“I didn’t know what would happen, it was just a protest vote really, I never thought we might actually leave…” (Leave voter on Radio 5 Live, regretting the mess she’s caused.)
The English and Welsh working class has voted with its blinkers on.
24 June, 10.00 hrs:
I’ve just discovered why I didn’t want to get up this morning.
David Cameron will go down in history as the most disastrous Prime Minister this country has ever had.
Under pressure from the Thatcherite wing of his party, and as a sop to the UKIP mob, to secure the 2015 election he gambled on a referendum and lost. He has shown the most appalling lack of judgement throughout the six years of his premiership. But this was the worst.
And now Chris Grayling – the former Justice minister who made it virtually impossible to get justice in British courts unless you’ve stolen a very great deal of money – is being touted as his replacement, along with Michael Gove, Nikki Morgan….; Boris Johnson, a politician who clearly has no party other than himself, at odds of 5-4 on will no doubt stand for the leadership; the Labour Party has disintegrated around Corbyn this morning and the Thatcherites are back in control; the triumphal donkey noises from Farage are growing ever louder and we shall never hear the last of him, trapped on this sinking island.
The old English and Welsh working class has voted with its blinkers on. Yes, indeed, it must be the foreigners who are responsible for all our economic woes, not the capitalists, not the banks, not the politicians, not the markets, not the corporate tax-dodgers. Let’s just believe anything we’re told.
And in the rest of Europe, the neo-fascists are dancing in the streets*.
I am truly lost for words. How can people be this stupid?
Please, someone, anyone, buy my house. Get me out of here while I can still go somewhere where sanity rules.
This morning I feel sick.
*In my last Post I made a point about losing Gibraltar, since only the EU was guaranteeing British sovereignty over the Rock. Tragically, 96% of Gibraltarians voted to Remain. So we’ve sold them down the river. Great. In the last hour, Spain has already put in a request for joint sovereignty. (How would all those working-class Essex Tories feel about inviting Argentina to take over the Falklands, I wonder?)
Qui sont les necessaires pour obtenir le citoyenneté Français?
An open letter to our leading constitutional historian, regarding the right of the British people to take away my citizenship of Europe.
26 June, 2016
Professor, Lord Peter Hennessy
The Baron Hennessy of Nympsfield
c/o Queen Mary’s University of London
Mile End Road
London E1 4NS
Dear Prof. Hennessy
Our most eminent constitutional historian, while standing knee-deep in the ashes of the European dream you have written somewhat ruefully (BBC News website, today) of this referendum as a triumph of democracy. I’m sure as a confirmed Unionist you will now also rue the likelihood of a second Scottish referendum based on the democratic principle resulting from it? (Cheap shot!)
I have to question though, whether a people that has been lied to so consistently and subjected to decades of negative, relentless anti-European propaganda in certain sections of the popular press, is a demos capable of making an objective, rational decision on the issues presented to it?
Do democrats not have some obligation to inform themselves of what it is they are voting about? Are some matters not possibly more complex than the average voter is easily capable of assimilating, as when in a complicated fraud trial the judge may sometimes feel obliged to dispense with a jury? Does Parliament not have a say? Or is that an elitist view from a sore loser?
Are some issues not so serious, they require retuning the fundamentals of politics? I’m afraid I’ve lost my enthusiasm for democracy in this case.
If the votes of the majority have been obtained by deception, then what value does democracy have, other than to satisfy the requirement that the subsequent catastrophe was willed upon themselves by the people and history must just accept it? Can history not be prevented? (I think that question calls for one of those irritating smiley faces….)
I ask, too, with greater seriousness, what constitutional right HM Government and ‘democracy’ have to deprive me of my European citizenship and passport? I do not wish to be a second-class citizen in Europe, with lesser rights than the nearest Latvian or Bulgar. I have committed no offence. My nationality now condemns me.
I must also endeavour to point out that what has ensued is, in effect, a predictable coup d’état by the neo-Thatcherite wing of the Conservative party, that feels its privatising, free-market, monetarist view has been too long out of power. Gove, Grayling, Redwood, Duncan Smith, ‘Dr’ Fox….. I name no names.
You may feel that is putting it too strongly, but I have observed their well-plotted campaign against centrism in the Party unfolding over recent years and listened to their bogus claims exploiting the easy grab-bag of issues that is the EU as a vade mecum, with increasing concern over the legitimacy of their project.
It hinges perhaps on what the Leavers mean by ‘sovereignty’ – ours, or their own? They appear in fact to have no idea of how they propose to direct the UK economy going forward; what ‘trade deals’ may be done, that we do not benefit from already. They are like bungling art thieves who steal a priceless painting so hot that no-one in the collecting world will touch it. The British people have mistakenly voted for a principle, not a policy.
You are a busy man, but if it is of interest I should like to expand a little on what I mean:
Hijacking the media
A long-ago BBC journalist, occasionally a news editor, but also for several years a PR practitioner, two weeks ago I wrote to the BBC in the strongest terms, pointing out the likely biasing effect of their coverage of the two campaigns. Inevitably, their reply was anodyne; defensive.
