Richard North, 04/06/2016  
 


I probably need to disqualify myself from even reporting on the efforts of Vote Leave spokesmen, as with Michael Gove yesterday on the Sky News Special. My problem is that I am getting so utterly sick of Vote Leave lies about their £350 million a week payments to Brussels, and especially of the complete fabrication on the rebate, that I can no longer transcend the irritation.

There are no excuses for these lies, and especially after the Treasury Committee yet, without so much as a blush, Gove repeated exactly the same tosh to which the Committee had taken such great exception. This is now beyond mere lying. It betrays a supreme indifference to the truth and a degree of contempt for the voting public that is quite staggering. 

On his rare forays into detail, Gove was described as almost comically nonsensical. And when asked about an "economic plan" and when Vote Leave will publish one, Gove resorted to another lie. He didn't even bother to conceal the lie. "We have published a plan", he said, and then spent a few minutes waffling about VAT.

"There is no economic plan", said his interlocutor, tiring of the evasion. "It's almost like a First World War general", he said, "You're saying, 'Over the top, men', but you've got no idea what's on the front line, or what the casualty rate will be in the conflicts to come".

The Gove response was more waffle, a variation on the theme of "it'll be alright on the night". "But ultimately what I'm putting my faith in is the ingenuity, the creativity and the strength of the British people", he said, thereby creating what one commentator called after the event, a "fact-free zone".

The man glibly talks of the "invincible arrogance of Europe's elites", yet here before us was another type of elitist, with the sneering condescension of the Westminster "bubble-dweller", content to feed us on tosh because - in his estimation - that's all we're worth and we're stupid enough to buy it.

Yet, if vacuity is what people like in their politicians, then Gove's perfromance will have gone down well. Some are saying that he did well – and especially in contrast to the Prime Minister. But at least he has been forced to consent to an "independent audit of the fatuous £350 million claim. By the time that happens though, the referendum will be over.

The odd thing is that I remember being told that Vote Leave should not have an exit plan because that would then become the story. Yet we now find that the persistence over the discredited £350 million has itself become the focus of attention. Why then is it so wrong to have an exit plan at the centre of attention, but so clever to have the "leave" campaign lies as the main story?

Nevertheless, Simon Jenkins considers Gove won – for what it is worth. Gove went to Sky with two simple tasks; to keep his cool and to tell his audience, over and over again: "Just take back control". He achieved both.

When it came to answering questions, though, Gove went AWOL. Vote Leave doesn't do questions, any more than the "remains". And while I should find the latter more offensive, the mulish arrogance of Vote Leave as they trot out the same petty lies, has a character that puts it in a different league. It is quite intolerable.

The key though is how the polls respond. For that, another commentator remarked that this is a battle between the head and the heart. For myself, I'm glad I already know which way I'm going to vote. This is the "bubble's" idea of a debate and if I had to rely on these Muppets, I'd be in a right old mess. Both sides are a disgrace.






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