The Government’s Brexit preparedness campaign is a 'new start' built on old lies

The ‘Let’s get going’ Government information campaign is now all but unavoidable.

This Government and its Vote Leave advisory team remain firmly stuck in the mode of campaigning rather than governing, says Professor Chris Grey
This Government and its Vote Leave advisory team remain firmly stuck in the mode of campaigning rather than governing, says Professor Chris Grey

This is the ‘shock and awe’ approach which the Government rather tastelessly promised.

Presumably they meant that the public would be bombarded by a stunning campaign, though the main shock is how vapid the message is, while the awe comes from considering that someone thought it remotely adequate to the situation we are in.

For it consists of a range of empty slogans about ‘independence’ and ‘the opportunities ahead’ for a ‘sovereign nation’ tagged to vague messages about preparing for this ‘new start’.

It is only if you follow this up by looking at the Government’s website that it becomes clear that, without a single exception, people and businesses need to prepare for something which will be worse, more cumbersome, more expensive, or more limiting than now.

And even then it raises as many questions as it answers about what you actually have to do about this.

The ‘Project Fear’ conundrum

The nature of these adverts is not accidental. It is the latest example of how this Government and its Vote Leave advisory team remain firmly stuck in the mode of campaigning rather than governing.

That isn’t a bug of this Brexit Government, it’s a feature of the Brexit cause, as has been evident since the Referendum.

It’s always about the claim, never about the delivery; about the slogans but not the substance; about the sales, not the after-service; the surgery, not the post-operative care.

The fundamental conundrum is that the only way of showing serious preparedness for No Deal is to also admit the massive dislocations that it would cause and, therefore, the reasons why it would be a terrible course of action.

Even in the best-case scenario there’s simply no good news, so the only way to square the circle is to foreground all the guff about sovereignty and leave it for the still largely unsuspecting public to grub around for the details of just how much more difficult their lives are about to become.

Prepared or not, things are going to worse

The ‘New start’ campaign has to be understood as the lineal descendent of the Vote Leave campaign.

What it conceals is the massive unpreparedness of both businesses and Government – worsened by coronavirus – as outlined in an Institute for Government report last week.

Given its vapid sloganising, most people won’t become aware of the coming problems by virtue of the Government information campaign, but only when they do something that they’ve previously taken for granted, like booking a holiday.

These and all the other surprises are also, in large part, attributable to the success of the ‘Project Fear’ rebuttal – it has become so ingrained that it is small wonder that many people are not expecting any great changes to ensue.

A legacy of lies

There may never be a formal reckoning, but there will be a legacy – and an important one.

The way that they conducted themselves, both during and since the Referendum campaign, means that Brexiters have permanently denied themselves the possibility of being seen to have won ‘fair and square’.

All the lies told to win mean that the winning will forever be tainted. That lack of legitimacy will live on for years in the minds of a substantial chunk of the population and in perpetuity in the history books.

So like drug-cheat cyclists or athletes, try as they might, every time they see the yellow jersey or the gold medal they know it does not truly belong to them.

It’s a private torment, for it can never be admitted, and an unassuageable one, for there can be no ‘new start’ to make it go away.

As much as there will be no punishment meted out to them, there will be no absolution imparted either.

Chris Grey is Professor of Organisation Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London

This is an extract from a piece that first appeared on Chris Grey’s ‘Brexit Blog’

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