All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class

These are my current thoughts on a book I’m currently reading about the 2016 UK Brexit referendum – All out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class

So, this book describes actions without giving value judgements other than those attributed to sources. So from my perspective, I might describe the actions and possibly the character of the main actors in the story as thus:

Remain / In

David Cameron

Well-meaning but naïve. Was hamstrung by an inability to get any kind of substantive deal (from the perspective of the public) from the EU on immigration initially. Made a huge mistake in underestimating the feelings of a good deal of the population towards immigration and the EU. Thought he could take the deal he’d salvaged on denying benefits to EU citizens (until they’d worked for 4 years here) home to the UK and people would be OK with it when in fact, they wanted their government to have full comtrol over their borders. Cameron wanted to shore up his party and shut up what he felt was a toxic minority of Tory eurosceptics (and a small handful of Labour).

He came across as an open, liberal, progressive realist that rarely let the demands of the campaign influence what he thought was wider good governance and diplomacy. Basically, nice and pragmatic but ultimately not a cynical and calculated enough operator. Led a campaign focused too much on instilling (Project) Fear as opposed to distilling the positive messages that could have been disseminated regarding EU membership though this flaw in the campaign was more directly attributed to others.

George Osborne

Another open, liberal, progressive Tory. These lads are more Lib Dems than your traditional view on Tories. Knew from the beginning that the referendum was a terrible idea and it would very possibly scupper his opportunity to take over as PM afterwards. Threw the notion of getting the top job under the bus as a final gambit to try and secure EU membership by threatening a punishment Budget after a Leave vote. Perceived as demonstrating a commitment to the EU ideal stronger than his career aspirations. Comes across as very smart, very shrewd, and utterly wasted.

Labour Corbynites

Seamus Milne and John McDonnell

Milne is the ‘thin man’ strategist that would consistently doctor press releases and speeches to omit key campaign phrases to the detriment of the core message. Rarely if ever attended strategy meetings and along with McDonnell decided to actually change the message of the Labour In campaign to Remain and Reform, undermining the overall Remain campaign which was trying to either focus on the benefits of remaining in the EU or describing the disastrous fallout of leaving.

It was described by one source how certain intellectuals never want to see to be going along with others they felt were their intellectual inferiors, so they would change something to look smart. That’s giving them the benefit of the doubt on that one. The other perspective is that it was another of their ploys to sabotage the campaign. 50% of Labour voters didn’t vote and 50% of those voters didn’t know what the party officially stood for with the EU.

Milne and McDonnell seemed to ‘handle’ Corbyn with a number of anecdotes describing how Corbyn would make tea and defer to Milne on what his own thoughts were and try and hurry campaign meetings on so McDonnell could make a speech about something unrelated to Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn

At best not bothered, at worst completely complicit in the strategy of Milne and McDonnell or even just managed by them completely. I think he was complicit. I don’t think he’s a moron but I do get the impression he’s heavily influenced by the other two.
Corbyn apparently initially was forced into allowing the Party to officially be in favour of the UK remaining within the EU and beginning the ‘Labour In’ campaign because senior Labour MPs said that this was their condition for being a part of his shadow cabinet. Members like Hillary Benn, Yvette Cooper, and Tom Watson. Thereafter, he began to do…. well, nothing. And if he did do anything it was obstructionist and difficult. Corbyn never shared a platform or was seen with any Tories (until Jo Cox was murdered) nor would he share a stage with Gordon Brown or Tony Blair to demonstrate a united front.

In fact, on the orders of Milne, a press release was changed from Labour being ‘united’ to Labour being ‘overwhelmingly’ in favour of remaining in the EU. This seemed to be a pattern from Milne of setting the hard left away from the centrists. Far from being a party that was racked by the centrist attitude of not wanting Corbyn, it was one that both sides didn’t want each other. Whether it was the chicken or the egg in regards to which one came first, the behaviour and actions of Corbyn, Milne, and McDonnell in this particular campaign would indicate that they do not do what the party as a whole decide they want to do, they will do whatever they want.

Ultimately, it’s felt that Corbyn et al. saw this all as a win win. If Remain won, he’d be seen as the guy that was in charge of Labour when this came to pass, and were they to lose, well, that’s what they wanted anyway and I think that Milne, who seems quite the Machiavellian character, might have predicted would cause a leftist backlash that the hard left could take advantage of.

