote another American president, he “dare[d] mighty things”. And by the end of that decade, the boot prints of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were stamped into the moon dust.
These days, our ideologically bankrupt politicians do not set us even the smallest of challenges or seek to inspire us to new heights of achievement, preferring to bribe us with promises of an easy life and more, better public services, always paid for by someone else. So since our politicians no longer dare to challenge us, now is the time for the people to challenge our politicians to set their sights higher. And that is precisely what we have done with this vote to leave the unloved, undemocratic and fraying European Union.
The occasion is piled high with difficulty – but also with promise – and we must all rise with the occasion.
Updates will be patchier than usual until next week when full normal business will resume. In the meantime, this thread will remain live as a place for semi-partisan analysis of fast moving developments.
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That feeling in the pit of your stomach right now? That’s nerves, now that the training wheels are soon going to come off British government, and the decisions which we make as a people will (for the first time since 1973) be the first and last word. Soon there will be no paternalistic, supranational European government to hold our hand and steer us right. If we want to live in a safe, stable and prosperous society then it will depend entirely on us being conscientious, informed and engaged citizens. If we make wise decisions, we will stand to reap great benefits. If we make poor decisions, we will face the undiluted consequences.
My sincere commiserations to those on the Remain side who fought this EU referendum from a place of deep principle and honour. I extend to you the magnanimity and friendship that (I hope) you would be extending to me right now had the result gone the way we all expected. It is incumbent on all of us now to work together to achieve the best possible form of Brexit. In this blog’s view, and that of The Leave Alliance, that means moving toward an interim EFTA/EEA position (the Norway Option) in order to maintain our current preferential access to the single market. This will mean many Brexiteers compromising on their absolutist stance on immigration – an olive branch which Remainers should accept.
This need not be Farage’s Britain. The whole point of Brexit is that we can build whatever kind of country we want, without external adjudication over our democracy. We should remain an open, tolerant society, as befits the greatest country in the world. Be not afraid.
This semi-partisan live blog is going to pause for a couple of hours while its author gets some rest, before resuming later. Many thanks for following along – please do stay tuned.
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David Cameron announces his resignation
David Cameron is saying a lot of the right things in his resignation speech. It should indeed be up to the next prime minister to decide when to trigger Article 50.
I’m with Brendan O’Neill:
This is democracy in action, in all its messy, beautiful, order-upsetting glory. Behold the steadfastness of ordinary people, their willingness to act on their conviction even in the face of the threats and barbs of people with power. We hear a lot these days about how gullible the public is, how malleable are our putty-like minds, play-doh in the hands of demagogues. And yet yesterday, the people thought for themselves; they weighed things up and they decided to reject received wisdom and the Westminster / Washington / Brussels consensus. Such independence of spirit, such freedom of thought, is stirring.
Britain stuns the world – let freedom ring!
Will somebody other than Nigel Farage please come out and make the open, liberal case for Brexit now? Cameron’s silence is becoming spiteful at this point. The more moderate faces of Brexit are patiently waiting to speak until Cameron concedes, allowing Nigel Farage a free run to become the sole face of Brexit and to claim all of the credit.
The leftist campaign group Momentum is engaged in some hasty repositioning in order to realign itself with a core Labour vote which proved to be a lot more “Brexity” than the middle class clerisy who now run the Labour Party.
This is the text of their response to the EU referendum result, sent to everyone on their mailing list:
Yesterday, the British people voted to leave the European Union. Momentum, which campaigned to remain in the EU to transform the EU, respects the decision taken by the electorate.
We recognise that people voted ‘Leave’ for many reasons. Much of this vote reflected anger in communities which have experienced many years of industrial decline with the subsequent loss of secure employment. Many such working class communities have been utterly neglected for years by those in power. Millions appear to have chosen ‘Leave’ to vote against the unfettered globalisation that has seen living standards stagnate or fall, as the cost of living rises. We share this scepticism of big business dominance, austerity and distant elites, be they British, European or Global, and share that demand for a country where working people have control.
Many ‘Leave’ voters usually vote for Labour or are working people Labour should represent. Now the Party and the whole labour movement needs to show the country that it alone can offer working people genuine control over their lives, workplaces and communities.
Labour must clearly demonstrate how it will improve lives through policies that will increase wages, tackle the housing crisis, and give people a greater say at work and in their communities.
If we do not, we will not only be failing to advance the policies that will benefit working people but also could enable the populist right, who blame immigrants, not the powerful for the problems in our country. Part of the Leave campaign empowered these racist, reactionary forces, who peddle hatred and offer false hope. We must redouble our efforts to stop migrant scapegoating, focus our attention on the needs and desires of the overwhelming majority, and offer a real programme of hope for our people.
