People do like a bit of a fairy-tale. Hope sells well. We all drink diet coke thinking it won’t make us fat, we buy creams that will make us younger, toothpastes that will turn us American. It’s all pie in the sky, but we feel better doing it and why not?
When in the summer of 2015 Greek PM Tsipras and his merry band of bandits announced a referendum on the supposed acceptance of a non-available foreign language “offer” that was not even on the table, we all thought that the people would vote against him due to the sheer stupidity of the exercise. Yet more than 60% supported this debasing of democratic consultation. Why?
The reason Greeks voted OXI is that they wanted to believe a fairy-tale of resistance, hope, empowerment. On the night of the referendum they danced in the streets while the world thought they had just signed their death warrant. The NAI side had failed to project a positive message.
While I watched the snake oil peddlers of Leave yesterday on the ITV debate I became convinced they will prevail for the same reasons Tsipras prevailed in the Greferendum: they sell hope.
“Take back control” sounds appealing to a population bombarded with decades of EU demonising. The last person to successfully maintain a pro-Europe stance was Tony Blair, and we all know what people think of him. People don’t care about data or facts and would not believe the real ones anyway. People want to react to self-imposed austerity by blaming someone other than themselves (for voting-in the Tories, twice). They want to let off steam about immigration (rightly or wrongly). They want to stick it to the establishment which happens to support Remain.
And what about Remain? Why are they doing such a terrible job demolishing the Leave fantasy? I predicted this in September already. Most Remain supporters (yours truly included) don’t much like the EU. Remain cannot articulate a positive message because one is difficult to find. Yes, Europe has kept us from killing each other (within the EU boundaries) for a long time. Yes, even the “neoliberal” EU is less neoliberal than the Tories. But Europe has betrayed its values in the migration crisis, botched its response to the Eurozone crisis and is committed to both enlargement AND deepening that no one wants. The Eurozone can only survive via greater union and this has consequences on the wider EU.
I am voting Remain because I believe Brexit is bad for the nation, not because the EU is great. The economic argument is 100% against Leave. Restricting migration is the only possible benefit (for those who consider EU migration a problem – and I am not one of them), but at a great cost in terms of growth, wealth and jobs.
The “take back control” mantra is false. Britain will not get more power to do anything outside the EU. If anything, everything will become more challenging. Even Obama says so. The additional problem is who will be getting control. Do Leave supporters realise that they are handing the keys to the most reactionary parts of the British right? Hard core Tories seeking to privatize everything. The racist bigots of UKIP. Take control means the hard right taking over the Conservative Party.
Do Leave supporters really believe the Tories care about the NHS or that £350 trillion per minute (or whatever) is sent to the EU? No, but it does not matter. They are buying hope of something new, for the first time after the end of the Blair era. I was here in 1997 when Labour won. There was a sense of excitement about the land, Leave is offering people this. Pie in the sky it may be, but it will win.