NO! NO! NO!

Listen to the clip attached to this article. Pinch yourself. Is it real? Here we have Nigel Farage, the man who friend and foe alike acknowledge played a significant role in securing the historic vote to leave the EU over eighteen months ago, calling for a second referendum.

Yes, I could hardly believe it. The author of the article suspects an ulterior motive – in other words, that Nigel is happier when he has something to snipe about from the sidelines. Nigel himself offers a much more straightforward reason for his “conversion” – winning a second referendum would finally shut up the likes of Blair and Clegg for good. Perhaps – but this argument is flawed for several reasons.

Firstly and most importantly, there is the practical issue of the ongoing Brexit talks. Our team needs the distraction of a second referendum like it needs a hole in the head.  We are less than 15 months away from Brexit day and there is a huge amount which has to be sorted out before then. As for groups like CIB, rather than gearing up for a second referendum, our energies should be devoted instead to campaigning for a change of course from the current plan for a transitional deal which, as we have pointed out, is most unsatisfactory as it stands.

Secondly, a second referendum would undermine the legitimacy of the first one. The question was simple – Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? 51.9% of those who voted, in other words, 17,410,742 voters, voted to leave. The vast majority of them knew what they were doing and while a few have changed their minds, most people have accepted the result.  The Government triggered Article 50 and is pushing through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on the strength of the result. It was the biggest democratic exercise in our nation’s political history. More people voted to leave the EU than have ever voted for anything else. The result must stand.

Thirdly, who wants to go through that gruelling campaign again?  When I look back to 2016, I will never forget the euphoria of that momentous day when the result was declared, but neither will I forget the preceding months, including taking part in six debates in seven days. Those late nights, the travelling, the thousands of e-mails, the phone calls. It was absolutely incessant. From the day when Cameron announced the date of the referendum until the result was announced, it completely took over my life and the life of thousands of many activists up and down the country. I doubt if there are many people on either side of the  Brexit debate who are keen on a repeat performance.

Fourthly, it would reopen a lot of old wounds. Nigel’s opinions, sadly, come across as the view of someone enclosed in the Westminster bubble. The average man or woman in the street was never that interested in the European Union and I suspect that there are many people who now switch off whenever Brexit is mentioned in the news, especially as it is all getting very technical. Let’s face is – some of us who were active in the campaign are fed up with it all and can’t wait for Brexit to be done and dusted. To repeat a point which was made above, most people, whichever way they voted, have accepted the result and even some remain voters, rather than moping,  are considering the opportunities Brexit will bring. Apart from some of our universities and parts of London and Scotland,  animosity over Brexit has been pretty short-lived. We have moved on.  Who cares about Nick Clegg, let alone Tony Blair?  The reason their bleating is getting more desperate in tone is that every day which passes is a day closer  to the day when we finally leave the EU and everything for which they have stood politically will come crashing to the ground.

One reason why we can be confident that Nigel’s call for a second referendum will fall flat is that the Conservative Party, like the country as a whole, has no desire to reopen old wounds. Last June’s election result was a shock to the system and it has concentrated minds powerfully. Apart from the real headbangers like Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry, most Tory MPs know that their survival depends on standing together and delivering a successful Brexit. A second referendum will do nothing for their party’s cause. Furthermore, considering the bad blood between Leave.eu, in which  Nigel was prominent, on the one hand and Vote.leave, which was the preferred leave campaign of most leave-supporting Conservative MPs, on the other, there will be little enthusiasm among any Tories for Nigel to be calling the shots on Brexit.

So while many of us share his desire to see Clegg, Blair & Co silenced once and for all, a second referendum is not the answer. Thank you for all you did, Nigel, but as Mrs Thatcher would have said, NO, NO, NO!

  Photo by Michael Vadon

My old teacher is spinning in his grave

I read an article in Nature journal yesterday.

Now, I don’t want you to run away with the idea that I spend my time browsing the academic scientific literature. I don’t. I prefer history. No, this article was pointed out to me by a scientist friend who was apoplectic about it.

And with reason.

