Brexit Unmasked: The memoirs and opinions of a nonagenarian

A few weeks ago, Swiss Bob was asked to review a book advocating re-joining the EU: Brexit Unmasked by Albert Kemp (Brown Dog Books, 2023). I don’t know if this unusual request was in recognition of Going-Postal’s international renown and so chosen as a good place to seek publicity, or because a re-joiner on a mission to convert Brexiteers to his righteous cause imagined that his book was so brilliant that even Going-Postal, the last frontier, would surely fall. Puffins tend to be somewhat sceptical of supra-national organisations and I suspect the author really does think that he can succeed in winning over puffins where the combined might of the establishment and Gary Lineker have failed.

Albert is a long retired civil servant from the Home Office immigration department and a member of the Liberal Democrats. Writing the book, a parting gift to the world from a man in his nineties, was probably how he passed the time during lockdowns and further evidence, therefore, of the negative consequences of lockdowns.

The author says “…I should like to give a short explanation of the impulses that prompted me to write this book. I had been extremely disappointed by the refusal of opposition politicians in parliament to enlighten the general public about the effects of Brexit…” He is writing, therefore, to enlighten us in a way opposition politicians are not doing. That is, Brexiteers are unenlightened, in contrast, of course, to guru Albert, the enlightened one. Note also, he is explaining the ‘impulses that prompted’ rather than simply saying ‘I wrote this book because…’. The whole book is in a prolix style in the manner of a stilted civil service memo from a functionary needing to fill the hours. I had promised Swiss Bob an article in a matter of days but so nausea inducing was the book I had to read it a few pages at a time and then, as an anti-dote, do something deplorable (pace Hilary Clinton) before continuing.

The book focuses on a ten-year period from 2012 up to Truss becoming PM, much of it in a selective and cursory way, but events that particularly annoyed Albert, the enlightened one, receive more extensive comment. One such, during the referendum campaign, is the Leave side complaining that the BBC was biased against Brexit which especially scandalised Albert. This was an “astonishing attack” which “did not contain a shred of evidence to support it”. He had watched the BBC and listened to BBC radio every day and can “recall nothing that could even be remotely construed as bias”. Later, he concedes there was possibly some bias in the way BBC Radio was presenting information because it “amounted to a distortion of the truth in favour of the Leave campaign.” He goes on to lament that at a time “when the public needed clear unbiased advice” – because unable to think or reason for themselves presumably unlike guru Albert, the enlightened one – “the BBC simply adopted a lofty position above the fray as though they were umpiring a tennis match”. It is not just the BBC that failed the nation. Oh no. The “inability of national leaders and much of the national media …. frequently failed to provide sensible advice to the general public. In turn these omissions and follies led eventually to the catastrophe of Brexit”. That the BBC exercised bias in its selection of people to interview never occurred to him. The BBC would line up clean cut Remainers in suits versus a single Brexiteer with learning difficulties and a personal hygiene problem, but that was never bias.

Poor Albert was in despair at the way the campaigns were going. Albert was 88 years old at the time of the referendum and he decided to act. Oh yes. He wrote emails to Paddy Ashdown and Gordon Brown! That Leave still won must have been a blow indeed.

The other affront to his world view was provided by fellow members of his local golf club a number of whom said they would be voting Leave on the basis of taking back control. Guru Albert did his best to enlighten them but to no avail. It was an “attack slogan” that “seemed to resonate with many people”, but obviously not with Albert, the enlightened one. That people did not want to be governed by foreigners with different histories, traditions, and cultures, who operate legal systems distinct from English Common Law (the export of which brought freedoms never seen before in many colonies), and whose priorities were anything but the preservation of Britain, appears to mystify Albert.

