So, it’s finally appeared and I’m not sure what to say…

The Russia report surprised me but not in the way I expected. I thought the evidence of Russian interference in Brexit was obvious because… well, Russia has been involving itself in everything we do for at least a decade. I first wrote my judo analogy years ago. Putin is good at pushing when we’re off-balance, tripping us when we’re not quite on our feet. He has been adept at using our free press to destroy our free press. Maybe people have forgotten the days when The Guardian’s comment section was entirely filled with Russian propaganda. Russia’s cyber operations and use of social media have become infinitely more subtle since then and are streets ahead of our ability to counter them.

No, what surprised me was the degree to which the British government has tried to look the other way. Yet whilst being surprised in one breath, I also realised I was not that surprised in the next. The government was always going to look the other way. Who, after all, votes for them? This isn’t really about Russia. It’s about the existential threat to the Conservative Party, which has spent the best part of the last decade fearful that they’d lose votes to their immediate right. UKIP, and then the Brexit Party, threatened to do to the Tories what the Lib Dems and Greens constantly do to Labour: splitting the vote. To look too closely at the referendum might raise legitimate concerns about a result that ran counter to every poll before and after the ballot.

Do they really want to unpick the result, reigniting the smouldering pile of tires that is British nationalism? All us Remainer types have our huge but peaceful protests in London so we can be ignored. The evidence of the other week proves that the other side wouldn’t be anywhere near as pleasant.

And, yes, I’m letting my bias creep in, but I think there’s some truth in what I’m writing. We Remainy types generally accept the result even though we hate it and would have happily pushed for a second referendum. We begrudgingly accept that Brexit will happen. I’m certainly not going to punch a policeman to vent my anger. I’m not sure the same would be true if the result was reversed.

I very much doubt that much now happens regarding the report. I notice the government have already rejected the idea of a proper investigation (of course they would) whilst Farage (turn three times, spit, and shout “bollocks”) is claiming he’s been vindicated, despite the report saying that Russian meddling was never properly investigated. It’s beginning to feel like the Mueller Report, which said it couldn’t clear the President but had no legal means to prosecute him, so the President read that as being vindicated.

Having mentioned the ‘F’ word, I’m going to end this here. I can feel myself getting angry. Let me finish, however, with a different perspective on the news.

I mainly watch/listen to American networks because I find US politics so much more interesting than politics in the UK. Yet when they do cover the UK, it’s often with more objectivity. It’s been interesting, for example, to see how American health experts have viewed stories about the Oxford vaccine. They don’t think it’s as significant as the press over here have been making it and one even went so far as to suggest that the British government might be spinning the news for domestic reasons. I’m not saying that’s either right or wrong but I am increasingly worried about Johnson’s instincts. Nick Cohen has written an excellent piece for The Spectator today, where he talks about the “Soviet level of overpromising, faked targets and power worship” around this government. That mirrors my own feelings about what’s going on. Johnson is acting like the Oxford vaccine will save him and save him by the end of the year. There’s a certain swagger about this government that doesn’t reflect the reality of our situation: a second wave that might yet be imminent and a No-Deal Brexit that looks increasingly certain. The vaccine might protect us a bit, a lot, or not at all. Nobody knows how long the antibodies will last. One US doctor I listened to said the vaccine produces lower levels of protection than if a person has recovered from the virus yet, in those instances, the protection might not last a month. Are we really all going to get vaccinated each month?

The answer is that we have to wait for the science. Yet it still doesn’t explain the confidence I’m sensing coming out of our government. It appears to be a confidence they have done absolutely nothing to earn.

8 thoughts on “The Russia Report”

  1. Ah, the saintly remainy types wot never did no harm to nobody.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/brexit-supporter-attack-eu-referendum-european-union-remain-manchester-a7362956.html

    They also didn’t drive cars at Brexit party candidates, milk shake them, upend their campaign stands and so on back in 2019. I have no qualms in admitting that there are violent idiots on the pro Brexit side who have committed a number of assaults. I just can’t understand your position or that of remain supporters who seem unable to accept the equal unpleasantness emanating from their own side. The leave side always has to be worse. Calling someone a brexitard, a brexshiteer, a racist or a Nazi always has to be less insulting that calling someone a remoaner or a traitor or a snowflake. This attitude of moral and intellectual superiority displayed over the past four years has not helped the remain cause one jot. If the masterminds of the remain campaign and the later stop brexit campaign had been even half as clever as they thought they were, then we wouldn’t be about to leave the EU with the hardest brexit possible. The irony is that had the result been accepted we would have had a soft brexit not so very different from membership. We also wouldn’t currently have Bozo the Clown running the country, but hey ho.