Although we will leave the EU, our movement remains an internationalist one. We must continue to work with our friends, partners and allies across Europe in the shared struggle against austerity, to tackle climate change and to build a sustainable economy with full employment for all the peoples of Europe.
Waiting for David Cameron’s statement, and then this live blog might take a short break while I recharge my batteries!
This BBC correspondent reporting from Warsaw is awful. Catastrophising Brexit beyond all restraint, talking about Polish people being “unwelcome” in Britain for no reason, based on absolutely nothing but her own virtue-signalling hysteria – showing the bias of the BBC at its most awful and blatant
Caroline Lucas on the BBC now, doing what all other prominent lefties seem to be doing – suggesting that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is about anything and everything other than a judgement on the European Union.
I appreciate the crushing disappointment, I really do. But this utter condescension toward the British people, assuming that they were essentially tricked and that Remainers were inherently intellectually superior, is appalling. And to the extent that Remainers refuse to accept the validity of the peoples’ judgement on the EU, they richly deserve their defeat.
Both Sky News and the BBC project that the Leave campaign has won – that Britain has voted to leave the European Union, reasserting our status as an independent nation rather than the vassal of the EU’s supranational government.
This is astonishing, overwhelming. The deep wisdom of the British people has spoken, looking past the petty and increasingly desperate scaremongering (even bullying) of the Remain campaign
We may not have won this referendum for all of the reasons that the Leave Alliance would have wanted. But as responsible citizens we have a duty to make Brexit work well.
Sky News speculating about when the government should serve notice to the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and set the 2-year clock running on Britain’s secession from the EU, with speculation that it could happen at the next EU summit next month. Absolutely not – doing so rashly, before any preliminary talks have taken place, would be an act of diplomatic and constitutional vandalism, plain and simple.
But will a chastened, defeated David Cameron do so anyway, out of spite? This must not be allowed to happen.
Britain Stronger in Europe’s director Will Straw is having a bad time…
Apparently a lot of lefty Remainers are getting upset about Nigel Farage’s declaration that:
“If the predictions now are right this will be a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people. We have fought against the multinationals, against the big merchant banks, against big politics, against lies, against lies, corruption and deceit and today honesty and decency and belief in nation I think now is going to win.”
I can see dawn from my office window – a new dawn on an independent Britain? Yay! Suck it up guys. The lights are on in the Berlaymont. Hillary Benn says “if you walk away from the world’s largest market, you crate (sic) a great deal of uncertainty”. Note to Benn … if we leave, the EU is no longer the world’s largest market!
Nigel Farage is speaking: “The dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom”
“This will be a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people. We have fought against the multinationals, we have fought against the merchant banks…”
And on the beaches, and in the streets…
One can only think that David Cameron’s decision to play a prominent role as leader of the Remain campaign has backfired massively. Cameron is only popular among Conservative Party supporters, the majority of whom want Britain to leave the EU. He is almost universally disliked by everybody else. And so he essentially contrived a situation where he is strongly disliked by the only people who would otherwise support him, and hated by everybody else who would normally hate him. And now, with his premiership in peril, he will find that he has almost zero support in the country and in the Conservative Party, save a dedicated rump of careerist sycophants.
Watch how quickly the commentariat switch gears to start talking about a Conservative Party leadership election. While many of the potential options are bad, they can hardly be worse than David Cameron’s weak Ted Heath tribute act.
We have 260 of 382 areas still to declare, so we’re not even halfway. But remain is still trailing with 49.8 percent on 4,149,554 votes and leave is still ahead (marginally) on 50.2 percent, with 4,184,849 votes. The country is split down the middle. Dimbleby is trying to pull in extraneous domestic issues and play down the EU element. He doesn’t get it.
Dimbleby is not alone. Nearly every Labour MP within reach of a television camera is engaged in the same act of pretending that this strong showing for Leave is anything but a repudiation of the European Union itself.
Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch of people…
This is what happens when a political party treats its own core working class voters with dripping contempt bordering on outright hatred.
Labour MPs think they're ‘f***ed’ in their seats in North even if Remain win. Furious quote here from @jreedmp https://t.co/AjM574DGjI
The Labour party is now working on the assumption that leave will win, according to a party source. The view in Labour HQ is that, if Britain does vote to leave, Jeremy Corbyn should call on David Cameron to resign, but senior figures believe that that may prove unnecessary because Cameron may announce his departure of his own accord.
The fact that the Labour Party are now operating on the assumption of a Leave victory is remarkable – almost unimaginable just a few hours ago.
