A Pox on the Patriarchy
On Newsnight last Friday I watched political journalist Jenni Russell telling Alastair Campbell, editor-at-large of this newspaper, to shut up. During a heated debate, Russell was trying to make the point that Remainers who continue to engage in predictions of economic doom and gloom have failed to learn the lessons of their defeat in the 2016 referendum.
”When I talk to people who say they voted Leave, they talk in completely different terms,” she said. “They talk about sovereignty, they talk about community, they talk about independence.” Campbell kept interrupting to tell Russell she was talking “nonsense” and painting a caricature.
She wasn’t. Russell was absolutely right. Remain lost because it spoke the language of economists and politicians. It didn’t speak to or about people. And it still isn’t.
By contrast, the dishonest populists leading the Leave campaign seemed instinctively to understand that this referendum was never about facts and economic downturns and the World Bank’s dire warnings. It was about values. It was about how people felt. It was about good old Nigel, with his surgically attached pint, giving us the old wink and nudge about salt-of-the-earth Brits sticking one to Johnny Foreigner.
Endless headlines about plunging GDP never stood a chance here. Fact-checking the wilder claims of the Leave camp was, and is, not enough. Technical explanations about how the far-away European council, parliament and commission work in a perfectly democratic way (god, you’re such a thicky-thicko implied, if not vocalised) are no bulwark against the invocation of three lions on a shirt and taking back control.
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