We must start to nail the big lie

As Boris Johnson apparently snakes his way to a General Election in which he will represent himself as the people’s champion, fulfilling their will in the face of Parliamentary treachery, we must confront the central lie of their campaign. For three years Brexiteers have been allowed to establish a massive shield of credibility around the claim that the result of the EU Referendum in 2016 is sacrosanct for all time – an incontrovertible and irrevocable expression of the will of the British people. They have done so simply by repeating at every possible opportunity that to call for a fresh referendum, or the revocation of Article 50, is an affront to the British voter, and a betrayal of democracy.

Of course, we Liberal Democrats know that at heart they don’t care at all about respecting the will of the people – if they did, they would welcome confirmation of it. We also know they are simply petrified that their ideological project, squeezed through on a false prospectus, really doesn’t reflect the majority view, and that it would fail any future examination.

The problem is, they have been able to establish this spurious authority because their reinforcement tactic has gone entirely unchallenged by those with a voice – journalists and politicians – whose job it should be to expose the falsehood at every turn. In three years of reading, listening and viewing, I have never seen the perpetrators confronted in a clear and hard-hitting way. As recently as Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show, Michael Gove’s deployment of the betrayal trope was allowed to slip past as a given.

For those in the political bubble, and I include Liberal Democrat insiders in this, it could be that calling out such nonsense sounds like a statement of the blindingly obvious. The tragedy will be if such a self-serving and tendentious argument becomes so embedded in the political discourse of Brexit that those outside in the wider world will never question it, even when it becomes the central pillar of Boris Johnson’s election campaign.

To this end, it is enormously important that our MPs and spokespeople begin a positive campaign to highlight the central dishonesty of the Brexiteers’ position. As the real nightmare of Brexit becomes clear, and more young people reach voting age, there are strong indications that the majority view has shifted away from the 2016 result. Why would a confirmatory referendum not reveal the true will of the people? What are the Leavers so afraid of? The real betrayal of democracy would be to stifle any fresh and relevant expression of the peoples’ will. We should not only confront the lie when it is repeated – the argument should be employed positively at every possible opportunity. If we are serious about remaining, the legitimacy of a future vote is central to the debate, and the hypocrisy at the heart of the Leave campaign must be exposed for all to hear.

* Brian Edmonds is a newly re-joined LibDem member, who currently lives in France.

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31 Comments

  • The lie HAS been nailed — the big and very urgent question is how to defeat the liar! I am sure Jo et al. are working furiously on this!

  • Michael Cole 2nd Sep '19 - 1:44pm

    Joseph Goebbals (and Dominic Cummings now) was very aware of the importance of control of the media and of the fact that if you repeated a lie often enough and for long enough, people would eventually believe it to be true.

    Brian, I fully agree that “…it is enormously important that our MPs and spokespeople begin a positive campaign to highlight the central dishonesty of the Brexiteers’ position.”

  • Graham Jeffs 2nd Sep '19 - 2:06pm

    Yes and let’s not be mealy-mouthed about it. Johnson’s strength is the electorate’s ignorance – are people in general enraged at what is going on? Do they ‘get’ it? Do they understand the ramifications? Brexit is now almost a sideshow compared to the authoritarian threat to parliamentary democracy. These people simply don’t care providing they get their own way at any cost. What’s next?

    Voting Conservative means losing parliamentary democracy and handing control of our lives to a right-wing group who won’t hesitate to do what is necessary to stop others from challenging them effectively.

  • John Peters 2nd Sep '19 - 2:14pm

    How prescient were those who called for a new vote the day after the referendum result.
    This Peoples Vote (more accurate perhaps to refer to it as a Losers Vote) is pointless. You have already said you will ignore the result.

    We have had our once in a life-time vote – the result was Leave.

  • Geoffrey Dron 2nd Sep '19 - 2:22pm

    Guess there’ll be a LibDem manifesto to read soon, so I can reach my decision on whether to join pdq.

    I can’t vote Tory or Labour, so I’ll vote LD anyway, though in Bolton NE I doubt it’ll matter.