If he had a shred of decency, Cameron would indeed jump quickly before he is pushed. But based on his conduct during this EU referendum campaign, sadly we know that the prime minister does not have a shred of decency. He may yet have to be prised out of 10 Downing Street. But one way or another, he is gone.
Unsurprisingly, Labour MPs are pretty darn miserable right now. There is great anger in the party about the leadership, and I detect a stronger appetite to move against Corbyn than previously. But there is also utter fury towards Ed Miliband that goes far beyond Chris Bryant’s ‘tosspot’ comments. One former minister, after watching the former Labour leader explaining what has happened on the television, said ‘how do I set up a JustGiving page for him to go back to Harvard? Or even to visit his constituency and listen to the people who live there?’
So the Labour Party, having been punished by their core voters for their slavishly pro-EU stance, are going to spitefully remove their leader because he did not campaign hard enough for Remain?
This is hilarious. These preening Labour MPs are not really angry at Jeremy Corbyn. They are angry at their own voters. They are angry at the British working classes for failing to sit down meekly and do as they are told by self-entitled metro-left Labour politicians.
Haven’t heard a peep from David Cameron yet. He’s probably updating his LinkedIn profile.
Do you want to endorse Dave for “Strong Leadership” and “Conservatism”?
Sssh! Can you hear it? That’s the book closing on David Cameron’s weak, ideologically rootless and fundamentally un-conservative premiership.
Even if Remain manage to pull off a narrow victory, the fact remains that the prime minister has effectively lost control of the country, not to mention his own party. And no number of signatures on a sycophantic “Save Dave” letter can rescue him now.
To their blinkered mindset, Leave’s strong showing is about everything – and I do mean everything – except for the fact that people just don’t like the EU. Oh no, it couldn’t be that. The EU is wonderful! It means friendship and cooperation and rainbows and unicorns!
John McDonnell really is a one-trick pony, isn’t he? Faced with a stunning repudiation of middle-class metro-left stewardship of the Labour Party by its restive working class base, all Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow chancellor can do is witter on about “Tory austerity”.
Newsflash, McDonnell: this strong pro-Brexit sentiment is much less to do with the economy and much more to do with the working classes’ realisation that the wealthy, upper middle class people in charge of the Labour Party have been sneering at them, have not had their best interests at heart and have no intention of changing their ways. Oh, and the fact that they analysed the EU question like rational people, and decided that a failing, antidemocratic, supranational political union was not for them.
Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t seem to be working…
As this blog warned, if we do now see a Leave vote then the Labour Party leadership (supposedly so moral and principled) will have sided with the establishment against the people. They will be no better than the “Evil Tories”.
I can’t wait to see Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell talk themselves out of that one.
Vince Cable on the BBC now, dialling back some of the Remain campaign’s most apocalyptic rhetoric about how Britain might be treated in the event of a Leave vote. Cable admits that there would be “no great anti-British feeling”, before stating the obvious – that we will not get free access to the single market. I don’t know a single credible person who suggested that we would… But paying for access to the single market while being free of the EU’s suffocating political union sounds good to me (and to many others, apparently).
If the unthinkable does happen and Britain votes to leave, a lot of senior British politicians on the Remain side are going to look pretty stupid as they desperately walk back some of their strongest, most cataclysmic predictions…
I guess I could wrap up my live blog now that Lindsay Lohan is on the case…
The BBC’s Laura Kuennsberg now asking about the implications of a Scottish Remain vote potentially keeping the UK in the European Union. This blog posed the same question about an hour ago. Semi-Partisan Politics, ahead of the pundits…
Some of the results now coming in are incredibly heartening for Brexiteers. Even Scotland so far doesn’t seem to be acting as a bulkwark for Remain to the extent that it should. Of course the fear, lurking in the background, is London. These huge margins for Leave in some north-eastern areas could be instantly erased once the capital’s votes are counted. Although anecdotally, turnout in London is apparently slightly lower than anticipated…
YouGov’s Peter Kellner’s Twitter timeline sums up the changing sentiment:
Well said by the Polish ambassador to the UK on the BBC just now:
“Britain will always remain our friend and ally” regardless of the referendum result.
A timely reminder that close friendship, cooperation and partnership are not dependent on the EU’s antidemocratic form of supranational government. Our closest and most important alliance, the special relationship with the United States, is maintained because of shared interests, values and culture, with no need for a common parliament, supreme court or executive.
Bristol’s mayor, quoted on Andrew Sparrow’s excellent Guardian live-blog, joins Angela Eagle and Ed Miliband in declaring that Brexit voters are vulnerable people essentially deceived into voting against their own interests by the “pied pipers” of the Leave campaign.
In Bristol Marvin Rees, the newly elected mayor of the city, told the Guardian that the “Brexit campaign has exposed the fragility at the heart of the system”.
