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Tuesday, July 05, 2016 

The monster always ends up killing its creator.

You can practically stop reading Rafael Behr's account of how Remain lost the referendum at the part where you learn Stronger In's head of strategy was Ryan Coetzee, aka the Lib Dems' 2015 campaign manager.  For those who have forgotten, the wizard wheeze of the Lib Dems last year was to equally protect us from the austerity monomaniacs of the Tories and the spendthrift ways of Labour.  Coetzee and Clegg decided 2015 was the time to tack to the centre at the precise moment as the centrist consensus was breaking down.  It won them 8 seats.

Not that they were the only ones.  David Cameron and George Osborne it seems were convinced their election campaign and manifesto were also of the centre.  They weren't.   The Tory manifesto was the most right-wing in a generation.  The Tory campaign, as well as predicated on making Ed Miliband out to be weak, was based around portraying Labour as a soft touch on immigrants, benefits, the deficit and so on.  Labour was trapped (and still is) as no one believed the "controls on immigration" ploy and it outraged its core metropolitan support.  As argued here passim ad nauseum, the Tory dedication to soaking the boomers while letting Labour have the youth vote worked because their sympathisers vote in blocs and are much more likely to turn out.  All the factors that were in their favour at a general election were against them in the referendum.

Indeed, essentially it was the Tories' tactics against Labour at the election that came back and did for our membership of the EU.  That mild-mannered weirdo Ed Miliband would happily stab the country in the back if it meant power, said Michael Fallon.  Labour would consign the recovery George Osborne's policies had delayed to oblivion.  Labour's incredibly mild manifesto was dangerous radicalism.  Had we ended up with another hung parliament rather than a small Tory majority, it's extremely unlikely a referendum would have been called.

No one on the remain side it seems looked at how the Tories won and saw the warning signs.  Hubris, arrogance, stupidity, and the same old reliance on focus groups and modelling blinded them to what some of us saw: that Britain has become a nastier, ever more divided and atomised nation, where anger and hate have started counting for more than muddling through.  The Tories rode the tiger without realising they wouldn't be able to control it forever, blasé about how they were bringing politics ever closer to the gutter.  Just two months ago they were describing the campaign against Sadiq Khan as just the rough and tumble of politics, happy to poison the well, as they knew Zac Goldsmith had no chance of winning.

They somehow didn't imagine those same tactics of mendacity and character assassination coupled with fanatical levels of bias from the right-wing press would end up being used against them.  Or at least, this is if we're to believe Behr's account.  Could the entire Remain campaign have been been so naive, so unprepared for what was always going to be an incredibly dirty and nasty few months of political infighting?  Or is Behr's article an attempt after the fact by the Remainers to excuse their lamentable failure, only one executed so cackhandedly that it makes them all seem like complete fools?

Because it is as the Rodent says unintentionally hilarious, such is the level of apparent disbelief that it could have turned out this way.  Best of all is the complaint from a "Cameron aide" that if someone on the left had rubbished the Bank of England as corrupt and part of the biased establishment, they would have been flayed alive by the BBC.  As they would have been.  Leave however got away with it barely being questioned.  Proving what?  That the BBC should call out bullshit regardless of its source?  Let's not get carried away here, right?

This is the real story of the Leave win: that every ploy of the media managers, spin doctors and ad agencies was turned against the previous winners and users, either Labour or Conservative, in the aid of a cause that none of those in charge of the Leave campaign truly, unequivocally believed in.  It's turned out to be the final victory of the art of political warfare over the substance.  The exact same people who previously lapped it up did so again, only rather than plump for one section of the political class over the other, they voted to screw those they were told were the establishment by the establishment.  And lo, did everyone get screwed.

The Leave vote wasn't then in any real sense a revolution, as Behr says, albeit a revolution where the Tory party continues to govern.  It was rather the logical conclusion of where politics as practised has been leading us for some time.  The post-truth, post-fact world talked of, the remarkable irony being that it has arrived at a time when it has never been easier to find objective takes on who is and isn't talking bollocks.  Most people just aren't interested enough, whatever they tell pollsters or focus groups.  What they do know is what's in the tabloids, on their Facebook timeline, on the TV, and talked about by friends and relatives.  It sure isn't politics of the kinder and gentler variety.  It's the politics of seething anger, spite, jealousy, xenophobia and often outright despair.  The referendum gave them a great big mug to pour all these grievances into.  We're meant to believe the very architects of this didn't see it coming.  The reality is the monster always ends up killing its creator.

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