    Happily pushing for a second referendum isn’t accepting the result by the way, it is actually the opposite of accepting the result.

    Russian interference will have occurred at every electoral event since universal suffrage, for seven years one of our biggest newspapers was owned by Maxwell, a man rumoured to have worked for the KGB, little good it did them. You can take it as read that they interfered with the referendum, so what?, try and quantify the effect, it’s impossible and the government is right to leave well alone. Or we can continue to argue for another few years over something that is now done. There were three opportunities to stop brexit at the ballot box, if they weren’t taken that isn’t the fault of the Russians, the Conservitives or anyone other than the mythical majority who didn’t want to leave the EU.

    1. And this is why I write a blog… There’s nothing about what I write here that has to be fair or balanced. It’s just my unfiltered opinion, written in the fuzzy part of the morning when I’m still waking up.

      And, yes, you can always find counter-examples and I’m not denying there was awful behaviour on both sides. Yet I can’t help be guided by what I perceived at the time and still believe: Brexit was driven by English nationalists, often with a deeply unpleasant outlook. I might have felt differently if the debate was led by people like you but it wasn’t.

      I know this sometimes makes it feel like those of us on the Remain side are always hurling the same insults to Leavers but that’s the nature of broad-brush thinking. Sometimes it’s not possible to parenthesize everything in order to add “(obviously, not everybody is like this)”. I think Will Self nailed it when he said that “Not all Brexiters are racists, but almost all racists will be voting for Brexit”. I’ve previously told you that you’re one of the few exceptions to the general rule. For every intelligent conversation I’ve had with you, I’ve had an email or Twitter exchanges with somebody else peddling propaganda taken from Far-Right websites. I frankly got sick of people emailing me the very same reports about rape in Sweden.

      And I’m sure Leavers would have been royally pissed off with a Second Ref, which is why I always said it was unlikely and unfair. But I still wanted one. I do think Leave cheated and I always thought Russia meddled. But I also know there’s fuck all we can do. Doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. But I’m not going to argue Brexit. I know where you stand. You know where I stand.

      As for the Russian argument, I’m sure there are many incidents involving the Russians that have been conveniently brushed under the carpet. It’s just that there are now political reasons to pretend it didn’t happen. Still doesn’t make it right.

      1. Not an argument about Brexit, an argument about perception and tribalism if you like.

        I remember watching Will Self, the rich, white, public school educated grandson of Sir Henry as he lectured Dreda Say Mitchell (a working class black woman) on racism while making that comment. Summed up the total lack of self awareness from remain as a whole for me.

        With regard to Self’s comment, I have always thought it was just him having a lash out after losing, if it hadn’t been racism it would have been “not all leave voters are thick but…”. And you know what, he may have actually had a smidgen of solid ground with that one if looked at from a purely educational perspective. He may even got away with “a majority of racists”, but almost all?, not a chance.

        That argument is a load of bollocks as it assumes that all racists go around using words like P*ki. I know a huge number of remain voting people, who outwardly don’t present as racist but are racist nevertheless. They engaged in white flight from London to live in the least ethnically diverse towns in the South. I remember their reaction when I moved to one of the most ethnically diverse towns outside of London and it was illuminating to put it mildly. They like black and asian people when they deliver a parcel or make them a coffee. Moving in next to them, not so much. They are ever so very polite and tactful about it though I must say and isn’t that the trick?.

        Look at the lack of black people in the boardroom, in medicine, in the judiciary, in all of the top professions. The people who make those appointments aren’t the football lads alliance or any of the other crackpot groups that attached themselves to Brexit. They are well educated upper middle class and overwhelmingly pro EU in their political views, people not unlike the Will Self’s of this world in fact. Just because they hide their racism extremely well doesn’t make them any less racist. The proof of the pudding as they say.

        There is any number of idiots online, twitter is the pits of the earth. Had you been a leaver you would be telling me about the FBPE cultists and their indentikit memes, word for word responses to arguments and let’s not forget the 30 person pile in.

        Perhaps I look at it differently as in many ways I switched sides to vote leave. Never thought I would be on the same side as the likes of Peter Bone and Steve Baker so I don’t feel part of the leave tribe. However, after the last four years I’m certainly no friend of the remain tribe either and never will be again. It has been a bit of an eye opener for me I have to say. That should give you an idea of how bad “your side” have been.

        Always been political reasons to airbrush Russian activity, just look at Chris Bryants comments on the daily politics.

