Polls? You could even use those to prove Remainers back Brexit…

Ah, 2017…

What an unprecedented shitsack of a year it’s been. Brexit continues to bumble onward like a drunk aimlessly searching for his house keys in a neighbour’s garden, we have a bequiffed satsuma in the White House brazenly goading the world towards nuclear war and we have terror attacks of all varieties occurring with alarming regularity.

It’s both bewildering and terrifying in equal measure but, for all the political instability it’s caused, perhaps the most striking result is the way the populace was polarised – venomously so.

Naturally, such a confusing zeitgeist is going to leave people understandably baffled and, as is the usual reaction from the perplexed and scared, comfort is sought…and what could be more comforting than a binary vote on Twitter?

Hell, the President of Dubiously Free World reaches for this particular comfort blanket during his 2,478 weak moments each day.

trump hubris
Aww, bless…

See? Even the Commander in Chief needs a shot to his fragile ego every now and again. Though given how his self esteem seems to be perpetually teetering upon a cliff edge, perhaps it’s a good job he didn’t stumble across a similar poll that ran shortly after.

presidentpoll
Donald Trump – A President with an approval rating so low he’s bettered by an inanimate fun-tube dispenser and a currently dead evolutionary anomaly.

So that settles that right?

Well no, obviously not. As much as I celebrate Oliver’s victory over Donald I begrudgingly have to concede that, owing to my non-entity status, my sample size was fairly pathetic and it likely didn’t travel far beyond my own Twitter echo chamber.

As far as polls go it was pretty worthless but. as luck would have it, a seemingly worthy survey reared its head the following day – Brexit being the subject in question. Given how its arrival was heralded by the likes of Nigel Farage and his cabal of chancers, I figured it must be worth a look.

nigelvote
Nigel claims victory – interestingly a phrase never once uttered after his seven attempts at being elected to Parliament.

First of all, holy shit! 20,000 people? Sampling both Remain AND Leave voters? With a Hard Brexit emerging victorious? Perhaps I have been living in my own sealed echo chamber, studiously avoiding the pro-Brexit reality around me. The referendum campaign was bitter, spiteful and divisive, effectively tearing the country in two. Could it be possible that a conflict I expected to drag on for aeons had healed its wounds without me so much as noticing?

I mean hell, even self proclaimed Remainer Owen Jones held it aloft as a victory for Brexit being the will of the people.

owenjones reaction
I voted Remain. The above isn’t what I “actually think”

Must be pretty resounding right? Well, let’s take a look shall we?

This allegedly definitive poll was carried out by the London School of Economics and Oxford University with Buzzfeed being the first to bring their findings to prominence. However, upon perusing, things seemed rather dubious right off the bat.

First of all, remember how it was claimed that this was a 20,000 strong poll?

spinpoll
See? Right there, 20,000 person poll.

Turns out that this was not only untrue, but also laughably inaccurate. The sample size was actually much, much lower.

oopspoll
The surefire sign of a quality journalist is to blame others when you don’t cross reference your sources.

So there you have it, it was actually a 3,000 strong poll. Whether the mistake originated from Buzzfeed, Westmonster or that obnoxious windbag from your local drinking pit is ultimately besides the point. Whoever fucked up the result remains the same – the sample size, originally put forward as an extra stamp of credibility, has now been cut to less than a quarter of its previously reported size.

So what of the actual questions put towards the participants you ask? Well, let’s see how Buzzfeed summed up the results:

buzzfeed summary

Again, they’re going with the “Even Remainers favour a Hard Brexit” narrative that the jokers at Westmonster also latched onto but there’s one very interesting detail that they attempted to sneak through in the above paragraph. Specifically – “…when the British public are asked in detail what they want from the negotiations…”

Hmmm, curious. Let’s look into this further and see what the questions actually were. Again, these are all snatched from the previously linked Buzzfeed article:

result1
EU citizens in the UK
result2
Future UK immigration
result3
The European Court of Justice
result4
The Irish border
result5
The divorce bill
result6
Ongoing payments to Brussels
result7
Future trade with the EU
result8
Timeline to Brexit
result9
The final analysis

Now, the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed something. Something very important that seems to have been airbrushed out of every single summary various partisan outlets have put out there.

There’s no option to remain. None whatsoever.

The heading of the final chart from the rather exhaustive picture montage I’ve just subjected you to gives the game away: “When forced to plan Brexit…”

Short of being a resounding indication of Remainers abandoning their previous pro-EU principles and shacking up with the most anti-EU version of Brexit possible, what the survey actually indicates is that: when forced to plan Brexit without any option for Remain on the table, Remainers occasionally find common ground with the hardline Brexiters.

