Liberal Comfort Blankets 366

Carole Cadwalladr posted a nonsensical tweet today showing the swing of opinion from Remain to Leave during the EU referendum campaign and claiming this as evidence that the Leave advertising worked.

This is a ludicrously childish assumption of cause and effect by Cadwalladr. Consider this graph showing the even more spectacular leap of support by Labour during the 2017 general election campaign. Yet the Tories vastly outspent Labour on advertising.

Then look at this graph of the Scottish Independence Referendum, where again No outspent Yes on advertising but opinion swung the other way.

Carole Cadwalladr has done excellent work on the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data sales scandals, revealing dark doings that needed to be exposed. But the claim that advertising spending has a decisive effect on polling intentions is very dodgy indeed. In fact, looking at the examples of the Scottish Referendum and General Election, using the Cadwalladr induction method you would conclude that advertising spending is counter-productive.

But Cadwalladr’s foolish tweet today is more than an attempt to enhance the importance of the research of Carole Cadwalladr. It is part of a continuing effort by the liberal elite to find simplistic reasons why their views were rejected by a major section of the general populace in two seismic political events – Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump. The elite are seeking to comfort themselves with the idea that happenings of very marginal significance – Cambridge Analytica’s audience research, or 13 Russians allegedly trying to hack unspecified info – were in fact massive factors that explain the electorate’s “deplorable” behaviour.

For what it is worth – and perhaps it is not worth much, though it is worth more than Cadwalladr’s logical fallacy – my own view is that hatred of the political class, by a population which has come to realise it is exploited, was a major factor.

In the Brexit referendum, Remain made the fatal mistake of being fronted by detested politicians – Nick Clegg, Will and Jack Straw, George Osborne, Tony Blair. The chance to kick these people proved irresistible. Similarly Hillary was the most detested machine candidate the Democrats had available. By contrast, while the “authentic” personas of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage may be fake, they were well placed to tap into the anti-politician mood.

This also explains why Remain did much better in Scotland, where it was headed by the SNP’s far less detested politicians who are themselves regarded as anti the UK establishment

Finally, the key factor that unites all the three opinion poll charts above – General Election, Brexit and Scottish Indyref – is that opinion swings very fast indeed inside the period of broadcasting restrictions, when broadcasters have to give at least a semblance of fair time to the view which the Establishment generally derides. Unlike the advertising explanation, which works in only one out of three cases, the hypothesis that broadcasting restrictions redressing establishment bias is the most important factor, would appear to work very well in all three cases.

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366 thoughts on “Liberal Comfort Blankets

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  • Wonnie

    You don’t address the avalanche of fake news contained in ads which fed into people’s worst fears?? I suspect it is complicated, but clearly misinformation to inflame the passions has an impact…

    • craig Post author


      It was absolutely nothing, insignificant compared to the avalanche of terrifying anti-independence fake news – you’ll all lose your pension, house prices will collapse, mas unemployment – we got In Scotland during Indyref yet Indy support still went up and up. Nor did the Corbyn IRA, Corbyn anti-Semite stuff work in the GE. It wasn’t a few Facebook ads that caused Leave.

      • N_

        Basically the independence side was the side of the people and the truth, while the unionist side was the side of the establishment and lies, right?

        What’s the explanation for turnout being higher in British GEs in Scotland than in Scottish GEs?

        The YeSNP ran a reasonably skilled campaign. “Sunshine forever!” didn’t distract enough people from the fact that they are bunch of pork-barrel politicians with their snouts in the trough, though.

        • John O'Dowd

          The majority of Scots – those born in Scotland – voted YES. It was the incomers wot bust it!

          That won’t happen next time!

      • Dan

        I’m sure I’m not the only person with anecdotal evidence that bears out your hypothesis, Craig. A work colleague of my partner said he voted Leave in the EU referendum “to get rid of that lying prick Cameron” but not expecting that Leave would actually prevail. When my partner asked him how he would vote if there were a second referendum or so-called People’s Vote, he replied “Remain, obviously”. I wonder to what extent similar motivations were played out across the land – and how a second vote might turn out.

        • N_

          It will turn out the same way as the first vote.

          The Leave themes of “nasty EU is stopping ‘us’ from doing what we want, treating us like dirt, like captives”, etc., have CONTINUED to be promoted in the national discourse.

          Things may go like this:

          * playtime in the Commons (it’s not important to speculate exactly what kind)

          * call for a vote on “the deal” or “the absence of a deal” or something other than “still wanna leave?”

          * if there’s to be a vote and the cabinet is the same as it is now, then there will be difficulties for many leading politicians in knowing which option to back. (E.g. “Mrs May, you supported Remain, and you said you would lead the country out of the EU because the people had spoken. The people are now going to vote again, and many look to you for leadership. How do you recommend that they vote, Mrs May?”). This is one reason why May is unlikely to stay in No.10 to the end of the year. Whichever Tories are in the cabinet by the time of a vote, we can ask which option they’ll be backing, and for those of them who haven’t positioned as fanatical Leave nuts the answer won’t be much better than “er”.

          * fanatical Leave nuts get rampant – there will be point after which they all say “Second vote, with a Remain option? Bring it on!”

          * which option will stick it to the “establishment”, “the politicians”, “the smarmy gits on the telly”, etc., hardest? (People may look out the window at this point and notice that the house across the street which used to be occupied by a retired white couple is now lived in by 10 very low-paid Romanians. Meanwhile most houses in the street have acquired burglar alarms. The left finds it extremely hard to understand this.)

          The Leave themes of “nasty EU are stopping ‘us’ from doing stuff, treating us like dirt”, etc., are CONTINUING to be promoted in the national discourse. Below the surface something is maturing and it’s not a mass upsurge in favour of freedom of movement.

          • Dan

            I disagree. The “Stick it to the establishment” gesture has been made (If anything, “stick it to the tabloids, Arron Banks and disaster capitalists/hedge fund managers who will make fortunes out of Brexit” might prove to be a more powerful motivation; there’s also a powerful perception that the Leave campaign “cheated”). In addition, the disadvantages/impracticalities of leaving have become much clearer (Project Fact, not Project Fear) since even hardcore Leavers like Farage and Rees-Mogg are now admitting that we will be a lot worse off and in fact may not see any benefits for fifty years. 60-40 in favour of Remain would not surprise me.

        • Captain Pugwash

          Whilst the motivations for voting were varied (and probably quite muddled and simplistic), I’ve also noticed the desire to see Cameron lose was a factor for some. Let’s face it he led an extremely nasty, divisive government that caused untold harm and suffering to the most vulnerable in society. Where is the outrage about this treatment of our citizens, and in what sort of horrible little country is treating poor and vulnerable people the way they do acceptable?

          ‘Fit-for-work tests may have taken serious toll on mental health – study
          Research links additional 590 suicides and 725,000 antidepressant prescriptions over three years to impact of work capability assessment’


      • Reg


        Sorry if I am pointing out the obvious, but these two economists came to rather similar conclusions on the causes of the rise of popularism.

        Mark Blyth ─ Global Trumpism

        Smart Talk with Edward Harrison: The Economics of Rising Populism in Europe

        I was under the impression that fake news was nothing new, so do not understand the hysteria particularly by the ‘left’, given this is being pushed by the establishment. The 1975 referendum approving joining the EEC was based on lies as it was sold as a ‘common market’ with some anodyne blurb about becoming closer to Europe, as the 1957 Treaty of Rome was more than this.