My intent was to get them to understand what I had observed: that too frequently, their editors ‘balanced’ overnight pronouncements by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, the Governor of the Bank of England, the IMF, the CBI and others only in reported speech, while allowing the many willing and available spokespersons of the Leave campaign ample studio time to issue their blanket rebuttals and denials of the views of experts in, shall we say, more demotic language, seemingly without benefit of any factual research. This, I suggested, was the wrong kind of balance!
Aided by the uninteresting focus of the few Remainers whom BBC researchers could dig up to expatiate on the hypothetical economic consequences of Brexit, the tactic used by the Leave campaign was simply to try to shut down, or otherwise shout down, any advice being given to voters about the possible effects of withdrawal that might give traction to the Remain argument. This intolerance, to me, bordered on fascism.
Their many lies and exaggerations about the costs of membership, immigration, loss of ‘control’, security, the NHS and so on, designed to play on the most visceral elements of voter mistrust, are already being shamelessly ‘fessed up to as perhaps having been not quite accurate: the ‘professional foul’ seems to have won the match.
Our democracy allows the voters to change the government every five years. This referendum decision is permanent; the signatures ineffaceable. Is democracy therefore the ideal operative principle, in context?
I had to question, too, the disproportionate amount of airtime which Leave campaigners – especially Farage – were accorded before the campaign officially began. A populist demagogue and (in my view) a plain fraud, Farage is a past-master at hijacking the news agenda in order to circumvent restrictions on political campaigning. The notorious ‘migrant’ poster published by UKIP, from which the Leave campaign had to distance itself, bought him hours of free airtime and was typical of his previous campaigning strategy of creating controversy purely in order to get on to the news schedules, from where he can freely peddle his noxious opinions.
Even the Leave campaign found Farage too toxic. He was not made an official spokesman and his UKIP party has only one seat in the House, but somehow he was never off the airwaves in the days leading up to the vote. Again, my criticism of, especially, the BBC in giving him so much oxygen hinges on their need for sensationalism as a driver of ratings. Simply put, because he has few constraints on what he says, he is considered better ‘value’ than any of the less colourful and more measured politicians whom voters have come to detest for their constant dissembling. To the public, however, the frequent presence of Farage (‘He’s one of us, isn’t he?’ is something I once heard) is tantamount to official acceptance of the legitimacy of his opinions.
Was the vote obtained fairly?
Reportedly, over half a million ‘new’ voters were registered in the last two days in which registration was allowed, additional time that was bought by users crashing the YouGov registrations website in the final hours of official time. Accident? Internet users are rather more ‘tech-savvy’ than that. Given that we’d had a General Election only 13 months earlier, and European, regional and local government elections barely five weeks before, this sudden massive surge of voter interest seemed surely rather unusual? Who were all these people, who had somehow previously forgotten they had a right to vote in elections? (I have seen the final figure put at two million late registrants.)
The time factor seems critical too: by pressing relentlessly for an early date, the Leave campaigners succeeded in compressing the time available for organisation; for instance, excluding the possibility of opening the vote to 16–17 year-olds, as in the Scottish referendum; a demographic who, with their obvious enthusiasm and educated interest in the future of their country, were seen as part of the Remain constituency and hence needed keeping out.
A large number of expatriates were also excluded, despite their obvious interest in retaining their right of residency abroad; EU citizens long-term resident in the UK but not actually British citizens also had no say, and there was a large postal vote, which is always open to suggestions of fraud. The claims of all such groups were dismissed under pressure from the Leave campaign, protesting unfairness. (They are very good at special pleading.)
Thus in my view there was an element of gerrymandering by the Leave side, planned and conducted well in advance of the actual campaign. There is no doubt about who was in the driving seat.
We might also enquire of the opinion pollsters why, after weeks of showing a small majority for the Leavers, they detected a sudden (and untrue) rise on the Remain side in the four days leading up to the vote, giving a prediction of a close result that was in the event the mirror-image of the actual outcome. Was this to do with spread-betting or hedging in the financial markets? The pound rose on the news, only to collapse like a puffball on the Friday morning. Someone will have made a killing out of it. As they say in TV crime dramas, ‘follow the money’.
The timescales, too, make sense only in context of a planned coup.
Mr Cameron, whose judgement on so many matters has been suspect, surely gave a hostage to fortune in 2015 when promising his Eurosceptic backbenchers and the readers of the Daily Mail a referendum in 2017 in order to secure the General Election, which he won by a narrow margin. At the same time, having never read or seen King Lear, he foolishly announced that he would not run again; news which could only come as manna to the power-hungry traitors around him.
In buying off the UKIP vote and bringing his own right-wing back into line, Mr Cameron then allowed himself to be bounced into advancing the date of the referendum by a year; time in which the Remain campaign might have gained traction with the public. As it was, the invisible Sir Stuart Rose failed dismally within the short time available to find those ‘hooks’, what are now loosely termed ‘memes’, the basic ideas and slogans any good campaign needs in order to grab the popular imagination.
