Just for giggles, here is a quick quiz. In the not too distant past, Before Brexit was even a thing, before the 2016 referrendum, before the hard division of our political landscape, before the storm began… there was relative calm. And in that calm, some things were said which in are, in retrospect, quite surprising.
See if you can guess who said these things before clicking the links to see who said it.
- “I’d vote to stay in the single market. I’m in favour of the single market.” – said by this person in 2014.
- “If we left the EU, we would end this sterile debate, and we would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by ‘Bwussels’, but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and underinvestment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure.” – said by this person in 2013.
- “If we get to this campaign, I would be well up for trying to make the positive case for some of the good things that have come from the single market.” – said by this person in 2012.
- “This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms. The membership fee seems rather small for all that access. Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?” – Said by this person in 2016, just months before the EU referrendum.
- “Almost everyone expects there to be some sort of economic shock as a result of a Brexit.” – said by this person in 2016, just weeks before the EU referrendum.
Clicked on those links and seen who said those things yet? No?
Alright, I’ll save you the trouble: All of those five things were said by (drum roll please) Boris Johnson. He said them before he seized a career opportunity to become Prime Minister via the springboard of Vote Leave, thus securing the backing of the growing anti-EU cabal within the Conservative Party.
Before it was in his personal interests, he wasn’t particularly up for leaving the EU, in fact he extolled its virtues on many occasions, dismissing the notion of leaving. David Cameron was, at the time, stunned by Johnson’s decision to head up the Vote Leave campaign. But he shouldn’t have been, as surely a Prime Minister, of all people, would know that other Tories can’t be trusted on their word.
Rank hypcorisy at the very top of Brexit.
It seems obvious that Johnson made a simple calculation to benefit his own career: Back Brexit for a short-term populist rocket boost into power, exploit it as much as possible, let it divide the people, let it be contraversial, let it stoke division and raucous emotion, and then feed off it, use it to secure popular backing and an eventual landslide majority; and do all of it knowing full well that it would ultimately crumble to dust. The trade-off was, use populism to gain power for a short time, rather than use good sense to steer the country in the right direction against populist will.
Career before country.
It was very much a case of, career before country.
When there is such rank hypcorisy at the very top of a constitutional change, it’s not difficult to see why the entire project is riddled with dishonesty, double standards, convenient amnesia – nor is it difficult to see why it is doomed to failure.
As the country’s economy starts to crumble, don’t let the anyone forget who said those things.