        • Dan

          I don’t think ‘fake news’ is a helpful term as it means different things to different people. For Trump and Trump-supporters it seems to mean any news outlet that criticises Trump and calls out his lies, or any news outlet that has a different political agenda to Trump. The accusation is also the principal weapon in Trump’s effort to (rightly or wrongly) discredit both the media and “accepted wisdom”. For others it means disinformation, while some regard mere “spin” as ‘fake news’. Personally I think any definition should include those politicians who, in the face of overwhelming objective evidence, simply say “I don’t accept that” without offering any evidence of their own.

        • Steph

          Fake news is not new, but the ability to target it where it will have the most impact HAS changed.

    • mdroy

      As Craig says, the establishment lies too. I was shocked pre-Brexit as some clearly faked up economic forecasts.
      But the real fake news is the refusal for the large media to discuss immigration and massive changes in inequality over the past 30 years.
      If the mainstream media pretends these things do not happen – then that is the biggest lie of all.

      Growth – Median income is up 10% real in 35 years. Why should normal people care about GDP growth at all when it all goes to the top quartile? (And that really is not too complex a message for ordinary voters to understand, just too complex to get into newspapers).

      • Dan

        “the establishment lies too. I was shocked pre-Brexit as some clearly faked up economic forecasts”

        That was less “the establishment” per se, that was more specifically Cameron and Osborne using Lynton Crosby’s well-worn scaremongering tactics which have served the Tories so well in their mendacious election campaigns. I guess they thought that if they can frighten voters into not voting Labour, they could frighten voters into not voting Leave.

    • SO.

      40 years of successive governments and constant media hostility to the EU using it as a convenient whipping boy to hide the smell of their own shite had a bit more of an entrainment effect than some short term facebook memes I suspect.

      Unfortunately now as you’ll no doubt have noticed it’s a tad difficult to address a complex historical (continuing) situation with a pretty colored graph and some pseudo liberal virtue signalling.

      • Reg

        This misses the point, this strategy of the Tories which I agree was to blame the EU for UK austerity politics does not work if the UK leaves the EU. Which is why Cameron and Osborne and other high Tories supported remain as the long standing anti EU stance of the Tory party was only propaganda for the plebs, not for internal consumption, but the wider Tory party started to believe its own propaganda which is always fatal as it makes strategy impossible as you have no idea what is happening and end up reacting to events like Theresa May.

        You also miss why the US establishment, such as Obama and Clinton and its financial sector were dead against the UK leaving the EU. The EEC was largely a US construction as part of its Nato cold war strategy after WW2. After all EU membership has been used as an incentive towards eastward expansion of Nato, via the destabilisation of Eastern European States such as , Georgia, Poland, the Baltic states, Yugoslavia and with the Ukraine angling for membership. So Trump is an aberration with his attitude towards the EU.

        The US State requires the UK to remain part of the EU to destabilise it and push it in a more neo-liberal direction with a reunified Germany and eastward expansion, as the US supports the EU, but only under US hegemony. Hence the anti Russia propaganda to drive a wedge between Russia and the EU to prevent the EU growing to become a economic competitor to the US. After all the EU was a bigger economy than the US before the economic crisis. A close trading relationship between Russia and the EU would allow the EU to grow and be an end to the $ reserve status. as trade would increasingly be done in Euro not $ particularly for oil and gas. You could regard the bombing of Yugoslavia to destabilize it as partially an attempt to destabilise the Euro at its launch.

        Russia after all is only 11th by nominal GDP, so economically is not a threat to the US without the EU. So perversely the policy towards Russia is really a campaign to economically weaken the EU and maintain the EU under US hegemony, via a contrived eternal enemy. The US opposition towards Nordstream 2 is an example of this policy. The US banks supported and funded Remain as the EU single market guarantees free movement of capital with activities illegal in the US routed via London as a bridge to other European markets. Money laundering via London becomes more difficult when the UK leaves the EU.

        But the EU itself is destabilizing Europe by its ill conceived single currency and its economically illiterate imposition of austerity particularly in the Eurozone, which has facilitated the rise of the far right, so a break up of the EU cannot come fast enough to prevent it causing further damage.

  • N_

    Leave won because of several decades of ignored feeling about immigration. Politically you can draw three separate graphs: for Westminster elections, Strasbourg elections, and support for leaving the EU, previously labelled “Euroscepticism” until Twitter came along and hexasyllables went out of the window. The graphs aren’t on top of each other, for reasons which are surely clear, but they all have positive gradient until 2016.

    I agree about the weakness of giving too much weight to relative expenditure on advertising. What gets missed out is what it means to control the media. You don’t pay to use your own tools. It’s not as if Rupert Murdoch spoke with the two campaigns and chose the one that offered most per page of space.

    • N_

      Carole Cadwalladr has done some good stuff which puts her in a different category from the usual dickheaded morons in the media. She’s right that advertising works. Many don’t understand that. But like others who’ve done some good stuff, e.g. say Richard Stallman, there are big gaps in her understanding of the epoch. I wouldn’t go to her for an understanding of either crowd psychology or the nature of money.

      • Shatnersrug

        N_ leave won because British people don’t like Europe much.its just a fact isn’t it? Sure we go there, and love it, sure the more progressive of us like the idea of being closer, sure us socialists don’t like national borders in theory.

        BUT, give us a pint or too, and all the xenophobic tropes will spill out, Squareheaded Germans, Poncy French, thieving Italians, Lazy geeks. Etc. We’re an island nation and unfortunately we fear invaders at our very core, it’s instinctive. I’ve heard it in Ireland, I’ve certainly heard it in Scotland, and Yorkshire and London.
        The mainstream media have exploited this phobia mercilessly, possibly because many of the journos instinctively feel it too. Basically Brexit appealed to our worse selves and our worst instincts and tbh I’m surprised Brexit didn’t win by a greater margin

        • Dan

          The Daily Mail is has consistently been one of the worst offenders, yet its editor Paul Dacre has been happy enough to personally trouser hundreds of thousands of Euros in EU subsidies over the years in respect of his Scottish estate.

          Surely the tabloids are more interested in finding and blaming scapegoats for the nation’s ills – foreigners, Brussels bureaucrats, etc (instead of looking closer to home)?

        • N_

          OK but what had changed since the Brexit referendum in 1975 in which there was a 2:1 victory for Remain?

          • Patrick Mahony

            A few million former Soviet bloc immigrants making swathes of the country look and sound like the third world.

          • Dave Lawton

            “OK but what had changed since the Brexit referendum in 1975 in which there was a 2:1 victory for Remain?”

            The 1975 referendum was fixed by Norman Reddaway of the IRD and the CIA..

            This time In Sunderland 61% of people that voted , voted to leave the EU. The people of the North East loathe and detest the EU. The entire area has been economically destroyed by a pogrom lasting nearly 40 years.”

          • Charles Bostock


            “A few million former Soviet bloc immigrants making swathes of the country look and sound like the third world.”

            Oh, come on! You can make out an economic case, I suppose, against large scale immigration from Eastern Europe but your “third world” bit not only wrong but also very silly. Would you say the same about the large scale immigration from the non-white Commonwealth and various other non-EU countries? I’m sure you wouldn’t.

          • Mathias Alexander

            Sunderland will be in deep trouble if Nissan up sticks because of Brexit. Then again they are still investing and going full throttle so it looks like a deal has been done, on the quite, to make good any losses. Either that or the’ve been assured it isn’t really going to happen.

