Brexit believers may not be all they seem

Posted By: February 24, 2016

Brian Feeney. Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday, February 24, 2016

At FIRST sight Arlene Foster’s curious half-hearted ‘recommendation’ to vote to leave the EU flies in the face of all economic, financial and commercial logic.

Polls show 75 per cent of voters here want to remain in the EU. The north’s Chamber of Commerce reports 81 per cent of business people support remaining. The north’s farmers depend on EU subsidies to the extent that the UFU disclosed in 2013 that 87 per cent of farm revenue comes from the Single Farm Payment. So the agriculture sector isn’t viable without the EU.

It’s true Foster hedged her ‘recommendation’ round with so many caveats that it’s meaningless, more or less saying she expected DUP voters to decide as they please as indeed they will given the facts. Still, why did she do it?

It’s only when you look at the polling evidence presented by Professor John Curtice, the only pollster who emerged from last year’s British general election with any credibility that you begin to understand. Curtice shows that those likely to vote to leave are either predominantly poorly educated, or over 55 or unhappy with a changing society they are unfamiliar with or all three. Sounds like your typical DUP backwoodsman (or woman). Curtice didn’t ask if those likely to vote leave also believe the Giant’s Causeway is only slightly older than Donald Trump, as some DUP MLAs do.

Nevertheless Foster has to take account of these people’s views. After all, thousands of them support her party. Furthermore they are views shared by the many right-wingers hankering after a mythical Little England who turned up at the pro-Brexit Grassroots Out campaign launch. One Conservative commentator described the occasion as ‘akin to standing in a saloon bar in 1975 or in a golf clubhouse in 1968 while someone explains their lurid theories about European history 1914-1945 based on repeated viewings of Battle of Britain’. Sounds like the DUP party conference, minus the alcohol of course. No wonder David Cameron jeered at the ‘outers’ walking arm in arm with Nigel Farage and George Galloway: strange bedfellows indeed.

So although Foster paid lip service to the extremist anti-EU wing of her party she won’t be campaigning vigorously to leave. She’ll leave that to Depooty[Deputy] Dawds with his dodgy statistics.

It will be instructive to hear him, not to mention our proconsul [NI Secretary of State], explaining the pound crashing to a six-year low as an example of how we’ll all be more prosperous in their shimmering
The Grassroots Out, now shortened to ‘GO!’, campaign may be the extremist wing but the  mainstream ‘Leave’ campaign is not exactly inspiring. That’s not only because our proconsul is part of it though she fits in perfectly. There she was, among the Not So Famous Five Cabinet ministers and one non-Cabinet minister, an unprepossessing line-up of has-beens and never-to-bes.

The Daily Mail was so annoyed that only these political nonentities announced they opposed the EU that the paper gave them a full broadside. The proconsul ‘has a manner as cold as Sherpa Tenzing’s nose and a voice frosted by boredom. Listen to this one for a few minutes and you’ll be gnawing at your knuckles in despair’. Iain Duncan Smith, ‘probably the feeblest Tory leader in living memory’, and Chris Grayling, ‘the gormless Leader of the House, ‘like some tranquilised ungulate, his jaw slowly rotating as he produces a plop-plop-plop of prosaic sludge’.

Then along came Boris who wisely avoided lining up with those political D-listers but of course his support for Brexit was a mere pretext: he was announcing his candidature for next Conservative prime minister. He’ll be campaigning for Boris, not appearing alongside the likes of our proconsul who has all the charisma of a stick of celery.

Given the low opinion in Britain of her political prowess and lack of celebrity status it’s amusing to hear party leaders here calling for her resignation because she doesn’t represent the views of people in The North on either side of the divide. The last few days demonstrate conclusively that no opinion maker pays the slightest attention to anything she says least of all when she says anything about Norn Irn.[Northern Ireland].

That’s why she’s here folks. No-one with political weight on the Westminster scene is sent here.