The referendum in the UK has hardly been a spectacle of informed and intelligent debate.
We have seen absurd statements made by politicians who must clearly know that they are lying. The cost of EU membership is easily provable with the most cursory online research and yet the the Leave campaign have run with a number that is provably not true- £350 million a day is at least twice and probably three times more than any actual number, and anyway assumes that the UK receives no benefit from membership, which we do, even if Leave can hardly deny, although they try. Leave has predicted that the entire population of Turkey- all 70 odd million of them- would come to the UK as soon as Turkey joined the EU- an immediate prospect, according to them. The facts are simple: Turkey is unlikely to join the EU for years, probably decades, and possibly never, and even if they did, it is patently absurd to expect all the Turks to move from the sun kissed beaches of the Mediterranean to the millionaires playground of Scunthorpe. It is fear tactics pure and simple. Time after time the Leave campaign has been not merely economical with the truth, but excessive with the lie direct.
Now the Leave campaign, scenting that they may have been rumbled, is resorting to a whinging victimhood that is truly emetic. At a time when the opinion polls show the race to be neck and neck, they resort to the tactics of throwing mud: accusing the Remain campaign of the disgraceful tactics that they themselves are guilty of. The idea that anyone would wish to make a political spectacle of the brutal murder of Jo Cox is utterly repellent. Yet that is what the Leave campaign suggests the Remain in campaign is orchestrating. I would encourage a close reading of the headlines in the Daily Express, Daily Mail and the Sun in recent months. I would suggest that Nigel Farage's Immigration poster - cropped white faces and all- is not a dog whistle, it is as someone said recently, a siren:
So Farage, so unsurprising. But when Farage was predicting violence on the streets if immigration was not "controlled" he was doing a bit more than predicting: he was inciting. If, like the right wing press, you continue to put out the idea that immigration is creating a breaking point, you can hardly be surprised when a mentally ill person with extreme views may indeed break: and the result is oh so predictable, but not perhaps quite in the way that Mr. Farage intended. So lies about immigration, lies about the EU budget, what can we trust about the Leave campaign?
Well, we can judge them by their friends. The fact is that the "leadership" of the motley crew of Leave: Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage, George Galloway are hardly the mainstream. What is mainstream is the backing of the most right wing newspapers: The Daily Telegraph, owned by the non-dom Barclay brothers from their Sark off-shore haven. The Daily Mail, owned by the non-dom Lord Rothermere through a network of off shore trusts. The Daily Express- a "newspaper" so wedded to the truth that it refuses to accept any newspaper regulation- is owned by the porn baron Richard Desmond, again through a series of non transparent ownership vehicles and finally The Sun, a foreign owned newspaper that has been implicated in a series of scandals.
This referendum may be the last hurrah for this cankerous right wing rag-tag. For years they have twisted the truth, insulted those who seek a more just country and undermined their political enemies through blackmail and threats. The fact is that Leave has become the voice and puppet of the the right wing political-media complex. I do not underestimate their power. Despite everything, the fact that 40% of the press supports Leave, with only the Guardian, the FT and the Economist wholly supporting Remain, is a big advantage. In the past there would have been little doubt that such a united front in support of a political cause would have carried the day. Yet perhaps for the first time, it may not happen this time. News is now gathered from a wide variety of sources, and the bias of the right wing is more obvious and more strident than it has been in the past, although also it is of course more easy to challenge. Fact checkers have stood ready to demolish any argument with a stout leavening of facts: something that the Mail journalists in particular have trouble with. This is why Leave have faced such an uphill challenge: their argument is not supported by very many facts, only be primitive emotions, which are the stock-in-trade of the Tabloids.
The battle seems to have been fought by the marionettes of Leave to defend their media masters, but this could be the last time. I for one have viewed the antics of the right wing press with, at first, disbelief and now with contempt. The British press has showed itself to be at their very worst. As today I read screeds of Leave propaganda in the Daily Mail, I have lost all patience. The shrill poison of their ignorance, coupled with the arrogant certainty of their invective has left a young mother murdered, but as the obvious accusation emerges, these hypocrites scream that the just anger of those who have seen what has happened is "playing politics".
It is a stain on our democracy that these people retain so much power that they could yet persuade the British people to embark on the economic train wreck that Leave would cause. It is an outrage that the deep pain that people feel at the senseless murder of an MP is dismissed as a mere pose. It is criminal that these vermin continue to have the power to twist and subvert with unabashed lies.
Whatever the result, the time has come for the stables to be cleaned: this cancer must be destroyed.