Brexit debate now completely bananas


It’s not over yet: far from it. In fact we’re barely entering the final strait before the misery of the European referendum campaign, but things are hotting up – literally (in a very real sense) going bananas, indeed. The gloves are off: the knives are out; and the swivel-eyed loons are out of the closet.

Swivel-eyed loons? Steady! Back in 2013 David Cameron was forced to defend Tory Party Chairman Lord Feldman who was accused of using that term to describe right-wing Tory backwoodsmen who favoured leaving Europe, opposed same-sex marriage and were lurching towards UKIP. Now many of their former friends and current cabinet members are moving in the same direction, and are starting to display the same attributes.

This isn’t an anti-Brexit piece, though my personal sympathies do lie with the Remain campaign. It’s about the lunatic nature of the debate at present – if debate we can call it.

Certainly the PM has become increasingly prone to prophesies of doom in the event of a vote to leave the EU. The threats are assuming the biblical proportions of earthquakes, plagues and swarms of locusts. Now, apparently, we face invasion by Putin’s Russia and destruction by ISIS if we vote to leave. The hyperbole is unconvincing at best.

Meanwhile Brexiteers are adopting a still more manic tone. In the past I’ve praised bumbling, knockabout Boris: he used to be fun. But when he starts to make UKIP’s Nigel Farage appear saner than he, he is surely beginning to lose it. Moreover, he’s become boring. Just yesterday he revived the old fruit-and-veg myth about the EU, suggesting that Brussels forbids bunches of bananas bigger than three: you can find my blog of a few weeks ago on the Great Cabbage Myth if you want more on that.

So wild was he yesterday that the languid has-been Tory grandee Lord Heseltine’s suggestion that he’s falling apart under the strain seemed credible.

Just last week the curious Hitler-Tourettes syndrome that recently affected Ken Livingstone (not a Brexiteer) seemed suddenly to overcome Boris who likened what he dubs Brussels’ desire to create a European super-state to Hitler’s ambition to create a vast Thousand-year Reich.

Boris didn’t quite foam at the mouth, but Livingstone nearly did. Boris’s assertion set Ken off on another tedious round of self-justification, explaining endlessly that he was right about Hitler whereas Boris had it all wrong.

Iain Duncan Smith, a profoundly tedious speaker, currently manages to sound ever more animated while remaining boring: quite a skill. Meanwhile I swear the eyes of the staggeringly posh Jacob Rees-Mogg are starting to bulge and swivel alarmingly. He was interviewed ranting (by his quiet standards) about Mark Carney, incensed that the Governor of the Bank of England had the temerity to venture an opinion on the desirability or otherwise of our leaving Europe: I can’t help feeling he might have been quieter in his criticism if Carney’s view had accorded with his own.

He insisted Carney should resign, having broken the Bank’s protocol by making a political statement. He’s quite wrong. The guy’s in charge of the country’s money (he is, isn’t he? What else would he be there for?). If he genuinely thinks it wouldn’t be a good idea, in financial/economic terms, for Britain to leave the EU, surely he’s morally justified and indeed honour-bound to say so?

The point of this piece is not to argue to remain, even though I can’t (as I’ve admitted) conceal my personal view. The nutters are out in force: each side of the argument mounts its own Project Fear: and voters are treated as idiots. Worse: they are actually denied proper and genuine information, so skilfully is it hidden amongst the noise, froth and argument.

Who knows what the outcome of the vote will be? But, while both sides go bananas and entirely eschew genuine informed debate, I fear our ailing democracy will suffer another serious blow.


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