He added: “We have people vulnerable to people coming along singing a simple tune. We have to change the way we do public services. We are not sharing the prosperity. We need to deliver the change that people need. We need a city that people can afford to live in.” Rees said that this was not just a message to the Labour leadership but “for everyone”.
Do these people not realise how unbearably condescending they sound? Is there to be no introspection of any kind from the pro-EU British Left?
The people in the know say that this is more in line with expectations, or possibly even slightly under expectations for Leave. We might be seeing some interesting variations by region. My increasing concern is that a surprisingly good result for Leave around the country will be overturned by the inevitable stonking Remain vote in London.
Now Ed Miliband is on the BBC, being condescending about Leave voters.
It is simply beyond his mental capacity to imagine that Brexit supporters might have voted Leave as the result of reasoned deliberation. It must always be because of trickery by evil UKIP types or an inchoate expression of frustration at the general state of the country (read: Evil Tory austerity).
These people will rationalise Brexit support in any way other than conceding that maybe the Leave voters are right – that maybe the European Union is indeed a poisonous, dysfunctional, anti-democratic and anachronistic relic best left in the past. From Ed Miliband’s perspective, the role of us “normal people” is to take as gospel the pro-EU rhetoric bandied about by our betters in the establishment, not to question their sacred judgement.
Angela Eagle on the BBC just now repeating that nauseatingly smug Remainer line that anybody who votes Leave – particularly if they happen to be working class – must have been conned by the nefarious forces of Nigel Farage & co into voting against their own interest.
One can see why this line is superficially appealing – particularly for Remainers desperate not to confront the weakness of their own case. But ultimately this “What’s The Matter With Kansas”-ism is a form of dangerous denial. Pathologising those people who voted Leave, treating them as though they are intrinsically disordered or gullible dupes, shows the chasm opening up between the political establishment and the people, particularly on the Left.
There has been a marked change in sentiment over the past fifteen minutes, since the Newcastle result (and with whispers of a strong showing for Leave in the upcoming Sunderland result).
One can still hardly dare to hope for victory – but those early concessions may have been rather premature. My gut instinct says that a narrow Remain victory will destabilise David Cameron and see his fairly early departure – as well as proving the country to be bitterly divided, of course.
Much closer-run by Leave than predicted by many. This is a strong showing for Brexiteers. Surprising. Heartening.
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We do not “show respect for democracy”, as Douglas Carswell currently implores us to do on the BBC, by ignoring the brazen way in which the prime minister and the Remain campaign have cheated during this campaign.
This isn’t about disrespecting the will of the British people if they have indeed voted to remain in the EU. It is about standing up and saying that taxpayer funded propaganda, ignoring the recommendations of the Electoral Commission, bullying the voters with a mocked up “punishment budget”, violating purdah rules with a last minute impromptu Downing Street speech and extending the voter registration deadline to scoop up as many disorganised potential Remain supporters as possible amounts to an assault on democracy, not an expression of it.
Come on, Sunderland…
Nigel Farage was right about one thing in his television “un-concession” speech just now – the Brexit genie will not go back in the bottle. The desire for freedom and democracy will not be mollified or contained by whatever weasel words the prime minister comes up with in the event that the Remain campaign do win this referendum. The writing is on the wall for Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.
Come together right now, over me
Apparently it is time for Conservatives to come together after the sound and fury of the EU referendum campaign. This seems to be an official line, soon to be as nauseatingly familiar as “stronger, safer, better off”. But from this blog’s perspective there will be no “coming together”, no rapprochement with the Conservative Party for as long as David Cameron and George Osborne remain in office. I will not be represented by liars, bullies and cheats.
If we have lost, the fight goes on. This hasn’t been a free and fair fight, but one characterised by a Prime Minister who has elevated political lying to an art form, starting with his faux renegotiation and his non-treaty. I feel no obligation to take this result as final, and will continue to work for an independent Britain.
The immediate task will be to identify the reasons why we lost. The official Vote Leave campaign will already be polishing its excuses, ready to come up with the conclusion that its was everybody else’s fault except theirs. Pete North, however, has already published two posts, here and here, looking at some of the problem areas. It will come as not surprise for you to learn that he (rather like his father) is looking to the execrable conduct of the campaign for his answers.
The official Vote Leave campaign is singled out for much-deserved criticism:
There is good evidence to support a thesis that a substantial number of people do not actually make up their minds until they have a pencil in their hand and are looking at the ballot paper. It is then that the “fear” motivation is at its strongest. And it is my view that Vote Leave and the other main “leave” campaigns simply failed sufficiently to address the economic impact of leaving.
