Sunday, 27 March 2016

Vote Leave should not take voters for stupid


Vote Leave don't do me any favours. Claiming that we'll be £10bn better off overnight and that we can spend it all on the NHS is risible in itself, but coming from a bunch of Tories who would privatise the last of it tomorrow if they could is just beyond satire.

Even if it were true, the left would rather claw their own eyes out than vote for an outfit represented by Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove. And then Boris Johnson? Seriously? And that's before we even get to Dominic Cummings's "Project Suicide" - which is pretty much a unilateral declaration of hostility. Cummings even manages to make Boris look sane.

We know the ridiculous exit strategy is largely down to Cummings's galactic ego. He'd rather the he's own special brand of wrong than admit someone might know more than he does. In normal circles that kind of behaviour doesn't fly, but against a backdrop of near universal ignorance of everything (Westminster) the man is perceived to be a genius. The one eyed king in the land of the blind. The NHS nonsense however is the received wisdom of the Westminster bubble.

It says a lot about how they think that they would run with this as a campaign message. Their estimation is that if they whinge long and hard enough about the EU and promise more spending on the NHS people will come flocking. It says that they take the average voter for a fool. That has never been wise.

For starters it true. If we had an extra ten billion a year (which in government spending terms is chump change) it would be going on closing the deficit if we had anything approaching a Conservative government. Labour would find new and interesting ways to fritter it away. What we can be certain of is that the NHS will inhale ten billion without it making the slightest impact on care quality.

And then there's the fact that we have treaty commitments we cannot unilaterally withdraw from, agricultural subsidies to replace and a number of cooperation agreements with the EU in which we would continue to participation. We are not going to save ten billion and not any time soon will we save a penny.

On both counts, Vote Leave is asking campaigners to promote a weak message that is demonstrably untrue - and has already been credibly dismantled in the media. This certainly rules me out of participating in the main campaign effort. The reason I detest politics and politicians in general is their bovine adherence to narratives and their persistent lies. Why should I wish to join in?

More to the point, while voters can be fairly unsophisticated in their understanding, they know bullshit when they hear it. If something sounds too good to be true then there is either a catch or they're being fed a load of baloney. They will be listening out for an opposing view. And there are plenty of them kicking around. Even the most cursory attack on Vote Leave's bogus assertions sees them crumble.

Then when you look at the Remain campaign message, there is enough breadth to make some wonder if actually something that relates to them is threatened by Brexit. I have had lorry drivers asking me if they will have to drive through different customs channels when going to Ireland. It's little seeds of doubt across the many sectors that cause people to vote for the status quo.

The difficulty we have is that the answer to these concerns is always "it depends". A great many of these scares are largely contingent on how we leave the EU. If we leave the EU but remain in the single market, there are a great many scares that simply evaporate - which is why you'd want a well publicised exit plan in place. Ordinary people do have genuine concerns that do need comprehensive and credible answers.

Our side cannot say that academic cooperation agreements will be protected if all the while we are planning to channel the money into the NHS instead of paying for them. We can't say we will work out a trade deal in two years if we're planning on scrapping tranches of regulation.

Know-it-all campaign wonks don't think it matters and that people won't notice, but the port inspectors will and so will customs officials and lorry drivers. And they vote. It's the little inconsistencies here and there that sow doubt and eat into our credibility. Any fair minded appraisal of Vote Leave's arguments will find them wanting.

Thus far Vote Leave is doing nothing to reassure voters. The inconsistencies alone are a source of worry. If we don't know what Brexit looks like, why should they take a gamble? That is the Remain campaign message and it's a totally fair question. Dominic Cummings is practically declaring a total end to European cooperation and the rest of his outfit is saying it's worth it so we can fire-hose the NHS with a bit more money. Would you risk your job on a case that flimsy? No. Me neither.

You would think with such a mammoth task ahead with such a short time to pull it off, Robert Oxley, Head of Media for Vote Leave, would use any opportunity to publicise a credible and comprehensive Brexit plan that reassures voters. But I is just a pleb blogger from outside the M25. I'm not the one with the finger on the pulse of Britain. Oxley reckons victory is there for the taking if the public get the message that Easter eggs will be cheaper if Britain leaves the EU. For real. That's why they get paid the big bucks.  

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