        1. I really don’t want to turn this into Brexit because I know you think me wrong and we will never agree. From memory, however, I’m sure he made that comment to Mark Francois on the Daily Politics. It was followed by a memorable stare-off. Yet had he made it to somebody else, I still think his assessment was correct because the race, gender, and class of the other person he was debating shouldn’t change the facts. Studies have since shown that immigration was the key driver behind the Brexit vote, followed by the EU’s role in making UK laws, with other reasons following by a relatively large margin. No doubt you’d answer that immigration was a reasonable argument. It was but that doesn’t mean it was often argued reasonably. The Leave campaign peddled the “facts” such as the 76 million Turks ready to flood into the EU. It continues to this day.

          We seem eventually to reach the point where have to decide which is worse: the Far Right or the Far Left. Obviously, there’s no answer. They’re both objectionable. For the moment, however, I worry more about the Far Right, which has power/influence in the US but also here, specifically in the guise of Farage. You say that “your side” (i.e. my side) have been particularly bad. You give me one example of a Brexiteer killed by a Remainer. I’d obviously give you the example of Jo Cox. We can both point to terrible examples, but the extremes don’t define anything. If, however, you want me to agree that the “FBPE cult” on Twitter is objectively worse than the Brexit side, then I’ll simply have to disagree. Our relative calm going into Brexit might prove my point. I know it’s impossible to prove a negative but I honestly doubt if our re-entering the EU would be met with such acceptance.

          1. Nope, I’m saying they are as bad as each other, that is my entire point. You are claiming some form of moral rectitude for remain over leave that I just can’t recognise from what I have seen over the last four years.

            On Will Self, he made the comment on June 24th 2016 on channel 4, it’s on his own website. He just didn’t manage to come up with any new material in the next couple of years.

            There is no factual evidence out there that “almost all racists” voted leave. It hugely underestimates and simplifies racism in this country. It is therefore one of the most ridiculous statements made in the aftermath of the vote and that really is saying something. If people want to take comfort from it then I suppose who am I to begrudge them but it probably helps explain why it is so hard to tackle racism in this country.

            http://will-self.com/2016/06/24/not-brexiters-racists-almost-racists-will-voting-brexit/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

            Like you said, agree to disagree.

          2. Admittedly, Self could be right and you could also be right. Whatever the number of racists in the UK, they could have all voted for Brexit, but they might have been such a small %age of the demographic to make no difference or somehow diminish the vote. Having said that, I’m not sure I would agree that “race” (perhaps, it would be fairer to call it xenophobia) wasn’t a big factor in decisions around Brexit. I just know that it featured in various conversations I overheard.

            Incidentally, if he’d said “some racists voted to Remain” then I’d also agree. Some probably did. But it’s not about a few. It’s about “most” and don’t social attitudes follow demographics? Older people voted for Brexit: 60-40 for Leave in the 50-64 age group, 64-36 in 65+. Granted, it’s not a clear cut determiner (those people might have voted for other reasons) but whatever views we might term “racist” are surely associated with those demographics. There are statistics to back that up. I saw one from 2014 that suggested that 36% of people aged 55+ described themselves as “racially prejudiced”. Hard not to think those 36% would have been part of the 64%.

            That said: what the hell do I know? You are one of a few Leavers I’ve always respected but you really are an exception. Beyond that, I can only go off the evidence of my eyes and ears and, in that sense, all I can say is that “all the racists I know voted for Brexit”. The rejoinder to that is: how can I be sure the Remain voters aren’t also racist? There you might be right but, then, we’re getting back into the realm of reading people’s minds.

  2. Agree with every word re Brexit. I believe there will be a reckoning when people realise they were fooled by charlatans. Sadly far too late.
    I wasnt surprised and I’m surprised you were. What were you expecting the report to say? To me the delaying tactics were a clear sign that it was going to be critical of the government. I wasn’t expecting a smoking gun which proves the Russian helped Leave but, there is/was so much circumstancial evidence (just like the Scottish Independence referendum) that they could and would I frankly find it difficult to see how any clear minded person could believe they didn’t/wouldn’t. They are to clever to leave a ‘made in Russia’ sign laying around.

    1. Perhaps I overstate my surprise. I also thought the delaying tactics were indicative of a damning report but I think I was only slightly shocked it wasn’t more damning since, as you say, there’s so much circumstantial evidence. As it is, the really damning criticisms are a bit “between-the-lines”, such as the part about Londongrad. I was probably too naive to think that Johnson’s friendship with Lebedev would be there on the page but, at the same time, I wish it was. In many respects, the most damning line was that one about “a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth.” Just not sure how much it drives anything forward. I don’t know… I’d hoped for something the government couldn’t ignore whereas this feels very spinnable.

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