The dismissal of (eg) John Major’s comments, on the grounds that he is a remainer, is one more reminder of how the shadow of the Brexit vote still casts a shadow over our politics.
It hardly needs saying that there are many reasons to be concerned about the Johnson government. They have been obvious for a long time.
It is a government which has combined a policy vacuum (high on slogans, low on effective action), with constitutional vandalism, attacking Parliament, the judiciary, the media, the civil service, and any sources or sites of potential constraint.
The Prime Minister has lied repeatedly to Parliament, has abused his position of power, and shown that he does not think that the rules he imposes on others apply to him.
When this sort of critique is made, the impulse of his defenders is to attack his critics. And the most common way to do this is to label them as remainers.
As remainers, they are said to be anti-democratic, to be bitter, to be associated with the elite establishment, and to be ‘losers’. The PM – who got Brexit done – deserves, it is said, to be lauded.
The argument is, at best, bizarre.
First, even if one sees getting Brexit done as a great achievement, it is still possible that the PM might have combined getting Brexit done with other behaviours which are problematic.
And second, many remainers made the arguments they did around Brexit because they were worried about the economic and political consequences of the referendum vote.
As it turns out, what was and is mocked as ‘project fear’ corresponds rather well with ‘reality’. Brexit indeed has wrought great economic and political damage, while the government is still (desperately) searching for Brexit opportunities.
The fact that Brexit was realised on the back of so many false and/or contradictory claims, has, it might be argued, emboldened the government to pursue similar cakeist arguments in other areas (eg on Covid and climate change).
So, it is not surprising that much of the criticism of the government comes from remainers – who have had the privilege of watching the way in which Brexit has unfolded over many years.
They have seen the way arguments are made, the way negotiations are approached, and the way plans have (not) been made to realise policy goals. They have seen how international treaties and laws have been disregarded.
So, while many remainers do not have a lot of time for the PM and his government … their criticisms cannot and should not be so easily dismissed.
The Govt is failing in many ways including in relation to the delivery of Brexit. All paths towards anything which might look like success, depend on an acknowledgement (which seems far away…) that the government’s modus operandi simply has to change.