13 December 2019

Will Remainers finally admit defeat on Brexit?


Spare a thought today for Hugh Grant.  Having got involved in the election campaign by urging us to vote to stop Brexit – along with former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Major, as well as assorted celebrities such as Steve Coogan and Eddie Izzard – he will have now woken up to the realisation that his side has lost.

Hugh and co have not just lost in the sense that many of those they wanted us to vote for did not win their seats.  Nor has has his side lost simply because Boris won a massive landslide, the largest Conservative win since 1987.

No. What all these assorted Remainers have haemorrhaged is credibility.

It has taken us three votes to get here – June 2016’s referendum vote, the 2017 General Election and now Thursday’s vote. But surely even the most self-referential celeb will see that those who advocate leaving the European Union have won.  We are leaving.  On January 31st we are out.  It’s over.

There have been a number of occasions over the past three years when – despite Vote Leave getting a million strong majority – the question seemed anything but settled.

In the immediate aftermath of the referendum result many Remainers attempted to delegitimise the result.  It was, insisted certain journalists, Russian interference that explained why Vote Leave won.  In a desperate effort to find facts to fit this narrative, perfectly innocent thinktanks and business people were smeared.

Millions of voters who merely wanted Britain to become a self-governing democracy once again were, it was endlessly implied, extremist xenophobes.  “Hate crime”, we were told, had increased.  In one infamous incident, graffiti daubed on a Polish community centre in west London was, journalists told us, evidence of a nativist backlash.  Only later – and unreported – did it emerge that it was nothing of the kind – the painted slogan urged support for a Polish political party.

So determined have our intellectual and cultural elites been to discredit the decision to leave the EU that any sort of ‘facts’ – even invented ones – have been pressed into supporting an entirely fictional narrative.

Rather than attempt to understand the ideas that animate eurosceptics, Remainers have often chosen to present them as cartoon baddies. Perhaps its because they are fed up of being treated this way that millions of voters swung behind Boris.

Rich Remainers hired top lawyers to fight against Brexit in the courts.  Supreme Court judges, like the Speaker of the House of Commons, it seemed to me, were only too happy to find all manner of constitutional innovation to try to stop the referendum result being enacted.

Remainers might have won tactical procedural victories. In the court of public opinion they have been hammered.

Surely now, after Remain parties suffered such a catastrophic defeat, even the most dim-witted Remainer must be starting to wonder if all this is the way to win over the public?

It’s not just Remain campaigners that should be doing a little soul-searching.  The broadcast media had a terrible election and ought to ask itself some important questions about the coverage of the election and Brexit.

During perhaps the most important election in a generation TV broadcasters largely failed to facilitate much in the way of any meaningful debate.  ITV ran a televised squabble, the presenter cutting off Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson in turn before either could develop much of an argument.  Channel 4 managed to do something their producer no doubt thought was frightfully clever with an ice sculpture.

Somehow the television channels managed to make television coverage the story.  Events that turned out not to matter a jot – such as Boris Johnson being presented with iPhone images of a child in a hospital – were presented as being crucially important.  Robert Peston want so far as to claim that this incident was ‘one of the two big blunders’ that the election will be remembered for.

Really? I think this election might be remembered for a number of other things.

Perhaps viewers might have been better informed if Peston and co had spent more of their time trying to explain why millions of working-class voters in traditional Labour areas were poised to vote for an Old Etonian.

The failure of television journalism during the election is an extension of the mediums wider failure to look at the world from beyond the perspective of the London media bubble.

Only after the June 2016 result did broadcast journalists begin to ask the kinds of questions about Brexit that they ought to have posed in the run up to the referendum.  They then persisted to question the viability of Brexit months after voters had given their answer.  So much so, in fact, that they have given millions of viewers the impression that they too are on the side of ex-Prime Ministers and assorted celebrity Remainers.

Perhaps in the wake of Boris Johnson’s emphatic win, broadcasters might stop giving airtime and faux legitimacy to the Remain campaign.  And they might actually start to discuss what an independent Britain might mean.

Hopefully Boris’ win means we will no longer have to listen to celebrity Remainers and ex-Prime Ministers at all.

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Douglas Carswell was an MP and co-founded Vote Leave. He runs the Centre for Economic Education