Category Archives: Vote Leave

My referendum day memories from inside the campaign

I am today pondering two very powerful words. They are ‘what’ and ‘if’. What if, on this day one year ago, the British electorate had voted for their country to remain within the European Union? What if we had been on the losing end of a gruelling and hard-fought referendum campaign? What if the tides that had hardened British public opinion against EU membership been whisked away, only to be replaced by many more years of ever closer political union?

For somebody like me, it is a frightening thought. As I type I can recall the restlessness and agitation that characterised June 23rd 2016. I am reminded of the uncomfortable train journey I took to work (at Vote Leave HQ), at 5am a year ago, in which I sat slumped in the carriage, nerve-stricken and tired, trying simultaneously to envisage victory and suppress any useless over-confidence.

It was an overcast morning, I seem to recall, which grew cloudier and very windy as the day progressed, and was marred by incessant rail disruption, which started (luckily) after I got to work. Any London commuters on that day will remember the disaster of trying to get home. A quick Google reminded me that flooding and storms were the cause. One memory I have of June 23rd, that has remained etched into my mind, is of the packed concourse at Waterloo station, which at the time pleased me as I thought it possible that many Remain-supporting Londoners would not be able to get home in time to vote.

As I arrived at work on polling day, the office was typically quiet. Part of my job was to monitor all Vote Leave and referendum press coverage; hence the early starts and long shifts. This was the case every morning until about 7, when Press and Research would arrive. But on June 23rd, things were a little different. The morning beforehand, most of the team had taken the coach down to Dover, where a final campaign push had been planned.

I was asked to stay in the office on the final day and so did not get to go, but that I did not mind. Much of the day, until colleagues returned around 10pm, remained eerily quiet. It provided me with quite a lot of time to think about the campaign; to mull over my personal contribution, fret about the result and keep a beady eye on voter activity through social media channels.

I spent a good part of the morning examining the major newspapers, and was particularly happy with the Sun’s beautiful splash, which I’ll never forget for as long as I live. It read: ‘Independence Day’, with an image of sunrise over the United Kingdom, with the stars on the European Union flag retreating back towards the continent. One of the great reliefs of the campaign was the support we aroused amongst the country’s most-read newspapers. They may not carry the political weight that they used to, but they certainly help to influence public opinion.

As the day wore on, in surprisingly uneventful fashion, my emotions started to get the better of me a little bit. I suppose I was in part frustrated at the long waiting game ahead and in part angered by statuses written by friends on Facebook, with whom I should not have bothered to engage in argument. That day, I amassed three fallings out, which disappointed me as I am not usually the type to let political beliefs jeopardise personal relationships.

I spoke about this on BBC London News about two weeks after the referendum. The scale of the issue, I think, provided exactly the sort of fertile soil for arguments and family splits. In the video package presented by the BBC, my section was contrasted with a focus on three ethnic minority voters who had experienced racism post-result (which of course had everything to do with voting to Leave and nothing whatsoever to do with pre-existing personal bigotry). It was a characteristically Remain-heavy segment, but I was not so bothered.

I spent much of June 23rd clearing out my desk, tidying up my work and making final preparations for my last work duties, which made me a little emotional. I hated 12 hour shifts, but the immense privilege of being a part of it all is something I will always treasure. One of the many valuable things I learned at the job was the importance of teamwork and making everybody aware that we are all in something together, working towards the same goal.

Some colleagues also stayed in Westminster that day and did not follow the team down to Dover. I believe that Matthew Elliott and Gisela Stewart had journeyed to Manchester, though for reasons I was unaware of. The feeling amongst those who were in the office was quiet enthusiasm. We had been monitoring polling trends carefully and had produced rigorous data that gave us a reasonable impression of how different sorts of people and different constituencies would vote.

I chatted with colleagues and took part in some ‘thanks for everything’ campaign photos and videos, which were released a couple of weeks later. I spent much of the day reflecting on what it was I had been involved in, especially given I was just 20 years old and our youngest employee. I thanked our politicians who dropped by, like Douglas Carswell and Michael Gove, who were both very pleasant to me when we spoke and always gave up their time to thank those less senior in the campaign for their efforts.

As the evening drew in, the wind picked up, the clouds darkened and my nerves rattled with renewed vigour. My plan, initially, was to get the train home at 6pm and come back to headquarters at around midnight, either by train or the night bus. Rail disruption made this impossible, so I had dinner at a local pizza restaurant with a colleague and took a two-hour nap on the floor underneath my desk, taking advantage of the periodic silence.

By the time I had woken up, (which must have been around 9pm) other campaign figures had returned from their Dover escapades and were filing back into the office. I chose to make my way home, as something resembling normal train service had resumed, making sure to get a few winks as I knew that the early hours of the morning would be stressful and restless.

The night bus brought me back to Westminster at just gone 11pm, where I grabbed some food and headed straight for the office. I was happy to see it full and lively. Everybody associated with us was there, minus Gisela and Matthew Elliott, who were in Manchester, and Suzanne Evans, who arrived a little later on. I took my usual seat, next to Penny Mordaunt, whose phone charger I asked to borrow as I had killed my battery on the way keeping my eyes fixed on BBC News and the ‘Britain Elects’ Twitter feed (which has proved a life saver on the night of major political events).

Everybody sat facing the three large televisions as results continued to leak through. Then, something extraordinary happened: Sunderland declared. Before arriving at the office, the Newcastle result had come through, and we had lost there, but by a shockingly small margin, which had given me real hope. Sunderland, though, had opted to leave the European Union. Enormous cheers thundered around the seventh floor of Westminster Tower, perhaps slightly prematurely.

This particular result had suggested two things: that our polling was accurate and that the rural Labour vote had turned out for Leave. At around half past 12 in the morning, the champagne glasses were out. We were very confident. I don’t usually drink, or particularly like, champagne, but Tom Harwood (a friend and leader of the Leave student component) was already on it and sitting the other side of me so I thought: ‘fuck it, why not?’

The good news kept coming. BBC, Sky and ITV pundits, one by one, began to call the referendum in our favour. Every time a major seat (such as, for instance, Cardiff) announced its result we’d sit in collective silence and anticipation. It was almost like we were watching a Cup Final penalty shootout. Though of course this was much, much bigger.

Then, at around 2pm, every major media organisation had officially called a Leave victory. I don’t recall ever feeling such impassioned and joyful relief in my entire life. We knew at this point that it was only a waiting game. Our messages had hit the country and our voters had turned out in droves. The office environment became more relaxed and those present began to discuss anecdotes and memories of the campaign. Things could still go wrong, but nothing could wipe the smiles off of our faces. We were within touching distance.

