Watching SW1 these days reminds me of that scene in Citizen Kane when Boss Jim Gettys confronts Orson Welles (Kane):
Gettys: ‘You’re making a bigger fool of yourself than I thought you would Mr Kane…With anybody else I’d say what’s going to happen to you would be a lesson to you, only you’re gonna need more than one lesson — and you’re gonna get more than one lesson.’
Kane: ‘… I’m gonna send you to Sing Sing Gettys, Siiinngg Siiiiinnnnngggggg…’
These guys didn’t learn from the 2004 referendum (on a North East regional assembly) before 2016. And even now, very few seem to realise that a ‘second referendum’ would, given minimal competence from ‘Leave’, be a mega-repeat of 2004 in which ‘the EU’ would not even be the main issue.
Remember: we won the 2004 referendum after starting 60-40 behind with no money, no digital campaign, no ground campaign, every force in the North East hostile, and with the campaign consisting of not much more than my girlfriend, dad, uncle and literally a handful of people. I think we spent £50-100k. We won 80-20. (It was a training exercise that turned out surprisingly well.) SW1 100 per cent ignored it, thankfully. The intricacies of the Regional Assembly were not central to how the campaign developed, just as the EU will not be central to a second referendum — it will be about you and your parties, dear MPs, and if you think 2016 was bad, you will find the next one somewhere between intolerable and career-ending.
They didn’t learn from expenses or from 2008. They didn’t learn from Vote Leave. They need more than one lesson and they’re gonna get more than one lesson. The Commons Privileges Committee has sent through two documents you can read here with my last email to them.
Last year, Damian Collins asked if I would give evidence to his committee. I agreed. He faffed around for ages and instead of agreeing a date he issued a summons thinking I would then have to agree to appear and he would get a decent PR hit from Carole Cadwalladr’s conspiracy network. I told him to get lost.
After this farce, the Commons Privileges Committee asked if I would give evidence to them. I agreed in early September 2018 but said that we should all be under oath to tell the truth. They went dark for months until just before Christmas then replied that No, they didn’t want to promise to tell the truth and sadly they weren’t able to make such a promise (!) but would I come anyway.
We tentatively agreed 31st January and I stressed again that we should all be under oath to tell the truth. Their arguments against this were laughable. They cancelled the hearing in January and declined to reschedule it. After another nine months of occasional emails, they’ve decided they don’t want to speak to me after all.
Their behaviour is similar to the Electoral Commission’s. The Electoral Commission found Vote Leave guilty of breaking the rules but refused to take evidence from any of the Vote Leave staff involved in what they were investigating. Their desire not to know what we did is so extreme that even after some Vote Leave staff hired lawyers and threatened legal action to force the EC to take evidence, the EC replied that they would spend taxpayers money fighting in court for their right not to take evidence directly relevant to the inquiry from Vote Leave staff. This, I think, partly explains why the supposed ‘police inquiry’ has gone nowhere. This farce has no legs. The EC trumped up some charges to keep Remain-MPs off their backs but they could not maintain their bullshit in open court with everybody, including the Zoolander ‘whistleblowers’, giving evidence under oath.
Obviously some of these characters genuinely believe in the global conspiracy. Some well-educated people are incredibly easy to fool with conspiracies partly because their defences are low — they think they are rational and ‘advertising works on thick plebs not well-educated rational people like me’.
Others see it as a way to campaign for a second referendum. As Andrew Adonis has said, it justifies making it illegal for the Vote Leave team to participate in future referendums — the sort of action against political opponents that hasn’t happened in Britain for centuries. Brexit-derangement is so extreme this sort of thing is now normal among high profile supporters of ‘the People’s Vote’.
My offer to give evidence to MPs remains open. As does my reasonable demand that all of us are under oath to tell the truth. I hope they take it up but am not hopeful.
Coincidentally, dear MPs, the Vote Leave Standards Committee is meeting this week to discuss your behaviour since the referendum. Some of you, on both sides of Leave/Remain and Tory/Labour, have tried very hard and made sacrifices in the public interest since the referendum.
But many of you have treated the public with more than contempt. Our committee has greater powers at its disposal than ‘admonishment’. The first line of its code reads: with a gentleman a gentleman and-a-half, with a pirate a pirate-and-a-half.
Those of you who think you can get away with promising to respect the referendum result then abandoning this promise are in the ‘pirate’ category. Those of you in the narcissist-delusional subset of the ERG, who have spent the last three years scrambling for the 8.10am Today slot while spouting gibberish about trade and the law across SW1 — i.e. exactly the contemptible behaviour that led to your enforced marginalisation during the referendum and your attempt to destroy Vote Leave — you are also in the pirate category. You were useful idiots for Remain during the campaign and with every piece of bullshit from Bill Cash et al you have helped only Remain for three years. Remember how you welcomed the backstop as a ‘triumph’ when it was obvious to everybody who knew what was going on — NOT the Cabinet obviously — that this effectively ended the ‘negotiations’? Remember how Bernard Jenkin wrote on ConHome that he didn’t have to ‘wreck my whole weekend’ reading the document to know it was another success for the natural party of government — bringing to mind very clearly how during the referendum so many of you guys were too busy shooting or skiing or chasing girls to do any actual work. You should be treated like a metastasising tumour and excised from the UK body politic. Actions have consequences…
P.S. Dear Vote Leave activists:
Please get in touch with friends and family who you know are onside. Start rebuilding our network now. The crucial data to collect: name, email, postcode, mobile (full address if possible). If we need to set up a new entity — a campaign, a party — you will be able to plug this straight into new data infrastructure and we will try to grow super-fast. And it looks like we will need to.
Remember: we won last time even though the Establishment had every force with power and money on their side. They screwed it up because they do not have good models of effective action: they literally do not know what they are doing, as they have demonstrated to the world in the farcical negotiations. They are screwing up their attempt to cancel the referendum. Beating them again and by more will be easier than 2016.
Also, don’t worry about the so-called ‘permanent’ commitments this historically abysmal Cabinet are trying to make on our behalf. They are not ‘permanent’ and a serious government — one not cowed by officials and their bullshit ‘legal advice’ with which they have herded ministers like sheep — will dispense with these commitments and any domestic law enforcing them.
And next time we will not close down — we will try to ensure that votes are respected and the malign grip of the parties and civil service is broken, as Vote Leave said should happen in 2016.
Spread the word among those you know…
Dominic Cummings’s blog was originally published on his website