In fact, by specifically rejecting continued participation in the Single Market, Vote Leave seems to have gone out of its way to ensure that we would lose what I believe was a winnable contest. This crass intervention, in my view, will prove to be the single most important factor in driving voters into the “remain” camp.
Our glorious prime minister is already making his gruesome victory lap on social media, with no results yet declared:
And us evil, hateful people who voted to keep Britain weaker, more vulnerable and dirt poor can go hang ourselves, I guess?
Some Tories are already circling their wagons around David Cameron:
129 Tory MPs backed Leave. Some 56 have signed Cameron-must-stay letter. Won’t take long to work out the 73 names missing.
But many are not. The prime minister has enraged many Conservative MPs (and many small-c conservatives) not just with his stance on the EU referendum, but with the despicable way in which he has conducted himself during the campaign. And with a majority as small as that enjoyed by David Cameron, sycophantic letters of praise will do him no good if a small but determined number of real conservatives are determined to undermine him.
Truth from Andrew Lilico (in his second tweet):
Alas, I don't think the context of a small Remain win can be seen as a mandate for a stronger commitment to the EU. It means more muddle.
And now, the long wait until the first results are declared. We should be neither heartened nor discouraged by the YouGov poll at this stage – it is but a re-contact poll, not an exit poll, and unprecedentedly high turnouts could do strange things to any polling models.
Roland Smith shares a potential yardstick for gauging the scale of a defeat for the Leave campaign:
Throughout the referendum campaign, between one-fifth and one-third of Labour supporters said they wanted to leave the EU; and the electorate in 59% of all Labour seats were predicted to have voted for Brexit yesterday. The strongest levels of support were in the places Labour and Corbyn are beginning to struggle the most – northern, left-behind and traditional Labour seats, such as Blackpool South, Dudley North, Walsall North, Rotherham, Doncaster North, and West Bromwich West. Indeed we already have evidence of how Labour’s hold over voters in these more traditional areas has been weakening.
By contrast, other Labour seats were predicted to deliver some of the strongest support for the EU – such as the leafy London seats of Hornsey and Wood Green or Hampstead and Kilburn, the young and socially mobile Bristol West, Cambridge and Manchester Withington.
[..] Euroscepticism is a complex problem for Labour, but immigration scepticism is more widespread among Labour’s traditional voters than anti-EU sentiment. Nearly two-thirds of Labour supporters say they are unhappy about how immigration is being managed.
Not all of these voters view Brexit as the answer, but 38% feel the government should have total control over who comes into Britain, and 30% feel Britain should stop EU citizens coming into the country to live and work, even if that restricts our access to the single market.
Corbyn has so far shown little understanding of what is driving this identity angst. He has said little that would resonate among those Labour-to-Ukip defectors. And there is no doubt that these tensions hold the potential to pull Labour in different directions and make a return to power virtually impossible, certainly in 2020 and perhaps beyond. It is not yet clear how Labour can reconcile this deep divide, but there is little doubt that this will be its biggest challenge for decades.
I don’t think that this divide can be bridged.
Labour increasingly appears like an intellectually and morally bankrupt party, a hollowed out shell of its former self, shrouded in the robes of virtue.
More unintentional side-effects of the EU referendum:
Thanks to this referendum I will forever be associated with shipping containers and straight bananas. Oh, and the regulation stuff as well.
Nicky Morgan on the BBC, trying to appear magnanimous. Promising “lots more reform” of the European Union. Like the fundamental reform achieved by her boss? How can anybody now believe a single word that any minister in this rotten Conservative government says?
If this is accurate, it is (while bitterly disappointing) a very very solid result for the Leave campaign, all things considered. If these figures bear out, it will be undeniable that but for the flagrant cheating of the prime minister (with his taxpayer funded propaganda and blatant violation of purdah with that last-minute Downing Street press conference), Britain would have voted to leave the EU. In other words, the prime minister and his tawdry remain campaign will have bullied and deceived Britain into remaining in the EU.
A result like this will settle nothing. It will embolden us Brexiteers beyond measure, not to mention blowing British politics wide open. Expect a massive UKIP resurgence (assuming they manage not to torpedo themselves) and punishment at the ballot box for all legacy parties in forthcoming elections.
Britain will be more divided than ever, and it will be squarely the fault of the prime minister, who has debased his office in his desperation to secure a vote for Remain.
Nigel Farage gives a statement suggesting that “Remain will edge it”. Unsurprising if true. But no votes have been counted yet…
Polls closed! The future of Britain has been in our hands today. Now, all that remains is to wait and see whether the accumulated wisdom of the British people is sufficient to withstand the Remain campaign’s onslaught of Project Fear…
One of the most sickening things about this referendum campaign has been the way that many on the Left have tried to present a vote to Remain as the bold and visionary option rather than the fearful, defeatist cop-out that it is.