  • Barry Lofty 2nd Sep '19 - 2:36pm

    The anti Europeans never missed a chance to decry the EU from the moment we joined and managed to disrupt our governments over many years, why should remainers give up on our support for belonging to the EU. It was a very narrow victory three years ago and it is the complete dismissal of this fact that has caused so much bad feeling!! Let’s hope for democracies sake that the last referendum was.nt”a once in a lifetime vote”

  • Anthony Acton 2nd Sep '19 - 3:03pm

    Just been to a safeguarding training morning at a local school. First up – the Prevent strategy. The first 2 “British Values” it promotes are respect for (1) Democracy and (2) the Rule of Law. Can someone tell me the name of the Safeguarding Lead at 10 Downing Street?

  • Perhaps it time to review and remind people of what Margaret Thatcher said back in 1975:
    “The choice is clear.
    We can play a role in developing Europe, or we can turn our backs on the Community.
    By turning our backs we would forfeit our right to influence what happens in the Community.
    But what happens in the Community will inevitably affect us.
    The European Community is a powerful group of nations.
    With Britain as a member, it is more powerful; without Britain it will still be powerful.
    We can play a leading role in Europe, but if that leadership is not forthcoming Europe will develop without Britain.
    Britain, if she denounced a treaty, cannot then complain if Europe develops in conflict with Britain’s interests.

    We can then look at her Bruges speech and understand that she telling the EU some home truths, in the desire to improve “the European Project”, not to threaten departure.

    What Farage, Boris/Cummings/Mogg et al and all the other Brexit fanatics have failed to do is to address what Thatcher said in 1975, because apart from the EC becoming the EU nothing has changed, the statement still holds. BoJo&Co. may go on about future trade deals with the EU, however, he has to forced to explain (which we know he can’t) how no deal Brexit with all the bad blood the Conservatives (&Farage) have stirred up will benefit the UK in it’s relationship with Europe…

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd Sep '19 - 3:20pm

    I think we should try and give our Prime Minister a more appropriate name.

    I suggest Porkpie Johnson

    This is in honour of his desire to export pork pies to the USA as the first priority of a new trade deal.

    If we all start using it, perhaps it will stick?

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd Sep '19 - 3:24pm

    Geoffrey Dron,

    Read the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. (just google Liberal Democrat constitution).

    That should tell you whether or not you should join

  • Phil Beesley 2nd Sep '19 - 3:36pm

    The people who matter at this time are 60+ Conservative MPs. They are bright enough to know that No Deal means a 10 year post-Brexit debate with the EU and other countries. They can perceive nonsense. And they are frightened.

    Some may have worked out, before today, that they are no longer welcome in their party; their party is no longer their own. And whatever they do, they aren’t going to be Conservative MPs for much longer; perhaps they survive as Conservatives in a different party from the one they remember.

    Appeal to their pride and dignity. Get them to vote for something in which they believe. Make them resent being bullied.

    Those Conservative MPs are the people who can beat Johnson and Cummings.

  • Paul Barker 2nd Sep '19 - 3:59pm

    We may be facing a General Election within Hours, it would be disastrous to Campaign on Labours Policy of ” Vote for us & we will give you another Vote in 9 Months”.
    Everyone is sick of Brexit, our Slogan should be – “Vote for us to Stop Brexit. ” We should make it clear that a LibDems led Government would Revoke Brexit & move on to the various Real Crises that we face, Number 1 being Climate Change/Mass Extinction.
    We should try to build a Cross-Party Alliance against Brexit & include Labour in that offer but time is very short.

  • @Geoffrey Dron I hope you will join. The broader the suite of opinion within the party, the better. That means accepted truths and shibboleths will be challenged more effectively, and if cound wanting, got rid of. It’s already very different from the one I joined – which is a good thing. Do not take the comments section of LDV as being representative of the party as a whole.

  • David Becket 2nd Sep '19 - 5:11pm

    @ Paul Barker
    Spot on. About 40% just want this stopped. No Deal will not stop it, years of negotiations.

    REVOKE 50 TAKE BACK CONTROL – GET REAL ISSUES SOLVED

    We should promise a written constitution, to stop the Johnsons of this world taking control.
    We include rules for referendums. We then, at some time in the future, could have a democratic managed referendum on the EU

  • @Lorenz0 – Yes Thatchers attitude did change, it is interesting rereading the various 30 year on articles analyzing her Bruges speech, where it is clear the bureaucrats were starting to follow their own agenda (more union rather than more market) and the other member nations weren’t keeping them in check. However, I suspect she would have remained in the tent and made full use of the UK position on the basis that the best way to change the EU is from within..