It’s been commented on since how different Corbyn was in the Labour leadership campaign and in the general election to that which we saw in the referendum. The Labour Party membership and Momentum were not utilised, not mobilised.

The Corbyn faction then had the idea to go to Turkey, meet refugees there, and make a speech on opening borders. It was described by one source as an idea that it would be difficult to beat in terms of it being the worst possible thing to do.  I assume that other Labour MPs shut this down as the notion of Turkey joining the EU and the current refugee crisis at the time were political kryptonite to the Remain campaign.

Well, it was either crass stupidity or a far more overt tactic to sabotage the campaign from within. It was signed off by Milne. They had the idea, they were going to do it. And then they didn’t. Maybe it was one step too obvious.

Labour In

Pretty anonymous bunch really. Remainers were disgusted by Corbyn’s faction’s actions but also thought the rest of Labour didn’t turn up. The Labour In leader was Allan Johnson who’s a solid politician but when he was turning up in places on the Labour Battle Bus (which McDonnell wouldn’t get on, calling it ‘too Blairite’), he would give speeches to which people would just respond with ‘well, those are his thoughts’ because without Corbyn backing up what Labour In were saying, these were personal feelings of MPs as opposed to a party’s official position. Corbyn’s speeches on the other hand were a litany of complaints about the EU and the message that was asked of him to communicate, ‘That’s why I’m for the EU and we should Remain’ was left unsaid. Corbyn would say that this was the position of his party he was putting forward that they should remain and try and reform. And in the light of the widely publicised failure of Cameron to reform the EU only a couple of months prior, this had the opposite effect.

Labour in general was in a terrible state, however, as mentioned and this was all fuelling the divisions therein. Labour seemed more focused on their internal existential and ideological crises than on this supposed crises of state. They were too worried about who might lead the people to actually lead the people.

Leave / Out

Boris Johnson

Was  in direct competition with Osborne for the PM job and is assumed to have taken the gamble to jump on the Leave bandwagon to rise out of a win as the man to take over from Cameron who’d have to go. Comes across as very indecisive but a hugely handy weapon due to his massive, massive popularity across the country. According to research, no one seemed to mind his gaffs because it was him doing them. Would have happily smashed through a wall into No. 10 like an oblivious Mr Bean in a car with no break fluid.

Michael Gove

The very bright performing monkey of the Old Etonian Tories that had come from a very meager background to walk the corridors of power. Decided to fuck the Blue Bloods over and follow his old Oxford mate Johnson over to the Leave campaign. Probably a career move on his part as well. He seems very enigmatic. Very interesting. Not got yet to his ultimate betrayal on Johnson after the campaign.

Nigel Farrage

Left off the official Remain ticket much to his chagrin, he nonetheless rambled around the country like a landed gentry hooligan. Was at least indirectly responsible for one of the greatest PR coups of the campaign. He organised for a load of fisherman to congregate and sail up the Thames with messages regarding reclaiming UK fisheries. But he was met with Bob Geldof and a load of other celebs and Remain supporters on their own boats. Geldof shouted abuse at Farage while the rest of them threw vicks at the fishermen (who are widely seen as poor, working class, and some of the people that have certainly lost out due to globalisation). Farrage did always have one thing right though, make it about immigration and Leave will win.

Dominic Cummings

He was the Leave campaign’s chief strategist. He was pretty much the boss. Cummings is basically one of those guys in The West Wing who’s brilliant and actually makes all the decisions that the representatives are credited with. He’s a political analyst. Hardly anyone has heard of him. He writes a lot about education. Wants to apply meritocratic and technological principles to making the UK wicked at making people learn.

Fifteen years ago he led up a strategy to modernise the Tory party before fucking it off because they weren’t doing it right and calling Ian Duncan Smith incompetent on the way out. Then he worked for Gove in education as chief of staff for seven years.
He never actually joined the Tory party though. David Cameron called him a ‘career psychopath’.

He said talk about immigration. Talk about Turkey. And we’ll win.

He got everything right.



Is War a Racket?

