We need to talk about Nigel…

Strange are the times. He wants an opportunity to lose a referendum he’s already won?

He said recently, on The Wright Stuff, that “maybe, maybe, I’ve reached the point in thinking that we should have a second referendum.”

An act of hubris, or a spontaneous slip-up?

In entertaining the idea of a second referendum, impatient Nigel has somehow managed to frame Brexit as an all or nothing scenario in which everything needs to be resolved now. But this may come back to haunt him. Doesn’t he think it strange that Nick Clegg agrees with him? Both want a second referendum to settle the matter! The only thing they disagree on is the outcome – both believe that their side would win a second referendum. There is no evidence to suggest that public opinion has changed since the referendum. The most recent Lord Ashcroft poll shows that, while the Twittersphere might not wish it were so, there has been no significant change in UK opinion. The majority do not want a second referendum. Clegg (the scallywag) is simply hedging his bets, and why wouldn’t he? – as a staunch Remainer no longer in politics, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain, and the same is also true of Blair (who looks really old these days) and Campbell (who looks rather healthy for a change).

Yet while nobody seems to be changing their minds much; neither is it clear that the passion the public once had for Brexit survives. Most of us say we just want to get on with Brexit, but, and saliently, this feeling is based on the assumption that there isn’t going to be another referendum anyway. What Nigel and many others have not reckoned with, is that public opinion could conceivably shift if the incredible announcement came that we really would get another opportunity to test our neighbours convictions. Yes, we believe in Brexit? But do we really really believe in Brexit?

Brexit was an anti-establishment vote, and so, with the announcement of another referendum, surely there is a chance that this sentiment might die. Deciding not to vote in this second referendum might actually become the resurgent form of the anti-establishment protest. (“Oh, I didn’t vote, not this time, not when it was never going to happen anyway… the media, the government, heck, the police, the wildlife trust, all of them are in it together, all trying to stop Brexit.”) As for Remainers, if given another chance they would of course vote exactly as they had done previously. However, despite what the polls indicate, I think their turnout would be higher then last time, precisely because they lost first time round. And what’s more, the official Remain campaign would be a completely different machine.

If there is to be a second referendum, Nigel will have his name indelibly placed in early 21st century British Political History. Like it or hate it, he was the unofficial but pre-eminent voice of Brexit, and he spoke for people, as he puts it, ‘up and down the country’. But because of his status, the government could use his recent lapse of judgment on The Wright Stuff (however much he might try and backtrack from it) to legitimise a second referendum if they wished. Indeed, this thought crossed Brussels’ minds immediately – it was only a few days before Donald Tusk was talking about how the UK could change its mind: ”Our ears are still open to you.” With a second referendum, Nigel’s legacy inflates, because he would have been the one to have indirectly caused it (again), but his legacy would also run the risk of being popped, because he might have won Brexit only to lose it in the midsts of a strange midlife crisis. I once interviewed the founder of UKIP Alan Sked, who is Doctor Frankenstein to Monsieur Farage, and he impressed on me the stupidity of the man. During this interview, even though I knew that stupidity and success were not mutually exclusive, I struggled to see Farage as truly stupid given the impact he had had. However, I can’t be so sure now. You can’t be flippant with your words and get away with them when you’re Nigel Farage. Oh, but poor Nige, he does seem to have a very serious compulsive attention-seeking disorder, doesn’t he? Brexit happened; he said he “wanted a quiet life”; then he went on a media binge to forge himself a career in the spotlight.

My prediction… (in the very unlikely event that a second referendum transpires)…

A second round in this boxing match would see a bloodied Remain campaign deliver all the right punches. Remain would be resurgent, and they would win the bout on points. The Blue corner takes it! – 52:48. Beware such a humiliating reversal, because the whinging would be unbearable. Half the country would be able to tell the other half how glorious it all would have been if democracy herself had not been betrayed. Far better that we bite down on our mouth-guards, tighten up our waistbands, and wait and see if The Undertaker himself really is about to enter the ring.


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