I began to guess what the confirmed result would be. My friend and Vote Leave Research Director Oliver Lewis had told me some weeks before that he suspected 52-48 in our favour, though his then-fiancé later informed me that at home he was not quite so confident. We discussed morale and the result a lot, and I took his thoughts seriously because he’s an extremely smart guy. One thing I knew was that it would not be a demolition job; the scale of the issue was far too big for an annhiliation either way.

As I think back now, I realise how quickly the time went that morning. 2pm, 3pm and 4pm all now seem like a blur. They seemed to congeal together in a haze of shock and glee. A part of me wishes I could go back and re-live those early hours. They were undoubtedly the most jubilant in my lifetime. I had personally devoted three months of twelve-hour shifts, amassing four days off, and many hundreds of miles travelling around the country beforehand in order to participate in localised activism.

But pass those hours did, and at 4pm, the result of the referendum was announced. I managed at this point to do something I had never done before: I cried genuine tears of joy. My head sank into my hands and I sobbed uncontrollably. I had, at one point, three female colleagues hovering around me, offering me hugs and kind words of congratulations. It certainly wasn’t my most masculine moment. But it was my happiest.

I weaved in and around the office, thanking every colleague I could hug, many of them multiple times. I regret the pictures of me from that day hugely; I had not washed or slept for almost two days and my hair was greasier than a large Doner, not that I had an ounce of care. Darren Grimes, who I had come to know reasonably well during the campaign, returned to the office from a television appearance he had made and joined the celebrations. Shockingly, he seemed to be able to hold it together better than I had.

Then Suzanne Evans made an appearance, which pleased me greatly as I had grown to like her as a person and thought of her as a great tower of strength and reliability throughout the referendum (I wish her well in her battle with cancer). We spoke about a number of things for a good twenty minutes and she offered me a little advice ahead of a potential career in politics. ‘Do something else before you hold office’, she told me. ‘You’ll be more respected that way’. I suspect she is correct.

Minutes later, emotions bubbled to the surface once more as a couple of very heartfelt speeches were made, first by Dan Hannan (who unfollowed me on Twitter the next day), and then, more importantly, by Dominic Cummings, who had directed the campaign beautifully. I have a good video of the post-result speech that Dom made, but have sought to keep it private as I believe he would prefer that. Indeed, many of these memories are extremely powerful and private.

But the morning wasn’t crowned off until I left the office, starving and exhausted, at around 6am. I had planned to stick around until McDonalds had begun serving breakfast, as there is no better way to spend a morning than with a double sausage and egg Mcmuffin in your mouth. I left McDonalds with two (‘you deserve it, I told myself’) and walked back to Albert Embankment, taking a seat on one of the benches next to the Thames.

I watched as the sun rose gloriously, and appropriately, over the Palace of Westminster. All was well.

 

 

 

 

 


Confession: I think the EU referendum was a mistake

I now think that holding a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union was a mistake. I have, I fear, reached this conclusion far too slowly.

I suspect it was the glamour of it all; the honour of working at the heart of a history-making political campaign that clouded my judgement.

I was in the midst of it all a 20-year old that had been given a fantastic first job I was arguably too immature for. That is not to say that it wasn’t anything other than a modest role, but to me it meant the world.

This, combined with occasional television appearances after the result, got to my head a little too much. I should have realised sooner that simply taking part in the referendum would not be enough.

It is a matter of head versus heart. The heart looks back with fondness at the privilege of campaigning and the many friends and contacts made.

But the head is nagging me about our constitutional difficulties, ambiguous Brexit options and unstable, incompetent leadership during such a sensitive period.

I always try my utmost to allow my head to win these battles. And so in this case I must concede that referendums are not the way to exercise ground-breaking political reform.

It has been quietly obvious for a while now that the real winner of the referendum was in fact David Cameron, who was able to use the result to slip out of government in time and avoid the mess we are now in.

He and his advisors probably saw all of this coming. I predicted as the results were coming through on June 23rd that he would step down as Prime Minister, but, rather naively, did not foresee the obstacles that acting on the result has since faced.

The main problem with last year’s plebiscite was that it did not provide clarity for those like Richard North who supported both Brexit and membership of the single market.

I wish I had taken notice of researchers like him (and indeed his blog eureferendum.com) much earlier than I did. He and his son Pete, bizarrely inept at social interaction, have yielded answers to complex questions for longer than our media has been able to keep up.

Referenda are binary, usually offered to appease the electorate and are and deliberately oversimplified. The options given lack nuance, ensuring they provide exactly the fertile soil for disruption and chaos. This is why governments tend to support the status quo option. 

Our EU referendum created the inevitable problem that, in the event of a Leave vote, which became predictable weeks before polling day, ambiguity over what kind of Brexit its voters would prefer caused poisonous hostility. 

Now, a simple way of getting round this would have been to alter ballots in New Zealand-style fashion and ask those voting for Brexit a second question: “Do you think the UK should remain a member of the single market?”

Of course, we know what the answer would be if folk were well-informed. Since immigration was the largest single issue aroused by our camp, most would have opted for a single market exit too.

But that is not the point. My point is that a referendum over such a huge issue created a mandate for a policy without a policy. We were left directionless in an uphill battle.

And what made it worse was the fact that we had a government responsible for addressing the policy that did not agree with its premise in the first place. 

Despite being an exercise in direct democracy, our referendum exposed a sharp disconnect between public opinion and the preferences of those in the Westminster bubble. 

Referenda are, as I now appreciate more fully, renowned moreso for the constitutional upheaval they generate. Crimea in 2014 is perhaps a more extreme example. 

Since signalling for EU departure is the most profound democratic decision made by the British electorate arguably in history, it is no surprise that our politicians can barely organise themselves to adhere to it. 

In hindsight, a much more durable alternative to a national poll would have been a clear manifesto commitment, from either of the two major parties, to leaving.

Both Labour and the Tories have more than their fair share of voters wanting out, and any party claiming to be government material must be able to embrace the possibilities that come with legislative repatriation.

Yes, upon election, there would still have been the grave difficulties of negotiation, but at least direction and mandates would be more clearly established.

The only reason why neither party dared to do this was because they were (and still largely are) afflicted by the lingering Blairism that for so long prevented them from carrying out policies supported by faithless voters.

