BREX FACTOR: Pub propaganda is leaving a bitter taste
- Credit: AFP/Getty Images
STEVE ANGLESEY rounds up his Brexiteers of the Week and the latest Wetherspoon's pub propaganda.
Which UK publication, which claims a readership of two million, boasts: 'Unlike the Financial Times or the business section of The Times we try to present both sides of the argument in respect of the EU'? The answer, somewhat surprisingly, is Wetherspoon News, the free magazine of the pub chain owned by arch Brexiteer Tim Martin.
'Spoons is notorious for its psychedelic carpets and Martin, the ruddy-faced patron saint of morning drinkers, is equally adept at carpeting his establishments with pro-Brexit propaganda. There have been beer mats, posters and most recently a leaflet called 'What don't you like about free trade, Mrs May?'
One highlight of the latter is a page headlined 'Stop trying to con the public, says Tim Martin'. In the space where an author's photo would normally appear, there is a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger towards the end of The Terminator, with half of his robotic face uncovered. This gives the impression that the chairman of Wetherspoons is a relentless machine with a limited vocabulary who can't be bargained with, can't be reasoned with, who doesn't feel pity, or remorse or fear. And who absolutely will not stop, ever, until all hopes of Remain are dead.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth and as evidence we have the Winter edition of Wetherspoon News – the one which, remember, presents 'both sides of the argument in respect of the EU'.
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Passing quickly over the cover, which shows Theresa May begging the EU, 'just give us any deal, please', we arrive at an opening spread carrying 'Tim's viewpoint'. Spoilers: He doesn't like the EU very much.
Tucked away in a box is a plea from the magazine's editor, one Eddie Gershon: 'Having worked with Tim for 28 years, I feel sure that he tells the truth and would never knowingly misrepresent the facts to win an argument. However, not everyone shares his opinions. For different opinions, Wetherspoon News quotes in full articles by Carolyn Fairbairn of the CBI (page 81), Philip Stephens and Martin Wolf (pages 83 and 85) of the Financial Times – organisations of which Tim has been deeply critical.'
So far, so fair. Except for the fact that the articles by Fairbairn, Stephens and Wolf are prefaced by Martin's comments. Here is how he introduces Fairbairn: 'The equal worst financial judgement in the last 40 years emanates from the CBI. The latest director-general is Carolyn Fairbairn, who has an awful record in making predictions about things concerning Brexit. Here she is, one year ago, predicting Armageddon because of 'the spectre of no deal'. Wrong again, Carolyn.'
In contrast, the magazine's pro-Brexit columnists are lauded by Martin ('the brilliant Cambridge University professor Robert Tombs... the very intelligent Tony Abbott... another illuminating article from Alexander Downer').
The balance is predictably skewed. Brexit accounts for roughly 10,000 words in the issue, with around 7,500 of them supporting Leave. Even Martin's reply to a letter from a Canadian fan turns on a sixpence from boyhood memories ('When I was 17, my school rugby team toured British Columbia – we had a fabulous time in a great country with overwhelmingly kind hospitality') to anti-EU rants ('the continent of Europe, led by 'intellectuals', has been sleepwalking into a situation where democratic power has been ceded consistently to unelected bureaucrats over several decades').
The overall effect is as about pleasant as the recent discovery that ice served at two Wetherspoons branches was contaminated with faecal coliforms, usually related to failing to wash your hands after a trip to the toilet. Martin's spokesman has promised the company will act on this, but the pro-Brexit toxicity will go on: the chairman has promised to visit 100 of his hostelries across the UK in the next two months to preach the benefits of no-deal. Wetherspoon branches may lack a few of the things which make proper boozers so great – atmosphere, character, that sort of thing – but at least now they'll have a pub bore.
As Martin sets off on his roadshow, though, there are signs that some of his staff may be giggling at him behind his back. On pages 12 and 13 of the Winter Wetherspoon News is a feature headlined 'Unicorns For All In This Wondrous Realm'. The only surprise is that it is about the name of a new gin brand, not the benefits of Brexit.
Misfortune favours the Braverman
Despite her impressive CV and undoubted intellect – she's a barrister whose educational history includes Cambridge University and the Sorbonne – Brexiteer MP Suella Braverman continues to put her foot in it.
Last year she assured a Question Time audience that talk of paying a divorce bill to the EU was 'part of Project Fear. Health warning, don't believe it. The scaremongering about having to pay to leave is just not true'. Soon after, we agreed to stump up £39billion and Suella showed her disapproval by joining the government as a DExEU minister.
Now she has quit in protest at May's deal, but apparently forgotten the warning of Agent K in Men In Black 3: 'Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to.'
In a Telegraph column this week, Braverman wrote: 'As a new minister working on the historic mission of withdrawing from the EU, the plan was to give it my all. Yes, it would take hard graft, but we could do it. So I find myself stunned that it has come to this... How did I get to this point? Am I an extremist? Did I fail to compromise?'
The answer to those last two questions, of course, is 'yes'.
BREXITEERS OF THE WEEK
The UKIP MEP attempted to claim the late Freddie Mercury as a Brexiteer, despite the Queen singer having been dead since 1991. After Donald Tusk quoted the band's lyric 'friends will be friends, right till the end', Woolfe hit back: 'Freddie also said 'I want to break free'. 17.4 million of us still do and won't forget your so-called 'friendship' ever.'
Well, Mercury also wrote 'I suck your mind, you blow my head / Make love inside your bed' but I wouldn't base a manifesto on it. And though the Tanzania-born, flamboyantly camp Freddie would surely have fitted right in at a UKIP conference, his bandmate Brian May recently said, 'Brexit is a disaster, because the losses that are caused by it will be huge for us. Brexit is the dumbest thing Britain has ever done in my lifetime'.
Just when you thought Christmas at the Corbyns' couldn't possibly be more fun, up pops Jez's weather forecaster brother with a call for every EU flag in Britain to be burned on Brexit day. Piers Corbyn, pictured during his days as an activist supporting squatters, tweeted: 'The only way is No Deal Brexit. On 29 Mar 2019 all vestiges - flags, symbols, anything of EU in UK, must be destroyed. HM Royal Navy must seize back our fishing waters and remainist MPs forced to resign Theresa May is worse than Marshal Petain of Vichy France.'
Wow - imagine a family where Jeremy Corbyn is only the second-biggest Eurosceptic!
The nicotine-stained man-frog was booed when he turned up on stage at the National Curry Awards and thanked attendees for 'sponsoring my salary for so many years'. It's becoming a familiar feeling for Farage, who was catcalled from the public gallery at the European Parliament earlier this month and jeered by a live television audience of Irish migrants in London in October when he compared Brexit to Ireland's fight for independence.
Meanwhile, Britain loses one curry house per day to closure and more than 5,000 are predicted to shut down in the next decade. That's partly because of a shortage of skilled chefs since the government started blocking migrants earning less than £35,000. Award-winning chef Oli Khan, who campaigned for Leave at the referendum, said: 'I have been living in this country for 30 years, and I have never seen a crisis like the one we are facing at the moment. We have been given lots of false hopes. We've been used.'
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