He had what he regards as killer arguments against Brexit. His first argument, waffled on about at length, is the projection of economic cost, but a second argument, after noting that Obama warned the UK against leaving the EU, is that no country’s leader supported the idea except for Russia’s Vladimir Putin. At no point does he realise models projecting into the future are just fancy guesses, more revealing about the guesser than reality (see Professor Neil Ferguson’s pandemic predictions for details) or take account of the OBR having never got a prediction right any more than has the Treasury or Bank of England. He read about a guess (sorry model) by the Treasury that forecast the UK economy would be hundreds of billions worse off over the next ten years and that settled the issue for the enlightened one even though the Treasury sponsored ‘project fear’ failed to materialise (500,000 unemployed etc). He repeatedly accuses Leave of providing no evidence but is unaware that a guess about the future is not evidence either. As to Putin, if the New York Times is to be believed (it isn’t), he would have been too busy interfering in the upcoming US election to care about Brexit.  He mentions the pandemic and war in Ukraine. For Albert they are annoying distractions that prevent proper scrutiny of Brexit. He looks forward to when the war is over and we can get back to life’s main purpose of slagging off Brexit.

The most striking thing about the book is what he does not say. There is no reflection on or discussion of what the EU is or is on track to become. That it is a protectionist block for financial and corporate interests with a declining share of world trade, that it is full of ex-communists giving themselves special privileges and lower tax rates, that it seeks to erase national identities, that it is deeply anti-democratic, that its single currency is managed for the benefit of Germany at the expense of its southern states where youth unemployment is especially high, are all features Albert appears completely oblivious to.  The reason, of course, is that for Albert as with other remoaners, the EU is a sacred abstraction on a par with the Virgin Mary. Debating her goodness or possible lack of it is a heresy for these adherents of the EU religion. It’s a religion founded on snobbery, on a fear of the populace, with disciples convinced of their own moral superiority and forever exasperated over our refusal to follow “sensible advice”. Quisling Steve Baker MP recently tweeted his disdain for “awful populism”; Albert and others got there a long time ago.

To his credit, Albert realises that insulting people is not the way to enlist someone to a cause and we are spared Sky’s, the BBC’s, and the Guardian’s sneers of calling us thick, xenophobic bigots for voting for Brexit. He is too polite to do that directly. Rather, we were conned, and he blames the conmen. But in so doing he reveals his patronising snobbery. We are simple, gullible members of the “general public” deprived of sound advice because, by implication, we cannot think or decide for ourselves. That every household received a leaflet, that the media was saturated with information and argument and debate, was not the “sound advice” the public needed though he never spells out what this advice would look like. ‘Vote remain you plebs’, presumably. But we did get that ad nauseam.

Guru Albert, the enlightened one, appears to inhabit a parallel universe unrelated to the world the rest of us live in, but he did connect with reality at one point albeit courtesy of the EU Conclave – sorry, Commission – whose statistical office (Eurostat) published a report in 2014 on relative deprivation in EU countries and identified nine of the ten poorest EU regions to be in the UK. Alerted by this Book of Numbers part of the EU bible to the actual state of the country he has lived in (for over 80 years at the time of the report), Albert experienced a sense of foreboding as “it indicated that many regions in the UK, particularly in England, were likely to be harbouring discontent about their conditions, and likely to express their dissatisfaction by voting against the government”. It is the one thing guru Albert got right. He lives in the constituency of Runnymede and Weybridge and his inflation proof civil service pension that we pay for seems to support golf club membership which I suspect is far from cheap around Weybridge in Surrey. I suppose we should be grateful to the EU for alerting Albert, the enlightened one, to the bleeding obvious.

He was soon back in his imaginary world though. He was a Labour sympathiser for most of his life – he was a civil servant so that didn’t really need explaining – but he joined the Liberal Democrats in 2016 because of their pro-EU policy and with whom “I will remain”.  (That may be an accidental pun.) There is no mention of the great Jo Swinson, but he does single out Jeremy Corbyn at the time of the 2019 election though not for being a terrorist hugging Marxist. He asks “Could Jeremy Corbyn have won the general election on 12 December 2019? I firmly believe that provided he had adopted an ‘End Brexit’ policy by June 2019 and, as I suggested earlier, had backed it up with a nationwide information campaign about the effects of Brexit on the UK economy and the well-being of the British people, he could have led Labour to victory”. Don’t think so Albert, but dream on.