David Cameron certainly wouldn’t accept such an inclusion in a Tory manifesto. He is as supportive of the European project as they come.

A mutual friend of Dan Hannan and I, and notable Flexcit supporter, once told me that during his years at university, Mr Cameron donned prized cufflinks sporting the EU flag.

And the party’s current stock of leadership contenders aren’t much different, I might add. A referendum may therefore seem like an escape from this problem, but in reality caused many new ones of its own.

Had there been no referendum, significant pressure from Tory party members would have spurned their politicians into action, I am sure of it. 

I sometimes wonder what the European Commission and fellow member states think of all this. They cannot possibly consider Mrs May to be tough negotiating material.

She made far too humiliating a mess of last week’s General Election to be considered so, and only remains in Number 10 thanks to a cynical, gentleman’s agreement from the DUP (who themselves favour what we call ‘soft’ Brexit).

I must also point out here that in no way do I regret my vote or campaigning last year. I am as fervent a supporter of our secession as one can be. I just think that our means of securing that exit were profoundly flawed.

And since elections are now heavily influenced by last year’s result, as was expected given how divided we are, it may as well have been a party decision to take us out after all.

 


Theresa May has been exposed as a political fraud once and for all

At last, Theresa May has been exposed as the ineffective, political fraud that she is. Quite a shame it is, though, that in order for the public to realise it, the country must sit and suffer through a minority government doomed to failure whether it is supported by the DUP or not. I doubt it will make it through the Brexit negotiations, or perhaps even to 2018.

One of the major reasons why I couldn’t bring myself to vote in this election was Mrs May herself. Aside from her woeful track record as Home Secretary, in which she clamped down on valuable freedoms, ravaged police budgets and botched spectacularly her efforts to get immigration under control, this election has exposed clearly her inability to lead.

Her advisers, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, have rightly taken some of the criticism, but the buck will fall with the Prime Minister. And so it should. This Tory campaign was one of the worst in history. So bad, in fact, that it let an IRA-sympathising Marxist come close to Number 10. Let that sink in for just a moment.

There are many reasons why May’s campaign backfired so dramatically. One factor was a Lynton Crosby decision to make it all about their leader. It was Team Theresa, in which every vote for her strengthened her bargaining power in negotiations with the European Union.

Campaign strategy was personalised in this way in order to frame political debate in terms of the ‘strong and stable’ (ha) May and her opponent, the hapless, scruffy Jeremy Corbyn, knee-deep in attacks from his own parliamentary party and likely to require some sort of coalition in order to get into government.

It was a strategy that pitted the strong against the weak, the stable against the chaotic, and it made sense when coupled with early, convincing polling leads of up to 21 points. But there soon developed a problem. Mrs May is a very wooden and uninspiring performer, especially when put under pressure by opponents and journalists.

There were countless times during the campaign in which she blatantly avoided simple questions, and thanks largely to horrid gaffes from senior Labour figures like Diane Abbott, she was allowed to get away with them more or less unscathed. Perhaps this was the real reason she didn’t take part in either leader’s debate, forgettable and nauseatingly stage-managed as they are.

The Prime Minister knew that she would not perform at all credibly. But, regardless of the motive not to show up, there was revealed a fetid hypocrisy. Any strong and stable leader would appear at political contests of this kind to defend his or her party interests. May’s back peddling revealed fatal flaws in the Tory campaign message. It was here that things really started to unravel.

Compounding upon her oratory weaknesses was her profound lack of direction. Mrs May, ironically compared with Margaret Thatcher as her Prime Ministerial tenure began, got herself caught up in sticky, unnecessary U-turns both before and during the election.

We were told that there would be no snap General Election. We were then told that the National Insurance contributions of self-employed workers would not be raised. Then there was the debacle with social care, which was soon climbed down from for fear of alienating that vital pensioner vote.

I am sure the government is in far too weak a position to even consider pursuing it now anyway. By the time the policy is revisited, it is quite possible that Mrs May will be sitting on her couch in Maidenhead, relieved of her duties and wondering why she ever bothered to call an impromptu election in the first place.

Then came the manifesto; one of the most vacuous in modern history. In many ways it was similar to Ed Miliband’s in how lacklustre and minimal it was. It didn’t feel conservative, it felt rushed and lacking in adequate preparation. This may have been because Tory party advisers were expecting a comfortable majority whatever was written.

The Labour Party manifesto, on the other hand, was very impressive. And I am not saying that I agreed with its policy proposals. I have, for instance, spoken out against plans to scrap tuition fees and maintain that zero hours contracts have uses for a range of different people.

Labour’s manifesto was substantially more radical and included policies which retain popular support across much of the country, including amongst Tory voters. A good example of this would be renationalisation of the railways, which a recent YouGov poll (May 17th) revealed majority cross-party support for.

The latter years of the neoliberal period have been defined predominantly by financial collapse. The crash in 2008 sparked a new wave of deep mistrust of markets, but no party prior to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour had managed to tap into that sentiment.

In this regard, I think the decision (accidental or otherwise) to leak a portion of the Labour manifesto in advance of the other parties was a wise one. Much like with Vote Leave’s use of the £350m figure during last year’s referendum, wide condemnation of Mr Corbyn’s Left-wing policies in the media backfired.

Finally, where May’s Tories spent time fire fighting with its core vote over plans to reform social care funding, the Labour Party managed to arouse younger voters and incentivise one of the surprise turnouts in recent electoral history. The great generational voting divide has opened up once more.

This blog post has been abnormally complimentary about Labour, and this is because I think they deserve great credit. I do, though, put their tally of 262 seats down mainly to Theresa May’s useless leadership and the influence of the Remain vote, seen most glaringly in pockets of London that remained blue for decades.

Labour’s radicalism was daring and paid off, but Kensington certainly didn’t become turn red in one dramatic election over plans to renationalise the National Grid. Moves towards a softer Brexit were undoubtedly made in these areas. Battersea, too, was a surprise gain for Corbyn and his team.

Despite picking up 43 percent of the vote share, Theresa May looks weaker than any Prime Minister in recent memory. There is no way she can stay in the long-term. Minority governments are rare precisely because they are a recipe for instability.

Even the Tories’ new partners, the Democratic Unionists, have differences of their own to iron out. Perhaps people will now start to realise what social conservatism really looks like.

And what really displeased me was how unreflective her speech was of the nation’s verdict on Friday morning. She had to save face, of course, but her podium address outside Number 10 Downing Street reeked of ignorance and arrogance. It is no wonder many of her Conservative colleagues now despise her.