Even Professor Sara Hobolt, one of the authors of this survey, concludes as such:

Sara Hobolt
Or, once run through Westmonster’s spin machine: “Remainers now back the shittiest version of Brexit imaginable”

So what have we learnt? Effectively that people will always find a way to massage data in order to suit their agenda. Nothing groundbreaking – it’s been happening as long as human beings have come equipped with a brain. But nevertheless, I felt compelled to dip my toe into the world of data accumulation once again with a somewhat more simplistic poll:

brexittypepoll
I didn’t manage to get a sample size of 20,000 either…

Oh wow. Remain won a resounding victory AND the poll had a significantly larger sample size than its LSE equivalent. I mean sure, the vast majority of my followers are likely to be pro remain but, while there’s no real method of proving either way, for the 24 hours it ran it got passed around by Remainers and Leavers alike so the sample wasn’t necessarily imbalanced.

analyticw
FOA: Donald Trump – This is what transparency looks like.

So what of this? Can I claim this fairly tongue in cheek poll as a victory for Remain? I could try I suppose but, for reasons alluded to previously, there’s no way to guarantee an unbiased sample and ultimately the whole exercise was pointless. The only real way to gauge the current ‘will of the people’ is to have a 2nd ref on a final deal which, again, seemed resoundingly popular when put to the very same Twitter polls that I’ve just this moment discredited.

finalvotepoll
Nigel’s not very popular it seems.

As a final point, there was one particular gem that Buzzfeed managed to glean from all this – that the public in general don’t especially understand the issues they were voting on. Whether this is while participating in a survey or casting their vote in the EU referendum – despite it being heresy to the committed Brexiteer, it turns out the “will of the people” contains copious amounts of cognitive dissonance.

buzzfeed varying results
“But the people knew what they were voting for…”

At the end of the day, polls are effectively worthless. Yes, if enough of a sample is obtained they can be indicative of the common feeling but, ultimately, it’s only representative of a specific microcosm of the electorate. The previous EU referendum was over a year ago now and won based on a campaign containing more fiction than The Wizard of Oz. If you accept that people are capable of changing their minds you also accept that the ‘will of the people’ is transient. You can conduct dubious polls and surveys until the end of your days but, if we as an electorate really value the ‘will of the people’, we simply must have another referendum on the final deal – including an option for remain.

You Brexiteers wanted “control”? There’s your control. Vote on the final terms and prove that the ‘will of the people’ is as you claim.

But watch out, rumour has it that the McBrexit with fries is currently more popular than your beloved Hard Brexit.

Don’t worry – Just be more patriotic

Unless you’ve been squatting in Ted Kaczynski’s old digs, you’ve probably noticed that the Brexit negotiations have started. Naturally transparency isn’t something that’s been overly prevalent but certain small morsels of information are squirming away from the spin – unsurprisingly sparking curiosity and concern in people’s minds. Curiosity that prompted the BBC to attempt a clarity extraction on the Commons leader Andrea Leadsom.

leadsome
Worried your family is too poor to get you any Christmas presents this year? Don’t be. Just believe in Santa more.

Spoilers: Clarity wasn’t forthcoming.

However, as an aside to the usual evasive bullshit, Leadsom brought out another insidious weapon from the dregs of the Brexiteer arsenal – the patriotism angle.

To hear this retort is nothing new. Hell, almost every debate about Brexit will at some point or another lead to the seemingly incredulous cry of “What? You don’t believe in Britain? You don’t believe we can do it?” It’s a stupid, vacuous and ultimately meaningless retort – so to hear it parroted by our own government is somewhat disconcerting.

Put alongside the request for such a rigidly partisan narrative to be championed by our publicly funded media, it starts to show a government desperate for information control.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognise the logic behind it – however misguided it may be. I appreciate that it’s supposed to be in aid of presenting a robust, united front for negotiations – striking hard in the psychological warfare stakes against the EU. It makes for good slogans, it makes for good propaganda as well as allowing Theresa chance to play up her leadership credentials. Well, at least in theory.

leaders-post-brexit
See? Even Santa is a patriot of Britain and he wasn’t even born here.

I get it. But there’s a problem, one very significant problem.

The EU aren’t stupid.

It’s true. Whether you think they’re well intentioned progressives encouraging the concept of unity for a greater cause or cabal of booze soaked fascists who climb through your bedroom window each night to steal the very liberty you hide under your pillow – either way, you know they’re not stupid.

