Thursday, June 23, 2016

My last rant

Not my last rant in general, of course, but the last one before the vote. After this I intend to say nothing on the blog until the results come through. As before, I have a bad feeling about it all and not just because of the many problems with Remainiacs, the government and the completely irregular use of the civil service to provide propaganda, not to mention the dreadful murder of Jo Cox MP, but because, as I have pointed out once or twice, our campaign was badly run and focused on the wrong issues.

I fully intend to rant about other subjects and, in due course, about the result and future plans.

Before I begin, I should like to link to Lord Ashcroft's explanation as to why he is voting Brexit and to Sam Bowman's (of the Adam Smith Institute) as to why he is voting Remain.

First of all, let me explain that I do not have a particularly high view of Lord Ashcroft's or anybody else's opinion polls but his own view point was interesting to read as I agreed with a great deal of it.
Forget the hysteria. Leaving the European Union would not put a bomb under the British economy or end western political civilization as we know it. But nor would it mean another £350 million a week being spent on the NHS, and staying does not mean that 80 million Turks will arrive at Dover. For voters struggling to make sense of the referendum campaign, this sort of thing has hardly helped.
Indeed not. While I see nothing wrong with the fact that the campaign on both sides was heated (though more light would have been welcome) I do think the hyperbole, to put it at its most polite, has been appalling. I am not impressed by politicians, who know that nothing they say can every excite the sort of fervour that remaining or leaving the EU has done, whingeing away about the coarsening of political discourse. Coarsening? Have a look at the discourse of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Now, that was coarse. But one look at both campaigns makes one despair of human reason.

Lord Ashcroft makes the point that to remain in the EU is not to choose stability as developments will happen and they will not be of our making. Therefore, the choice is between two kinds of instability and which one would you prefer?
Of course leaving would create uncertainty; any worthwhile venture carries some risk. There will be new deals to negotiate and new relationships to form, and it may be rocky to start with. But when it comes to trade with EU partners, and other areas where cooperation is vital, pragmatism will surely win the day – and as I know from my own business career, there are plenty of opportunities outside Europe.

But most importantly of all, this is a decision for the long term future of the country. The question is not whether the world’s fifth largest economy could prosper outside the EU – of course it could – but whether we should tie ourselves to a union whose ambitions are so very different from our own. Maybe our future governments will be able to protect Britain from the worst of them. But why take the risk?
Sam Bowman takes a different view though not in everything. He, too, dislikes many of the arguments used by the Leave campaign about immigration and about the economy. Then he tackles the main issue:
I like and respect many Leavers, but I’ve never shared their enthusiasm for democracy – I want liberty and prosperity, and I don’t want to trade that in just to give my stupid next-door neighbours more power over my life. To the extent that the EU does restrict democracy it is often for the best, preventing governments from doing nasty, illiberal things (like restricting immigration or subsidising domestic firms). There’s a small chance that a Jeremy Corbyn could be elected – if he is, under the British political system he would have basically unlimited power to do whatever he wants. The EU limits that power, and in my view that’s a good thing.
Why limiting the power of the people, often expressed in a remarkably stupid way, should be a plus in an organization where other bodies have no limits is not something I can understand. But I think that people should be able to read the liberal/libertarian argument for Remain. Mind you, I have no desire to hear complaints from Mr Bowman either when he finds that what he gets is not what he voted for.

I have written before about a number of things I have found wrong with the Leave campaign but did not mention that I disliked the focus on immigration and the endless chanting about Turkey coming in. What started as a perfectly sensible point about controlling our own borders, part of democracy and accountability and on being able to decide who can get welfare and social housing became a distasteful attack on immigrants, not really softened by the occasional comment about a points system or rational immigration. The issue became central to the campaign to the exclusion of almost all other matters. As it happens, I do not think that has won any votes apart from people who were already going to vote Leave. Oh, and Turkey is not coming into the EU any time soon. What David Cameron does or does not say about it is irrelevant - he will not be Prime Minister by then.