 


A moment of reflection on the eve of Article 50 day

Excuse me if I afford myself a moment of quiet celebration, for tomorrow is the day that Britain triggers Article 50 and embarks upon a process of withdrawal from the European Union. It was important to pen a few words this evening as I am unavailable to do so tomorrow.

In truth, I can’t quite believe it is here. I was sure there would be yet more twists and turns before we cemented our desire to leave, be it ping-pong between our Houses or a snap General Election.

As I write, I am flooded by campaigning memories of 2016 that will be forever etched into my mind. It began just over a year ago, in early spring, with a trip down to Bournemouth with their regional Vote Leave team to take part in a day’s leafleting and street stalls.

I decided to travel (from Kent) partly because I don’t leave London enough and partly because my National Express coachcard was becoming increasingly useless. Bournemouth is lovely, thriving town, too.

The day was fun. Since the referendum wasn’t in full swing, many were either unsure or appeared disinterested in how things would go, and this did not surprise me.

What I did find a little shocking, though, was the vast numbers of people expressing solidarity with our campaign. At that time, and like many others, I believed that Remain would win the referendum. I was about as sure of Leave victory as I was of the Tories gaining a majority at the 2015 General Election.

I am glad I chose to campaign with Vote Leave. Back then, my political acumen was weaker than it is today, but if I knew one thing it was that Nigel Farage and ‘GO’ would not be able to scoop up enough mainstream, middle class or swing support for an EU exit.

As I look back, I realise that I should have made more of activism. It was more enjoyable than I gave it credit for at the time, and I now miss it profoundly.

Standing at stalls in town centres, having elderly ladies coming up to me, thanking me for my support and spending hours expressing their desire for Britain to leave the European Union to me were conversations I now cherish.

I often got the impression that pensioners were particularly grateful for the youth who backed Brexit. They remember a time in which they lived in a country that controlled its own affairs; a country that did not wait for external approval before implementing policy; a country that could stand independently in the world without isolation.

But crucially, they were also lied to in the 1970s by Edward Heath, who insisted that despite immersing ourselves within the European Economic Community, there would be no loss of parliamentary sovereignty.

And sovereignty, above anything else, is the fundamental requirement for the sorts of people who favour Britain leaving the EU. It is understandable that so many feel so disillusioned and disenfranchised, given that over the past four decades, governance has increasingly drifted from the confines of Westminster to those of Brussels.

There is something inherently liberating about taking back control (to coin a legendary phrase) of important powers from the European parliament. Doing so increases democratic accountability, empowers local communities and the added responsibility burdened onto our politicians’ shoulders will tell us an awful lot more about the kinds of people who lead us.

So, tomorrow starts the alleged two-year period. I can almost guarantee that the endeavour of leaving will not take two years to complete. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will creep on some time after that. After all, the hurdles jumped between polling day and the triggering of Article 50 truly highlights the complexity of the task ahead.

I will breathe a short sigh of relief tomorrow at 12.30, when the UK officially commences the withdrawal process. I’ll be in Maidstone spending a few days with my older sister. I’m sure I’ll open a bottle of something in order to appropriately enjoy the occasion.

After the trials and tribulations of the last few months, the legal challenges and the calls for a second referendum (they mean third, but they don’t acknowledge the first as the result went their way, despite it also not being legally binding), Leave voters will soon sleep easy.

That is, of course, not to say that the period of negotiations ahead will be easy. I am still confident that the UK will snatch a satisfactory deal for itself, but from tomorrow onwards the pressure really kicks in.

I have no idea what to expect from negotiations, particularly as hundreds of civil service jobs are yet to be filled, but I do rather expect something like regaining control over our territorial waters to be an acid test for the kind of deal we reach.

I would also urge caution to those who claim that ‘no deal is better than our current deal’. I don’t think this is true. No deal would probably shatter the confidence of businesses and heighten the worries of EU nationals unsure of whether they will be able to stay in Britain or not.

But at least we are moving in the right direction. I will spend tomorrow thinking not just about Article 50, but about the tireless street campaigners and some of my brilliant former colleagues, many of whom are the real heroes of the referendum and will never know the credit that they deserve.

 

 

 

 


UKIP will not pose a threat in 2020, but this may be bad for British politics

I now think that UKIP will play no considerable role at the 2020 General Election (provided, of course, that there isn’t one sooner). My conclusion is partly informed by uninspiring quarrels between its senior figures and partly by the result of last year’s referendum, which now seems so far away I can scarcely believe how time has flown.

Notice that I use the word ‘uninspiring’. Of course, squabbles in political parties – despite the fact that they can open up debate – aren’t usually very helpful, but with UKIP, matters are made worse. The party was primarily a one-issue political force, acting as a battering ram and driving home an agenda that had been forgotten or deliberately ignored for far too long.

At present, UKIP lacks purpose and direction. Its primary goal has almost (barring a few late hiccups) been achieved and it must now attach itself to other issues worth pursuing. Indeed, Michael Heaver, Nigel Farage’s former spin doctor, thinks that proportional representation and House of Lords reform are two such issues that the party can use to maintain its foothold in British politics.

This is a false trail. These areas of policy are fringe issues not capable of rallying a significant portion of the electorate. UKIP’s divisions are therefore uninspiring because neither side is offering any credible path towards long-term relevance in the current political climate. Arron Banks, who funded UKIP at the last General Election, claims that Paul Nuttall is week, but the problem is in fact much deeper.

The party has reached its sell-by date, and as the party only ever truly planned for a referendum, it is unsurprising to me that it finds itself a little hollowed out and purposeless afterwards. This is itself causing internal doubt and frustration. Being the leader, Mr Nuttall will find himself in the crosshairs, but truth be told, even Nigel Farage would struggle to keep UKIP on the map.

I do not write this gleefully by any means. I have always been fair to UKIP and stood up for the party when under unjust attack. This is because I believe that its impact on British politics has been largely productive. Its success transcends electoral representative democracy and, perhaps ironically, was aided largely by its very inconvenience to the establishment parties and their pocketed media tycoons.

UKIP’s most profound influence on British politics was to apply serious pressure on the Conservative Party to be conservative; to stop supporting Britain’s ongoing membership of the European Union, to stop imposing on the country unprecedented levels of mass immigration, to strengthen and illuminate the national culture and character. These simple premises had long ago been abandoned by a party that knew that all it had to do was mirror Blairite values and – as the Labour Party was hollowed and left demoralised in the ensuing post-Blair years – it would guarantee electability for years to come.

