A common refrain we've been hearing a lot over the past few days, from both sides of the debate, is this: "the British people have spoken, and their decision must be respected". And to that I have only one response: bollocks.
Let's start with the obvious. You cannot ask someone to make a decision based almost entirely on misinformation. But this is exactly what the leave campaign did, desperately shooing away anything remotely resembling a fact with a big broom. Egg-headed 'experts', with their thick-rimmed glasses and pocket calculators, were derided. "Trust your gut!" voters were implored. But as anyone who has eaten an egg sandwich from a motorway service station knows, the gut is a duplicitous organ, and it is not to be trusted.
Logic and reason were never going to hold back the charge of the Brexit brigade. But an opinion formed with no regard to available facts is not an opinion which can claim any legitimacy. We wouldn't respect the opinion of a man who fancied jumping off a building because he was tired of hearing so-called experts harping on about 'gravity' and Nigel Farage told him there's probably a net or something at the bottom to catch him anyway. If that man decided to drag us along with him in his little experiment, our objections would be slightly more forthcoming. So why is this any different?
The main counter argument is as inevitable as it is disingenuous. It doesn't matter WHY people voted to leave, say the small proportion of Brexiteers who are able to debate to a slightly higher standard than waving an England flag and kicking a mosque. The fact is a majority did, so that's that, case closed.
Democracy would certainly be simpler if everything was decided based on the political equivalent of a coin toss. But it would also be fucking terrifying. We'd probably still have capital punishment, for starters, and God knows what other progressive advancements we've made in the past fifty years would be swamped by a wave of retrograde prejudice. A majority vote is a good way for a group of children to choose which Toy Story film to watch - more complicated decisions generally call for a bit more nuance.
And there's a bigger problem here. Unlike in any other electoral decision we've ever been asked to make, we haven't actually voted FOR anything. We have voted against the EU, sure - but no one can tell us what that means in practical terms. It's a vote for a massive bloody question mark and we don't even know who's going to come up with the answer. If a politician stood on a platform of "I'm going to do some things, but I'm not quite sure what", they would not get many votes. This result is the opposite of democratic. It's a blank cheque handed to a bunch of charlatans.
And what charlatans they are. Their U-turns came at speeds which would impress Hollywood stunt drivers. We never said we'd lower immigration, Daniel Hannan MEP told an exasperated Evan Davis. What about the £350m a week for the NHS? Not fucking likely, declared IDS to Andrew Marr this morning. Vote Leave was only ever an ephemeral vessel, destined to drift apart as soon as the result came in. And as their ship gets sucked towards the maelstrom, they are desperate to chuck their rhetorical jetsam overboard, along with each other. None of them can be held to account.
Look at Boris Johnson on Friday morning. His was not the face of a man flushed with victory. Instead, it bore the grim expression of someone facing the possibility of climbing into a bed which its previous occupant had roundly shat in. Cameron may have set up the ultimate Bullingdon Club dare for his old pal, but even if Boris hits the eject button and sends his country flying straight up towards the spinning blades, he has no plan for the aftermath. Are we really to respect the outcome of this referendum when not even its loudest proponents truly wanted it?
"Typical lefty liberal Londoner," scoffs the aforementioned literate Brexiteer reading this blog. "You wouldn't be saying this if your side had won. And your web design skills are terrible". They are right, of course, on all counts. I wouldn't be complaining about the narrow result or the deceitful campaigning if remain had won. But that's because remain was the correct answer, and leave is the wrong answer.
We have been poisoned by the fallacy that all ideas have equal legitimacy, that every argument is automatically deserving of an equally weighted counter-argument. It's not true. The remain side was overwhelmingly supported by hard facts and solid, progressive ideals. The best leave could muster was demagoguery with occasional excursions into outright racism. These outcomes were not "equal but different". One was objectively better than the other, and that will only become more apparent as this whole mess continues to unravel.