  • mdroy

    “For what it is worth – and perhaps it is not worth much, though it is worth more than Cadwalladr’s logical fallacy – my own view is that hatred of the political class, by a population which has come to realise it is exploited, was a major factor.”
    Well of course that is right. Both were FU votes against the establishment (2 establishments for Brexit).
    Goodhart’s Somewhere/Anywhere split explains it all, not just in the UK but US and much of Europe.
    In the end Cambridge Analytica choosing who to advertise at, and Hilary’s budget were unimportant. What really counted was Trump’s messages won people over, Hillary’s didn’t. (Same story with messages from Brexits, Le Pen, and most of the Economic liberal/social conservative parties doing so well all over Europe).

    • Blissex

      «Both were FU votes against the establishment»

      I think that attributing a single cause to those votes is overly simplistic, and for example there 2-3 very differently motivated main groups for “Leave” and also 2-3 quite differently motivate main groups for “Remain”.

      For “Leave” I think that the historical group was imperial-nostalgic english tories who feel as a national humiliation that England is just member of a supranational state which is ruled unilaterally by the english elites, like the UK supranational state is, and the English Empire supranational state was. They feel degraded by having to do deals with the german and french power elites. This is most clear in the exit negotiations charade in which the only issue being fought over is which exit conditions the english elites choose, as if the opinion of the trival chiefs of the eurostans on the continent was not relevant.

      Those imperial-nostalgic tories have always been the bedrock of “Leave” (and the UKIP), disguising their position calling it “sovereignty” or “take back control”, but they never were a majority. “Leave” became a majority with the votes of the left-behind lefties who voted that way as a protest and to show they can screw up the best laid plans of the english elites.

      The scots by and large belong to neither groups: many scots have no delusions of ruling, and between being ruled over from London by the ferocious english tory elites they know so well, or by the more distant french, german, italian, polish elites with their far mellower rules from Brussels, decided to give a chance to the latter.

      • Blissex

        «England is just member of a supranational state which is ruled unilaterally by the english elites»

        That should have “which is NOT ruled unilaterally”.
        My argument is that the bedrock of “Leave” is english supremacists, who resent that the english elites do not have the unilateral political supremacy (“sovereignty”, “control”) they have in the UK, and that they had in the English Empire.

        For many scots accordingly multilateral and multinational political rule from Brussels looked preferable to unilateral and english nationalistic political supremacy from London.

  • N_

    What is Dominic Cummings playing at?

    The guy is interesting. He combines knowing some things from the inside with suffering from an impulsive strain of mental rabies. For that reason, he may spill some juicy beans – and I don’t just mean publishing a select committee report a few days early.

    • N_

      Here is Dominic Cummings’s take on Carole Cadwalladr’s latest efforts. It’s worth reading. He’s aware that a rerun of the referendum would result in a much more resounding win for his own side than in 2015 and he believes they would use it to storm Parliament and replace the “rotten civil service system”, to mass popular approval. Get it?

      I refer to what I said above about the three graphs. Labour under Corbyn winning back a big chunk of voteshare from UKIP last year will appear as a blip. We ain’t seen nothing yet in this country. Anybody who thinks we’ve heard the last of the populist far right is fooling themselves. Almost everyone views the Theresa May government as hopelessly incompetent. That cannot go on forever.

      Meanwhile both the executive (defence secretary) and the legislature (Commons select committee on defence) are calling for a 50% increase in military spending.

      As Hermann Goering put it, “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

      Cummings BTW does have an understanding of crowd psychology, unlike Cadwalladr.


      L2 will win by more than VL1 and the logical corollary will be to morph into a new party and fight the next election ‘to implement the promises we made in the referendum because the MPs have proved they can’t be trusted’. At a minimum VL2 will win the referendum and destroy the strategic foundations of both main parties. The Tories will be destroyed and maybe Labour too. The rotten civil service system will be replaced and the performance of government will be transformed for the better. Investment in basic science research will flow. Long-term funding for the NHS guaranteed by law. MORE high skilled immigrants, FEWER low-skilled. An agenda that could not be described as Left or Right. The public will love it. Insiders will hate it but they will have slit their own throats and have no moral credibility. Few careers will survive.

      “Neither left nor right” <- no prizes for guessing what that means.

      "NHS" – LOL!

      "Unda fert nec regitur", says Dominic Cummings. He has a big streak of "overgrown undergraduate" in him, as do a lot of Oxbridge-educated figures in the British civil service that he claims to hold in contempt. He studied Bismarck at Oxford under Norman Stone. He also studied under Robin Lane Fox who has family connections to the far right.

      Although Cummings's observation is completely correct that British government "propaganda" "against" Daesh helped Daesh a lot, he does not speculate on the reason why such propaganda has been issued, other than to build on his knowledge that politicians are stupid. Seriously there may have been more to it than that, Dominic, me old chap.

      If Anders Breivik were writing his manifesto now, I am quite sure he would have praised Cummings as well as Jeremy Clarkson and Melanie Phillips.

      Ride the wave? Or is it an Evolian "ride the tiger"?

      • Shatnersrug

        I like Dom’s attitude, but as I’ve always thought about him he fundamentally does not understand what politics is. He’s impatient and he thinks everyone should just shut up and do it his way because he’s right. Maybe he is right, but he does not understand how to garner support or how to manipulate politicians to get what he wants.

        From the first time I heard him speak I thought, that’s one smart guy who is blinded by his own intelligence. Who is the enemy of wisdom. I don’t agree that the result will favour Brexit more, because more Brexit voters have died. And if they go more project dear they’ll pull it back, I think the result will be exactly the same – 52/48 one way or the other – certainly you couldn’t call it

  • Tom

    I hope you are right, but how else can you explain how these advertising budgets were justified in the first place?

    As for exposure of lies, nobody seems interested that most media reflected the same misleading “facts”.

    • Shatnersrug

      The budgets? Because these people – Aaron Banks etc – are flashy big spenders, they were probably blown away by Cambridge A’s supposed grasp on social media a format they no nothing about, Banks was already used to throwing money at advertising he took a big punt and it appeared to pay off. Personally I’d say Dacre and Murdoch won it,

  • Kempe

    It’s not simply a matter of spend but quality. The leave campaign’s ads were tailored to individuals so had an advantage from the start. The Tory campaign in the last election was so spectacularly bad that the more they pushed it the worse it became for them. They could’ve spent the countries entire GDP on it and still lost.

  • Andrew Carter

    The simple truth is that anyone with two brainchild to rub together has learned to despise and distrust politicians of all complexion, and at all levels of aggregation from the individual narcissist to the party, the current Junta and the entire transnational Deep State apparatus behind the curtain.

    We are collectively fed up of being lied to, and are finally realising that Goethe was right about being hopelessly enslaved.

    • Andrew Carter

      That having been said, before we get around to sorting out the politicians could we perhaps first find a spare lamppost upon which to string up the twisted jerk who invented predictive text……. I would consider a dozen years using rubber cutlery in Broadmoor a small price to pay for the glee and moral rectitude I would feel at performing this modest but critically important service to society

  • Derek Perry

    Given that poles can be highly inaccurate, what exactly do they prove? The only uncontroversial fact is the 52% – 48% referendum.

    Democracy it’s great just as long as it goes your way. Its a bit of a piss off otherwise.

    • Andrew Carter

      Poles prove that plumbers can do a professional job at a reasonable price. Well, according to Opinion Polls that appears to be the case

      • Reg

        One persons reasonable price is someone else’s not enough to live on particularly given the price of housing in the UK compared to Poland. So the middle classes benefit from cheap labour for ‘the help’ and increased job opportunities on the continent no wonder they tended to support Remain, the wonder is why they assume those not benefiting from globalisation should support them, as it is bosses that benefit not migrants at the lower end.

