The referendum was always likely to be a farce. Referendums are. But this one has gone on to become an outrage.
Why? The question on the ballot form is clear enough. Remain in the European Union, or leave it. But ‘Europe’ has always been a signifier of something else in British politics. Back in the 1970s, when right-wing Tory Enoch Powell urged voters to vote Labour, rather than for the then pro-EEC Tories, ‘Europe’ meant acknowledging that Britain had lost an empire and become just another middle-ranking nation. And plenty of old imperialists were not going to stand for that.
‘Europe’ for the new crop of Tory fundamentalists is less about nostalgia for the days when the map of the world was a Britannic red (though traces of the toxin remain), than about using ‘Europe’ as a signifier for ‘the state’, which is itself demonised as a constraint upon the sacred deity of the neolibs, ‘the free market’.
However, the state of politics is so debased now that even this must be obscured behind random populist slogans, none of which are believed by the Brexit High Command. They are so cynical that they are prepared to say absolutely anything to win (that goes for the Tory ‘retainers’, too. It is how they ‘do’ politics).
And let’s name names. Nigel Farage – who he? You might well ask. This is the Boris, Gove and Gisela show. It’s a classic double act from the old days of light entertainment. Two blokes, one the funny guy, the other the straight man, with a bit of skirt thrown in for no very good reason.
We know that Boris wants ‘out’ so much he prepared two columns for the Telegraph announcing his decision to campaign either ‘In’ or ‘Out’. BoJo doesn’t give a toss about the EU one way or the other. He want to be PM.
Gove is the ideologue. He is a priest in service of neolib mayhem. Bring on The Rapture, let all hell break loose, all hail the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, for it will bring forth…The Market!
What’s this got to do with me, or you? Nada.
So what about Gisela? Gisela Stuart is a patsy, a useful idiot, as far as Boris and chums are concerned. The Golden One and High Priest Gove make some far-right pronouncements, then send Gisela out to tell the newsrooms all about it. A Labour MP has become the PR to a Tory coup.
Yes, coup. Three weeks to go and this is no longer a referendum campaign with two sides. It has become a general election campaign in which there is only one party on the ballot form.
And that is an outrage.