One of the most guilty in this regard has been the Green Party, who have basically been insisting that everything wrong with Britain is the fault of the Evil Tories (despite the Conservatives having been in power only for six years, and just 1 year as a majority government) while the European Union is an unfairly maligned friend to Britain.
A Remain vote would direct the anger to the right place – not just at David Cameron, but the whole Tory party and the policies that have dominated in Britain for decades.
A Remain vote is not an end of this process of political change, but the start of a new kind of politics.
A shift to the rightful direction of anger towards the toppling of this Tory government, towards a fundamental transformation of the failed electoral system that allowed it to take power with the support of just 24 per cent of eligible voters, to the establishment of a new political common sense that ensure nobody has to worry about putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their head while we all collectively live within the environmental limits of our one fragile planet.
Vote Remain, then let’s turn with our fellow campaigners across the continent, our neighbours and friends, to build the real changes needed to produce a society that works for the common good, not for the one per cent.
Together we’re stronger.
Vote Remain, in other words, as a cathartic exercise in public Tory-hatred.
It’s astonishing that at this late stage, even the Green Party is utterly unable to make a positive case for the European Union – not even the usual “friendship and cooperation” boilerplate. And so, in an attempt to motivate their core vote, they instead dangle the image of the prime minister in front of their supporters and urge them to give David Cameron a kicking.
The obvious flaw being that nothing would strengthen David Cameron in his potentially precarious position more than a resounding Remain vote…
Another side benefits of a Leave vote, if it happens: dashing the wishes of the sneering, virtue-signalling celebrity class who have piled in to demonstrate their right-on credentials by singing the EU’s praises (or at least dumping on Britain).
One of the biggest recent culprits has been British comedian John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, who last week managed to spend fifteen minutes sneering at Brexiteers and the thought of Britain leaving the EU to his American audience, while failing to mention the D-word (that’s democracy…) even once.
While I have been generally pessimistic about the Leave campaign’s chances of victory in this EU referendum – largely driven by the utterly dismal campaign waged by the official Vote Leave organisation – nobody should be in the business of making firm political prognostications in an age when Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the Labour Party and Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican Party nominee for the presidency of the United States.
And so one cannot help consider the immediate aftermath of a vote for Brexit. The biggest upside – besides the obvious one, knowing that Britain will have voted for independence from the EU’s stultifying political union – will be that David Cameron’s premiership will be holed beneath the waterline. A fitting political end for a snivelling, dishonest, fundamentally un-conservative prime minister who did not consider it beneath his office to deceive, bully and threaten the British public in order to coerce a Remain vote.
Senior ministers and MPs will attempt to calm the markets tonight by backing David Cameron to stay in office even if he loses the referendum.
A Save Dave operation to shore up the Prime Minister’s position and avert a currency collapse is also backed by senior MPs in the Leave campaign.
A procession of loyalists are primed to appear on TV and radio as soon as the polls close at 10pm to say there is no need for a messy leadership contest, regardless of the result.
A senior minister said: “The markets are jittery already — nobody wants the added uncertainty of a resignation.”
If Mr Cameron loses the referendum, ministers expect him to make an early statement outside No 10 tomorrow, promising Leave leader Michael Gove will have a key position overseeing the timing and terms of an EU withdrawal. If Mr Cameron wins, he will emphasise that the Government has four more years in power and must knuckle down to deliver on its promises.
There should be no such campaign. David Cameron will go down in history as one of the most pointless prime ministers in recent memory, having utterly squandered two Conservative terms in office with his New Labour Continued approach to government. Somehow, Cameron has managed to make the Tory brand as toxic as it ever was, while also utterly failing to manage even the appearance of fiscal conservatism. The deficit persists, the national debt soars ever upward, and all the while we small-c conservatives are derided as heartless persecutors of the vulnerable. And if things continue as they are, when Labour eventually get their act together and retake power (under a new leader) conservatives will have almost nothing to show from the years 2010 onwards, despite being nominally in power.
So no. Let’s not “Save Dave” if he manages to guide the Remain campaign to defeat after cheating, lying and threatening his way through the referendum. As he teeters on the precipice, principled conservatives should give him a firm shove.