  • Jan Holden

    The advertising vote leave used though was full of lies – the worst kind of propaganda (esp about immigration).
    I don’t think that applies to advertising by Tories & No, does it?

    • Reg

      The problem is this, immigration was used as part of a wide range of policies to ensure low wages in the UK, although not the most significant, It is also true that migration has a negative effect in certain low paid low skilled sectors, while having little/no effect on average wages, and a positive effect on high skilled sectors.

      Melvyn King after all lobbied Tony Blair not to introduce interim restrictions on migration from newly acceded countries.

      So it is not credible for what passes as the left to maintain migration has no effect on low wage sectors, and undermines support for the left, when you get the middle class writing off the working class as thick hijacking left wing politics for identity politics. It is perfectly possible to have a relatively open migration policy without these negative effects with the correct policies, but this is not likely with a government hell bent on controlling wages to ensure higher profits and to control inflation.

      The correct credible way to combat racism is to acknowledge these negative effects on wages and propose polices to mitigate these effects and emphasize it is bosses not migrants benefiting as migrants often have the worst wages terms and conditions.

      I would also suggest the fears about migration were totemic for a wider suspicion of the benefits (or lack of) of globalization for the less well off, as migration is tangible, and free movement of capital is less so, although far more damaging.

      The lies by Remain were far more significant, with interference by Obama, practically all the big US investment banks who funded the Remain campaign, the support for Remain by unelected public servants headed by a former Goldman Sachs employee in the Bank of England producing dubious economic forecasts. The support for remain from the one person most responsible for Brexit as he speculated against the £ causing the collapse in the ERM in the UK is ironic. The leaflet drop by the government using taxpayers money for Remain was also illegitimate whether legal or not. Most of the media outlets were also pro Remain, particularly on TV. Also you forget that the Tories were for Remain, which was why they did the leaflet drop and Theresa May was for Remain as was Osborne and Cameron and yes they were full of lies

      I regard the EU as a existential threat, as it is recreating the economic conditions that led to the rise of the far right in the 30s, so the faster it collapses the less damage it can do, as the EU have learnt nothing, If the UK can facilitate this collapse all the better. An example is, Greece is expected to run a surplus to at least 2060 (FT below), I doubt Greece will put up with over 50 yrs of austerity. These similar conditions to the 30s are: a fixed currency with unpayable debt, with massive trade imbalances and no fiscal transfers with perfect capital mobility, with austerity used in a doomed attempt to pay this unpayable debt.

      “Eurozone creditors reach ‘historic’ deal on Greek debt relief, Repayment deadlines on almost €100bn of bailout loans pushed back 10 years” FT Mehreen Khan and Jim Brunsden in Luxembourg June 22, 2018

      Indeed the present far more significant rise of the far right on the continent than in the UK has worrying parallels.

      • N_

        @Reg – “The correct credible way to combat racism is to acknowledge these negative effects on wages and propose polices to mitigate these effects and emphasize it is bosses not migrants benefiting as migrants often have the worst wages terms and conditions.

        The only way to fight the bosses’ use of immigration and racism to lower wages is for native and immigrant workers to combine to fight against it in practice, rather than putting all hope in traditional political means. Working class people know that it’s the employers who have encouraged immigration in order to lower wages. We need stronger trade unions that actively recruit among immigrant workers – in ports of entry, in Polish cafés, in the building trade, etc. Pick a few issues to focus on, and then everyone pile in. Unfortunately things have gone too far, but this is what we need.

        In several countries big parts of the far right would love the EU to collapse.

        • Reg

          Unions are irrelevant here as they are almost totally ineffective in casualised workforces and unions are generally uninterested in them , so are not the answer. Other forms of organisation are required.

          I would not dismiss policy as a way of reducing racial tension, after all pensioners cannot strike, neither can those on zero hr contracts (in the main) or the unemployed. I think the 5 tiered skilled based system should be extended to EU migrants equalising them, but loosening them removing caps and targets and ensuring migrants the same eligibility to benefits, as they will be less likely to undercut. A mass council house building program would also reduce tensions over housing.
          Strikes can achieve none the above, so while unions can provide some solutions, they cannot provide them all.

          You miss the point it is the economic policies of the EU and particularly in the Eurozone that have encouraged the far right

          It is irrelevant whether the far right want the EU to collapse, the point is without a left wing opposition (particularly when the EU/Trokia have crushed it) to EU austerity this leaves the way open for the right. Look at the policies of the League, they have social economic policies as well as the loony tunes racist stuff about the Roma and migrants and a flat tax. So the solution is a left offering these social policies opposing the EU. The far right need something to position themselves against to gain support, they may say we want an end to the EU as a populist statement, but the end of the EU and EU imposed austerity would reduce their support. Why do you think there has been a significant rise in the far right in Europe which is far more significant than the UK?.

  • Ani

    Cadwalladr and her ilk also seem to be ignoring the 3million voters who do not vote and were not on the register at the 2015 General Election. These people went out of their way to find out how to vote, put themselves on the register and actually went to the polling station and voted. The vast majority of them voted leave and I believe they were from the 4 lowest socio-economic groups. The low waged and low skilled – who do not see themselves benefitting from the increased competition from migrants for low skilled jobs. We then hear they were too stupid to know what they were voting for, they were tricked by advertising etc.

  • Jeff Koons

    1919 Irish Declaration of Independence, 1922 Brits leave 84% of Ireland , 2019 UK leaves the EU the economic chaos will provide the ammunation for another Freedom vote. A lot can change in a short space of time.

  • pete

    Carole Cadwalladr is clearly deluded. Advertising does not work if the goods you are selling are useless, the most notorious example of this is the Ford company’s failure to sell the Edsel, Wikipedia says the Ford Company lost $250 million on the development and manufacture and marketing of this car.
    Worse she does not realise the economic impact of the present government on the decisions people make. The regions most supporting Brexit were those worst affected by the austerity budgets the government has followed, see for example this report:
    I find it hard to believe that the UK electorate as a whole, given the opportunity to vote again on Brexit, will come to a different decision to their first one, in spite of my personal objection to leaving.
    Your points regarding the independence vote in Scotland is well made and I hope that there will be another opportunity for the Scottish people to cut themselves free from the pernicious effects of Westminster.
    Unsurprisingly Catwalladr’s web page has been edited by you know who.

  • Philw

    Excellent piece Craig!
    I think you are overly generous to Carole Cadwalladr though. Some of her Russophobic rants in the Observer belong in the Daily Mail in their ratio of vitriol to fact. I would imagine she was given the Cambridge Analytica story on a plate for being such a trusty shill.

  • james

    thanks craig.. i agree with your analysis here.. as a canuck, i don’t have a pony in the race, but i know how easily people are duped.. working to overcome that is a challenge.. polls are another one of those tools that are selectively applied when the time is right.. that are a type of propaganda tool and people need to see them for what they are as well…

  • Contrary

    Re: “…Scottish Indyref – is that opinion swings very fast indeed inside the period of broadcasting restrictions…”
    Hmm, purdah rules? When was Gordon Brown’s ‘intervention’? And the ‘Vow’ was very much broadcast, repeatedly and with glee, right up to the last minute. I say that the last minute swing occurred because broadcasting restrictions were not adhered to.

    So, not disagreeing with your theory Craig, but advertising is a powerful tool if used correctly, but I’m not so sure about Facebook ads having a big impact, but advertising via broadcasting, Yes, the biggest impact.

    Then there was the last GE, ref: dark money, people getting daily bundles of leaflets through the door, it must have contributed to the Tory’s winning targeted seats in Scotland (obviously collusion by the LibDems and labour to win them those seats had a large impact, but that must have been through advertising too) – not that anything happening in Scotland can affect general elections, but we were landed with some pretty odious examples of MPs, kind of glad to get a couple of them out of the Scottish Parliament mind you, Westminster can keep them.

    The DUP funding advertising in Scotland for Brexit: it obviously wasn’t enough to swing a vote, but it still should not have been done.

    If there are going to be rules, then everyone should be made to stick to them. I mind T May being interviewed about the Tories being fined the maximum amount by electoral commission – her answer was effectively ‘everyone does it, we paid our dues’. The fines are laughable for what they gain (particularly those politicians with hedge fund manager husbands who are going to make a killing come Brexit.)
    She had the cheek to say the SNP got fined too – no they didn’t, and they never have been. Barefaced liars, no shame, no morals, spreading misinformation. Of course people won’t vote for them under normal circumstances, but they need a viable alternative.

    The leave vote? The U.K. Government has been blaming the EU for all their own toxic policies for decades (the EU will privatise all the railways! Um,,, Westminster has already done it, years in advance of any EU ruling,,,), the anti-eu sentiment was already there, it didn’t need much of a push. Because it was a uk-wide vote, they didn’t need to make an effort to influence people in Scotland (not enough people to swing any vote) and none of the politicians were up for it, hence why it was left to the DUP from elsewhere, with money from ‘elsewhere’.

  • Ian

    Craig, i really don’t think you have fully grasped the serious subversion of the democratic process that the leave campaign was engaged in. In her tweet CC refers to advertising. This might be shorthand, but if you have been following her diligent and excellent dogged research, this is not advertising of the kind you are talking about with the Scottish referendum vote. This is far deeper and more manipulative use of false information, i.e. lies, which are targeted at people that their research has found to be receptive to the propaganda they were furnishing – about Turkey joining the EU, mass immigration etc – classic Goebbels type propaganda. The genius of it was that most people never saw it, so there was a good chance it would never be detected. Only CC’s diligence over two years, along with Chris Wylie’s whistleblowing, has started to unravel the facts about Banks and Cummings illegal use of data and funds in the leave campaign. If you think that this kind of fraud didn’t sway the referendum then you don’t understand it – I say this not because it swayed millions of people, but that they knew they only needed to target the few hundred thousand who tipped the vote in order to win. And they did. Bannon and the alt-right are way ahead of the mainstream and the left in understanding this phenomenon – the breakdown of the MSM and trust in it and politicians, and they realise that by fanning those flames they will make huge gains. Which is exactly what they are doing. Trump proved Bannon’s case, that truth or facts are irrelevant, and the constant use of terms like your use of ‘liberal elite’ is fuel to the fire. You, like me and thousands of others are of course part of the so-called fictional liberal elite, because we have had an education and a decent income at one time. You seriously misunderstand and underestimate the changed circumstances in which old-fashioned democracy is dying and these people see their chance. Don’t forget Fox, johnson and gove were all onboard the leave campaign and could not fail to have known about its tactics. there is a serious cat that the whole result is flawed and cannot be trusted. The fact that you have some persuasive arguments about the disconnect between politicians and ordinary people does not mitigate or refute CC’s point about how the vote was changed – there is no real comparison with the Scottish vote. It is a pity your disdain for The Guardian allows you to downplay and not engage with what she has discovered. it is very disquieting, and you should recognise that, instead of complacently rejecting it – we are in a different world now, and it is not the old one of comfy trustworthy simple elections or flawed democracies. it is much more dangerous and on the edge. The alt right are in the ascendancy, and it is regrettable that many of the left seek common cause with them re ‘liberal elites’ faux concern about white working class and all the other memes.

    • Jiusito

      Ian, I was very relieved to read your post – I had been beginning to lose faith in both Craig and his circle. The microtargeted advertising Cadwalladr is talking about is a totally different beast to the stuff the status-quo people were putting out. Your neighbour to one side could be targeted with one outrageous lie (which was tailored to people with his profile and had already been roadtested and fine-tuned) and your neighbour on the other side could be targeted with an equally outrageous but totally contradictory lie; and you would have not the slightest inkling of any of it. I find this development truly terrifying – I am not sure how democracy (such as it is) can survive unless these techniques are banned and effectively prevented. It won’t unless we take the threat seriously.

      • Patrick Mahony

        At the time Remainers were disparaging Leavers as Old, Northern and Stupid. They were looking forward to them inevitably dying shortly.
        Now they are saying they are young and tech savvy enough to be online and on Facebook – presumably checking on flat cap and whippet racing pages sublimaly soaking up Kremlin microadvertising.

      • Mathias Alexander

        They can only be neutralised by knowledge of these methods becoming common knowledge along with ideas like cognative dissonance and group think.

      • BarrieJ

        Tragically I think what the establishment want is that the public should be subjected to unrestricted access to their propaganda, whilst being denied the opportunity to get their information anywhere else.

        • Jiusito

          Barrie, that isn’t the issue. To compare old-school political advertising with this new sort, think of Nigel Farage standing in front of that notorious “Breaking Point” poster showing (apparently) a stream of immigrants. There was one slogan, one image and the whole world could see it and see what game Farage was playing, and half the world at least could be disgusted by it. By contrast, the kind of microtargeted Facebook advertising Cadwalladr has brought to light could show a hundred different images to selected people, depending on precisely what kind of immigration they were anxious about, and no one else would even know what they were being shown, so it wouldn’t have any negative repercussions. Plus, Facebook allows you to monitor how each post is performing – so if one racist message doesn’t get sufficient “likes”, you can stop wasting money on it and try something else.

          Tom Baldwin pointed out another side to this kind of political messaging. He has said that before the 2017 general election, the Labour leadership ordered a major campaign on Facebook to persuade young people to register to vote. The obstructive party machinery instead made sure that the ads appeared in Corbyn & co’s newsfeeds and in those of Corbyn-friendly journalists, but no one else’s. The leadership believed that hundreds of thousands of young people were getting the message, but in fact only they were seeing the ads.

    • Baron

      If anyone’s deluded, Ian, it’s you not Craig.

      The vote Leave of 17.4mn was 1.3mn votes over the vote Remain, how is this ‘the few hundred thousand who tipped the vote (because of breaking the rules that you allege) in order to win’, heh.

      A High Court judges’ decision by the difference of just one, a Parliamentary election result by a couple of hundred votes is fine with people like you, but a vote in which one party wins decisively with over 1.3mn majority on a turnout never experienced before is questioned – ceaselessly, mendaciously, often laughably.

      The Leavers won, that’s it, there’s no point yapping about it no end, what we should all do now is focus on how we manage on our own.

      • Ian

        A margin of 1.3m means that only 650,000 people need to be turned. that is not a significant amount. Opinion has been split 50/50 for some time, with fluctuating margins on either side, so a small push was all that was needed, based on outright lies and disinformation. that is a fact, as Chris Wylie, who was on the inside, has been pointing out for months.

        • Reg

          And do you have any evidence this mythical 1.3 million even saw this fictional propaganda?

          • N_

            @Reg – There aren’t 1.3 million people you can point to and say it was they who won it. Certainly there were millions of voters who were either undecided when the official campaigning started, or who changed their minds, and many of them saw Leave propaganda and it had an effect on them. I agree with you that both sides lied and that whingeing isn’t a good look.

          • Reg

            No this is nonsense, I was responding to a post of a fictional 1.3 million who supposedly swung it, there is no evidence that they even saw the propaganda that the hysteria is about much less that it had much affect, clutching at straws.
            And it negates the lies and the weight of propaganda on the Remain side from the establishment.

        • joeblogs

          You are not only poor on research, you’re poor at arithmetic, too.
          Plug your ‘turn’ number in to the result – try using pencil and paper, not a calculator.
          Turn your paper over and put your hand up when you have finished, teacher will be round shortly. /s

    • Reg

      No I do not believe a word of it as it follows the anti Russian format in resembling a back propaganda exercise. I have no doubt all sides were abusing big data in the referendum and in the US elections. The lack of the coverage of how the democratic party or the Remain campaign abused big data indicates it is safe to reject the Cambridge analytica story as BS, as if you tell only half the story it is still a lie.

        • Reg

          You miss the point where was the investigation of the abuse of big Data by the Democratic party and by the Remain campaign? I find in unsurprising if the leave campaign abused big data, but given the lies told by these media outlets on the red baiting scare I have no confidence in any of their investigations such as Cambridge Analytica, and anybody taking this at face value has little credibility after this. Obama’s campaign was also launched by allot of social media, and given the underhand tactics of the DNC with Sanders I find it very difficult to believe that the Democratic campaign did not do exactly the same thing. Also given the people involved in and funding the Remain Campaign (Goldman Sachs JP Morgan, Richard Branson, Citygroup, Morgan Stanley, Osborne, Cameron, Theresa May, George Soros), morality would not be an impediment here. I also find it difficult to believe they did not do exactly the same thing and were just as duplicitous as Cambridge Analytica are accused of (did we miss the getting found guilty in a court of law bit)?

          But the main point you miss is this, if both sides are involved in electoral fraud, and you selectively accuse and investigate only one side that still is a lie, and is still misleading. No, it is you that will not and dont understand as you like to see things simplisticly as this is less complicated and taxing and more comforting to see things in black and white, are we regressing to pantomime here?..

          • Jiusito

            Reg, you seem to miss the point, that actually quite often in elections one side steals a march on the other and pulls a marketing trick the other side has no answer to. An obvious recent example is the first Obama campaign’s use of social media. This was then (as I understand it) imitated by Momentum in 2017. Labour surprised almost everyone by catching a huge surge of support, much of it from young people who the pollsters had assumed were unlikely to vote.

            You (and others here) also talk as if people vote in blocs, and for simple reasons. They don’t. There were 17.4 million sets of factors that induced people to vote leave, and 16.1 million sets of factors that induced people to vote remain. You can look for patterns and trends and dominant factors, but it’s nonsense to say 17.4m voted this way because they wanted to give the establishment a kicking, or whatever.

            For what it’s worth, one of the reasons I voted Remain and still campaign for Britain to stay in the EU is that although I don’t much trust Brussels, I trust Westminster even less and I think that on balance we are safer in the EU. I detested Cameron and Osborne long before 2016 and if I had met either of them I would love to have seen someone else punch them in the face (not being a violent man myself!).

            I’m tired of hearing Leavers saying “Both sides told lies.” Tell me one unarguable lie told by the pro-EU side that really swayed opinion to compare with the bendy banana myth, the £350 million on the side of the bus or the “fact” that Turkey is on the verge of joining the EU?

          • Reg

            The short term economic forecast by the Treasury of the effects of a leave result (not actually leaving) and the statements by the unelected public servants from the Banks of England with the former Goldman Sachs operative in charge were lies. The contention that EU state Aid rules did not inhibit public ownership were lies. The statements by Remain that migration does not have negative effects in some low paid sectors was a lie, numerous academic studies (which I can dig out) have indicated these negative effects. The use of a banana example indicates a paucity of argument, and I never believed the 350M for the NHS and there is very little evidence that many people did.

            Turkey was angling for a long time to join the EU and is in a customs arrangement with the EU, so this is another lie by the Remain campaign. The moves to integrate the Turkey into the EU were put on hold after the Taksim Square crack down, so it is a matter of opinion whether Turkey was on the verge of joining the EU as this depends on what time scale you are talking about, under the present leadership this is unlikely, but leaderships change.


            Where was the investigation into the use of social media by Remain indicating the bias of the media?
            Given the underhand tactics by those supporting Scotland remaining in the UK, that included the same people who supported the UK Remaining in the EU, I would be surprised if Remain did not use the same tactics. Your use of Obama using social media is interesting, how do we know that the Obama campaign did not abuse big data also?

            No at no point did I suggest people vote in blocks these exist as tenancies, the research was that the less well off the older and those living outside metropolitan areas tended to vote leave. I would suggest that because those that did not benefit from globalisation tended to want to give .the establishment a kicking. The Mark Blyth covers the research quite well in ‘Global Trumpism’ link above. There were aberrations such as in Scotland which voted for Remain due to the SNP posing as anti-establishment while supporting the EU (however economically incoherent.for the SNP to support the EU is after Greece is for an anti austerity party).

            After Greece I fail to see how anybody can credibly be on the left can support the EU, as the austerity imposed on the UK pales in comparison to that imposed on Greece by the EU. This is indicated by the sharp increase in suicides outlined by the BMJ.



          • Ian

            you are missing the point completely by trying to say both sides lied and used social media. That is not the point. There is no equivalence between the two sides, however you view the claims of remain. /unfortunately most people here just ignore, and don’t bother to find out, what Cadwaller has been uncovering with her unstinting and dogged research. Instead they think they know, based on what Craig has said and a few other things they heard. However, if you want to line up with Bannon, who is far shrewder and ahead of the game than all of these futile posts, then go ahead. Most people refuse to acknowledge the web of connections from Bannon to Leave to Fox, Johnson et al. They are still at it. And you fall for it.

          • Reg

            I give no credence to research by proven liars, such as those pushing the Russia conspiracy, and i give even less credence to those giving credence to proven liars. You are right their is no equivalence the state overwhelmingly supported Remain, including some of its its most currupt elements including Goldman Sachs JP Morgan, Citygroup.

            The Tory Government also used Taxpayers money for a leaflet drop to all households supporting Remain. Obama supported Remain, the Bank of England supported Remain the TV overwhelmingly supported Remain and even the majority of newspapers supported Remain. I do not understand all this credulous nonsense about the EU being a progressive organisation after Greece, it must be religious faith unsupported by evidence. Carole Cadwalladr is not a credible journalist as she is pushing anti Russia propaganda for the behalf of others, I have no idea if she is directly employed by these state actors but she acts like she is. If it looks like state propaganda it probably is.

            An example of the rubbish she writes, and why nobody with a independent thought in their head should believe anything unless she has denied it. Only the most simplistic try and suggest disagreeing with a Russia bating hack like Carole Cadwalladr means lining up with Banon. Indeed a left opposition to the EU would cut away support for the far right.




            The problem is this in the US opposition to Trump in the form of Clinton is more of a danger to world peace than Trump due to her push for a anti Russia narrative and attempts to push Nato eastward against the 2nd most powerful nuclear nation on earth, and the absurd policy of supporting and arming allies of Isis in Syria. Because of this I would line up with almost anyone to prevent Clinton gaining power, and for this reason I was pleased Trump was elected as Clinton represented an existential threat to world peace. Trump is a terrible candidate, why did the DNC come up with the only candidate that was even worse?