  • Peter Martin 2nd Sep '19 - 6:09pm

    @ Roland,

    “……..because apart from the EC becoming the EU nothing has changed”

    Then, the European Economic Community was a group of 9 relatively wealthy countries in western Europe. Now it is 28 countries, and 29 if you count the incorporation of East Germany into the unified Germany.

    We’ve since had the Treaties of Amsterdam, Lisbon, Maastricht, Nice, and the Single European Act.

    The EU and the EEC aren’t at all the same thing.

  • Geoffrey Dron 2nd Sep '19 - 7:26pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin/TCO

    I’m looking for the following in the LD manifesto:

    Revocation of A50 notice – only after a 2nd referendum

    Continued membership of EU – but a commitment to resist further steps towards federalism coupled with outright rejection of participation in EU military

    UK constitution – commitment to a constitutional convention to cover a raft of issues which have been well aired (English Question, AV, 2nd chamber etc., etc.)

    Defence – scrap underwater deterrent and look to alternatives by revisiting 2013 review, but otherwise reaffirm commitment to NATO

  • @Geoffrey Dron What is the point of a second referendum? LD policy as stated by JS is to hold one but if Leave wins, then ignore the result. Exactly like the first one, really so on second thoughts you should have no trouble with that.

    Resist federalism? Don’t you realise that federalism is, and always has been, the purpose of the Project? Just check the Treaty of Rome, and every speech by EU presidents since then.

    EU military – you are already too late on that one. The EU will not continue with NATO. They are on a collision course with Trump because they will not pay their fare share. They have a pig headed fixation about an EU army to match the EU anthem, EU foreign policy, EU currency and every other trapping of an EU state.

    Most of these ambitions fail or are in trouble because the missing pieces are a central treasury with powers of taxation, fiscal policy and sharing of debt. Macron is pledged to address these.

    You have as much chance of getting guarantees on these from an LD manifesto as you do from the EU itself, i.e. Nil. I confess to being astonished by your grasp of the realities of EU politics. It took me several minutes to find a nice way to express that.

  • Geoffrey Dron 2nd Sep '19 - 8:49pm

    @Peter

    2nd ref – JS has said she’ll accept a 2nd no vote while continuing to argue for resumed membership, which is probably a non-starter

    Resisting federalism – granted that there’s been a massive extension of qualified voting, serious extension of the federal project will require unanimity

    EU military – UK should play no part

    Yes, I can foresee problems because of LDs’ past approach to EU, but I’m looking for a change of attitude. JS needs to come up with a major policy announcement as to how she sees the future of the EU.

    BoJo’s election gambit could come adrift

    https://unherd.com/2019/09/how-it-could-all-go-wrong-for-boris/

    LDs aren’t going to get a clear, if any, majority and must accept that the tide in the UK is running against EU federalism.

    Actually, I suspect BoJo will win a small majority and UK will be out. So then it’ll be a case of how LDs approach possible re-entry in 5 years time.

  • Let me deal with your final point because it is our long term attitude towards the EU that really matters. The first point is that the UK has no intention to be part of an EU federal state. We are an island nation that maintained our independence throughout hundreds of years and many wars. We have no imperative to feel secure, either as a frequent recipient of violent occupation or as the perpetrator. These are understandable desires that motivate many of the countries of Europe to bind their destinies ever closer in the search for lasting peace.

    As time progresses, attitudes, concerns, and even imperatives begin to fade and in today’s world, the countries of Europe increasingly value political democracy, accountability the freedom to make decisions about their own affairs. They will find the opposite trend within the EU.

    At a more practical level, the common currency has been failing since its introduction because one exchange rate cannot satisfy a disparate range of counties without wealth distribution.

    To solve these problems, more integration and investment is essential. The UK will be compelled to join the single currency and fund the massive debt sharing required by Italy and Greece in order to keep the dead duck currency afloat.

    The future of the EU is clear. To survive, it must implement federalism against the instincts of its citizens. This contradiction will cause it to implode. I see no merit in being part of this failing project.

  • @Peter Martin – Given Thatcher carefully chose to use ‘Europe’ and ‘Community’ in her speech, ie. she did not assume EEC=Europe, what has changed? Yes the ‘Community’ is now a ‘Union’ of 28 countries rather than 9, but it was always going to ‘develop’ to embrace other European nations.