Flexcit, the comprehensive and risk-minimising Brexit plan authored by Dr. Richard North with readers of the eureferendum.com blog, and championed by The Leave Alliance (including this blog), gets a surprising, belated mention in The Metro today:
One can only wonder how much of a stronger position the Leave campaign might be in if only more journalists had used Google to search for “Brexit plan” and then written about what they found…
In the event of that Remain majority, it isn’t hard to guess the most likely course that David Cameron will take. One can almost hear the speech to the 1922 Committee. “Divisive referendum campaign team…mistakes made all round…time for coming together…Labour, our common enemy…plenty to be getting on with…Trident vote…childhood obesity strategy…Heathrow.” All this would signal more than the sum of its good parts. It would be a sign that the Prime Minister intends business as usual, with Osborne in place at the Treasury – and the top Tory team going on more or less as before.
This site has long argued that the Government and Party need a more collegiate style of leadership, recommending that Michael Gove be made Deputy Prime Minister. You may agree or disagree, but matters have reached such a pass that this political tug-of-war is almost beside the point – which is that if the Chancellor is still in place by the end of the summer, the Government is unlikely to get much of its legislation through when the Commons returns. Many of its legislative plans will meet the fate of the academisation-by-2020 plan. If Ministers found it hard to get their business before, they will find it harder still amidst the grudge-laden atmosphere that will follow a Remain win.
There is frenzy about the risks to the Tories of a Leave vote. Less thought has been given to the risks of a Remain one. The biggest is not that the Party would split, but that Britain would be left with a Zombie Government, unable to get its leglisation through Parliament at a time of domestic challenge and international crisis.
Moving the Chancellor from the Treasury to another senior post would not solve this problem, but it would ease it. Who should replace him? In our view, someone who takes a different view from ConservativeHome on this referendum. The only senior politician who has not been compromised by the corners cut by both sides; the only one not to have accused colleagues of lying (directly or indirectly), the only one to have struck a balance between leadership ambition and political principle – in short, Theresa May.
Theresa May as the next Chancellor of the Exchequer? Thoroughly distasteful, but at least it would get the authoritarian Queen of the Surveillance State away from the Home Office…
A quick shout-out to my friends and fellow bloggers-in-arms of The Leave Alliance. These people have taught me much about the European Union, the developing international trade and regulatory environment, and the optimal way in which Britain should leave the EU if we vote Leave.
If you are not already following the blogs listed below, add them to your daily reading now – because which ever way this referendum goes, the campaign for an independent, democratic Britain will go on.
“I don’t think you’ve got it in you any more. I don’t think Britain is a strong enough country” – a phrase which was literally just uttered in the Hooper household. This is what we are fighting against. This is the corrosive, pessimistic view of Britain which pervades society from 10 Downing Street on downward. This is why we are likely to vote to remain in the European Union and continue our slow slide into global obsolescence.
Roland Smith, Adam Smith Institute fellow and author of the essay “The Liberal Case for Leave” – an eloquent exposition of the Flexcit approach for leaving the European Union – is waxing poetic:
"Sneer at us, scare us, patronise us; but do not quite forget; For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet." Maybe.#EUref
Well, we Brexiteers have certainly been sneered at and patronised – when we have not been downright insulted. Some unverified reports are suggesting that turnout is so high that it is swinging back to favour Leave (normally, it is assumed that high turnout helps the Remain campaign), in which case the pro-EU establishment may yet hear us.
I believe voters will reject Brexit. I believe this is a rejection of the leave side and their campaign along with their thin gruel manifesto. It is a rejection of the dishonesty of Vote Leave and the weakness of their arguments. It is a rejection of the hyperventilation over immigration. It is a rejection of the Brexit vibe. A movement of people who want change but present no clear idea of what they want or how they envisage getting it.
It is a defeat that collectively we deserve. We had every asset at our disposal. A sour and conniving establishment, a patronising and weak remain campaign and of course, the deeply unpopular European Union. And this time, if the BBC is to be cursed it is not for their bias but their profound ignorance.
But at every stage we have failed to answer the question with clarity as to what Brexit looks like. Only when the fantasy notions put forth by Dominic Cummings were comprehensively demolished did the mainstream leave campaign look elsewhere for ideas, by which time it was already far too late.
I fear that he is right. Though we have seen a number of positive steps in the past few weeks, with the likes of Allister Heath and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard embracing the interim EFTA/EEA (Norway) option as the obvious safe way to extricate ourselves from European political union with minimum economic risk, the breakthrough likely has come too late.
The official Leave campaign – indeed, the entire Westminster bubble, who seem to actively scorn any thought or initiative which does not originate or carry the imprimatur of one of their own – will be to blame if Britain votes Remain when polling closes in three hours.