The EU are ready. They were ready eons ago. They know what they want and they’re not going to accept anything less. Now you may very well have heard that, actually, it is Britain who hold all the cards and the EU are in fact dependent on us. I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it and you can bet your last dime that the EU have heard it too.

Trouble though, the EU have access to the real world. They can evade the faltering aim of the UK spin machine and look through the veil to see what’s actually happening. They see the division, they see the confusion and they are witness to every single figurative manhole Boris blunders down on a near weekly basis. They see it all.

And that is just why this patriotic, quasi jingoistic approach is ultimately self defeating. The Brexit shambles is no secret, it’s visible from the fucking moon and when such a public display of ineptitude is brought to the government, the source, and their go to response is to suggest by implication that we should just bury our concerns and fall into line with the hazy narrative they’re trying to push the entire message is undermined. You can apply all the propagandist gloss you want – when your opponent sees that it’s the only argument you’re bringing to the table they’re going to realise that you’re weak right off the bat.

I’m sure many will disagree, perhaps legitimately, but let’s strip it down to what it really is at its core. It’s misdirection, it’s sleight of hand and it’s presenting a case that you don’t really have.

But for those it works for there’s little I or indeed anyone could possibly do to dissuade you. We can bring as many of the political and sociological concerns to the debate as we like – if you’re steadfast in your conviction that we’re Britain and we’ll somehow prosper no matter how many spanners reality attempts to lodge into the mechanism then you’re not going to worry. But careful to make sure that it’s not your only recourse.

Because when we’re starving in a dystopian wasteland, desperately scavenging off the remains of Noam Chomsky, your deeply entrenched patriotism is all you’ll have left.

Brexit – Ageing like Rancid Milk

Remember the early stages of 2016? I miss those times.

Sure they can hardly be portrayed as halcyon days – we weren’t all sat around toasting our happiness with self juiced smoothies while a reanimated John Lennon is broadcast on all public networks teaching the world to sing. It wasn’t good, not even fucking close. We had a Tory majority government gleefully slashing away at our public services while manhandling us towards proposals they purloined from the UKIP manifesto.

One such proposal being, of course, the EU Referendum. ‘The Brexit Vote’ as it became known.

Whilst it’s true that the referendum campaign wasn’t nice. It wasn’t fought clean and it certainly wasn’t fought with facts. Though one thing that was particularly striking, especially now on the eve of the Brexit negotiations, is that there was one notable message of unbridled optimism being pushed towards the forefront.

Oddly enough – it was from the Leave campaign.

No really. Beyond the insidious undercurrent and their highly dubious grasp of economics they did run their campaign to quite a hefty degree based on optimism. Things will be great they insisted. Once we’ve thrown off the totalitarian shackles of malevolent EU oppression we’ll not only have the world at our feet, we’ll also have the power to roam freely, making supposedly untapped markets our oyster and gaining “prosperity on a level we can’t even imagine” – to paraphrase a contributor to Brexit – The Movie. They, quite literally, promised us the world if Leave won.

And then it happened. They won.

However something seemed amiss. Short of hopping on the first flight to Luxembourg to do a euphoric jig outside Jean-Claude Juncker’s palace the vibe emanating from the Leave figureheads was disconcertingly sombre. Instead of appearing the triumphant statesman Boris oh so desperately aspires to be he instead cut a rather haunted figure – looking gaunt with a thousand yard ripped straight from Apocalypse Now emblazoned upon his face.

Then perhaps what was always inevitable happened. They ran off.

borispostleave
Our greatest statesman during his moment of triumph – allegedly.

Using the Tory leadership shambles as cover, off they went into the night. The ‘£350m to the NHS’ gang scuttled off, Boris scuttled off to play cricket and finally Gove, shortly after stabbing everyone in the back with a sharpened sceptre, scuttled off back to his home planet.

So what becomes of us now? Those that promised so much had already deserted those that entrusted them with their vote, the pound was plummeting and we didn’t even have a Prime Minister. But it’ll be ok right? Brexit definitely was a good idea so how can it fail, yeah? I mean just look over there at Nigel. Look at that shit eating grin perpetually etched upon his leathery hide. He’s happy and he’s a righteous, ale swilling bloke isn’t he?

So don’t worry. It’ll all be fine…

nigel farage
Don’t worry kids, 7 time election losing man of the people Nigel has got it covered.

Fast forward to star date right now however and well, what the chundering fuck is going on? Holy shit, we’ve really made a mess of this one haven’t we? Screwed the pooch, dropped the bollock, put our foot in the most malodorous dog shit on the entire pavement – it’s a mess.

