I’ve belatedly caught up with Brexit: the Uncivil War — the Channel 4 drama about Brexit starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Brexit was the most enormous mistake.
2. It unleashed a populist beast which should never have been let out of its cage.
3. The tensions it created will divide Britain for years and do little but harm.
4. The Remain campaign was honourable and right but was undone by its own decency.
5. The Brexit campaign was run by a bunch of back-stabbing chancers and weirdos.
6. It only won because it cheated by having a borderline autistic megalomaniacal genius called Dominic Cummings in charge.
7. And because it was handed this sneaky, underhand data harvesting technology by the scary rich Americans who also made Donald Trump happen, enabling it cunningly to make the British people vote against their best interests by feeding them lies about the NHS, the £350 million a week EU membership fee, and the threat of Turkish immigration.
Why then did I enjoy this tendentious, inaccurate, pro-Remain propaganda so enormously?
Because at its heart, Brexit: the Uncivil War so clearly didn’t believe its own message.
You could see this from its decision to make as its star Dominic Cummings, the brilliant and irascible Vote Leave strategist who made Brexit happen. (Very sympathetically played, too, by Benedict Cumberbatch, who has shot up enormously in my estimation.)
And you could see it in the key scenes which — as Fraser Nelson outlines in the Spectator — “show why Remain lost.”
One is the scene in the Remain focus group where the white, lower-middle-class woman (a “swing voter”) finally flips:
A frustrated Craig Oliver is watching a focus group discussion from behind a one-way mirror, then bursts into the room and starts to make the Remain case himself. Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg – they’re going to be fine, he tells them. “This is just a game to them. A debating society. But, the risk to you and your children…” A woman, a swing voter in the group, hits back. “There’s no risk. Come to where I’m from. There’s nothing to lose.” Another focus group member accused her of being too old, another one of being “nervous about a person with a different colour skin and different accent.” This drives the swing voter mad. She then starts to break down: “You can sit there and say ‘I’ve had all my life’ coming from your big city. The past few years have been fucking awful! If you must know! And all I hear all the time is… SHUT UP! Don’t talk about it! Don’t mention it – ever. Well I’m sick of it! I’m sick of feeling like nothing, like I have nothing! Like I know nothing. Like I am nothing. I’m sick of it!”
Yes. Brexit won because people like that fictional woman felt like strangers in their own country. They had — and still have — been unpersonned by the globalist establishment. They want — as Cummings’s ingenious campaign slogan put it — to “take back control” of their nation, their democracy, their freedoms, their borders, their economy, their future, their lives.
The idea that Brexit won because of deceit or trickery or fancy technology is pure Remainer projection: a form of denial designed to make them feel better about having lost, and feel morally justified in continuing to resist the result. It’s an updated variant on Marxist “false consciousness”: the people voted the way they did out of ignorance, not because it was what they actually wanted…
Watching Brexit: the Uncivil War felt like watching two separate films simultaneously.
There was the blue-pilled official version that Channel 4 actually wanted you to see, with all those ridiculous claims in white-on-black print at the end rehearsing all the conspiracy theories promulgated by the Guardian‘s mad cat woman Carole Cadwalladr about sinister plots involving Cambridge Analytica etc.
Then there was the red-pilled unofficial version which — against all his pro-Remain instincts — screenwriter James Graham actually wrote.
One of the reasons Brexit has unhinged so many clever people — academic AC Grayling; journalist Matthew Parris; education guru Lord Adonis; etc — is that the problem of believing two contradictory things simultaneously has caused their heads to explode with cognitive dissonance.
To give one example of these contradictions, one of the key assumptions of Remainers — then and now — is that Britain is better off in the European Union. But never once at any stage have they been capable of providing plausible evidence that this is so. On the contrary — as Tim Shipman detailed in his book All Out War, on which Brexit: the Uncivil War was loosely based — one of the Remain campaign’s main problems was that it found it quite impossible to advance any solid, convincing reasons as to why Britain would benefit from staying as a member of the EU. That’s why Project Fear was launched: it was the feeble best they could do.
Imagine how hard it must be for an intelligent person to go on holding an intellectual position for which there is zero supporting evidence. It would drive you bonkers, wouldn’t it, Professor Grayling?