    Remember leaving the EU, particularly through a no deal Brexit, the UK is effectively turning its back on the european community and on the most successful liberal market/trade zone in the world – which came about largely because of Thatcher. It is notable Boris et al have said zero about the UK’s future relationship with Europe or the EU other than some guff about WTO terms which doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    So you need to do better; leave or remain, the EU27 will still have a major impact on the UK… Now do you want to be an influencer or a supplicant?

  • Peter Martin 3rd Sep '19 - 9:05am

    @Roland,

    It’s true that the EU27 will always have a major impact on the UK. One way of dealing with this is, as you suggest, to become an “influencer.” This will mean being full and committed members of the EU to the same extent as France and Germany. ie No Opt Outs, use the euro, be a part of Schengen etc.

    The other is to try to maintain as much independence as possible. As the other “Peter” correctly says, “to survive, it must implement federalism against the instincts of its citizens.”

    It’s a political non-starter. Certainly in the UK. Probably in the rest of the EU too. The Germans will never allow it. But, if they don’t, the EU will disintegrate. From a future historical perspective, all the kerfuffle about Brexit will likely be seen as the first part of the break-up.

  • Geoffrey Dron 3rd Sep '19 - 2:59pm

    There are a number of smaller lies which go to make up the compound of falsehood.

    The bexiteers’ lie over the RoI border is a good example – the tech isn’t there yet except in the imaginations of the major IT suppliers who rely on the willingness of dumbos like IDS to accept statements from that source which aren’t based on reality just because they seem to support their case

    https://www.computerweekly.com/blog/Computer-Weekly-Editors-Blog/Of-course-theres-technology-for-the-Irish-border-that-doesnt-mean-it-will-work

    We all know the history of public sector IT contracts

  • @Peter Martin – the EU will disintegrate.
    Well if we follow the absolutist logic of yourself and Peter, the disintegration of the EU will be something the Eu27 members will both be able to do nothing about and be unwilling to do anything about; I suggest this is false line of reasoning, but it is consistent with the lines of reasoning used by Brexiteers to justify jumping lemming like over the cliff…

    So what you are saying that the EU will in the coming years be changing into something that potentially looks nothing like the current incarnation of the EU – so once again we can leave “the EU” by remaining…

  • Brian Edmonds 3rd Sep '19 - 7:28pm

    Quite a lot of comment, though as is often the case, much of it drifting off the subject to the usual pet hobby-horses. Some did recognise the central point that Leavers are getting a free pass on having to justify why one vote, on a vastly complex issue, on a single day, should have a sacred validity which can never be challenged or amended.

    No other democratic decision has ever had such a status, in fact a cornerstone of democratic freedom is the principle that no vote, or indeed parliament, can bind a future one. Yet in order to bludgeon through their small-minded obsession, the likes of Rees-Mogg, Marc Francois and Johnson himself make exactly that claim.

    Referenda are an abomination in a representative democracy and the latest one has lavishly illustrated the shortcomings, most importantly the ease with which they can be hijacked for extreme ends. John Peters: a ‘once in a lifetime vote’ is not democracy – it looks much more like fascism.

  • Geoffrey Dron 3rd Sep '19 - 8:13pm

    Obviously BodgeJob et al aren’t really interested in the Good Friday Agreement or in NI

    https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/boris-johnson-has-treated-good-friday-agreement-in-careless-manner-says-lady-hermon-38463539.html

    Very soon the lies will be uncovered.

  • @Geoffrey Dron – I like Boris’s response “That is one of the reasons why the withdrawal agreement itself is in conflict with the GFA. As for the advice she mentioned, I have not seen any such advice.”

    So Boris & Co. have taken no legal advice, yet are able to categorically state the WA is in conflict with the GFA…

    Given the level of input in tonights emergency debate by Bone, Mogg we can expect more baseless baloney coming from the Conservative Brexiteers.

  • Geoffrey Dron 3rd Sep '19 - 9:16pm

    @Roland

    In fairness to BoJo, there is legal opinion to the effect that the backstop is in breach of the GFA

    https://lawyersforbritain.org/withdrawal-agreement-the-northern-irish-backstop-and-the-constitution-of-the-united-kingdom

    It’s also the case that Lords Trimble and Bew, both of whom had input to the GFA-process, are in agreement with that view. For what it’s worth, I tend to agree as well, but haven’t seen a counter argument.

    I think the advice which Lady H had mentioned was from CSO. I would be surprised if the Attorney General had not seen that advice and passed on its substance to BoJo. So yes, I think he’s lying, though when isn’t he?

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