Brexit bunglers were in it for themselves

Laura Kuenssberg presented Brexit: The Battle for BritainLaura Kuenssberg presented Brexit: The Battle for Britain
Laura Kuenssberg presented Brexit: The Battle for Britain
It's been a strange summer, politically speaking. Westminster seems to have gone through some sort of collective spasm, a funny turn of epic proportions, all caused by the referendum on whether or not Britain should stay in the European Union.

All through May and June, the political classes frothed and raged over how much Britain paid to the EU, how much it would cost each household if we left, the huge windfall the NHS might get if we voted for Brexit.

Meanwhile, as Laura Kuenssberg’s documentary Brexit: The Battle for Britain (BBC2, Monday, 9pm) revealed, the great British public got ready to give the country’s rulers an almighty kick in the ballots.

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What really shone out was how almost everyone at the top of the two campaigns was – no matter what they may have said publicly – only out for themselves.

Cameron called the referendum in the first place to head off the threat of UKIP in the Tory shires – no one was clamouring for their say on the EU, except UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage, who now saw it as an official endorsement of UKIP’s position.

The two ‘big beasts’ of the official Leave campaign, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, meanwhile, saw a victory as their main chance to replace Cameron as Prime Minister.

Kuenssberg failed to get interviews with Gove and Johnson, whose gamble, let us remember, led to embarrassing personal failure, but some of the lesser lights revealed a few interesting titbits.

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Will Straw, a director of the Remain campaign, for example, disclosed he tried for six months to get an appointment with Jeremy Corbyn’s advisors, such was the Labour leader’s lukewarm attitude to the EU. While former deputy PM Nick Clegg blamed Gove for leaking the story the Queen backed Brexit.

Meanwhile, up in Sunderland, working class Jimmy said: “It was our way of turning round and telling all those bigwigs, all those MPs, hey, listen to us.”

What this conveniently forgets is that all those leading the Leave campaign had been immersed in the Westminster bubble for decades, and were part of the “metropolitan elite” themselves.

Really, it’s way too soon to predict what will happen now, save to say that same old people will make the same old mistakes.

And Jimmy in Sunderland will still be ignored.