In the wake of the announcement by the Electoral Commission that Vote Leave overspent during the EU referendum campaign, many Leavers have decided to counter with a tactic you could broadly call “I know you are but what am I”. It is a knee-jerk response which consists of saying “well, even if Vote Leave cheated – which I am not confirming they did – Remain cheated too”. Here is the essence of said argument, straight from the mouth of UKIP – sorry, I meant Labour, of course, Labour – MP, Kate Hoey:
“Even if they spent half a million pounds over, the government put in £9m of a leaflet that went right round every doorstep. If you’re really telling me that you think the decision of the British people would have been different if that amount of money had not been spent then I just think that’s ridiculous.”
Just to get it out of the way: Kate, if you don’t think putting money into a political campaign makes any difference whatsoever, why do you think people do it then? I’m certain that next time you have a fundraiser in your constituency, you’ll be sure to tell everyone not to give the Labour Party a penny since it makes no difference whatsoever anyhow.
Beyond Ms Hoey’s misunderstanding of how basic political funding works, there is a much more pressing issue here. Namely, that this “Remain cheated too” line of argument engaged in by Brexiteers is mortally bad. Take a deep breath, calm down, and try and be as unpartisan on the Brexit issue as you possibly can be for a moment. Having done that, now imagine you are completely neutral on the subject; that you have no opinion whatsoever on the topic of whether or not the UK should leave the EU, never mind how that should happen exactly. You hear that the winning side cheated, overspent. Then you hear that the losing side, well, they cheated too. Your logical instinct would be to go, “well this whole vote was clearly a sham all round. Perhaps it is a good idea to run it again.”
What I’m saying here, Leavers, is that arguing that Remain cheated is adding directly to the logic of holding another referendum. The dodgier you make the result of the 2016 referendum seem, even due to the influence of the side opposite, the more you invalidate that result.
It is politics 101 what you should be saying instead. You avoid the cheating question altogether and resort to sloganeering. “17.4 million people voted to leave the European Union in June of 2016, the most people who have ever voted for anything in the history of the country”. You repeat that ad nauseum. This should be easy for you guys – sloganeering is what you were all about in the not too distant past. Why you’ve abandoned it in your hour of need, I fail to understand.
Brexiteers, if you want to go on about how Remain cheated, be my guest. You are paving the way to another referendum on EU membership.