Referendum history is being re-written. The official ‘out campaign’ – in an interview for the Daily Politics and a Brexit Britain Newsnight Special – has said that a key element was neutralising ‘the threat’ of Nigel Farage and presenting a more middle ground alternative.
Codswallop! This is a simplistic and Orwellian re-writing of history. Most of the Conservative party, the BBC and the Left have always hated Ukip and Farage – and now that the dust is settling on the referendum are busy writing a hagiography that chimes with their contempt.
The reality is, however, that without Nigel Farage, there would have been no referendum. And there certainly would have been no ‘exit’ vote. It happened because of a crassly inept ‘remain’ campaign (analysed here) and a range of interlocking factors focused on an intense dislike and fear of the damage to British society and culture the EU has wrought.
Those hagiographers should take on board some basic, sobering facts. Holding the poll was adopted as official Conservative party policy in 2013 only because Ukip – guided by Farage – was making such deep inroads into the Conservative vote that David Cameron had no alternative. Up until that point – it has now emerged – he was a Conservative leader living a lie.
He had conned the Conservative party parliamentary rank and file and grassroots into backing him as leader in 2005 (against David Davis, a true ‘out’ campaigner) because he had told a huge porky – that he was ‘eurosceptic’.
The reality, as emerged in graphic detail during the referendum campaign, is that Cameron – and many of his supporters – is every bit a pro-EU figure as Kenneth Clarke, Michael Heseltine and Edward Heath. He was rashly, perhaps even recklessly, prepared to stake everything – and tell huge economic untruths – on ‘remain’.
Second, although elements of Vote Leave were based on smart online marketing techniques, there were glaring shortcomings in its approach from the outset.
For example, it failed to set up a proper unit to rebut BBC propaganda, and it failed to understand who to put up in the media to argue the Brexit case. The BBC coverage in response to this inadequacy nearly swung it for remain. The Corporation could not believe its luck.
Vote Leave were also not clear about who they were targeting or what was likely to motivate ‘out’ voters. Control of immigration, for example – and the impact it was having, was scarcely mentioned until the final weeks of the campaign, and then only half-heartedly.
Farage, by contrast, after 25 years of campaigning at grassroots level – and putting up with name-calling, death threats from Scottish nationalists and the abuse of the BBC throughout – knew that the biggest issue for the 17m+ who voted ‘out’ was not how much money we give to Brussels, but that the EU socialist project was swamping our sense of identity, and was causing dislocation by allowing uncontrolled mass immigration on an unmanageable and unprecedented scale.
He knew because he had personally been there and spoken to thousands of voters, that folk in Boston in Lincolnshire, in Sunderland (despite the Nissan plant) and Middlesbrough, in Gravesend and Southend, in Ebbw Vale, in the Tory shires and the so-called ‘working-class North’, were sick to the back teeth of being patronised and lied to about the true nature of the EU project by politicians.
The hagiographers now say that the poster showing a snaking queue of ‘immigrants’ released by Farage on the Thursday before polling was ‘racist’. The BBC has amplified that message in dozens of contexts, and continues to do so. It is being disgracefully projected in lockstep with figures such as Baroness Warsi, Jeremy Corbyn and Eddy Izzard.
The reality is that the poster summed up exactly the frustration of the millions of voters who made Brexit happen, to defend their communities and stand up to the oppression and chaos unleashed on Britain by Brussels.
Of course, such a strategy ran risks. No-one could have foreseen the shooting of MP Jo Cox, and then the relentless and utterly cynical milking of the tragedy by ‘remain’, by Labour MPs totally out of step with their constituents, and the BBC, to suggest that supporters of ‘out’ – and above all, Farage – were all hate-filled racists. The reality is that the totally unforeseeable backlash unleashed by this tide of anti-Ukip/Farage certainly cost ‘out’ many votes.
That, however, was compounded by figures such as Michael Gove, who on the Sunday before voting, on the Andrew Marr show deliberately suggesting that he believed the Ukip poster to be racist and inexcusable.
The sobering, awful reality after the biggest democratic vote in British history is that elements of the Conservative party, aided and abetted by the BBC, are now back in control and are busy re-writing history in Animal Farm style. Such opinions suggest that Brexit is far from assured.
Yes, David Davis, is a genuine ’outer’, an immensely able politician. But he and his main lieutenant, Liam Fox, are surrounded by a party made up many for whom the lessons have clearly not sunk in. The British people did not vote for the Tory party on June 23. They voted with a roar to say that British cultural identity – in its many and tolerant guises – should be protected, and to get rid of the oppressive and destructive clutches of the EU.
Come what may.