Thursday, 23 June 2016

A rabble without a plan

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.

It is also a rejection of Brexit Tories. Gove and Johnson. Charlatans with half-formed ideas and deep misapprehensions. No real instinct for the the EU issue and have no track record in the field. The leave side needed a comprehensive alternative vision, it needed consistency, credibility and gravitas. It had none of those things. It was entirely exclusive and it managed to alienate vital supporters. In the end it was no better run than Ukip.

And what of Ukip? They lost this for us the moment they went live with those immigration posters in the euro elections in 2014. They made a concerted effort to equate freedom of movement with open borders and turned the whole tone nasty. We have had to work doubly hard to disassociate the cause with Ukip and to stop immigration clouding the debate.

Because of the malign influence of Ukip, who were overtly hostile to the Norway Option, it prevented either of the lead leave campaigns from endorsing a measured exit plan and that is why the Leave campaign was left making it up on the spot. I would rather not have had this referendum than one stirred up by Ukip mouth-breathers.

Because of Ukip, we will lose badly and the issue will be buried for a generation, with people being openly hostile to the very idea of another referendum after what this one has done.

So Nigel Farage is ultimately responsible for this and he is the main reason we are staying in the EU. He is the architect of this failure. All because of his galactic ego, his dismal little personality cult and his abject refusal to engage in detail. We are told that we wouldn't be having this referendum were it not for him. That may be true. But look at what a poisoned chalice it was.

In the end our message was tainted by the spectre of Ukip. And though the accusations that the campaign had contributed to a mood resulting in the death of an MP were entirely bogus, the slogan uttered by the killer, "death to traitors", is not all that far removed from the Ukip lexicon.

There was one opportunity along this road to turn it around. It could have been another way. Arron Banks could have listened to us. He could have adopted Flexcit and might well have won the designation because of it. In the end, he proved a coward and a fool.

And really it is political cowardice that has so badly tainted this campaign. The political realities dictate that a good campaign should reach out with a positive vision aimed at swing voters. Instead, it was the decision of Dominic Cummings to appease the base. He has run a hard line campaign. It has been unyielding and sneering. In fact, in every sense, this campaign has been a reflection of Dominic Cummings. Sour, belligerent, arrogant and crass.

In some ways I ought to be pleased that we will suffer a heavy defeat because ultimately this is the ideas of the Tory right and Ukip on trial. They have been defeated for all the right reasons.

They have treated the public as fools. They have never seen the necessity to win the intellectual argument. They have lazily assumed that the lowest common denominator will do. They thought this could be carried by appealing to the basest instincts of populism. They were wrong. The British public are smarter than either gave them credit for.

And when it comes down to it, the public as much as anything else will vote with their wallet. Vote Leave failed completely in securing the economic argument in their favour. They failed to de-risk Brexit and the more stabs in the dark they took at a Brexit plan, the more doubt they created. They failed at every test.

In the aftermath we will see yet more reasons why Vote Leave deserved to lose. Instead of introspection we will see them blaming the media, the government, the process, the opposition, and the untimely demise of Jo Cox. All but one of these were predictable elements in the equation and we should have been prepared.

We always knew the media would be crass. We always knew the government would abuse its position. We always knew what the remain campaign would do. We knew it would be a barrage of fear and uncertainty. All of this could have been countered by comprehensive Brexit plan. Cummings thought otherwise.

And though we might say that the death of Jo Cox did us no favours, the way in which the left used her still warm corpse corpse as a ventriloquist's dummy should have been to our advantage. In truth, I doubt the whole sordid business made a difference either way. The British people are better than that.

This is an entirely deserved defeat. The idiocy and obstinacy of Cummings, Banks, Hannan, Farage, Lea, Bannerman, Redwood and the rest of the eurosceptic aristocracy paved the way for this defeat before the date was even called. The Johnny-come-lately sheep like Gisela Stuart, Kate Hoey, Andrea Leadsom and Penny Mordaunt were more an embarrassment than asset.

I must also make special mention of Martin Durkin. A man who was in a position to make a real difference by producing a film that would have enhanced the arguments. Instead, despite warnings, he chose to make an anthology of museum piece arguments which should have been binned from the outset. Brexit the Movie was a travesty.

I could do a more detailed post-mortem, but it is nothing I have not already said along the way. All of this was predicted and events unfurled exactly as we expected they would.

The fight, however, continues. As I say, this is a rejection of Vote Leave, Ukip and their ideas. It is not a mandate for the EU or a vote of confidence in either the EU or the establishment. That desire for change is still apparent, the EU question has not been resolved, and will continue to be a source of division.

I remain as dedicated as ever to a British exit from the EU, and already we are considering what our next move is. We are not going away. We have anticipated this washout for quite some time so for me, tomorrow is just another day.

This has been just one battle in a long war for democracy - and though this battle is lost, our forces are replenished, our ideas updated and perhaps now we can clear out the people on our own side who have been an obstacle to victory. If it take another year or another forty years, Britain will be freed of this malign entity.

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