Mark Francois is standing in the European Elections. In a shock decision, he has put out a statement explaining that his position is now that the UK ought to Remain in the EU.
Since the news broke, he has been accused by his former allies of selling out, of betraying his principles and making a mockery of all his previous campaigning.
He seems taken aback by this criticism, and is protesting that actually his view is exactly what it was before. Understandably, nobody seems to buy it.
It’s an implausible thing to happen, and even more ludicrous to imagine that someone performing such a switch would be surprised at the backlash. And yet, of course, it has happened – albeit in the opposite direction.
Of that cringeworthy class of influential men who have been driven to an unappealing and extreme fury by Brexit – AC Grayling, Gavin Esler at al – Andrew Adonis has distinguished himself by the depths to which he has been willing to stoop.
His denunciations and proclamations since the referendum have routinely gone so far as to intensely embarrass other Remainers.
Holding hard to the principle that extremism in pursuit of Eurofederalism is no vice, he has compared Brexit to the Spanish Inquisition and the Japanese capture of Singapore, and threatened to purge civil servants from Whitehall for the sin of doing their jobs in preparing to leave the EU.
As intended, this has made him a cult figure among the pro-EU hardliners who are his target audience, just as it has made him a laughing stock for many other people. To his fans, he is the epitome of a no-compromise, no-surrender, Remain-at-all-costs campaigner. Even his own party has been the target of utter contempt for, in his view, being “complicit” in Brexit.
It does rather trash his brand, therefore, that he has decided to stand for Labour and released a statement apparently backing the Spanish Inquisition.
“Labour has always been clear that it respects the result of the referendum…,” the Brexiteer-Finder-General wrote, “Labour has put forward a sensible alternative plan that would ensure a close economic relationship with the EU after Brexit.” If you were still wavering, never fear: “A vote for Labour is a vote for so much more than just Brexit.”
So much more, but evidently in his view a vote for Brexit nonetheless. Leavers perusing Labour’s confused policy might doubt that, but it appears that on his own terms Adonis must now purge himself from public life for supporting the thing he spent the last three years saying he opposed with every fibre of his being.
It’s such a strange thing to say that if it was a video I would have been looking out for a fake tic, or his fingers tapping out H-E-L-P-K-I-D-N-A-P-P-ED in morse code.
Adonis isn’t the first person to subjugate their beliefs to the insistence of Team Corbyn and he won’t be the last, but he is one of the most stark examples. Jeremy gets what he wants, and it seems that what he wants is obedience in all things.
The benefit to Labour’s leadership is limited but tangible – a battle won in the eternal civil war in which Remainers seek to woo Corbynites away from their Leader. They seem to care more about this than about their actual performance in the Euro elections, and therefore don’t mind too much that the issue might drive some ardently Remain voters to the Greens or Lib Dems.
The benefit to Adonis, however, is hard to see. His standing has plummeted in the eyes of his former fans, and he is now the target of outright ire and disdain from various prominent figures in the Continuity Remain world. Other Remain parties are using him as proof that Labour can’t be trusted to oppose Brexit, with all the bile he once used against Brexiteers himself.
Maybe he feels that he can recant later on, and thereby return to the fold with more influence as an MEP, but he has burned his bridges and it’s unlikely they will trust him again.
He taught his followers to be utterly intolerant of any backsliding or compromise, and told them that Brexit and Brexiteers must to hated at all costs. He now finds himself the victim of that very contempt which he so energetically encouraged.