The Conservative Party knew that it had become New Labour. How could anybody have missed the many glaring parallels between its leader, Mr Cameron, and his now infamous predecessor? The trouble was, so too did many of its members. Its most disgruntled supporters switched their allegiances and opted instead to seek refuge in a growing party that believed and said the things conservatives had been saying vainly for so long. It is no wonder that UKIP became a force in such a short period of time.

Nigel Farage shrewdly spotted a few years ago that if he could only (but correctly) associate mass immigration with EU membership, and raise awareness to a possible referendum, his and his party’s political legacy would be secure. Though what he still does not recognise, to his discredit, is how ineffective the Leave campaign would have been had UKIP been spearheading it during the country’s referendum period. Alas, it no longer matters. Our side won it, all that remains is for departure to be negotiated and executed.

But what of the future of UKIP? I would love for my prediction to fall flat. They have been a useful kick in the backside for the Tories down south and northern Labour who, shamefully, have resisted public opinion (even that of its own voter base) and insisted on fighting – rather than listening to, UKIP. In the run up to the triggering of Article 50, backsliding on Brexit was widely suspected. But come the inevitable collapse of UKIP, a party almost too combustible for its own good, more serious backsliding may be seen.

The Tories, knowing full well that much of conservatism is damage limitation, may not see a battle worth fighting, and we could well see them revert to their old, disingenuous ways, freed of the UKIP-led electoral pressure that so many took for granted.


Some thoughts on UKIP’s struggles, purpose and future

First, a little personal history about my involvement with the UK Independence Party:

I joined UKIP around the time of the 2015 General Election, knowing at the time very little about British politics but for the fact that the European Union wasn’t particularly democratic and that crucial powers had left the jurisdiction of Westminster for the jurisdiction of Brussels. Nigel Farage was primarily responsible for igniting my interest in Britain’s EU membership. My reasoning for joining was always to help pursue Brexit. I never really had all that much interest in the rest of the party’s manifesto. I left almost a year later, upon gaining employment with the Vote Leave campaign. To clarify, I was not asked to leave and did not feel compelled to, rather I chose to in order to focus on one campaigning avenue and set of messages.

Unlike most of UKIP’s detractors, I have actually been inside the party. This means that I know where faults lie (especially at local level) and I know where to draw the line between fair and unfair criticism. UKIP is not a party of racists and homophobes. In fact, it mostly comprises of former Labour and Tory voters, disillusioned with their former party’s messages around issues like EU membership and immigration. The oddity was that as UKIP drew more scorn from their rivals, they became more popular, as other parties began to reek of sneering, establishmentarian arrogance.

It took the main parties quite a long time to realise this, which has always surprised me. The Labour Party still makes the mistake of referring to UKIP’s message as the politics of hatred and division, despite its ongoing battle to overcome lingering internal anti-Semitism. The Conservatives, who had the most to lose from a strong Independence force, reacted a little more proactively, and ceased labelling UKIP figures and voters in uncomplimentary terms because they knew that it would backfire on them. What is even more interesting is the number of Tory youth members – of which I know many – who like UKIP and credit them for giving their party a kick up the backside across various policy areas.

It is correctly argued that UKIP does best as a radical party, but it is also worth remembering that the sheer scale of immigration for the past two decades, and the party’s ability to link it to a referendum, shaped their success. UKIP will still portray itself as a radical party, but it will not be aided in the same way going forward. Michael Heaver, Nigel Farage’s former spin doctor, believes that his party needs to get back on the offence and take the lead in policy proposals. He mentioned on the Daily Politics today that House of Lords reform or proportional representation could be areas of policy that UKIP may try to influence – but these things simply do not have the same value for them. They are not issues that unite or rally their voter base, and they are not big enough issues to attract very many swing voters. This is especially true of the country’s Remain supporters, who would sooner barbecue their own children than be pulled in by even a sentence of any UKIP manifesto.

The in-fighting quite clearly isn’t helping things either. UKIP squabbles aren’t new and they most certainly aren’t surprising. But, in previous years, hostile sections of the party could put their differences aside much more easily as they knew that on the horizon lay an issue not worth dividing over. Even Farage and Douglas Carswell, who I got to meet several times during the referendum campaign and rather liked, simply ignored one another in the weeks leading to polling day, knowing full well that it was better to enter battle united that it was to entertain pointless feuding.

For the record, I believe Douglas Carswell was a little petulant in not backing a proposed Nigel Farage knighthood. I think it was quite clear why he did it. Just as it became clear that his defection from the Tories softened UKIP’s jagged voice as the referendum debate was under way. For anybody who has not yet read it and is interested, my blog on the case for knighting Mr Farage can be read at the following link:

https://norgroveblog.com/2017/02/25/why-nigel-farage-deserves-a-knighthood/

I am therefore unsurprised to learn that Arron Banks, who I’ve often thought will prove to be more useful behind the scenes in political life, is preparing to challenge Mr Carswell for his seat in Clacton. I don’t believe the UKIP donor will win the seat – in fact, come the next election, I believe it is highly likely that the Conservative Party may reclaim it…even if Douglas Carswell does re-stand for election. Between the by-election of 2014 and the General Election a year later, the Tories gained seven and a half thousand votes, and with the Leave vote now under the country’s belt, it is entirely possible that this increase will continue in 2020 (provided that another election is not called sooner).

I will always defend UKIP from unwarranted attack, and I greatly appreciate their efforts in fighting for an ‘in/out’ referendum on the question of EU membership. It was at least sincere, unlike the false promises made by former party leaders over the years (Tony Blair in 2005, David Cameron on the Lisbon Treaty in 2009). But their time as a credible political force, radical or not, has come to end in Britain. The Conservatives will soon be able to sleep easily.


Why Nigel Farage deserves a knighthood

It is clear to me now why Nigel Farage gives much better political interviews than he does personal ones. Last night’s ‘Life Stories’ with Piers Morgan highlighted Mr Farage’s understandable hesitancy with regards to talking about his private life, despite the host’s repeated and reasonable attempts to extract the juice from him. For that reason, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I was going to.

The former UKIP leader teased the audience with mentions of his relatives and those in his personal life, but kept his guard up and refused to be drawn into lengthy, informative storytelling. Perhaps ironically, Farage was at his most emotive and engaging when asked about topics he explicitly did not wish to discuss (like accusations of racism). Mr Farage’s personal life and professional rise are extremely interesting, and I felt he should have expanded upon some of the more personal aspects to his interview. I invite readers at this blog to watch the hour-long show for themselves and let me know what they thought in the comments below.

