Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Referendum campaign: nobody gets out of here alive

This referendum is going to end up like one of those Elizabethan tragedies, with all the leading actors dead in a bloody heap at centre stage. Nobody at the front of either campaign is going to come out of this thing in any way except politically dead.

Boris Johnson has demonstrated too often and too publicly that his buffoonery is a cover for his intellectual laziness.

David Cameron has behaved in such a loathsome, slippery way that even Remain Conservative must be repulsed by him. More, he has shown cowardice in dodging debates. Voters have seen it all and won’t forget any of it. Conservatives MPs will rush to get rid of Cameron as leader, whatever the outcome on June 23.

George Osborne has shown himself dishonest, always the worst sin in a politician who is supposed to be managing the country’s money. He has tainted the Treasury by manoeuvring it to publish a series of politically-skewed scare reports.

Michael Gove has proved intellectually thin in his arguments and has already retreated from the front line of the fight to Leave. That marks him as an unreliable ally – not, in short, the sort of man with whom you’d go into the jungle. Or into any future fight.

Kate Hoey, once Leave’s Labour hope, has disappeared. She won’t be back.

Iain Duncan Smith offers nothing but agonised outrage at the dishonesty of the Remain campaign. Nobody needs an emotional but impotent politician.

Nigel Farage is offering nothing but the same lines he offered during the general election. The lines didn’t work then, they aren’t working now.

Then yesterday Farage was caught on microphone telling supporters to ‘bully’ people into voting for Brexit.  That was a particularly ill-judged use of a word, because it gave the Daily Mail political correspondent a peg to add: ‘Last night it emerged that Mr Farage's Leave.EU group published the personal mobile numbers of officials in the rival Vote Leave campaign in an extraordinary outbreak of infighting between the two Brexit camps.’

‘In an email to a public email list, Leave.EU urged supporters to call Vote Leave individuals - including UKIP MP Douglas Carswell - to demand Mr Farage be included in a televised EU referendum debate.’

This is dangerously similar to reports of bullying by UKIP late last year, when Douglas Carswell, UKIP’s only MP, and a man at war with Nigel Farage, received a threatening telephone call from within the party asking questions about his private life.

As for Labour, there is no sincere Leave nor Remain campaigning going on. The Corbyn leadership seems to think the best policy is to keep their heads down and wait for the Conservatives to slaughter each other. Note to Labour: invisibility does not win votes.

What happens after the fight is over and the body-count of leadership is complete?  I don’t know.

But what I can’t get out of my head is that a little-known Napoleon Bonaparte was promoted to the rank of brigadier general at the age of 26 only because most of the officer class was either in exile or executed by the Terror. 

For the next Conservative leaders, one needs to look to men who are as yet little-known.


  1. If the Referendum has done anything useful it's that it has forced people to declare themselves, rather like in England in the Civil War - a conflict that was also about who rules the country, and how.

    And not just to declare themselves in the sense of being a Remainhead or a Brexiteer. But to reveal themselves for what they truly are in terms of their character and principles.

    I rather fear, though, that, like one of those raprochments in the Wars of the Roses, after the Referendum fight is over the Tory leavers will be publically pardoned amidst much open weeping and welcomed back into the fold, rather than be Brexicuted.

    We will find that the Referendum campaign was all a Midsummer Night's dream, where the one wearing the ass's head lead us a merry dance around an enchanted wood and up the garden path.

    Though now that some ex-generals have declared for Brexit the military have entered the stage, though not in the manner that you wish for. Oh for a Chief of Men (and Women too)!

  2. My hope would be for Owen Paterson to step up and lead the Tories away from being Blue Labour back to conservatism and a second referendum where the adults take charge of the debate.

  3. Gerry, Owen Paterson is an admirable man, but he is not ferocious enough to be a leader of the Conservative Party. As for a second referendum,, the only chance of a second referendum is if the British vote for Brexit. Remember the Brussels rule on referendums: a No is only ever temporary, a Yes is forever. A Remain vote is the end of the voting.

  4. To invoke strict straight-line logic, the Conservatives must end up in a bitter civil war at the end of this process. Both Cameron and Osborne have lied repeatedly to electorate, Party and to Parliament, and have co-opted their erstwhile opposition into the alliance. Multiple Rubicons crossed, solely one of which should be sufficient to draw the opposing wing of the party into conflict. However, Conservatives don't usually act with straight line logic and so I'd suspect a sullen surrender by the alleged Eurosceptics in the event of a remain vote. History demonstrates they just don't have the collective guts for anything else.

    I also suspect that the anti-Corbyn wing of Labour are waiting for the Referendum to be safely put to bed before a proper assault on the Leadership commences. Again, that ought to lead to a renewed phase in the permanent Labour Civil War. LibDems, justifiably a smoking ruin and UKIP becalmed. Weak and incompetent leadership 1990-97 opened the door to Blair. I agree - the current landscape will likely throw up another ruinous chancer for the public to unwisely place their trust in.

    On an academic note, it's worth goading Labour* supporters (* that's 'Apocalypse Now' Labour - the 'we shouldn't even have a Referendum' Labour) that under specific and predictable circumstances, it's currently Party policy to hold an In\Out Referendum.

    Prior to the General Election last year, Miliband introduced the principle that whilst the Referendum Lock Legislation will be honoured and not repealed; that any such referendum held under its strictures would be held as an In\Out Vote. Thus far (and I've been looking out for it) that policy has not changed. That would also imply that not only would Labour hold (allegedly) an In\Out referendum, but it would imply they're committed to repeat In\Out Referendums whenever the unrepealed legislation is triggered?

    Try reminding them of it. They really, really don't like it.

  5. The idea that we won't get a second chance of a referendum is a fear that crosses my mind. As you point out this subject bloodies even the most teflon coated politician. I find this particularly true of those trying to defend the remain argument. It leaves them extremely exposed and if the examination during the aftermath is an honest one it will weaker the remain argument even further, meaning next time the price will be even higher. I think future politicians will look at this and conclude it is simply too damaging to their careers to offer the public another chance at this.