            But you can keep repeating Trump and Leave bad, Clinton and the EU good if that is all the complexity you can deal with. What was it, two legs good four legs bad, as he looked one to the other and could no longer tell the difference.
            I am perfectly aware of Banons activities as I am able to keep more than one baddy in my head at once.

    • SA

      What you describe as manipulation has been in practice in politics for a long time. How many governments have won elections on false promises that they quickly reneged on once elected? Look at the last coalition government and how the Lib Dems flipped completely. Maybe the methods have changed. Targeting electorates and areas is a very well known method of winning elections by swaying the swing voters.
      As to the result, I have voted remain but clearly think that there were enough voters who voted leave for a clear reasons that were false caused by both false promises and scaremongering. Some of the examples used by CC were well known and open such as the fear of Turkey joining the common market. This also coincided with the general influx of refugees which was used by the leavers. Moreover there was a very strong proleave intentions according to the same poll analysis between 2012 to 2014. The general message here is that these things are multifactorial in cause and trying to peg the cause of the lost vote to this sort of interference and the completely unfounded linking it to Russia seem like trying to find a bogeyman where none exist. Wishful thinking will not help but proper analysis will.

      • Jiusito

        I am amazed at how determined people are to miss Ian’s point. The issue is not that Leave won but the new techniques they used that helped them to win. At almost every general election I have witnessed, one side or another has stolen a march on everyone else. The Tories, if I recall correctly, were the first to hire a big advertising agency, and Saatchis produced that devastating “Labour Isn’t Working” poster to which Labour had no effective answer. But at least with traditional political campaigning, from a public speech to a poster campaign to a leaflet, everyone can see what you’re doing and hear what you’re saying. You can’t appeal to racists without repelling non-racists and non-whites. You can’t tell one set of voters, “We’ll pour that £350m a week into the NHS” and tell another set of voters you’ll pour it into defence spending and yet another set it’ll all go into farm subsidies. You can’t tell outright lies – “By 2020 60 million Turks could be on their way to England” – and go unchallenged. You can currently do all these things on Facebook and the opposition won’t even know you’re doing it. That’s why Arron Banks was so confident that Leave was going to win, because he knew the trick they had up their sleeve.

        • Stonky

          “The issue is not that Leave won but the new techniques they used that helped them to win…”

          Among all the Carole Caterwaudeling about how unfair it all was, there isn’t of shred of actual evidence that all this vastly expensive, highly sophisticated, and pernicious targeted advertising actually changed the mind of a single person in terms of how they planned to vote.

          And the famous bus that you guys are all so exercised about has a mirror image in the “£4300 hit to household GDP (invisible disclaimer – household GDP is not actually the same thing as household income)” from the Remain side.

        • SA

          “You can’t appeal to racists without repelling non-racists and non-whites. You can’t tell one set of voters, “We’ll pour that £350m a week into the NHS” and tell another set of voters you’ll pour it into defence spending and yet another set it’ll all go into farm subsidies. ”

          You imply that only whites can be racists and I think that you need to reexamine this statement. Moreover what you describe is like a confirmation bias type of advertising because it will only confirm to those who are supposedly swayed by these adverts, what they already believe in. Elections are won because of the swing voters changing sides.

          • Jiusito

            “Elections are won because of the swing voters changing sides.”

            General elections, no doubt, but not referendums. If anyone had said in the public square (so to speak) that animal welfare or environmental standards would be better in Britain outside the EU, they would have been challenged very forcefully by all the leading animal welfare and environmental organisations. But if Vote Leave could whisper it into the ears of people who have showed themselves susceptible to posts about animal abuse overseas, there was no one to challenge the untruth. And so on and so on. If you don’t see that this new technique is dangerous and anti-democratic, whether it’s used in a British referendum or a Kenyan presidential election, I think you are being wilfully blind.

  • Baron

    You’re spot on, Craig.

    If anything what her graph suggests strongly is that advertising is useless, just look at the two curves before the vote (when massive amounts were spent by both sides) and after it (when advertising was minimal), either of the curves change little. Had there been a strong cause and effect relationship both curves should have collapsed after the vote. Because they didn’t suggests that people pay little attention to what the adds say, make up their mind from sources other than advertising which they suspect, quite rightly, to be biased, often misleading, partisan.

    • N_

      Had there been a strong cause and effect relationship both curves should have collapsed after the vote.”

      No. On the contrary, people tend to keep to an idea or choice in which they have made an “investment”.

      You could read up on the salesman’s technique known as the “lowball”.
      One of the best books on persuasion is Robert Cialdini’s “Influence”.

      • N_

        This is why, for example, businesses run competitions where people have to complete the sentence “I like this product because…”

    • Michael McNulty

      I would think most people had decided which way they’d vote soon after first hearing there would be a referendum, and usually no amount of targeted advertising will change a mind already made up. All that money was spent on the few percent undecided and both sides lied.

      I still think the vote was rigged against the Leave side, but Remainers believed so much of their own BS they didn’t grasp the will to leave was so strong, and wishing to steal it but not too obviously they actually under-rigged it, while there were no exit polls to prove the fix was in. If there’s another vote they’ll rig it heavily towards Remain and that fix may become evident in places which were strongly Leave last time round. And this issue is so divisive that if Leave are forced to undergo another vote there may well be clashes at polling stations.

  • Joshnie

    I think you’re spot on about Brexiters being mainly people railing against the establishment. Cameron should never have fronted the Remain camp – he was just asking for a smack in the chops. Also, as a remain voter, and a fan of Obama (more Mrs Obama tbh…) it even made me feel queasy when he stuck his nose in to the Brexit argument. So I’m not surprised by the final result. I don’t share Carole Cadwalladr’s glee about the overspends, I have zero respect for the Electoral Commission after the Tory overspend in the 2015 election. It arrived with such fanfare and was soon swept under the carpet – even by Channel Four News who doggedly pursued it for a good while. If the Tories were in breach of Electoral spending rules in 2015 we wouldn’t have Cameron, and we wouldn’t have Brexit…
    Ms Cadwalladr is one of the few journalists doing good investigative work these days, so even if she is wrong about how advertising affects results, I think ‘childish’ and ‘foolish’ is a bit harsh.

    • Ian

      Yes, that’s much more informative thank Craig’s piece, and should worry anyone who actually cares about a fair and free election. Not many, unfortunately, people prefer banging their own drum and ignoring the evidence.

      • Patrick Mahony

        So a “free and fair” election is when only one side is allowed to campaign?

        • Ian

          Who said that? Nobody. A free and fair election depends on transparency, clarity about funding and its sources, and where they are deployed. The leave vote broke the law in their manipulation of data, spending and the deployment of blatantly false and racist ‘advertising’. Remain, for all their faults, didn’t.

  • sc

    I liked this collection of information from Molly Scott Cato . And SCL and the like are very worrying. Interesting that after all the Russian Hacking drama, it was a UK company caught boasting about influencing elections in various countries.

    But, whatever the attempted manipulation and overspending, it seemed to me that parts of England that were doing well tended to vote remain, and parts that were struggling leave. So people who the status quo was good for, voted to keep things as they were, and vice versa.

  • mickc

    Yes, you are absolutely right. Our ruling class don’t understand because they cannot believe they are utterly despised by most of the electorate.

  • giyane

    I see Cameron is not on your short-list of hated politicians. IMHO his trashing of Libya and starting the trashing of Syria were the principle reasons he was in line of fire at Brexit. Of course the racists in society claim it was support for their detestable racism. Cameron presented his red and blue superman underpants for kicking when it was wholly unnecessary and undesirable to think of leaving the EU. The penalty ball hit middle wicket.

