The unfairness of London’s Remainer reputation

Today marks five years since the United Kingdom voted to Leave the European Union. London, as we all know by now, voted the opposite way to the rest of England — by a margin of 60 to 40 per cent. Ever since then, the capital has been portrayed as remote and out of touch, culturally disconnected from the rest of the nation. Brexit is often explained as the victory of the long-ignored Rest of England where the ‘real people’ live. In 2019, Dominic Cummings told reporters to ‘get out of London, go and talk to people who are not rich Remainers’. But is London really so different to the rest

Boris’s Brexit battle isn’t over yet

On the eve of the five-year anniversary of the Brexit referendum, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Brexit was the dog that never barked. Project Fear portended half a million job losses – a hard measure to test given a year of lockdowns and furlough, but before Covid hit (and now) the unemployment rate is lower than it was five years’ ago. We were warned of a ‘punishment Budget,’ as though there is ever any other kind. The hysteria, the stalling of Parliamentary machinery, the well-documented family rifts – was it all for nothing? First, a few caveats. There are many problems that still need fixing – especially in

Television, not social media, is fracturing our society

All it took for the Twitter mob to descend on me was a retweet from Michael Gove. Message after message called for a resignation. Often it wasn’t entirely clear who the target was: me, the leader of a medium-sized youth charity, or him, the second best known member of the Cabinet. What on earth was in this few short sentences that had unlocked the world’s bile and aggression? Gove had committed the cardinal sin of recommending a book I have written. Ironically enough, it is a book on why our societies have become so divided and how we fix them. It is blindingly obvious to most of us why our societies have become

James Kirkup

It’s time to prepare voters for some tough Brexit compromises

Brexit is like life. The journey matters more than the final destination. Instead of fixating on where we will, eventually, end up, pay more attention to the things that happen along the way. As Brexit talks start, there are abundant signs of a possible compromise on Britain’s exit, or at least, on the timing of that exit. Yes, the Article 50 period will, absent an agreement to the contrary, expire in March 2019 and with it Britain’s formal membership of the EU. But what follows might not look or feel like the clean break that some voters have imagined. Among British politicians of all persuasions, there is, once again, a

The census is the latest Brexit battleground

The end of the Brexit wars have left some Remainers feeling redundant. A few are now turning their attention to a new target: the census. The small group of voters who are reluctant to accept the result of the referendum are responding to the question asking ‘How would you describe your national identity?’, not with ‘British’, or ‘English’ but, with the answer, ‘European’. As a Remainer, this strikes me as somewhat embarrassing. For a start, of course, ‘European’ is not a nationality. But that small point aside, how is this going to convince Brexit voters that their votes were a mistake? The idea seems to be that if you state your nationality on

The EU’s vaccine debacle has finally ended the ‘People’s Vote’ myth

Of all the charges made against Brexiteers, the notion that we ‘don’t understand the modern world’ is the one that some Remainers have most often returned to; their equivalent of the boxer’s stinging jab that relentlessly wears down an opponent. In a global system increasingly dominated by a handful of big players with huge populations and land mass – the US, China, India, Russia – being a medium-sized nation in Europe without the umbrella of the EU was supposed to be a mug’s game. In the European Parliament, that arch-federalist Guy Verhofstadt would often refer to the countries of Europe as ‘dwarfs’ who needed to band together to compete in

Has Brexit already destroyed Labour’s chances?

Part of the soap opera appeal of politics comes from the idea that it is a competitive sport based on fine margins – with a result that will be determined by the relative performances of the teams and their captains. Under the British first-past-the-post system two major parties slug it out in an epic tussle across hundreds of seats and then one of them wins. Sometimes things are so closely fought that neither party has an outright majority, in which case one or more of the minor parties gets to choose which should be propped up. From this point of view, every policy shift or zinger soundbite thrown by Boris

Both sides are to blame for killing soft Brexit

Peter Mandelson’s remainer credentials are impeccable. He is a former European Commissioner who helped run Britain Stronger In and then the People’s Vote (PV) campaign. He is as committed and eloquent a champion of EU membership as you’ll find. Which makes his Brexit intervention in the Guardian so important: All the new benefits from every global trade deal we could ever aspire to will not begin to equal the size of our present European trade. This is the price we will pay for the triumph of hardline Tory Brexiters over those with a stronger sense of national interest in their party. It is also the price the rest of us in the pro-EU

What happened to Brexit meaning the end of Nissan’s Sunderland plant?

It would have to close down its factories. Thousands of job would be lost. Suppliers would be abandoned, and the local economy would be shattered for a generation. It was sometimes a little hard to work out why a few hardcore Remainers cared quite so much about Nissan. Its range of mid-market, family SUVs were not the kind of cars they would usually be seen dead in. But somehow the company became emblematic of the whole bitter debate about how the British economy would suffer if we left the European Union. If we weren’t in the Single Market, we were told again and again, the business was doomed. So today’s news

Will mindfulness turn me into a Remainer?

Mindfulness at our all-inclusive Turkish beach resort began at 11 o’clock. Our mindfulness teacher was a tiny, smiley, flexible-looking woman who was not much bigger than the wheeled amplifier she dragged in behind her on to the beachside ‘wellbeing’ platform. With her musical voice she led us in a few brief arm stretches and neck rolls, then asked us to lie flat on our backs and think about what we were thinking about. Our intention this morning, she said, was to bring our minds back from elsewhere in time and space to the here and now and try and keep it there. This is what mindfulness is, basically, she said.

