Earlier today I tweeted a link to an article by John Major in which he patiently explains the arguments for Remain, and points out how much the Leave campaign is engaged in lying, scaremongering and generally playing the man and not the ball.
Do read it, because clearly the people who responded to my tweet didn’t. I confess to being taken aback by the instantaneous and virulent response, which seemed to be occasioned more by the fact that it was John Major making the argument than by my tweet. My timeline busied itself with a relatively small group of people retweeting each other’s tweets, few of which were worth tweeting once.
I illustrate a couple with reference to what John Major said.
Those who challenge statements that are flimsy or demonstrably untrue are either personally disparaged, or accused of being part of a mythical ‘Establishment plot’
So they personally disparage him and link him to an establishment plot.
Major pointed out the playing of the man (they do all seem to be men) and not the ball:
When Michael Heseltine voiced dismay over foolish and inflammatory references to Hitler, he was dismissed as being ‘from another era’, the clear implication being that, because of his age, his views don’t matter. On that basis, one can only assume that Vote Leave believes the arguments put forward by Michael’s contemporary, Nigel Lawson, don’t matter either.
What response occurred to this group of committed leavers? Yep, you guessed (and with added anti-Eton chippiness):
But perhaps most baffling was the orthographically challenged personal attack on Major himself:
Why, you might ask, did I find this particularly baffling? Well, because the cheerleader who kicked off this little storm of response describes herself, in a pithy but grammatically challenged sentence, as “I am a staunch Tory, and in particular of Boris Johnson” and “active in both Boris Johnson campaigns [for mayor]”. This is, of course, the Boris Johnson who is said to be:
“… inordinately proud of his Turkish ancestry and his views on matters such as monogamy are decidedly Eastern,” she writes. “‘I find it genuinely unreasonable that men should be confined to one woman,’ he has grumbled to me, and cannot understand the media’s reaction to his personal affairs”.
But even more so this is the Boris Johnson who, until a few weeks ago was a supporter of staying in the EU. For a fascinating and well-constructed illustration of that, take a look at this Boris vs Boris Great EU Debate.
All of this suggests to me that John Major is quite right that the Leave campaign is not that interested in reasoned argument. It is, I suspect, the fact that John Major is more trusted than most ex-politicians, and makes his interventions rarely, that has caused a particularly outraged and outrageous response to him. As he effectively prophesied,
The tactics of Vote Leave are clear: to ignore the arguments and abuse their critics.
But he really does make the case against Brexit very reasonably and patiently. So, please, go and read that article.