Towards the end of the show, however, the question over his future was raised. I was reminded, as Morgan asked him about his future plans, by Thursday night’s Question Time discussion on the issue of a potential knighthood (on which I should add that I completely believe that a Farage knighthood was blocked by his public nemesis Douglas Carswell). It would seem to me entirely reasonable for Nigel to be knighted given his standing as this generation’s most impactful and important politician.

And yes, he is a politician, much as he may pretend not to be. His impression on Britain’s political climate outweighs even that of Tony Blair’s. Liberals on both sides of the spectrum utterly despise him, but he retains significant support amongst older voters and traditional English, patriotic conservatives (a bracket that includes many Labour voters, we often forget).

Mr Farage deserves a knighthood because he truly embodies what it means to be a difference maker. His legacy is far more profound than that of most world leaders. He exudes a determination not seen in other political figures and his role in directing the single biggest democratic decision taken by British people can’t be overstated. He sacrificed his reputation and time with his family for a single goal that, against all the odds, he is on the cusp of achieving. It is hard to name a politician more driven and more focused, and one who overachieved in such a manner. It is indeed what public service is really all about.

I have met him several times, always surrounded by others and never getting the opportunity to get to know him, and each time I bumped into him (which included two public meetings, a Leave rally in Bromley and an occasion where he came into Vote Leave HQ to speak with Dominic Cummings) I was astounded by his stamina. He’d give up his time to talk to just about any curious passerby if it meant furthering his dream of Britain leaving the European Union. It was really quite inspiring.

Of course, his opponents will look to his stance on immigration and apparent status as flag bearer for the alt-right as an argument against a knighthood. I think this is nonsense. Mr Farage opened up the immigration debate at a time when nobody else even dared to, which proved beneficial for the country and especially for the silent (as we now know) majority who were left sidelined by the establishment parties they thought they could trust.

Also, it does not make sense to politicise and categorise the requirement criteria for a knighthood in this way. In doing so, we allow only for a certain kind of person with a certain batch of views to be given knighthoods. If the honours system does not facilitate the inclusion of a man who did more for Brexit than just about anybody else, then what exactly is it for? Knighthoods must recognise achievement – they should not be the plaything of metropolitan liberals.

It is also true that Mr Farage should be awarded a knighthood and not a peerage. As we have already discussed at this blog, peerages have been devalued almost beyond grief. They are handed out like sweets to well-behaved children and tend to be awarded for the purpose of political posturing. Governments increasingly create Peers out of nothing simply to boost the chances of their legislation being approved by the Upper House.

A knighthood symbolises exceptional achievement, and nobody – not trendy, mainstream celebrities or campus Lefties – can argue that Mr Farage’s efforts in creating the conditions through with Britain voted to leave the European Union were not an exceptional achievement. He cleverly forged an unbreakable link between mass immigration, which frustrated many communities in the country, and membership of the EU. Had he not tied those two issues together, the UK would not be on the brink of triggering Article 50.

All the pieces are in place. Mr Farage meets the criteria for receipt, the arguments against are personal and petulant, and the honours system needs a figure of his magnitude to truly validate itself. Even The Queen, said to be herself a supporter of Brexit, would be up for it I’m sure.


Brexit: where the hell are we?

So much Brexit-related news has been whirring around in recent weeks that I’ve barely had the chance to take it all in, let alone write thoughtfully about it. Maybe this is a deliberate policy: confuse and mystify the population into lethargy so as to calm down the waves of anger which bubbled to the surface after last year’s referendum result. First we had the government’s initial and expected defeat at the Supreme Court concerning the extent to which parliament should be consulted before the Brexit process was fully underway. Then we had Theresa May’s outline in broad terms of what the government’s negotiating plan was upon the invoking of Article 50. I still think we shall miss the proposed deadline of March 31st.

Amongst all this we have a Labour Party trying to figure out what its policy will be on Britain’s access to the single market and a campaign of attrition being fought by senior Remain figures in an attempt to delay and frustrate the Brexit process. Earlier today, the government’s unsuccessful appeal in the Supreme Court was lauded by those who for 40 years simply ignored the diminished role of Westminster’s parliament as a victory for parliamentary sovereignty.

Their newfound insistence that parliament must be at the front and centre of decision making is a mere smokescreen; a fake designed to give off the impression that they are providing our EU withdrawal with ‘scrutiny’, while they conveniently ignore the fact that in 2015, parliament itself voted to sanction a national referendum, thus circumventing the decision and passing responsibility onto the electorate. Despite the constitutional problems we are currently weathering, the decision to hold a referendum was, I think, the best possible way to address the issue, given its magnitude and relevance to an increasing proportion of British public policy.

So here we are. Somewhere between a rock and a hard place, trying to figure out when and how best to orchestrate our way out of four decades of intricate political and economic integration. The distractions certainly aren’t helping anybody, but at least both the House of Commons and Peers look set to approve invoking Article 50, even if they can’t stand its implications. As for the public? Confusion and anger so effortlessly stirred up by the mass media have taken their toll on a country sitting in a uniquely perplexing situation. Nobody knows or understands anything; the perfect setting for a government about to embark upon a mission it doesn’t look remotely prepared for.

I am no exception. I have more holes in my knowledge than I would care to admit, and like almost everybody I am susceptible to falling into the traps of fake news and misleading information. Where and when I can I try to consult experts – who, I notice, are always politically independent and left depressingly adrift from the mainstream narrative – like Pete North, whose blog (which can be read here) has proved a useful tool for strengthening my understanding of the current political climate. Likewise, the ‘Independent Britain’ and ‘EUReferendum’ blogs are invaluable if facts, and not tribal spin, are your cup of tea.

For the last year I tried to be an independent and reliable source of information, but there were a few obstacles that prevented me from being so. I was, of course, closely attached to Vote Leave, and so owing to the PR industry’s stronghold on political discourse, I too frequently confused what made for effective campaigning with what represented either a credible plan for a British EU withdrawal or with what was undisputable fact. On top of this, I need time to delve more extensively into the subject matter at hand. I do not have any real expertise in areas like European law or trade, so remain committed to following only those who do. If only more ‘professional Brexiteers’ owned up to the glaring craters in their knowledge, the public might more aptly be able to distinguish between those who know their content and those who do not.

