I’ve been getting horrible déjà vu these last few weeks. The moment I’ve spent almost ten years of my life waiting for is upon me…and I can’t wait for the godforsaken thing to be over with. The last time I found myself balls deep in a debate as ugly and ridiculous in equal measure as this, a debate which managed to bring out the worst in almost all of us, was when the Equal Marriage Act was being discussed in Parliament.
Many of my friends and colleagues were so disgusted by some of the opinions and arguments expressed by their fellow Conservatives in that emotionally charged debate that they decided the party was no longer a place they felt comfortable. Amusingly, some went over to Ukip, only to leave shortly thereafter upon realising they had jumped from a relatively salubrious frying pan into the fires of Hades. Most simply left party politics altogether. Neither group returned.
My concern at this scandalous loss of talent, over the very same issue which led natural Thatcherites like David Laws to make a beeline for the Liberal Democrats, was one of the motivating factors in my co-founding Conservatives for Liberty in March 2013. So at least something positive to came out of it, other than the law itself, of course. This time it’s us rather than the MPs making the big decision, which if anything has made the discourse worse, but whatever the result I’ve managed to draw something from this too.
Just as the Equal Marriage Bill drew the bigots out from under their rocks, so the EU referendum campaign has emboldened the Left, the Europhiles, and our metropolitan elites in something they had previously been very careful to hide – their utter contempt for the working classes and of democracy itself. They all nailed their colours to the mast by not even wanting to give us this referendum, of course (well, except Nick Clegg momentarily), but I have been truly staggered by the brazenness with which these people, particularly on the Left, have argued against democracy on the basis it has a habit of throwing up results you don’t like.
Many of them, like Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, seem to have forgotten there is a general election booked for 2020. To her, Brexit is “a bid for a right-wing Tory takeover of the reins of power in the UK and to dismantle the hard-worn social gains of the last few decades.” This is revealing for a number of reasons, firstly because she correctly identifies the reins of power as residing in Brussels, but also because it demonstrates why the Left is so pro-EU these days – they see it as protecting legislation they either know or believe could never be passed by a national Parliament. Not for nothing did Roy Jenkins say in 1992 “Labour has converted to Europe because Europe has converted to socialism.”
But it gets worse. Two pro-Remain Conservatives managed to epitomise in the most patronising way possible another antidemocratic argument doing the rounds during this debate – namely that the proles should defer all decisions to their betters in the political class. Harriett Baldwin MP’s sage advice on Twitter was at least tempered with the language of someone vaguely aware her job will be on the line in four years, but Baroness Altman’s tweet on June 9 was staggering in its outward contempt for an electorate she herself has never had to bother for votes. Unsurprisingly she has since deleted this ill-advised outburst but of course, in Internet Land, nothing ever dies.
But back to our friends on the Left. The Canary, that oh-so on fleek leftie “news” site, thought former Channel Four economics editor Paul Mason “summed up left-wing fears over Brexit brilliantly” when he said that, actually, he’d rather like to leave the European Union – but he’s worried about what a post-Cameron Conservative Party might look like and doesn’t trust the electorate to hold them to account. “I am very unlikely to vote for Brexit”, Mason said, “because I do not want to hand power to a bunch of crazed right-wing Conservatives.” That any post-Cameron Tory Government would most likely continue the programme on which it was elected and create a ‘unity government’ with moderates and Remainers to patch up the divisions of the referendum campaign is probably not something he has considered, which is a shame for him, really.
Then pity poor, poor, Polly Toynbee. It must be a terrible burden to be a Tribune of the People when you have nothing but loathing for them and their uncouth working class ignorance. Imagine spending a week – a week, dammit! – trying to convince northern, working class, Labour voters “in crap jobs” why they should vote Remain when, “impervious to love letters from Der Spiegel,” “No fact, no persuader penetrates their certainty” that they will vote Leave. Unguided by Toynbee and her army of “eager young London graduates” and unshackled by Brussels’ break on democracy, she even suggests these childlike proles would turn to National Socialism in the event of Brexit. Give me strength.
I tired of this tedious and childish referendum debate some time ago, but one thing I never tire of is the Left making themselves look foolish, so at least it has provided some amusement – not to mention ammunition for the armoury. Janet Daley asked in The Spectator how the Remain campaign managed to get the British character so wrong. My question is, with people like these, what chance did they have?
UPDATE (1100, June 22)
With the polls coming down to wire, luvvies from the Remain campaign have made some last-minute interventions to berate “thick people” and “idiots” voting Leave. As reported by Guido, millionaire comedian and Labour supporter Robert Webb took to Twitter to scorn the “thick people” applauding Boris’s Brexit speech, before clarifying he meant they were “stupid.”
Not to be outdone, and just to make sure the polls go the right way, Guardian columnist and Bad Science celebrity scientist Ben Goldacre published his reasons for voting Remain with the words “It’s boring, there’s nothing awesome about it, but sometimes you have to take a break from useful productive work to stop idiots breaking things.” Keep it coming, lads.
Paul is Conservatives for Liberty’s creative director. Follow him on Twitter: @whiggery
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty