They’re the rabble army, they’ve come from every side,” ran the brief-lived Referendum party’s anthem, “they’re the rabble army, singing ‘let the people decide’.” It doesn’t get more folksy. Except that this particular uprising of the free yeomanry of England against the diktats of Europe was meticulously plotted by Sir James Goldsmith, an impossibly wealthy man who progressed from Eton college to a career of business wheeler-dealing, before retiring to Mexico to spend more time with his money.
Today’s Europhobes have got the referendum that Sir James hankered for, andlook like they could achieve a strong finish next week, in no small part because they have mastered Sir James’s old shtick about rallying the forgotten citizenry against a remote pro-EU elite, which Tuesday’s Sun front-page editorialcharacterised as “made up of the corporate establishment, arrogant europhiles and foreign banks”. Such is the evident wickedness of this cabal that every awkward question about exactly how Britain would trade with its neighbours after walking away from the single market can be swatted away as self-serving nit-picking, every statistic dismissed as an arithmetical attempt to persuade people with difficult lives that everything is going swimmingly. As the Sun continued: “The Treasury, Bank of England, the IMF and world leaders have all been wheeled out by Downing Street to add their grim warnings.”
After long years of austerity, a great recession and long decades of trickle-down economics whose fruits only trickled up, a mood of populist anger is not surprising. But before throwing their lot in with leave, citizens feeling disconnected from the powers that be should take a cool look at the powers behind the Brexit push. At the top of the leave campaign, there is no more diversity than there is in David Cameron’s blue-blooded Downing Street. Boris Johnson is only the most prominent of the Etonians. Zac Goldsmith, a Brexiteer who was so recently demeaned by a divisive run against Sadiq Khan for the London mayoralty. followed his billionaire father Sir James to the same school. Vote Leave’s former vice-president, the coalmine owner and climate policy “sceptic” Matt Ridley, is a third product of the very same boys-only establishment in Berkshire.