But we can’t exactly say it’s been a sudden death of government competence, the warning signs were there for a while. I mean sure, eventually the Tory leadership debacle was resolved with remain campaigner Theresa May taking the reigns. Yes, that’s right. Remain backing Theresa May was now in charge of delivering Brexit. How will this go I wonder?

Well put it this way, the first few months were ebbed away deciding upon which colour Brexit should be. Important shit right? I mean if we don’t know the colour, how on earth can we be expected to design the propaganda pamphlets? It was a key decision clearly.

In any event the chosen colours in question ended up being red, white and blue. Of course nobody was exactly sure on what relevance any of it actually had but hey, it was finally official. Theresa May herself, looking ever more like Nosferatu’s deteriorating great aunt, declared that we’re in for a “Red, white and blue Brexit” and there it was. Sorry to all you magenta folk out there, it’s looking like this Brexit shit ain’t gonna be for you.

So that was a fairly inauspicious start to say the least. Did it get better I pretend to hear you ask? Well let’s see. We had “Brexit means Brexit” which, considering noone was really sure as to what Brexit meant in the first place redefining “Brexit” as “Brexit” didn’t really help. So that was pointless. Didn’t end there mind, oh no. “Believe in Britain” and other variations of nebulous bollocks were soon being vomited out by the Leave PR machine and, whilst there was some black humour to be had in sniggering at the total shitshow unfolding before us, things did soon take a worrying turn.

With negotiations ever looming, our esteemed leader then saw fit to engage in an ill advised game of chicken with the EU. We all knew she was bluffing, we all knew she had nothing, we all knew she was going up against a Royal Flush with a 2 of diamonds and the card featuring the rules for backgammon. But hey, she tried it anyway. She’s a bloody difficult woman and that’s definitely a good thing right? Sure, she got humiliatingly smacked down within hours but…she knows what she’s doing. Doesn’t she?

Well, as evidenced by the snap election result, no. No she fucking doesn’t. She said she needed a strong majority to strengthen our hand going into Brexit and she threw it away. All of it. But now what are we left with? A government in disarray and the much fabled Brexit negotiations taking place TOMORROW and who have we got to bat for us? May clearly doesn’t have a fucking clue. If you’re so under exposed to the world that your most rebellious memory is prancing through fields of wheat and slightly annoying an apathetic farmer chances are you haven’t lived. It’s no coincidence that she’s made so many PR blunders with the public – she doesn’t understand them. She simply CAN’T understand them.

So who else is going to save us? Brexit Secretary David Davis? “No deal is better than a bad deal” David Davis? Just so we’re clear this is the same David Davis who hasn’t actually looked into the impact of no deal so, let’s face it, he’s either some sort of boring omnipotent super being or just plain fucking lying to you. But if he isn’t delusional enough for you, Boris seems to have come out of hiding badly struggling with a severe acid trip. Not only is he trying to push over Labour representatives whilst being interviewed on live television he’s also still insisting that we’re going to give £350m to the NHS. So yeah, he’s clearly still on the fucking moon.

But what of us? The peons left cut adrift to fester away in this swamp of deceit?

Well, we’re worried. Very, very worried. It’s true that the vast majority of us are merely bewildered laymen. I know I am. We can’t even begin to comprehend all the economic and social factors involved. Sure, we can appreciate when things sound bad. When the pound plummets we know it’s bad news but we wouldn’t be able to understand the actual meaning even if we had Hal 9000 operating the calculator.

But despite this naivety there are some things we can appreciate. Whilst us plebs don’t have silver spoons lodged into our brains we do have certain smarts – the most notable of which is that we can sniff out bullshit from the other side of the galaxy.

Tomorrow, the 19th June 2017, our government will be sending David Davis to begin EU negotiations. They’re ready – they were ready months ago but what about us? We’re not ready. Hell, we’re somehow less ready than we were a year ago.

david davis
The Brexit Secretary David Davis – no further caption needed.

So with bullshit merchant David Davis on his way to flog his knock off watches to a conglomerate of 27 nations tomorrow, Brexit continues to age. Not like a fine wine but rather more like meth addled burnout without access to skin cream.

Meaning we, as a nation of well meaning but hopelessly bewildered munchkins, are very, very worried.

Sleep well.

Hello…

…and welcome to My Life as Graham – THE one stop place for the all the latest thoughts and happenings occurring in Graham’s life. It’s quite the life too and I should know, I’m Graham.

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The embittered mumblings of a serial malcontent.