WeeklyWorker

02.06.2016
Patronisin, cringin, embarrassin

Stop treating people like idiots

Paul Demarty surveys the latest output of ‘Project Fear’ - so you don’t have to

British politics is presently dominated by a question of enormous historical importance. To wit: how hard do you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel before the whole thing falls apart into splinters?

As June 23 approaches, so the people of Britain get closer to a key referendum that will decide whether David Cameron gets to continue as prime minister or else will be replaced in short order - most likely by the extravagantly-coiffed buffoon, Boris Johnson. Since honest political combat is entirely foreign to these two self-regarding posh boys, their titanic struggle is being conducted by proxy, through the question of Britain’s continued membership of the European Union (in reality, as we have repeatedly argued, not likely to actually be at risk).

The standard of debate between the two sides has so far been abysmal and, though we will focus today on the ‘remainers’, readers will remember well the stupidities of their opponents, from accusing Barack Obama of bitterness over the suppression of the Mau-Mau, to the promotion of the idea that 12 million Turks were about to descend on Britain, to the use of the epithet ‘Project Fear’ despite having nothing themselves to offer other than ... fear - of migrants, of Brussels bureaucrats, of German expansionism.

Safe as houses

The sheer obviousness of the Brexiteers’ degeneracy, however, does the ‘remainers’ favours they do not deserve. For the ‘in’ campaign is quite singular in its dishonesty, and sinks ever lower as the big day looms.

We should recall to comrades’ memories the circumstances of the ‘remain’ campaign’s birth. It exists, obviously, only because the referendum is taking place; and the referendum is taking place only because David Cameron and his allies were playing ‘clever’ games for short-term advantage a year or two ago, when the UK Independence Party was eating a little more dangerously into the Tory vote.

Cameron’s next great ruse was to go on a grand European tour and ‘renegotiate’ Britain’s terms of European membership, which was, of course, heralded as a great success for all concerned, despite absolutely nothing of substance being agreed at all. Showing how much stock even Cameron himself placed in that piece of theatre, the agreed terms - remember, this historic deal that would fundamentally alter the balance of power between Westminster and Brussels, etc - have been entirely absent in ‘remainer’ propaganda; no argument has been made, with any kind of prominence, that at all depends on the terms ‘negotiated’ by Cameron. The whole escapade served no greater purpose than to fill the bellies of Cameron and his entourage of flunkies at diplomatic luncheons from Dublin to Bucharest - and, naturally, to dominate news headlines for all of a week, which seems to be as far ahead as Cameron is physically capable of thinking.

Instead of the glories of Cameron’s amazing new settlement, we have had a solid diet of fear-mongering (the fact that the Brexiteers’ complaint is hypocritical does not make it untrue). Having wheeled out everyone from Christine Lagarde to Barack Obama and the pope, George Osborne last week decided to ‘go nuclear’, and threaten the home counties with an 18% drop in house prices. Frankly they could do with a rather sharper drop than that, if they are to be reacquainted with reality; Osborne is rather betting that the Brexit core vote of ageing petty bourgeois enragés will see things differently.

Demographic peril

Perhaps it will work. As things stand, it had better; for such people as a social stratum are more likely to vote, and are less likely to vote to remain in the EU.

This is an aspect of a wider problem, which is that Cameron is more or less reliant on Labour voters (plus Liberal Democrats, or whatever is left of them) to save his bacon. Hence the anxiety about Jeremy Corbyn’s relative non-presence in the ‘remain’ campaign - Corbyn is astute enough to remember how his predecessors were stitched up over Scottish independence. A Labour In for Britain leaflet, dropping on a doormat near you any day now, is quite a sight - on the back is Jeremy, giving a short spiel about the need for international cooperation, and that’s it from him; the rest is full of pictures of Blairite pin-up Alan Johnson, to the point that someone really ought to have told him that this is not about him (it’s about Dave and Boris ... ).

The front page carries a stock photo of two small, smiling children using a computer, and the enticing promise - “Inside: your guide to making the right decision for you and your family” (the guide in question is basically a carbon copy of everything George Osborne has said on the matter in the last few months). It is a cheery spin on what is an increasingly common theme of ‘remainer’ fear-mongering - think of the children!

The leaders of the campaign are, indeed, thinking of the ‘children’. For the most egregious aspect of the aforementioned problem is this: 18-24-year olds are practically the only demographic with a solid, predictable majority for a ‘remain’ vote. They are also by far the least likely people to be registered to vote at all. Thus has begun an undignified scramble to get polling cards out to ‘the youth’.

This has become the most absurd part of the campaign so far. This great push for the young started with the re-emergence of Ed Miliband, of all people; only the boundless charisma of ‘Red’ Ed is enough, apparently, to get the young and feckless to the polling booth. “Today is a call to arms to all young people to register to vote,” he told a ‘remainer’ rally last Saturday. “Let’s be clear about the danger - a decision not to vote is a decision to let someone else decide your future. Young people can decide this referendum. If they don’t use their vote, the danger is this referendum will be lost.” The best way to avoid “letting someone else decide your future”, kids, is to do exactly as Ed tells you.

We shall see if Miliband makes all the difference - somehow we doubt it. Fortunately, if Ed and his many teeth are not enough to convince you, good young person, there’s more! Head on over to votin.co.uk, and enjoy perhaps the most ill-judged political social media campaign in the short and miserable history of the form. It seems to consist entirely of an enormous video, which sets various gerunds in capital letters, minus their concluding G, atop non-specifically ‘yoofy’ imagery. WorkinPlayinRavin, and before long, no doubt, vomitin. From this, the young person is supposed to - what, exactly? Identify continued EU membership with the continued availability of dance music and state-sanctioned graffiti opportunities? Is this what it has come to?

It is no surprise that things are so desperate; after all, the Tories have spent the last six years conspicuously ignoring the concerns of the young, cynically concentrating on doing favours for their core base (which skews grey). But, as we noted at the outset, this whole Brexit farrago is a stitch-up - if literally the best being offered to the young is more of the same, then it is no wonder that they cannot be bothered to register to vote.

No doubt some recognition of this dilemma was behind the ‘in’ campaign’s ridiculous ‘Votin’ initiative and its shiny, positive character (as well as Miliband’s praise for “the optimistic generation”); but a more patronising end result cannot be imagined. The contempt just sings out of the webpage: the huge pink icons, the 25-second shouty video (for that is as long as an 18-year-old can go before snapchatting a picture of their genitals to an acquaintance). Everyone involved with this was young, once. What happened to them?

In the long run, however, the most unfortunate thing about the Votin campaign is that it will be forgotten. It deserves to be remembered; the creative agency behind it, venturethree, should go bankrupt out of shame; any politician who defends it should suffer irreparable reputational damage from the association. For it sums up, in concentrated form, the whole referendum debate: a shallow and undignified struggle between two gangs of reactionaries to manipulate the anxieties of the wider masses. In 20 years, when we want to tell the story of this dismal summer, we need only point the student of history to this day-glo website, and they will understand.

Should any 18-year-olds be reading these words, naturally, we have the same advice we have for everyone else, older and younger - this referendum is rigged, both choices are reactionary, and anyone who pretends otherwise is trying to sell you a bad bill of goods. Spoil your ballot.

Innit, cuz.

paul.demarty@weeklyworker.co.uk