If playing a privileged part in an historic referendum taught me one thing, it is that researchers are indeed the experts, and not those who pose as authoritative figures whilst away from the cameras lacking any real grasp of their subject matter – and yes, I’m looking at you, Dan Hannan. I have deliberately avoided writing about the kind of Brexit I’d want for Britain so as not to flood the information swamp with yet more swampland. I cite the aforementioned websites as a gesture of gratitude more so than an inauguration into the infamous Flexcit club; a group of people unfairly demonised by fellow Leavers, including myself in the past, for not adequately prioritising issues like sovereignty and immigration. If only I and others had known that it wasn’t as simple as this.

I would much rather go away and find out about the ins and outs of leaving the single market before I begin bellowing into the winds about trade, controlling immigration, leaving the ECJ and what a Customs Union exit would mean for imports. I say this not to belittle myself (I pride myself on my ability to learn quickly), but to ensure that I don’t become part of the circus of ill-informed puppeteers dominating the Brexit agenda and spreading unhelpful fantasies. If I am not well informed on an issue or have nothing fresh to contribute, I will avoid it.

We need clarity. Clarity that wasn’t provided by the Prime Minister’s vague, recycled speech last week. By far the most worrying part of her speech came, rather ironically, in the section concerning certainty. It said:

“And when it comes to Parliament, there is one other way in which I would like to provide certainty. I can confirm today that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force.”[1]

It was at this point that the pound regained some of its lost value against major currencies. This is hardly surprising when one considers what it means for the process of leaving. Since common sense and the UK’s budgetary contributions to the European Union both suggest that EU leaders will try as hard as they can to make an example out of Britain so as to dissuade other member states (particularly France, as an election looms) from leaving, a deal reached by the UK and European Council is likely to be arched in favour of the latter, increasing the probability that parliament will vote to reject an agreement that the UK’s negotiating team come back with. Remember, May wants to take Britain out of the single market. This means that pursuing what is known as the EEA option (the blogs I provided links to above have great material on this theme) and thus arranging a simpler, more orderly exit is out of the question.

So when you read the following excerpt from the EU’s briefing on state withdrawal:

The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”[2]

…you begin to see why that particular paragraph in the government’s plan creates exactly the kind of complication and uncertainty that we do not need. In trying to provide clarity, the Prime Minister played right into the hands of the European Union’s negotiating team. As a time limit of two years sits firmly in place (an agreed extension seems unlikely with other pressing issues on the EU’s plate), Britain’s chances of making a success of withdrawal get ever slimmer. And only an idiot would believe that leaving with no deal would be better than our current relationship.

So where the hell are we with Brexit? Will we ever get what more than 17 million of us voted for? I’m starting to think that Peter Hitchens was right about this whole thing: we may be able to check out, but we may never leave.

 

Footnotes

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-governments-negotiating-objectives-for-exiting-the-eu-pm-speech

[2] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2016/577971/EPRS_BRI(2016)577971_EN.pdf

 


Why, if Britain is not taken out of the European Union, I will never vote again

I voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd because I thought it would inject patriotic and democratic life into a country sorely lacking both. It was a decision I had made over the course of a couple of years; one thought about extensively and certainly not taken for granted. It wasn’t, to the dismay of some of the more petulant Remain voters, a decision based upon xenophobic prejudices or the consumption of misinformation.

It was an honour to have worked for the Vote Leave campaign and something that I will never forget. To say that I played even a small part in a campaign which made history is immensely pleasing, but, weirdly enough, the post-referendum jubilation has been replaced by a few nagging fears, some of which I feel obliged to address.

On polling day, 17.4 million people opted for Britain to part ways with the European in the most substantial and important democratic exercise of a generation. The question now is not whether we desire an exit, but when and how it will be arranged. Towards the end of June, I became a member of the Conservative Party as I considered it to be, as of David Cameron’s resignation, the most effective buffer against the European Union.

I confess to being disappointed by the lack of urgency surrounding our departure, but I hold faith that the current administration are working on it and consider it to be a top priority. My personal suspicion is that Theresa May is waiting for the outcomes of the French and German presidential elections next year before invoking Article 50. It would seem to align perfectly from her perspective: a two year period resulting in Brexit, with a few months to go to prepare for the 2020 General Election.

From my own perspective? My nerves would probably prefer Article 50 to be triggered much sooner than that. I should also explain here and now that if Article 50 is not triggered in this parliament, I will not vote for the Conservatives at the next or indeed any forthcoming general election, and, by extension, if Britain is not pulled out of the European Union entirely (I am happy to entertain arguments advocating temporary EFTA membership, but would want a full retreat as quickly as is possible) then I will cease voting completely.

Why? Because it will have been cheapened and insulted beyond any reasonable repair. Because I will never again trust any government to act according to the wishes of the British people, and because my own determination and campaigning efforts leading up to the referendum will have been thrown in my face. To vote again after such a betrayal would be to re-legitimise a fraudulent process which in part was designed to allow politicians to manipulate us.

Voting is often wrongly portrayed as a crucial freedom in our society. Many cherish the opportunity to vote, but few actually bother to think about what it entails. In equal measure, the freedom not to vote is just as important. I have expressed before on this blog and for other publications my desire for Britain (and other western governments) to adopt democratic procedures based fundamentally around a system of sortition. I will return to this subject again very soon.

What has been rather astounding since the result of the referendum was announced on the 24th June has been the Westminster elite’s attitude towards both democracy and the concerns of ordinary British people. The Labour Party, in particular, has exposed this divide in more obvious ways than perhaps they would have liked. There is an element of snobbery amongst those who govern us. Many of those at the top in our society clearly think that we should not have been trusted with this decision, and that everything possible must be done to ensure that the British government overrules or ignores it.

If Britain is not withdrawn from the entirety of the European Union framework, electoral democracy will once again have been proved bogus. We will have been lied to by those elected by us to govern us. On a leaflet sent to more than 27 million households a few months ago, the government advised us to vote to remain a member of the EU, but, crucially, assured us that “they will implement our decision”, regardless of the result.

It couldn’t have been written in plainer English.

Yes, the political and economic consequences of leaving the European Union will be far-reaching, but this is no excuse for kicking the issue into the long grass. After a gruelling campaign and many months of claims and counter-claims, many British people (including myself) will at least feel at ease in the knowledge that their government listens to them and is willing, despite the dissatisfaction of many within the Metropolitan elite, to carry out their wishes.

