Saturday 14 May 2016

Mind the credibility gap

It can't have escaped anybody's attention that both campaigns are equally contemptible. Both are playing fast and loose with the truth. We always knew the remain side would. That is their modus operandi. There is nothing truthful in the entire EU project. It was built on a lie. Everything about it is a lie. But to expose a lie you must yourself be truthful. That is why Vote Leave's mantras about saving money to spend on the NHS is likely to fail. No serious opinion former believes it.

As it happens nobody believes it. To justify it you must undergo some Cummingsesque mental gymnastics. That is what the kippers are doing online. They are successfully deceiving themselves but they are not convincing anybody outside the eurosceptic blob.

It's no good whinging about the Remain camps scaremongering or their condescension. Nobody believes the sky is going to fall in and nobody is going to vote on the basis of roaming charges. Nobody's vote is bought that cheap and Remainers who push that line are guilty of the same self-deception if they think it will.

To point out that the other side is just as bad is simply no excuse. They have the home advantage and the status quo effect. We are the challengers and we must make a convincing case. Very few people actually like the EU and the swing vote can be convinced, but only if we have won the intellectual argument. We can win the argument that the EU is bad almost every time, but that is no use unless you have a convincing case that the risks of leaving are manageable and worth the trouble. This we have not done.

The eurosceptic blob have convinced themselves that we don't need any kind of deal with the EU and we can be free to hack away at regulations til the cows come home. It's not credible. It's abundantly clear to influential columnists and bloggers that the Leave camp is sailing close to the wind and can't win the economic argument with the line it is pushing. The risks associated with what Vote Leave proposes (leaving the single market - which can't actually happen in reality) are too great to even consider.

While this doesn't matter to the blob, it matters to voters. The crowd is always wiser that it looks. They will be acutely aware that much of the Remain camp noise is utter bunkum but it won't have escaped their attention that there are risks involved. They won't themselves look at our detailed arguments but they will get an idea of what the experts are saying about it. Right now they are saying Vote Leave is full of shit - and they are not wrong. We cannot now bridge the credibility gap. Once again the blob is snatching a defeat from the jaws of victory.

No challenger to the status quo can afford to neglect the intellectual argument. We don't have the luxury of pretending our lies are as powerful as theirs. They're not. The government and its backers have prestige. We don't. The only asset we could have ever depended on is the truth. But the blob can't see that.

I've been told time after time that's fine and that we only need simple messages and nobody is ever going to read a four hundred page exit plan. But that's not the point. We needed to be convincing at every level and we could not afford to have the popular messages contradicting our core philosphy. It is wholly negligent to believe we can patronise the public with simplistic messages and expect not to be called out on it. The internet is more effective than ever at weeding out untruths.

Consistency, credibility and reassurance should have been our watchwords. Instead we have insulted the public by winging it, promising them the world on a stick, underpinned by a simplistic narrative that we go from being in the EU to out of it at the wave of a magic wand. Vote Leave is gambling that the public are as gullible as Vote Leave is cynical. They have underestimated the public.

I don't deny that a great many will buy into Vote Leave's rhetoric but there has always been a rump who will vote to leave come hell or high water. This referendum was always about the swing voters and the don't knows. The classic eurosceptic mantras have done nothing to persuade them in all the time since 1975 so why did Vote Leave expect it to work now?

Because of Vote Leave the Twittersphere is saying that we have lost the economic argument. Only a Brexit plan could have avoided that. Dominic Cummings's refusal to adopt one has handed the entire referendum to the the opposition on a plate. And though one might be minded to place all the blame on him, the eurosceptic blob have gone along with it. They never saw the need for a plan either. They didn't speak out when it was necessary to speak out and instead they told us dissenters to shut up. I almost want them to lose because it's no less than they deserve.

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