Brexit, Lies, and Leadership

June 28, 2016
June 28, 2016 Amy Burns

As I write political leadership in the UK is in disarray after the EU referendum decision to leave the EU. The Prime Minister resigned and political chaos erupted at the lack of a Brexit plan. Boris Johnson backtracked on many Leave campaign promises and spent the weekend playing cricket with Earl Spencer. Getting his priorities right of course.

The Labour Party isn’t faring any better. There’s no functioning opposition following resignation after resignation from the shadow cabinet, and a vote of no confidence in Corbyn. Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon looks like the only one showing any kind of leadership.

Lies, Damned Lies and… Leaders

And that’s what this is about for me. Leadership and the lies we’re told. And just how short term a strategy lying in leadership is.

The lies about the mythical £350 million the “greedy EU snatched” every week from the hands of impoverished Brits is what many of us will remember about the referendum. And it was just one example in a brutal campaign where the leaders of the Leave camp piled lies on top on lies to win support.

Another was the claim that immigration would drop with a Leave win. The UK, we were led to believe, would be stronger financially stable and richer. And what of the Remain camp’s warning of recession, unstable markets and a plummeting pound? Well, that was Project Fear of course. It’s a view Boris is still trying to perpetuate in his weekly Telegraph column.

Very little of what the Leave camp claimed was true.

When Leave won the referendum just how much they’d lied became apparent. Barely hours after their victory they began to backpedal furiously. Their promises weren’t actual commitments, they said, just a “series of possibilities”. Perhaps someone could lend them a dictionary so they can look up what campaign promises mean and discover it’s not synonymous with “possibility”.

The Financial Cost of Lying

The pound dropped to a 31 year low, the Bank of England pumped in £3.1billion to prop up the banking system. British tourists abroad were unable to exchange their pounds because hotels didn’t know what the pound was worth. $3 trillion was wiped off global stock markets as financial markets around the world felt the reverberation.

Prominent Leave campaigners denied they’d guaranteed the £350 million a week would be reallocated to the NHS. This despite a photo of Boris sitting in front of a campaign poster of the commitment and a video of Farage promising the same thing.

And immigration? Well there’s a mounting realisation that to have access to the EU’s free-trade market the UK will have to accept free movement: read no change in immigration from the EU.

Brexit Lies = Divided Leadership

The country is divided and no more so for having been lied to. So yes, Boris and his cohorts won. He may now be the next British Prime Minister. But, really what did he win?

It’s possible for a leader to lie to get what they want. The next few weeks may show us just how hard keeping what you lied to get is.

 

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