He discusses events of 2019 but with one significant omission. The elections to the European Parliament in 2019 never happened. All we are told by Albert is that Johnson, an “unscrupulous adversary”, took over from May and that Corbyn had failed to recognise “that by the spring of 2019 a profound change had taken place in the public perception of Brexit”. The spectacular triumph of the Brexit Party must have been so traumatic for Albert that it has been erased from memory. Alternatively, there was a profound change in Albert’s perception of reality occasioned by some of Prince Harry’s magic mushrooms perhaps. As Johnson noted on becoming leader, failure to deliver Brexit would be an extinction event for the Tories, and Sir Kneeler, on taking over from Corbyn, reached the same conclusion for Labour. I can only assume, if Albert was not out of his head on something, that he got his news solely from Jo Swinson (which probably induced the same disconnect with reality that drugs do).

I said Albert got one thing right but there was a second – sort of. In his email to Paddy Ashdown he suggested Brexit could lead to increased immigration as the EU would no longer be a buffer zone. At the time, and in the period leading up to the referendum, gimmigrants were focused on the Channel Tunnel. That route became less and less viable as fences and patrols increased. People traffickers were becoming a global network and realised that a sea invasion was vastly more profitable than the backs of lorries at a single point of entry. The EU was never a buffer zone. Tech savvy criminals, collating and promulgating information about which countries were the softest, are merely exploiting that the UK grants visas to a higher percentage of illegal entrants than any other European country. It has bugger all to do with imaginary buffer zones.  There are push factors and pull factors in illegal migration. Trillions of dollars of aid have not removed the push factors. Unless and until pull factors are removed the invasion will continue. Re-joining the EU would require the UK take a proportion of the EU’s many gimmigrants. It would make matters worse not better except in the delusional world of Albert, the enlightened one.

The final chapter, to which everything leads, is about re-joining the EU. On this he has no detailed strategy but expresses doubts over Keir Starmer though he hopes he will do the right thing. His preferred solution, if the next first past the post prime minister does not advocate re-joining, is to change the voting system. He is sure proportional representation will bring about the change he seeks. In that final chapter he hopes he has persuaded Brexiteers to see their error.

There is an autobiographical chapter, but I shall not review that as my criticisms are not about poor deluded Albert personally nor is his biography relevant to whether we re-join the EU. I do not wish a nonagenarian any harm and he may see out his days quietly at his Surrey golf club in the bosom of the Liberal Democrats.

The parliament of 2017 to 2019 must be one of the most shameful in our history in which the establishment conspired with the EU – visits from Blair, Major, Clegg, Sturgeon, and others (all of whom should be in The Tower for treason) – to undermine UK democracy and sovereignty and shackle us to the EU regardless of our referendum. They did not respect our vote at all. On this Albert is silent except for being disappointed there was no second referendum.

We are indeed shackled to the EU via the Northern Ireland Protocol, by alignment with its laws (seven years later!), by being on the hook still for the ECB, and by being increasingly sucked into the EU Defence structure. David Cameron, during the referendum, said “if we vote leave then we leave everything”. Brexiteers were indeed conned, just not in the way Albert imagines. If Albert ever reads this then I hope, Albert, you do live to see the next election as you say you want to do, but note that I and many others have not forgotten nor forgiven the utter contempt for 17.4 million people, the complete repudiation of democracy, that marks that parliament and which treachery continues even now. We are becoming an occupied country by stealth with the establishment as collaborators. Please, Albert, just shut the fuck up.

Article photos courtesy of Sunshine & Showers. Featured image courtesy of Going Postal.

© Stout Yeoman 2023