Now we know that the Tory dominated Brexit campaign was ‘rivers of blood’ all over again

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove
Tom Coburg

During the referendum, the Remain campaign was accused of running ‘Project Fear’ with dire predictions of what would happen if the UK left the EU. But recently released Facebook advertisements show [pdf] that Vote Leave’s Brexit campaign, spearheaded by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, was the real ‘Project Fear’.

Many of the ads (see below) were blatantly racist and xenophobic, while others were replete with disinformation. Moreover, some who oversaw the campaign were or went on to become cabinet ministers or close advisers to Downing Street.

Here are Vote Leave/50 million [pdf] ads, Brexit Central/BeLeave [pdf] ads and the DUP [pdf] (Democratic Unionists Party) ads.

Brexit goes full Powell

It’s been estimated that 45% of the Vote Leave ads were about immigration, such as this one:

And if that wasn’t enough, there was this:

Meanwhile, we should not forget UKIP’s infamous ‘Breaking point’ poster. UKIP backed the Leave.EU campaign. At the time, Vote Leave distanced itself from the poster.

It was a perfect storm – and all reminiscent of Enoch Powell’s widely reviled ‘rivers of blood’ speech.

During the week before, and the week after the referendum, there was a 42% increase in hate crime. On 16 June 2016, MP Jo Cox was murdered by Thomas Mair who shouted “Britain First” while he attacked her. Vote Leave announced its campaign would be paused out of respect. But recently published communications by Vote Leave whistleblower Shahmir Sanni appear to indicate otherwise:

Vote Leave deny the allegations.

Vote Leave goes full Erdoğan

One of the more notorious Vote Leave ads was based on the lie that Turkey was about to join the EU:

In November 2015, Turkey’s volatile president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened he would “flood Europe with migrants” – and this was later uncritically reported by Reuters. This was based on an alleged memo, leaked to and published by Greek finance publication

Another similar threat was reported in November 2016 by the Independent.

But these threats by Erdoğan were not to be taken seriously – not least because his abysmal human rights record and alleged war crimes ensure that Turkey’s is a long way off meeting the criteria needed for joining the EU. (Hypocritically, the UK government, headed by Theresa May and with the support of then foreign secretary Boris Johnson, is happy to sell arms to Turkey on a massive scale.)

Senior Tories implicated

The Electoral Commission recently ruled that Vote Leave and BeLeave broke the law [pdf] by not fully disclosing referendum spending returns and had incurred overspends.

Whistleblower and former Vote Leave staffer Mark Gettleson told the Electoral Commission that Darren Grimes (of BeLeave):

was working within Vote Leave and continually asking me, Stephen, Cleo and the Vote Leave design team for support and assistance.

‘Stephen’ is Stephen Parkinson and ‘Cleo’ is Cleo Watson, who later worked for Theresa May. Indeed, Vote Leave’s ‘Project Fear’ was overseen by a number of leading Tories. Many of whom went on to take up senior government positions. They include Steve Baker, Liam Fox, Iain Duncan Smith, Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Grayling. All were Vote Leave committee members and were responsible for ‘setting the campaign strategy’.

Tories make Brexit their own

And the lies continue to be exposed, with May admitting that the ‘Brexit dividend’ does not exist and that increased NHS spending will come out of taxation.

‘Project Fear’ is now becoming reality. May’s government has revealed that food, medicines and other vital supplies are being stockpiled in case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. And the economic consequences for ‘the many’ are likely to be disastrous, whichever Brexit model we end up with.

As for Enoch Powell, he is long dead. But his ghost is alive and well and urging Tory Brexiteers to wreak revenge on everything remotely progressive.

Get Involved!

– Read the 89 page report [pdf] by the Digital, Culture, Sports and Media committee on disinformation and fake news.

– If you’re a union member, find out what it is doing about Brexit.

– Organise to resist this new austerity plan (called Brexit) by the Tories.

Featured image via BackBoris2012 campaign/Flickr and Policy Exchange/Flickr

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