American military helicopter in flight

The legitimate purpose of a government is to protect you and your property and keep an eye on infrastructure so that we aren’t drowning in floods on the way to our bullshit jobs where we work to buy stuff and pay for services that keep other people in both real and bullshit jobs and pay taxes so that we get those supposed protection and infrastructure services. But, that’s all supposed to be internal. You pay taxes for your own protection and your own infrastructure.

Of course, a long time ago, governments started to work out that you could use those taxes to pay for armies to open up new markets and secure new cheap resources and labour to make rich people and politicians richer at the expense of the newly subjugated and exploited foreign populaces. But imperialism all got to be a bit too politically incorrect for the populaces at home who benefitted from the aforementioned subjugated and exploited foreign peoples and ate and got fat and read books that helped them believe that far-away funny looking tribes were people too, just like them.

So the overt imperial actions weren’t right and proper anymore. So, they had to work out how they could still grow their corporate empires, open up new markets and secure cheap resources. And, with the help of politicians that were either family, businessmen themselves or easily bought poorly paid public servants, they fostered plutocracies, oligarchies and later corporatocracies. These were fantastic because the public paid taxes and thus externalised the costs of opening those markets and securing those resources while they could reap the rewards. Good old lemon socialism of socializing costs while privatising profits.

However, you need a pretext to get around that sticky issue of why those armies are going abroad to do all this. So you drag media institutions into your corporate empire to control the narrative and get some spooks on the ground to do your bidding in exchange for some nice kickbacks and well-paid security jobs once they’ve had enough of getting government salaries. This lot fabricate global scenarios where the army’s needed as a sort of global policeman to control those pesky foreign uneducated savages that haven’t civilised quite as much as we have with our iPads and our Dunkin Donuts and our Strictly Come Dancing.

Now, if you’re a smart businessman you can also make the guns and the lovely helmets and the uniforms and supply the food that an occupying army eats. And again, the great thing is that this is all funded by taxes paid by Joe and Sally Bloggs that never see the receipt and the guy doing the procuring is also open to a nice kickback so you can charge whatever you bloody want. What a coup. Sometimes quite literally.

So, you’re now a diversified corporation with media, military arms and equipment, food and beverages, and a hundred other diverse business interests. Even when you think the original markets you were targeting have been saturated and you’ve secured the maximal volume of resources you were looking for, you still have these other wings of your business. And that tax money will stop rolling in and actually possibly be spent on what it should be being used for at home if you don’t quickly find something else for the army to do so you can keep clothing, arming, and feeding them at fabulously profitable prices.

You’ve also got in your employ politicians and spooks that aren’t happy with making 50K a year and want to remain relevant. A few of those politicians also get voted in by people that either work for the military, have worked for the military, or whose living depends on the military, so they won’t be voting for your politicians if they lost their jobs.

You’ve therefore  got a heady mix of factors creating an inexhorable force lurching from one conflict to another. Sucking up taxes, keeping hundreds of thousands in jobs, and making you, the canny corporate CEO, a rich man and providing fantastic returns on investment for your shareholders.

So, you’ve got some country’s administration that doesn’t want to open up their market to you. Could be a secular society, all going along ok. It’s not perfect but give them time and distance and they’ll develop. But that doesn’t help your business interests. It doesn’t help your share value grow. You’d better get the spooks and the editors on the phone and start whispering in a few ears via those lobbyists you’ve got on staff in the corridors of power. You could fix up to have a lovely new war.

There’s a load of lovely cash to be made from all those taxes as usual and at the end of it you’ve got the new market, the resources, and you can diversify further into building and civil engineering to fix the country that’s just been blown to bits by the missiles you sold to all those lads wearing the uniforms you made while eating the pizzas you sell and drinking the beverage you’re now able to start putting into your new franchise shops in the cities and towns of this newly regime changed country. It’s a win win… win win.

Oh and don’t forget, back home you’ve got everyone tuning into the coverage every day on your television channels, boosting your ad revenues and increasing the exposure of your other products. Meanwhile, you’re creating loads of new terrorists by blowing up their families and that makes the folks on their sofas in Mansfield and Salt Lake City scared so the politicians and the spooks have got an excuse to get some more nice kickbacks when they procure all that great new snooping software and tech. Guess who makes that?