We know Jacob Rees-Mogg to be a consummate liar – much like Mr Bernard Jenkin, dishonesty and false representation are his stock in trade -– but in this short interview he excels himself.
In the course of a minute and a half, he makes the following six claims, all of which are demonstrably false or intentionally misleading:
1. ‘I’m not afraid at all, it’s a singularly silly idea (on being asked if he fears a second ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit)
2. ‘we’ve had three votes on this’ (i.e. Leaving the EU)
3. ‘We had a vote in 2015, the General Election, as to whether or not there should be a referendum’
4. ‘We had an election in 2017 where over 80% of people voted for parties committed to leaving’ (as evidence that this could be taken as a proxy vote for Brexit)
5. ‘The General Election was voting for parties that made it clear that they meant to implement the referendum and the two parties that didn’t – the greens and the Lib-Dems – lost votes’
6. ‘It was quite clear from the General election and the election campaign that delivering on Brexit had very widespread support, as opinion polling still shows.’
Let us take in each in turn. Regarding (1) it is evident from his whole line of argument that Mogg is terrified of a second referendum, so this is simply a lie. We shall return to it later.
2. We have not had ‘three votes on this’ – there has been only one, the Referendum itself, which was bracketed by two General Elections. It is false to represent either of these as a vote on leaving the EU, for reasons we will examine in detail below.
3. We did not have a vote in 2015 as to whether or not there should be a referendum; that is simply untrue. We had a General Election, in which the Conservatives held out the promise of a referendum. Since only UKIP advocated leaving the EU, a vote for the Conservatives could not be construed as a vote to leave the EU, nor indeed could a vote for a referendum be so construed, even if that had been the single issue in the election, which it was not. Another false representation.
4. This is disingenuous at best, dishonest at worst. In every single General election in the past 100 years the great majority of votes have been cast for either Conservative or Labour; in 1918, it was 59%, the lowest combined total; in the 21 elections since 1931 – the first year in which the combined total exceeded 80% – the total voting either Labour or Conservative has exceeded 80% on 11 occasions (on three occasions it passed 90%).
It is true that last year was the first time since 1979 that the total had exceeded 80%, owing to the emergence of the SDP/Lib Dems as a significant third force from 1983 onwards, but all the same there is nothing particularly surprising or noteworthy about the fact that the majority of voters voted the same way they have for the last hundred years; to adduce that the percentage in the 2017 vote was primarily because the two main parties said they would stand by the referendum does not stand up to scrutiny.
5. So, the general Election was not just ‘voting for parties that made clear they meant to implement the referendum’. Leaving aside the fact that both Mogg’s own party and Labour are riven from top to bottom on the issue, so that many who voted for either were certainly not pro Brexit, it is a fact that the one party that stands most clearly for Brexit – UKIP – suffered the heaviest loss in the 2017 election. The Greens might have lost 2% of their vote, but they retained their seat; the Lib Dems suffered a fractional loss – 0.5% – but actually increased their number of seats by 50%, from 8 to 12; UKIP, however, lost their sole seat and suffered a spectacular 10.8% decline in their vote, far and away the greatest loss suffered by any party (the sum total of the rest was only 4.6%). Here, too, it is evident that Mogg is trying to bamboozle and mislead: his contention that the 2017 Election can be taken as a proxy for a Brexit vote is not only absurd in itself, it is also unsupported by the very voting patterns Mogg wishes to adduce as evidence.
6. Whenever Mogg says anything is ‘quite clear’, you should doubt it at once. For the reasons given above, it is by no means clear that the 2017 election showed that delivering on Brexit had ‘very widespread support’ (and how ‘the election campaign‘ could show anything of the kind is not at all clear); but as regards the claim that ‘opinion polling still shows’ ‘very widespread support’ for Brexit, I would direct you to this page, which is literally the first I found in seeking to test the veracity of Mogg’s claim.
It gives data for four variants on the question of whether the UK should leave or remain:
in the first series of 13 polls, conducted since March 2017, only one (2 March 17) showed a majority for leave; two (May and November 17) were level; the remaining 10 were in favour of remaining, with the gap appearing to widen in 2018;
in the second series, 13 polls between January and August 18, only 2, both in March, showed a majority for leave; 2 more (27 June and 14 July), were level; the remaining 9 favoured remain, with the gap widening steadily in the most recent.
In a third poll that asked ‘In hindsight, was Britain right or wrong to vote leave?’ Every single one of 13 polls showed a majority for ‘wrong’.
In a fourth poll that asked if Britain should remain or leave, two polls were level and remaining 10 showed a majority for Remain.
(in actual fact, the figures are even more persuasive – the four groups above are based on 42, 72, 85 and 168 polls respectively: see here for details: whatukthinks.org)
So, once more, the truth of Mogg’s assertion is doubtful.
Ah yes – that first question: are you afraid of a second poll? If Mogg is not afraid, as he asserts, then why, on being asked if Britain would still vote Brexit if they went to the polls tomorrow, does he evade the question?
This is a man who has spent considerable time assembling a tissue of specious arguments to show that Britain, not once but three times over, has already voted for Brexit – yet when the question is put directly to him, he prevaricates. Why does he not just say ‘yes of course they would vote for Brexit’ ? It is, after all, what he asserts to be true – that the great majority of people want to leave the EU.
Anyone would think he did not actually believe it himself.