So here we are, languishing on some kind of political precipice. I am worried, my family are worried and my fellow activists are worried. For now though, I have faith that the right thing will be done. I believe that Mrs May is genuine when she says that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and though I suspect she is worried and disappointed that ‘Remain’ was not the eventual referendum outcome, I am confident that she will respect the will of many in her party and the 17.4 million that made their voices heard on June 23rd.

But make no mistake, our democracy is suffering, and if the United Kingdom is not taken out of the European Union, I will never vote again.


Responding to post-referendum desperation from petulant ‘Remain’ voters

In case you weren’t aware, Britain voted to leave the European Union last week. Or at least I think it did. It’s been a tense, turbulent and tumultuous past few days, but to my great surprise, I’ve kept relatively sane. Immense jubilation was quickly clouded by threats and abuse, something I’ve written about extensively at the following link

https://norgroveblog.com/2016/06/26/a-few-reflections-on-an-historic-referendum-result/

for those who haven’t had a chance to read. I also decided to become a member of the Conservative party in recent days; a decision I explain here

https://norgroveblog.com/2016/06/24/why-ive-decided-to-join-the-tory-party/

if anybody is interested.

But it was yesterday that frustration really began to sink in. I spent Lord knows how many hours attempting to fend off attacks from especially bitter and petulant ‘remain’ voters. If their pathetic ‘march for Europe’ stunt in London yesterday didn’t appear desperate enough, the justifications for it offered by those taking part certainly did. I should stress that many have been respectful, kind to me personally and have even taken the time to congratulate and thank me for my sincere contribution to the EU referendum campaign. I thank those who have accepted defeat, moved on and been thoughtful and kind to me over social media and in person. Many, though, have not. Let us examine some of the more absurd arguments fronted by more desperate ‘remain’ voters over the last couple of days.

“We only had a few months to prepare!” 

A legitimate excuse that has now been tweeted to me directly at least three times. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the ‘leave’ side were aware of the referendum months before the ‘remain’ side were. Though this claim may technically be true, it applies to both sides of the referendum, so the playing field remains equal on this one. It is also worth noting that the ‘remain’ side had £500,000 spent on their cause in the form of a government website, £9.3 million spent on them through the delivering of state-sponsored leaflets advocating the pro-EU message and a two day extension on the voting registration date, a decision which tended to benefit young voters; voters more likely to vote to remain.

“Young people have been dragged out of the EU by old people!”

This claim is as dangerous as it is false. I’d have thought the British electorate better than to try to mould this referendum campaign into a generation war (again, not all, but a significant minority). But putting this aside, logic does not stand up to such an argument at all. Youth turnout is thought to be around 34%. An FT graph, which can be viewed here, reveals that turnout amongst 18-24 year-olds has remained consistently below the national average. It is telling that not even a referendum on EU membership could change that. It is also worth mentioning that many pensioners, particularly those with stark war memories, voted to remain a member of the European Union, and that many young campaigners such as myself opted for a ‘Leave’ vote. If young people feel betrayed, let this be a lesson to them for the future. If you want change, go and campaign and vote for it. If anybody reading can get beyond a small paywall, I’d recommend reading this piece in The Spectator from last week, written by Lara Prendergast.

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/brexit-political-awakening-young-people/

“Only 36% of the entire population voted for an exit – that’s not democracy!”

I was informed by a follower on Twitter that people had actually written this on signs at yesterday’s London protest. At first, I didn’t believe it, but soon found pictures that confirmed the rumours to be true. It is astonishing to see the lengths that some human beings will go just to look foolish on television. It’s difficult to point this out without condescending readers, but not every human being in a country can vote at a given time. Age, legal and health restraints render this an electoral impossibility, and that is without considering the huge numbers of people who forget or choose not to vote. Presumably, then, every previous referendum and general election must be re-run and rejected for failing to meet a 100% electoral turnout. That’s quite a lot of voting to get through, Remainers.

“The margin was tiny, let’s have another referendum!”

Does anybody actually have the energy for another referendum? I know I don’t. I am extremely proud of all who campaigned honestly and sincerely, and not just on my side…on both sides. Those calling for a second referendum are a danger not just to democracy, but also to the rule of law and a free society. Yes, the margin was tiny, but has that mattered with any previous plebiscite or election? I think not. Everybody expected the result to be close; polls indicated a tight margin, campaigners on both sides admitted there would be a tight margin, and voters wouldn’t have been surprised either. But should the size of the margin devalue the validity of the result? Absolutely not. We wouldn’t suggest such a thing if it were a football score or a lottery win, so why are so many of us doing it now? It’s nothing more than politics for children.

“The referendum wasn’t legally binding!”

Of course the referendum wasn’t legally binding, but can you imagine ‘remain’ voters using this argument if they had won the referendum? I suspect, in that case, they’d be arguing against all of the things they have been claiming over the past few days. It matters not if this or any referendum isn’t legally binding. A referendum result is a clear indication of the will of the British people, and parliament should abide by the wishes of the electorate that seated them all. In many ways, referendums aren’t even constitutional, but they are (crucially) an extension of democracy. Some issues are just too big for a political party to handle all by themselves, and a consultation of the electorate, with a simple ‘Remain or Leave’ question seemed to me to be a rather more healthy way of deciding our nation’s fate.

“The British people have been tricked by a campaign based on lies and racism!”

As a proud employee of the Vote Leave campaign, I take particular offence to this claim. Firstly, let us call out this argument for what it actually is: a blatant smokescreen. It is a smokescreen designed to demonise those who voted leave as being in some way racially prejudiced in order to forward a campaign to have a re-run of the entire thing. I urge my friends, followers and readers to reject this entirely.

The Vote Leave campaign quite sensibly outlined the problems caused by mass immigration that some British people faced, rightly warned against the ramifications of Turkish accession to the European Union and  were in no way affiliated with divisive rhetoric, posters and leaflets from Leave.EU or UKIP. It is important to make a distinction between the separate campaigns if we are to have a rational discussion about the nature of our EU referendum debate.

Many voters may feel (rightly) angered over controversial posters depicting the burden of refugees on the EU, but I urge those who are to target their blame and disappointment at those responsible, and not ‘Leave’ campaigners more generally. A ‘Leave’ vote was a vote for democracy and for the right of the United Kingdom to govern itself as a global, independent nation. We are, as I told the BBC on Tuesday evening, democrats, not xenophobes.

The United Kingdom has spoken, and its decision to leave the European Union must be respected by our political leaders. Any attempts to reject the vote, overrule it in parliament or kick the issue into the long grass would suggest to me that we are not the democracy that we claim to be.