The referendum was won by the side with the better PR, the greater capability to shut-down debate, and the longer advanced planning; or should I say, plotting: not by ‘democracy’! (My view was cemented in place by a ‘vox pop’ interview conducted by BBC journalist Sima Kotecha in Hartlepool, where her first interviewee, a British lad, had no idea what the EU was, he had never heard of it.)
By forcing the Prime Minister’s hand, bringing the date of the referendum forward so close to the regional and local elections, the Leave campaign ensured that the Remain side barely had time to regroup; and in the meantime, were able to swamp the airwaves with their distorted version of our relationship with the EU, making dangerously vague forecasts of our likely economic success outside it; playing upon silly notions of British ‘greatness’ and (with the fortuitous refugee crisis unfolding in Europe) implanting the killer meme that we had ‘lost control of our borders’, which is patent nonsense.
I imagine, too, that the Prime Minister and those around him were not expecting the result they got, and showed the feeblest and most dilatory complacency; ultimately destroying their own careers, as well as Britain’s reputation in the world, and throwing away our power and influence in Europe. The tragedy was that Mr Cameron had no need to call a referendum at all. His desperate round of ‘negotiations’ to further promote British exceptionalism was a national embarrassment; tricked and bullied into it, whatever concessions he brought back – peace in our time – were likely to find no favour with his enemies.
The politicians to whom the government (and the British electorate) have handed power are no democrats.
The propaganda campaign
The confusing ‘pros and cons’ style of media coverage, with no clear water between the two arguments, and no exposition of Britain’s historic role in Europe, can only have led – in the very limited time available for voters (most of whom, I suspect, had previously given little consideration to the EU) to inform themselves – to what Peter Jay and John Birt termed a ‘bias against understanding’.
Prof. Greg Philo, of the Glasgow Media School, perhaps put it more succinctly when he complained that the principal function of the media was to create mass ignorance. The Leave campaign has its roots deep in the monopolistic corporate interests of media owners, the press barons; some of whom serve the interests of discreet global pressure groups as invited members of exclusive clubs for the very wealthy and influential, with their dislike of business regulation, consumer protection, type approvals, workers’ rights, equality legislation, environmental laws and the intolerable burden of taxation.
That the EU offered the people of Europe so many guarantees of that nature was lost on the voters, so easy was it to present lawmaking in Brussels (not, please note, ‘by’ Brussels! British interests were fully represented) as interference with British independence and ‘sovereignty’ – the ‘No taxation without representation’ myth; that we were somehow ruled from abroad and had no say whatever in our own affairs; that ‘foreigners’ were getting more favourable treatment than we were; that we were being ‘swamped’ – the same old lies perpetuated for centuries by demagogic, self-serving, soi-disant ‘patriots’.
And, as anyone might have expected, the neo-Thatcherites have already moved against the centre to seize control of the Party; we are being exhorted as a nation to ‘reconcile our differences’, as in any squalid third-world revolution; and their preposterous figurehead, the calculating Boris Johnson, a politician of no party other than his own, apparently a man without scruple, is already on the telephone to Pickfords.
This is not what I would call ‘democracy’, other than in the most forensic terms. Yes, it was a marginal vote to commit geopolitical suicide; the people, it appears, have spoken: but in ignorance of the matters upon which they were voting; and of whom they were letting into power. Britain’s sovereignty is vested in the Queen and our elected Parliament, guided by the Lords; not the mob. Before this referendum was called, Parliament should have voted on the issue first. They have not been allowed to do so. We do coups differently here.
By the time you receive this letter, I expect it will have been overtaken by events*: there are millions of unhappy voters who thought they were taking part in a genuine referendum, not a General Election by subterfuge. They have equally been conned: this was not about Europe, but a few ambitious men (and fewer women) seditiously plotting to change the government by any means short of actual violence.
The constitutional implications, as you have rightly said, are incalculable.
Yours sincerely, etc.
*Indeed, they have been. (Postscriptum, 14 September, 2016)
The nascent neo-Thatcherite coup of Grayling, Gove and J0hnson was immediately nipped in the bud by the former Home Secretary, Theresa May, by what means and authority only future historians may uncover. In an adroit counter-coup, without benefit of ‘democracy’ or even a visible party machine, as the booby Cameron made one final misjudgement and departed, she seized the Prime Ministership unopposed, sine die.
The ‘Brexit’ supporters were sidelined, other than the triumvirate of Johnson, Davis and Fox, who were given the impossible task of trying to negotiate our way out of the trap they had led us into. Other plotters including the egregious little swot, Gove have either been sent to the Gulag or put into punishing ministerial roles like Transport (Grayling) that no human being would tolerate.
I am still trying to understand how this happened, why the plotters ultimately funked it, but I expect that Prof. Mary Beard, the expert on ancient Roman affairs, would be able to cast some light on the mechanism by which this was accomplished.