Leftists always give the same two knackered reasons for their campaigning for this rotten outfit. First they say that the people opposing the EU — Boris, Farage, fat blokes who watch football — are so vile that our most pressing task is to keep them in check by voting with the other side, with the EU. What cowardice. They’re elevating their reputations over their consciences; their desire not to rub shoulders with Ukip people over the small matter of principle and what is the right and good left-wing thing to do. What’s more, the only reason the eccentric right has been able to become the No1 critic of the EU’s anti-democratic, economy-strangling behaviour is because the left vacated the field, bottled it, and in the process handed the moral authority of being anti-EU over to the right. They wonder why the right is leading the anti-EU charge, not realising that it’s their sorry, sheepish fault. Goodness, they’re dumb.
And the second reason they give for their bowing before the EU is that Brussels acts as an above-politics guarantor of certain rights: workers’ rights, maternity-leave rights, etc. Let’s leave to one side the (massive) fact that the EU is no friend of working people. What’s ultimately being said here is that we need a distant authority to guard our rights and our wellbeing because we can’t always trust our own governments to do so. Wow. This shatters everything — everything — the left once fought for. It lays to waste the ideals of the Chartists, and the Levellers, and other radicals, whose cry can be summed up as: ‘We can look after ourselves, thanks. Give us the right to do that.’
Benn summed up the folly of leftists looking to Brussels for justice and rights. ‘They believe that a good king is better than a bad Parliament. I have never taken that view’, he said. In a nutshell, the left’s worldview used to be that people power is always preferable to external forms of authority. And now that worldview is dead, done in by a left more concerned with its feelings and standing than with the hard business of fighting for what’s right, and which is now so estranged from ordinary people that it views the good king of Brussels as preferable to the bad parliament us plebs might one day elect. The EU might survive today’s events, but the left won’t. It’s dead, and not only dead but buried. It has thrown its lot in with the very people it was founded a few hundred years ago to challenge: kings and tyrants and other benign guardians of the stupid people.
This blog’s article on Tony Benn and the left-wing case for Brexit has been getting very high traffic for the past few weeks – clearly many British left-wingers instinctively realise that the clinical, europhile party line being parroted by the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn (for shame) is incompatible with democratic values.
Over the past few months Semi-Partisan Politics has attempted to outline the Christian case for Brexit – or at least push back against the lazy, trendy-lefty Christian view that remaining in the EU is automatically a good thing.
This Referendum is not only about Christian values, but about national identity. Are we really so feeble that our aspiration to wholeness may be apprehended only in the anti-democratic space? Are we really so fooled that our language of community may only be expressed in terms of political union? Are we really so blind that our morality may only be conceived in the secular Enlightenment conception of man, with his inviolable rights and perfect moral standards? Today is a watershed: Remain, and we perpetuate the self-congratulatory illusion of the abolition of nationalism and the death of God; Leave, and we move beyond myopic Euro-nationalism, spreading our vision upward, downward and outward into the world. There will be upheaval, but nothing that a new mode of thought and sensibility to new nations cannot withstand. Some say this is retrospective illusion: it is, rather, the true globalism of the catholic Christian.
If the Christian ends of peace and reconciliation are to be realised in and by the United Kingdom, our moral outlook must change. The Enlightenment European Union is not the Promised Land, for EUtopia erodes the cosmic order, denies self-determination, keeps the poor in famine and inflicts suffering on its own people. If we seek universal benevolence and justice, they are not found in haughty declarations of subjective rights of immunities and benefits, but in an apprehension of divine dignity; of man created in the image of God for a life of grace, love and service. This is not monkish ignorance or superstition: it is, whether we believe it or not, the truth. You may demand tyrannical impositions of trans-national equality, but God’s blessings flow only from humility; security comes only from self-government; and peace comes only from Christ, with whom believers are exhorted to walk in spirit and truth.
This isn’t a game of point scoring: it is about the moral culture of our civilisation. There is a prideful illusion of a Godless European Empire with its unaccountable omnipotence and infallible dreams of universal justice, equality and rights; or there is the subtler language of the nation under God, within which the unrighteous may be removed and the immoral corrected, rebuked, reformed and restored. You may not agree with this ‘parochial’ view of human nature in the created order, believing instead that political man is moving toward the zenith of moral perfection and that justice is about to flow like a river. But when empires impose their laws and enforce their creeds by natural authority and the people do not obey except out of cynicism, the only solution is the restoration of the true political authority which chimes with the mores and traditions of the people.
So, forget the finger-jabbing niggles of elite establishment politicians sanctified by ecclesial negativity: there is nothing to fear in leaving the European Union. On the contrary, there is hope in liberty; morality in democracy; and prosperity in the restoration of a global outlook. Today is about national self-belief and self-determination. It is about taking back control of our national destiny. Today we vote for freedom. Let today be and hereafter forever be known as UK Independence Day.
Well, I have cast my ballot and (obviously) voted for Britain to leave the European Union. And that means it is now time for a semi-partisan live blog of the EU Referendum.