There is no knowing what will happen in the coming weeks and months. The Article 50 doomsday button may never be pushed. But even if it's not, the damage has been done. The lie we liberals in our London bubble told ourselves - that England is a generally outward-looking, progressive country with a few bad eggs - has been viciously exposed. But I cannot accept the referendum result, because that is accepting that this new truth is inevitable. It doesn't have to be.
EXCLUSIVE - I have been forwarded this email sent from Nigel Farage to all UKIP local and EU election candidates. I have no way of verifying if it's genuine, however, being an online-only journalist I have absolutely no interest in doing so. The full text is below:
UKIP has never been more popular. A recent poll has put our party ahead of Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems, purely on the virtue that we aren't any of them. But if we want to be taken seriously, this will not be enough. Those of you who can read will have seen that UKIP has been taking a lot of flak in the press due to inappropriate remarks made by one or two or several hundred bad eggs. They need to stop before they ruin our electoral omelette.
We must be vigilant. The liberal media are conducting a vicious smear campaign against UKIP by taking things which our members have said and reproducing them verbatim. These underhanded tactics will fail if we take simple steps to ensure that our message is clear, whatever it is. This email should clarify the steps we need to take so the worst thing someone could say about us is, "I'm pretty sure UKIP are a bunch of racists, but I have no concrete proof".
Recently one of our candidates was bombarded by criticism for suggesting that ethnic entertainer Lenny Henry should "go and live in a black country." I think everyone can agree that if a man's contribution to our economy consists solely of feeble attempts to persuade people to sleep in cheap, uncomfortable, semen-soaked beds, it's time for that person to leave. The big mistake here is the vagueness of the "black country" remark. Left leaning Guardianistas protested that it's absurdly racist. Easily confused residents of the Black Country were rightly disquieted by the idea of a sudden influx of Lenny Henrys into Dudley. In short: this was unfortunate phrasing.
The trick here is to avoid ambiguity. Use the name of an actual country which is actually full of black people, like "Namibia" (in Africa) or "Jamaica" (in the African Sea). But even here you have to be careful. Don't make the mistake our colleague Godfrey Bloom made of citing the name of a country like "Bongo Bongo Land", which in spite of its legitimate sounding name does not actually exist. By nailing down the details we can avoid the accusations of baseless stereotyping which have dogged us for years. So, the official UKIP line on Lenny Henry is that we think he should go and live in Namibia, a country with a very high percentage of black people in it, because he is black. There's no ambiguity in that remark, and therefore no racism.
Now, Muslims. I am aware you may not like Muslims, coming over here with their odd hats and building mosques over your jobs or whatever you reckon they're up to. And by all means you are free to think that in private, although official UKIP policy is that thinking is strictly optional. But for God's sake, you can't say things like that in public - and yes, Twitter is public. If it helps, imagine that Twitter is your mouth, but on the internet instead of your face. If you absolutely must mention Muslims, please avoid citing any 'facts' about their faith because I sincerely doubt the ability of some of you to do basic research (to wit: Muslims do not worship Satan).
The biggest risk we run is saying something which Nick Griffin agrees with. This would be electoral poison. We need to disassociate ourselves from the ugly, election-losing lower class xenophobia represented by the BNP. Instead, we should embrace the more palatable, middle class sort of xenophobia which the Tories have successfully peddled for so many years. The British public have shown plenty of times that they're willing to vote for a right-wing party, but not one which sounds like it's reading a dodgy transcript of a Nuremberg rally with all the adjectives removed. We need to up our game.
There was a time when everyone thought of UKIP as a group of immigrant bashing yobs, gaping mouthed dullards, slogan spouting simpletons, closet racists, out-of-the-closet racists, fusty old men, frumpy old women, retrograde jingoists, cousin-fucking rubes and people who didn't understand the metric system. We have made so much progress in recent years, to the extent that some people no longer think this. And we just need to keep them convinced until the next election. So please, my dear friends and colleagues: please, I beg you, keep your stupid mouths shut.
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