It simply isn’t worth this site being rebutting the latter in detail, for at least two reasons. First, Mark Wallace did so yesterday on Sky News, anyone interesting in getting at the facts can click here, and there is little more to be added. Second, being drawn into disproving conspiracy theories at length has all the utility of wrestling with a tar baby.
Our interest, rather, is why such claims are made in the first place. And here we are in the realm not of politics (strictly speaking) nor of rock ‘n’ roll for that matter, but of psychology.
For just as some Elvis fans cannot come to terms with the death of their hero, so a small minority of Remain supporters cannot adjust to having lost the EU referendum. It shouldn’t have happened, they insist. So it can’t have happened – not really. The British people cannot actually have decided to leave the EU, so they must have been manipulated by shape-shifting lizards. Or worse.
It was Rupert Murdoch! It was the Daily Mail! It was John Galt-type American billionaires manipulating Facebook algorithms! It was Dominic Cummings working hand-in-glove with Arron Banks! It was Putin! Yes, that’s it! On second thoughts: it was all of them together!
Now it is undoubtedly true that Russia dabbled in the referendum. And true, too, that the Leave campaign produced claims, principally about Turkey, that should never have seen the light of day. But the same applies to the Remain campaign – even more so, in our admittedly partisan view.
After all, Vote Leave’s £350-million-a-week figure was at least defensible (though we prefer the net one), while George Osborne’s warnings of an “immediate recession”, an emergency Budget and rising unemployment have been proved to have no validity whatsoever.
But we digress from the main point, which is that the Remain conspiracy theories have one thing in common: they all assume that the voters are stupid. Stupid enough to be told what to do by the Mail on Sunday‘s sister paper. Stupid enough to be the helpless tool of Facebook ads. And stupid enough to be swayed by the Putinbots.
None the less, they will see the light if there is a second referendum. Or Gina Miller will somehow get the courts to stop it. Or Jolyon Maugham will set up a brilliant new political party that will sweep all before it. Or James Chapman will do so. Or…
One should feel genuine pity for our EU interlocutors in Brussels or Dublin or Berlin, who must try to make sense of all this – we hate to use the word, but – remoaning. We concede that at the outer reaches of possibility there may be something in it – that that May Government just could collapse, for example, and Brexit with it, though this is far more unlikely than not.
But those poor old Germans or Irish people or Belgians would do better to ponder the facts. As the Guardian conceded on Saturday, “seventeen months after the referendum, the regretful leave voter is the dog that hasn’t barked”.
Public opinion on Brexit really hasn’t changed that much and, even if it did, such movement would not invalidate the referendum result. One would need a general election to overturn it. And a poll is not due until June 2022, more than three years after March 29, 2019. The Article 50 Bill has passed Parliament. The Withdrawal Bill will be amended significantly, but is likely to meet the same fate.
None of which will stop the conspiracy theorists, the claims of “hidden hands”…and now the implication that the rabidly anti-Putin Michael Gove has somehow become a witless glove-puppet of the Russian state.
The more sensible Remainers have already moved on. To accept the referendum result. To begin to ponder how to campaign to rejoin the EU. Or, in the case of Ken Clarke, to fight Brexit with every means at his disposal, but with the acumen to grasp that it is set to happen. His cool-headness is rare. Remain diehards: are you lonesome tonight?