26 Apr 2016

Referendum campaign: There needs to be a reckoning

You could be forgiven for thinking that in the height of a referendum campaign I should be pumping out blogposts challenging the Remain side with facts and evidence to rebut their increasingly ludicrous claims.

But I’ve found it incredibly difficult to motivate myself to so much beyond the occasional tweet as the campaign stutters to a self-inflicted defeat.

The writing was on the wall when Vote Leave won the designation to be the official leave campaign. It signalled a descent into inane soundbites, personality focus, idiotic stunts, confused messaging and unnecessary friction with the media. Vote Leave do not speak for me. Hell, they don’t even genuinely believe in the Brexit cause. I fully expected them to trip over themselves and tie themselves in knots because they are led by a man who is only in it for the money and the profile. But even I didn’t expect them to style themselves as a retro Ukip outfit, latching on to the arguments and ill-thought out pseudo-solutions Ukip previously advocated but then abandoned several years ago, pushing false claims and doggedly refusing to promote any exit plan.

I certainly didn’t expect them to adopt an EU-enthusiast as their figurehead, who would needlessly plumb the depths by resorting to identity politics in a cack-handed and counterproductive attack on the US President, when his arguments could have been more forcefully torn apart with the simple deployment of facts.

At least a small dose of reality hit Farage and Co and they accepted the legal necessity of using Article 50 and many on its party board even came around to seeing the wisdom of withdrawing from the EU to the EEA as an interim step that would enable Britain to neutralise any possible negative consequences for the economy and jobs, thus removing the Remain side’s biggest stick with which to bash the Leave side during a campaign. But no so with Vote Leave.

Those baby steps of progress in the Eurosceptic camp have been swept away in a tide of self-regarding arrogance and stupidity that leaves Remain in a strong position to win the referendum. The official campaign has been hijacked by a bunch of Tory tribalists and special advisers who kid themselves they are unrecognised genius, but who are slowly killing any chance of winning the referendum. Why on earth would I want to be tarred with the same brush as them?

I’m not saying things would be any better with Leave.EU/GrassrootsOut. But as shambolic as they were, they at least genuinely wanted Brexit.

No doubt the media, which bought and cultivated the narrative that Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings were experienced and brilliant campaigners for falling over the finish line in two unlosable campaigns (NE Regional referendum and No to AV), now see these lightweights for the overrated fools they are. Their only talent is schmoozing people and worming into positions by currying favour. They only put a dog in the referendum fight when they cynically calculated there was something in it for them. Their lamentable performance finally exposes them for what they are.

The losers in all this are those of us who for years have held, as a matter of principle, that Britain must leave the EU for democratic reasons, and in order to ensure British voters make British laws, enforced by courts in this country, and that we determine our country’s place and voice in the world. The political game playing and personality politics of the referendum campaign is snatching the goal away from us.

When this is all done and dusted, there needs to be a reckoning.