Why Do We Put Up With This?

What use is a political debate conducted via politicians and journalists who do not know what they are talking about and do not report on what they do know?

The latest piece of legacy journalism to catch my eye is a blog post written by Isabel Hardman concerning the fractious relations between Vote Leave and Leave.EU.

Hanging her story on the increasingly tedious Monty Python trope—inferring that the disagreement between the two campaigns is akin to the bickering between The People’s Front of Judea and The Judean People’s Front—Ms Hardman does not attempt to explain why the two groups are at odds. Instead, she adopts a manner of weary disdain and dismisses the dispute as yet more petty squabbling.

For my part, I have no insight into the motivations of Banks, Wigmore, Elliott and Cummings, I can only report on what I observe. To that end, Ms Hardman’s piece does not tell us anything about the very real drama that is playing out right in front of our eyes, observed by the legacy press pack yet not reported on.

There is a fundamental point of principle at stake.

Taking a lead from my fellow Brexit bloggers, I thought that I was writing something (at least somewhat) revelatory when I put the pieces of the Vote Leave puzzle together into a single blog post. The post concluded with the assertion that (in its present form) Vote Leave is not campaigning for Brexit but for “associate membership” in a two-tier EU.

As it turns out, there is no scandal in this. Allister Heath’s latest column for The Daily Telegraph calls explicitly for the “leave” campaign to focus on securing a “vote to leave” as a means to prompt the European Commission to offer Britain a “looser relationship” modelled on the “associate membership” role first explicated by former Liberal Democrat MEP, Andrew Duff, in 2006.

During a recent Newsnight appearance, Conservative MP Steve Baker, to his (partial) credit, was open enough to say: “I don’t think [a merger] is possible and the reason is there are genuine disagreements about strategy and tactics”. Given that Vote Leave is not presently campaigning for the “leave” outcome (as the Electoral Commission requires) one must regard “disagreements about strategy and tactics” as a quite remarkable piece of understatement.

Hilariously, it was at this point, just as Mr Baker had identified the source of the disagreement, that Evan Davis ended the interview, with the words: “We don’t have time to go into those”. No, the interview time was taken up discussing trivial matters with very little relevance to the referendum debate. The last thing the BBC wants is to inform its viewers about a conflict over a point of principle, the biff-bam personality politics is what keeps them in control and able to frame the debate however they decide.

Somewhat hearteningly, the latest Leave.EU press release states that the current terms on which Vote Leave is campaigning: “rules Vote Leave out as the officially designated campaign since it is not campaigning to leave”. I suppose that the story is at least out there now that Leave.EU has said it.

Will any journalists bite? I doubt it.

That is the fun house mirror of Westminster politics. The politicians and the journalists control the narrative and you are not told what they know, you are told what they want to tell you. Personally, I’ve had it with the lot of them. When this is the way in which a country’s “political class” behaves towards its electors, I am inclined to say that fact alone is a good enough reason for voting to leave the EU.

Fortunately for all of us, the matter of Britain’s EU membership will not be settled by politicians or legacy journalists. In a referendum, the electorate does not vote for “representatives” to “lead” them; everybody speaks and votes for themselves. This is our chance to have our say, so whether you are pro- or anti-Brexit, let’s have the debate between us, the people who lend these scoundrels our power, and let’s do what is in our best interests not what is in theirs.

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