What of the event that was supposed to change everything and give Remain a great advantage, the dreadful murder of Jo Cox MP. Any words one uses about the actual event will be trite and inadequate but, moving on to the political significance of it, I do think that my first instinct that it will make no real difference was correct. The swing back to Remain would have happened, was going to happen and was predicted by many of us: it is the natural move towards the status quo that we all expected. It was obvious that the 6 to 10 points' lead was not enough to counter that. On the other hand, the swing was no bigger than expected either. Despite a number of efforts on the part of the Remain campaigners, the electorate, so far as we can tell, did not fall for the narrative that this was all caused by the nasty Leave campaigners. Can any of them be really as nasty as Alistair Campbell in this tweet sent two days after the murder?

Once again, we can be grateful that we live in a country where such an event is so rare as to be unthinkable (until it happens, of course). Curiously, though over the last few months I have overheard many discussions on the referendum and Brexit, as well as taking part in many such, often with casual acquaintances from a non-political world, I have heard nothing around me about the killing. It is as if people cannot quite believe it has happened. What one did hear was strange sentimentality from the media, politicians and political geeks. The idea that an MP is honoured by the people of her constituency being deprived of the right to vote for a candidate from the other main party is bizarre and yet there were people tearfully asserting that David Cameron made the right decision in denying that democratic right.

The number of sitting British MPs assassinated since 1812 is eight: Spencer Perceval, who was also the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated, by the somewhat unhinged John Bellingham because of private debt; six from Lord Frederick Cavendish, killed in Phoenix Park, Dublin in 1882 to Ian Gow in 1990 by Irish terrorists of various organizations; and now Jo Cox, whose murder is still being investigated. That, thankfully, is a very low number.

That the Remain campaign tried to cash in on the event has been well documented here, here and here  Will Straw (son of Jack), who is apparently campaign chief for Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) was particularly obnoxious in his instructions to his troops as reported by Guido and, surprisingly, the Evening Standard. Of course, we shall not know until tomorrow (and really not even then) whether the secular canonization of a fairly average left-wing MP of whom most of us had never heard before will succeed. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, they say, but surely that does not apply to politicians. Therefore, I have great pleasure in linking to a somewhat tart but entirely accurate account of the real Jo Cox and her husband here. I do not suppose it will affect anybody's voting intentions but do read it if you can. I do not necessarily agree with everything the article says but it is true that Jo Cox was not among those politicians who had tried to unravel the deeply unpleasant saga of the gangs who were grooming children and teenagers and she, together with her husband, were there on Bob Geldof's boat, shouting abuse at the fishermen. Yes, I know they thought it was a UKIP stunt and I was outraged by Niger Farage hi-jacking the flotilla for his own purpose (it had been agreed that he would not be seen to be leading it but the only way to ensure that would have been not to allow him on it) but the boats were full of fishermen who, we all agree, suffered mightily from the EU. In the case of the Coxes', people of the Labour and NGO elite, sympathy begins a long way from home.

And that, I think, is enough about that. I have also said enough about the campaign to make it clear why I have not been happy with it and why, I suspect, it will not be successful. I may be wrong but would it really matter if we lost this referendum. I have never been a great fan of plebiscites and the dire level of the campaigning justifies my wariness. It looks like the result will be close and that will mean the the winners will not be seen as enjoying legitimacy. If we win, we shall need to make sure that the victory will have some kind of meaning and is not frittered away by unhelpful politicians and civil servants; and if we lose we shall have to start thinking of the next stage: prepare for intellectual guerrilla warfare.


