Friday, 11 March 2016

A bleak day for the Leave campaign

Venal, asinine, facile, shallow, ignorant, lazy, superficial and oafish. Those are words I do not hesitate in using to describe Boris Johnson. His speech today was a screed. An amalgam of all the hackneyed memes, fact-free rhetoric, conjecture and error.

The Guardian today has said that "The most widely promoted version of the leave campaign claims that Britain could retain its place in the EU’s free-trade single market while not paying a penny into the EU budget, ending free movement and ignoring EU rules. No other country has such a deal or anything close to it and the French and German governments have been clear that they will not make such an exception for Britain. They do not hesitate to remind us that the single market – involving not just free trade in goods and services but free movement of capital and labour – was a British idea (launched by Margaret Thatcher and implemented by Conservative, Labour and coalition governments)."

In this they are absolutely right. Consequently the Leave campaign needed a comprehensive understanding if the issues and message crafted to allay fears and reassure opinion formers. Boris Johnson has not done this. In a torrent of verbal incontinence, he has driven a horse and cart through any kind of carefully crafted message, laying down every contradiction in the book, all under a Vote Leave banner who have themselves distanced themselves from some of the more egregious claims (when not advocating a suicidal unilateral Brexit).

I cannot imagine a worse set of arguments, a worse delivery or a worse person to head up the campaign. And yet I've had a string of people today telling me how marvellous the man is and that he's exactly what we needed to stop Nigel Farage making a pigs ear of it. Except of course, without the emphasis on immigration, his arguments are exactly the same.

And for those thinking it doesn't matter because Johnson connects with voters, you are sorely mistaken. With there having been serious internet debate for many months now regarding Britain's options, key opinion formers will have been listening for accuracy and consistency and asking in the Leave campaign has serious answers to good questions. They will rightly conclude that he doesn't and consequently that the leave campaing itself does not. And from there we see trickle-down opinion forming as individuals sadly trust the prestige and authority of established publications - The New Statesman, the Guardian and The Times.

While their own understanding of the issues and concepts is equally shallow, they have gleaned just enough from the surface of the debate that Brexit might just be a little bit more complex than wishing away regulations and dreaming up free trade agreements at the stroke of a pen. Any undecided voters will be smart enough to realise that Boris Johnson is a buffoon and though reportedly a likeable figure, there is no substance to his bombastic waffle.

It is as I have said from the beginning. If we are to leave the EU, the leave campaign must be able to offer reassurance, credible answers, and achievable plan and a vision that makes it worthwhile. By every single measure Boris Johnson has failed utterly. Nothing he has said will withstand scrutiny and it will take the media less than a day to take him to pieces and will spend the rest of the campaign rubbing that in our faces.

This is all because the political class think they know everything and won't be told anything. And if you want to stay in the EU, this is nothing for you to celebrate - because Johnson is not alone. He is merely an ambassador for the politico-media class. He exemplifies everything that is wrong with British politics - and such people will continue govern us for a time to come.

Only comprehensive democratic reform and a revolution in governance can change this dynamic, and Brexit is the catalyst for it. Effectively, a vote to remain is a vote for fools like Boris Johnson. It is a vote of confidence in them. So as much as this is a bleak day for the leave campaign - it is also a bleak day for what is left of our so-called democracy.

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