    In wot way is Boris untarnished> He’s a Tory. They should have and would have been formally interred in the cemetery of politics after Thatcher’s economic and war crimes, selling family silver, attacking an occupied ship, ponzi-ing the banks, if it had not been for Cameron and Clegg.

    Craig you are an incurably sentimental old sucker up to the political establishment if you buy into the quaint charm of public pity that Cameron has been forced to retire to his gypsy caravan. He trashed Libya like Blair trashed Iraq and then pocketed the Zionist bankster ponzi cash, blaming Labour.

    OK Mrs May might be less toxic, but the fucking chimney has been absorbing sulphuric acid since Victorian times and Mrs May ain’t no stainless steel chimney flue liner. Hence the Tory dogma is still totally toxic and cannot be rebranded. It would not pass council regulations. Tory dogma has to be condemned as unsafe and unfit for purpose.

    We don’t send boys up chimneys any more so why are we allowing Victorian value Conservatism to take over? It’s a total contradiction to say there are nice Tories. They are earth scum and should have been buried for their entire radioactive life at Sellafield, instead of being dug up like white worms by the Liberals in 2010.
    Please could you take a break from political activity to sniff the gentrified back sides of your Tory friends. There’s work to be done and regulations to be followed, the first of which is to kill Conservatism. Are your Tory friends going to give you a posthumous pardon for your treasonous exposure of their war-crimes?

  • giyane

    I have been working this week on stripping out a domestic electrical wiring installation because the cables which are now 20 years old have decayed , producing toxic green slime at the light switches and sockets from a chemical reaction between the PVC plasticisers and the copper wires inside.

    British -made cables should be good for at least 80 years, so we have concluded that these must have been cheap imports. They carry the same labels as British made cables but they have decayed. The di-isoctyl phthalate plasticiser is banned in the US because it is dangerous to life. It is also dangerous to pocket.

    My point is: if Britain became an offshore Hong Kong to the EU, whereby we could bypass the Chinese Silk Road heading our way through rogue state Turkey with its evil dictator and Daesh minder for the EU Erdogan; and if we could then trade in cheaper and nastier imports underneath the safety standards of the EU, and bring this sub-standard stuff by the back door into the EU, do they flyby night billionaires worry about us paying WTO import duties when they are making a fortune by bypassing the rules???

    You won’t know that you have been breathing toxic chemicals for 20 years and it has been oozing out of your childrens’ bedroom sockets like green Fairy liquid. We have to knock the criminal plans of the criminal Tories on the head. They want to make a quick buck at our expense. To Tory politicians we are merely proles.

  • Sharp Ears

    I don’t see any mention of the part played by the state broadcaster’s, the BBC in the Brexit and Scottish referendum votes, ie propaganda.

  • James Chater

    So how do you explain the sudden surge in the Leave poll just at the time of the referendum? Red buses, NHS, Turkey come to mind. I agree with you that hatred of establishment politicians played a role, but so did lies. The one without the other may have been insufficient, but the 2 combined (plus the fact that the Leave side broke the law) proved irresistible. The Tories have done a good job of inflicting massive damage on the country and then getting people to think the EU is to blame. The fundamental problem was and is that the British were and remain woefully ignorant of the EU and how it works, an ignorance the Leave campaign exploited with ruthless skill.

    • HoBoJo

      Juncker had just called Brexiters ‘deserters’ at around the time of shift of opinion in May 2016 in what came across as arrogant interference, at least as presented by the rightwing press – he’d been relatively slient to that point so it was a really inopportune moment to put his foot in it.

      Hillary made the same mistake by calling Trump supporters ‘deplorables’ and never recovered. Calling voters names is never a winning strategy.

  • Brianfujisan

    OT… this caght my attention ..AntiScottiets…

    July 27, 2018 at 22:26
    Well done, though sponsorship is not a dirty word, where it doesnt actively seek to interfere, just associate

    Shame you moved from Ramsgate, would have been easier to attend (and fewer Scots ? )

  • Sharp Ears

    ‘Brexit and related issues

    Since late 2016, The Observer has published an extensive series of articles by Cadwalladr about the “right-wing fake news ecosystem”.

    Anthony Barnett wrote in the blog of The New York Review of Books about Cadwalladr’s articles in The Observer, which have alleged malpractice by campaigners for Brexit, and the reputed illicit funding of Vote Leave, in the 2016 EU membership referendum. She has also reported on alleged links between Nigel Farage, the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump and the Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election currently under investigation in the United States. The company Cambridge Analytica took legal action against The Observer for the claims made in Cadwalladr’s articles.’



    The long thread following her tweet which was copied in Craig’s piece.

  • SA

    Of course what Carole Cadwalladr is saying is utter nonsense. In analysing cause and effect in a complex situation you just cannot use simple deductions. You need to carry out what is known as a multivariate analysis to input all the factors that might affect outcome in order to have any confidence in stating what swayed the results one way or another. Similarly we cannot just state that Brexit and Trump were the results of voters rejecting the status quo by voting for an unknown change. This is also the same reason why the whole discussion about Russiagate is nonsense.
    If a complex systems on which elections are carried out can be manipulated so easily with such silly means as those allegedly used by the Russians then it must be the fault of a very poorly constructed system with non existent safeguards rather than any attempt by the Russians to exploit the system.

    • Ian

      I don’t think you know what she is saying, other than Craig’s completely inadequate summary, based on one tweet. See The Canary for a bit more information, although there is still a lot more than that.

  • SA

    Sadly politics is not subject to the rule of evidence, just statements by politicians. Scientific analysis seems to be totally lacking. If we look at the polls about voters feeling about the EU from this graph:

    then it is apparent that there was a very large majority in favour of leaving the EU during Cameron’s first term which then waned in 2014 and since that time the polls were sort of snaking neck and neck between the two camps. These trends reflect the complexities of the many events. It also tells us that the mantra ‘will of the people’ in relying on a yes/no answer to a complex situation is tosh as we can see that the ‘will of the people’ looks more like the ‘will of the wisp’.

    • SA

      One comical deduction from the accusation that Russia manipulated Brexit is the implication that Fox, Johnson, Gove and Davies are all somewhat Putinbots.

      • giyane


        Fox, Johnson, Gove and Davies are all somewhat Putinbots + Rees + Mogg.

        Putin is with China which wants a communist style of regimented Islam with whom it can talk politics at the top. In this sense all politicians united in the desire to bring the Word of God under human control.
        It’s like asking the Pilgrim Fathers to trust the British establishment with its sanctimonious hymns and bloated vicarages a share in power and influence.

        The Muslim Brotherhood is the Islamic freemasonry which all politicians desire. a golden ladder for the ambitious Muslims to climb, from which high position they can send out their useful Muslim idiots to do the will of the global elites. Fuck that for a game of conkers. Talking of which, most of the conker trees in England look half-dead, poisoned by jet-trails.

        Political Islam, like the British Empire before it is appalled by the audacity of a religious believer raising their hands to Almighty God, without going through their peacock heads. Plus sha change plus ch’est la meme shoes. It was ever organised thus within the Holy Roman Empire. Where shall we trash next? Now with political Islam joining the freemasonry they have further globalised the reach of religious power. The Muslim Brotherhood was created by the British in Egypt in 1918 to replace the Ottoman Empire.

        Muslims regard it as the devil incarnate.

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