  1. I was approached by t-shirt wearing Remainiacs outside the Oxo tower on Sunday and again on Tuesday outside Waterloo. I marvel at how much money has been thrown at this exercise by the Establishment. I also marvel at the dupes who believe they are voting for liberty by backing them, when all they are doing are strengthening the hold it already has over them. I listened to Melvyn this morning on Blake and was struck by the phrase "mind-forged manacles" and how it describes the Remainiacs I know - they think an out vote would lead to the return of child labour and worse, I think. They don't like some of the people who back Brexit so they vote Remain. Democracy is not a requirement for these people.

    Apparently, the original draft said "German-forged links" but caution, in the prevailing panic over possible revolution, prevailed. Some things don't change.

    Perhaps we will throw off those chains today, most likely not.

    1. I have to say I do find the argument of "you want to live in a country run by Farage and Johnson?" bizarre. They will not run this country if we vote for Brexit and not liking individuals is not a reason for voting. Not in this case.

  2. Helen,

    Best of luck. I hope the result will be much better than the opinion polls predict.


  3. Congratulations!

    Mother sends her best wishes as well. She was pretty certain it would go well the whole time and did not understand why I was so worried. That's experience for you!


    1. Your mother was so wise. Wiser than most of us. I was very worried as you know. Best wishes to both of you. We should meet at last and celebrate. Next stop Sweden.

  4. Have arrived at your blogsite a bit late, as I have been busy, but would wish to comment regarding the death of MP Jo Cox.

    I read with extreme distaste the knee-jerk response from the Remainiacs (with due emphasis on the mainiacs), and wrote a small response upon my own site:-

    Notes for a novel.

    The scenes are set in the present, with two partisan sectors, with vastly differing ideas, opinions and motives: both attempting to capture the public’s minds and intentions before a vote, a referendum ballot; finally takes place to determine whether their Country stays within a large group of Nation States: or takes a decision to leave that group forever.

    A tiny number of scheming but deeply cynical politicians, of varying political colours but with strongly-held views and ambitions, gather in a smoky room in a Georgian house in Lord North Street: all intent upon one thing and one thing only, to agree on a plan, a single act, which would bring public opinion strongly across towards their viewpoint.

    The most cynical man in the group, a former advisor and master-spinner himself, addresses the group seated around the highly-polished table towards the conclusion of their secret debate. No notes were to be kept, all mobile phones had been switched off, batteries ejected, before the conspirators had departed their homes and offices before their separate anonymous journeys to a house which had already been ‘scrubbed’ and tested for electronic and recording devices; for this was one meeting which could not, and would never, be referred to again, once the meeting had concluded its truly terrible purpose. The speaker tapped his pen against the exquisitely-cut and decorated crystal water jug, and the ringing tone sharpened the attentions of the listeners.

    “We are agreed, gentlemen, on the proposal which has been discussed. As our plan calls for one, and only one, sacrificial ‘lamb’ for the stewpot, I will now access the names which have been placed in the bowl before us; one candidate from six of the main areas within the Kingdom. All preparations are in place, and the scapegoat ‘patsies’ already seeded and in place, with a formidable team to finally mould his mind, already tormented by his own mental instabilities, once the target has been chosen. The rest of the ‘patsies’ will receive the mental health treatment and medications which those unfortunate people should have received immediately their diagnoses were completed. The back-up evidence; of instability, of threats and of weaponry preparations, are already in place, via the Internet, so we can proceed.” As he finished his sentences, he leant forward, dipped his hand into the bowl, and brought out a single slip of paper, folded over three times. He spoke the name revealed by the paper, and the eldest of the six other men, one who had sat silently for most of the meeting whilst sat around the table flinched, hesitated for maybe five seconds, then slowly nodded his assent to the choice.

    The speaker remained standing. “Again, gentlemen, we are agreed, we do this terrible thing, because our opponents are gaining upon us in the race towards the Referendum Vote; we sacrifice this one; so that we might, by inference alone, blame this one death on our opponents: and the fools who follow us will leap upon this tragedy as if it were Manna from Above: and our Colleagues in Brussels, in all the capitals of Europe, will breathe easier because we, above all else, know that might is right!”