Monday, 12 September 2016

Brexit: some of the people apparently fooled all of the time. And happy with it

“No one in this world,” H L Mencken claimed, “so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

Mencken wasn’t particularly charitable and the judgement is harsh, but the Brexit vote and its consequences do seem to confirm his point. Or at least Lincoln’s view that you can fool some of the people, all of the time.

The pro-EU campaign was unfortunately led by a number of the weakest politicians we’ve had in Britain for decades: David Cameron and George Osborne for the Tories, Jeremy Corbyn for Labour. The first two came up with dire predictions of what would happen after a Brexit vote, which have naturally not been fulfilled – we’re still in the EU, for Pete’s sake, how could a disaster have happened already? And even when things start to slip, nothing happens that fast in economics. Even the crash of 2007-2008 took pretty much a year to develop fully.

As for Corbyn, he said practically nothing throughout the entire campaign, which at least has the merit of making him immune from being disproved by events.

On the other side of the fence, there were Labour figures such as Gisela Stuart MP, campaigning with the anti-immigrant lobby though she’s German-born herself, renegade Labourites like David Owen who split Labour in the eighties, the hard right like Nigel Farage of UKIP or nearly-as-hard right of the Conservative Party, such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove (the latter so disloyal, to rebels and loyalists alike, that not even the Tories can stomach him in government any longer).

As the devil has the best songs, so the Brexiters had the best campaign. They travelled up and down the country in a battle bus emblazoned with slogans pledging that Brexit would save “£350 million a week” that could be used for the NHS.

Economical with the truth, effective for the campaign
The battle bus with the £350m claim
The figure was a lie and plenty of people pointed it out. But the lie took hold and many voters believed it and passed it on. Fool me once, they say, shame on you. The Leave campaigners certainly fooled enough people once to feel that shame, but clearly don’t: in fact, lying served them so well that they’re using the tactic again.

The campaign has morphed into “Change Britain” but the usual suspects are back: Gove, Johnson, Stuart and Owen are heading the organisation once more. What are they saying about that £350 million pledge?

It’s brilliant! They’re saying absolutely nothing at all. Dead silence. To admit it was a con trick would be out of the question and I didn’t expect it. But simply to pretend it never happened is pure George Orwell.

Instead they’re now offering to fund agriculture, poorer regions of the UK, scientific research and the universities out of savings generated by Brexit. In other words, to replace the funding that the EU currently provides and which we’d continue to receive if we didn’t leave.

There can be only one judgement of that pledge: it’s worth exactly the same as the one they made before. There’s zero chance of its ever being honoured. That’s not a problem, though: these are promises not intended to be fulfilled. They’re only intended to suck in the gullible again. And just watch: the gullible will lap them up.

Fool me twice, they say, shame on me. Plenty should feel that shame but just like the con artists themselves, they’ll know no shame. Because they don’t even know they’re being fooled.

Some of the people, you see. All of the time.


Anonymous said...

It's a hard one as some of the people in this case was over 50% of those who expressed a view said we pull like independence. Democracy says you should agree with the majority who expressed a view irrespective of the influences that may have been used to influence the vote one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

And remember you can fool some of the people all of the time for a long time but Corbyn has only some of the people to fool, so maybe it will only be a short time for them or him! Maybe the future look bright a UK with a bit of pride and determination rather than its curl up and give in attitude that has prevailed of recent years. I don follow sport however British Sport has in recent years found national excellence determination and pride.

David Beeson said...

I'm not sure one's under any obligation to agree with a majority. In fact, one is fully entitled to campaign against the decision of a majority the moment it's taken: the opposition is within its rights to work for the end of a government from the moment it's elected. Winning a vote gives you immediate authority to act, but no permanent authority.

On Brexit, I believe we can build a valid campaign on two key issues:

1. The deception used to win the vote
2. The failure to make clear what the alternative to EU membership would be, specifically whether it involves continued membership of the single market or not. When the government has made up its mind, I see no reason why we shouldn't vote again to decide whether the option on offer is acceptable or not.

As for the future being bright, I'm sure Britain can once more start to progress again. But it is in a retrograde period at the moment and has to emerge from that first. That will require a change in outlook and mentality.

Anonymous said...

Well both sides used deception one was pessimistic fear and the other was positive optimism, I have to say people don't like being threatened, so remain played directly into the hands of leave and I am sure won them many votes.

I still even after all this time haven't heard any remain people shouting about here is the huge list of positive reasons why we should stay and why your life will be so much better. All they preach is Dom and despondency, not exactly a winning formula is it. I think many simply want to be the nation of Britain not the nation of Europe it simply doesn't sound very exciting. Europe appears to have become hugely introvert and protectionist. When I was a child we all got on as nations and moved about with no visa but a passport in hand and did business with each other without burocratic rules for everything. Life has become so restrictive and big brother ish.

Anonymous said...

Glad you like the phrase fooling some of the people all of the time, we are probable both guilty from different perspectives.

David Beeson said...

Alas, I seem to have trouble fooling anyone these days. Or, as I like to think of it, enlightening them.