Alastair Campbell’s remain rally fails to draw the crowds

How come the crowd was so small? A free show at the Edinburgh festival featuring two local MPs, three stand-up comedians – and Alastair Campbell – should have been a massive draw. Barely a few hundred attended the open-air People’s Vote rally at the Meadows yesterday. ‘You’ll forgive us. We’re comedians. Our language may get a bit flowery,’ announced the compere, Fred Macaulay, as an elderly woman wove through the crowd attaching ‘Bollocks To Brexit’ stickers to babies in pushchairs. ‘I’ve got one thing in common with Boris Johnson,’ announced Macaulay, ‘I haven’t a clue what’s going on.’ He called the Prime Minister ‘an imbecile’ and handed over to Ian

We Remainers need to stop trying to convince ourselves the referendum was stolen

Anyone looking at the Independent’s front page the other day – or at least its electronic mock-up, made primarily for social media and TV paper reviews – will have seen a bombshell of a headline: ‘Illegal Facebook spending “won 2016 vote for Leave”’. That’s a seismic claim if it can be confirmed: the once-in-a-generation vote to leave the EU was won through what we now know was an illegal overspend of £500,000 or so. Except the Independent adopted an old newspaper trick: the biggest news is in quotes, suggesting that it’s not the newspaper claiming it, but rather someone else. At first, that someone looks credible. It is from a

Why an insurgent Remain could win a second vote | 11 September 2018

Cold calculation suggests there won’t be a second referendum. It could destroy both the Tory and Labour parties, and in any case, we appear to be heading for a classic EU fudge that will postpone hard choices. But as all predictions in 2018 are likely to be false, and the Tory right appears determined to provoke a crisis, it’s worth understanding why the People’s Vote campaign thinks that next time it will be different. They will be the insurgents and the Brexiters will be defending the status quo. Running against a failed establishment has always been a good tactic, but never more so than in the 2010s. Remain campaigners find

Government plays divide and rule with Remain rebels

Oh dear. Although it was widely accepted that either the Tory Remainers or the Tory Brexiteers would be furious when the government published its compromise on the meaningful vote amendment, one had hoped that the peace might have lasted at least until the amendment was out. That wasn’t to be. Before the amendment was even out, Remain rebels were crying foul. The important thing to note about the government’s so-called compromise amendment is that it says it would be ‘a motion in neutral terms. This means that Parliament would only get a ‘meaningful’ vote along the lines of  ‘this House has considered…’. That would be unamendable – so Parliament could

Which set of Tory MPs will be furious with Theresa May come Monday?

The main takeaway from the confusion surrounding today’s meaningful vote amendment is that no-one knows what it means. Although the government technically successfully defeated the Lords amendment calling for a meaningful vote on the final deal, confusion reigns over who is the winner: the Remainers or the Brexiteers. The would-be Tory Remain rebels are convinced that they were assured by the Prime Minister herslef that by voting with the government they would be awarded with a concession that would give them some form of binding vote on the next steps were Parliament to reject the government’s Brexit deal. They believe that this involves the first two parts of Dominic Grieve’s

80-year-old pensioner receives anti-Brexit death threat

Here we go. There’s been a lot of talk in recent months of the vicious rhetoric coming from Brexiteers – but what about ardent Remainers? Zac Goldsmith – the MP for Richmond Park – has taken to social media to share a letter that was sent to an 80-year-old constituent. Signed by ‘the real 48 per cent’, the author of the letter promises: ‘We are coming for you. We are going to kill you.’ This morning my 80-year old constituent received this note. — Zac Goldsmith (@ZacGoldsmith) February 5, 2018 Well, Mr S did always think there was something rather sinister about the Remainer claim that Brexit voters would

Are driverless cars the future?

  Philip Hammond’s last Budget focused on driverless cars as an example of the brave new technological world. But should we believe the hype? The Spectator arranged for Christian Wolmar, author of a new book on the subject, to meet Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman of Ogilvy & Mather and The Spectator’s Wiki Man columnist, to talk about the future of driving and transport.   Wolmar: Let’s face it: we’re talking about a technology that will never happen. There may be some driverless cars going round Phoenix in a very limited way but the owners, Waymo, which is part of Google, are very secretive about precisely what they’re doing. The hype is being

I’m a ‘Brexit extremist’ and proud of it

We used to think it was noble when people made sacrifices for their beliefs, when they were happy to endure hardship in the service of a political goal or moral cause. Now we call it ‘extremism’. Now anyone who is so devoted to an ideal that he’s willing to see his own daily comforts diminished to make that ideal a reality is likely to be branded a nutter. I mean, what kind of loon puts his beliefs ahead of his bank balance? Consider the mouths-agape response to new YouGov research published yesterday, showing that many Leave voters are willing to pay a high price for Brexit. Judging from the lingo

Are Remainers brighter than Brexiteers?

Are Leavers thicker than Remainers? The short answer is: yes. At least, on average. That’s according to a paper analysing voters on both sides of the godawful Brexit referendum, which says that: ‘When compared with Remain voters, Leave voters displayed significantly lower levels of numeracy, reasoning and appeared more reliant on impulsive ‘System 1’ thinking.’ Now obviously I voted Leave and I’m super-duper clever, but this is not remotely surprising; June 23 was effectively a vote on globalisation, which favours the more intelligent and educated at the expense of the less gifted. When rising sea levels turn our little ponds into great lakes, the big fish are going to benefit a

Could a big Tory victory make a soft Brexit more likely?

Whatever happens in the forthcoming general election, no day of social media can ever compete with the dizzying heights of May 2015. I think I laughed more on the day of the result than I had in the previous decade; sure, it was the twisted and cruel laughter of someone whose dreams are slowly fading, but aren’t those the most genuine and heartfelt? This time it won’t be quite as funny because everyone expects Labour to be slaughtered, aside from one or two Comical Ali-like figures who continue to maintain steadfast confidence despite all evidence to the contrary. Political predictions are very hard – the quality is poor because journalism