J'accuse...! Dominic Cummings and Vote Leave

Sir,

How did you feel at dawn on 24th June, as Nigel Farage gave his victory salute? As a political operative, you must be used to others taking credit for your work but had Nigel Farage led the campaign, the vote would have been decisive. And not in favour of Brexit.

As you have written, “I think we voted to leave because so many British people had been left behind economically and culturally for so long, and were furious about it; and because, from the 2008 financial crisis onwards, they had accumulated so much contempt for the political elites.” Yet there are plenty of scenarios where that would remain the case and Britain voted to stay in the EU.

Nothing is inevitable. Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union was a result of many different decisions. You were at the heart of many, if not all, of them.

The first decisive moment for the referendum campaign was when Vote Leave, the organisation you built, became the official campaign for Brexit. The next was the recruitment of Michael Gove, then Boris Johnson to Leave’s cause. Together they were a formidable duo.

You pushed Farage into the background.

Equally important was the decision to adopt “Take back control” as Leave’s slogan. It was simple. It was something that voters could relate to. It expressed a human frustration often felt towards politics and events.

There is a common refrain from Brexiters: “It’s about taking back control.” The urge is understandable. The trouble is, what are the next ten words of the argument? That is when the silence descends.

The reality was that voting for Brexit was a leap into the unknown. But doesn’t look so good on a bus, does it?

You, your team - too many to name - and Vote Leave ran a borderline xenophobic campaign that was dishonest to its core.

One month before the referendum, Vote Leave published a poster. “Turkey is Joining the EU,” it claimed. The poster cited Turkey’s populated (76 million), allowing the inference to be drawn that the country would soon be overwhelmed with invading hordes who had “higher levels of criminality and gun ownership”.  You played with people's fears about immigration - and increased them.

Defence minister Penny Mordaunt said in that a vote for Remain was a vote in favour of Turks moving “here freely when they join the EU soon”. The statement was sly and dishonest but the poster was worse. The EU has started accession negotiations with Turkey, no more. You, however, presented it as done deal. And you must know that there is nothing definite about Turkey’s accession. A knowing untruth is a lie. You lied.

There was a more famous poster. In fact, it made it onto a bus: it pledged £350 million extra for the NHS per week. You have admitted that Leave would not have won without that promise. Strangely, the pledge was wiped from Vote Leave’s website within four days of the vote.

The accusation that the NHS pledge was a lie misses the point: it is that you had no right to make the promise at all. You were a campaign to leave the European Union. That is all. You were not an opposition campaigning for government.

That was the fundamental deceit at the heart of your campaign. You had no right to promise because you had no mechanism to follow through on these pledges. Yet you allowed Vote Leave to present themselves as an alternative government with alternative policies.

The reality was that voting for Brexit was a leap into the unknown. But doesn’t look so good on a bus, does it?

The British people have a right to expect their politicians will play fair with them. Much maligned, they usually do. You did not. Maybe you thought you weren’t going to win so it didn’t matter. Turns out it did.

To conclude:

I accuse you and Vote Leave of running a dishonest, deceitful campaign and knowingly presenting false information to British voters.

I accuse you of making promises to the British people that you knew you could not keep.

I accuse you stirring up xenophobia and animosity towards immigrants.

Whatever Brexit is, it is not a new dawn. You know that too.

Yours,

Graham Kirby

With apologies to Emile Zola. We also accuse:

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