Remember that Nature is regarded by many as the premier scientific journal in the world. It was founded in 1869 and prides itself on being the most cited journal on record. Scientists compete ferociously to get published in it, knowing that their work will be taken seriously as a result.

But the article I will draw your attention to is entitled “Scientists should not resign themselves to Brexit“. It is written by a chap called Colin MacIlwain, a freelance journalist with a degree in “Economics and Social Change in Britain”. You can read the whole thing HERE if you like, but to save you the trouble I will summarise. He says that Brexit will be bad for science, that scientists are jolly clever people, that science is very important and that therefore Brexit must be stopped to make life easier for scientists.

I will leave it up to you to decide if a decision voted for by more than 17 million people should be overturned for the convenience of a few thousand working in one particular industry; I’m more interested in the column itself.

Nowhere does the author offer any evidence that Brexit will be bad for science. Will UK universities suddenly stop doing science? Will vast numbers of scientists be made redundant? Will British industry stop doing research to develop new products? Facts? Data? Nope, none of that.

Instead he falls back on emotional feelings. “The mood in science departments is universally grim”, we are told. And other people are upset too: “It isn’t just EU-born students, postdocs and staff who are unsettled: countless spouses and offspring feel dejected and unwanted in the United Kingdom, too.”

Again, no evidence or data. We just have to take the author’s word for it that a few thousand people are feeling a bit upset.

Helpfully, the author makes his own feelings very clear. He tells us that there was a “loose coalition of dissenters, doubters and right-wing jackals who voted to leave Europe”. Has the author gone out and surveyed a representative sample of Leave voters to reach this conclusion? Apparently not. He is just telling us his views.

But does Mr MacIlwain want to know about our views or our feelings? Obviously not. “Commenting on this article is currently unavailable” we are firmly told.

Sadly this attitude is all too prevalent among the more extremist remainers. They consider themselves better than we Brexiteers, or at least better able to understand the complex issues involved in Brexit. They sneer at us – I particularly like that bit about “right-wing jackals”. They believe that their views should take precedence over ours. They despise the democracy that puts great issues into the hands of the people.

Well, they are entitled to their views. What I find puzzling is that a prestige scientific journal such as Nature should publish an article that is so short on fact and so long on feelings and opinions.

When I was a lad my science teacher was a strict old boy. He caned more of our class than all the other teachers put together. And he had a saying that he drummed into us endlessly. “Facts! Facts! Facts! Science is about facts. Leave your emotions at the door, boy. Here we deal with Facts!”

How he must be spinning in his grave.

Can so many economists be wrong?

The latest scaremongers to jump on Cameron’s bankwagon have been a group of academic economists. According to an article in the Independent, more than 90 per cent of the academics questioned by the Centre for Macroeconomics at the London School of Economics said that the possibility of Brexit would cause uncertainty in the markets and pose other economic risks.

Can so many of these erudite gentlemen be wrong?

In a word, yes.  In 1981, the UK was in the midst of a recession. National debt was spiralling and inflation was rampant.  The then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Geoffrey Howe, increased taxes in the budget that year.  This wasn’t conventional behaviour by the standards of the naive Keynesianism which dominated University economics departments at the time. No fewer than 364 economists signed a letter to The Times stating that there was “no basis in economic theory or supporting evidence” for the policy that the budget was seeking to implement, that it threatened Britain’s “social and political stability”, and that an alternative course must be pursued.

Mrs  Thatcher and her Chancellor stuck to their guns. Down came borrowing, down came inflation and the recession rapidly came to an end. The economists were wrong; utterly wrong.

Signifiicantly, among the few economists to support the Chancellor’s stance were Professor Patrick Minford and Professor Tim Congdon.

Fast forward 35 years and Economics departments of our universities are still stuffed full of Keynesians and Professors Congdon and Minford are once again at odds with the majority, arguing that there would actually be financial benefits from withdrawing from the EU.

In other words, it looks like déjà vu. Even clever people, if they latch on to dumb economic theories like contemporary Keynesianism, can get things very, very wrong.

Photo by Images_of_Money