MITCH BENN: The hand-drawn Brexit graph that just doesn’t add up

Tory chairman James Cleverly at the Conservative Party conference. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Im

Tory chairman James Cleverly at the Conservative Party conference. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images

James Cleverly's much-mocked graph gives a revealing insight into the mindset of panicky Brexiteers says MITCH BENN.

James Cleverly's explanation for why Brexit must be done by October 31st. Photograph: Twitter.

James Cleverly's explanation for why Brexit must be done by October 31st. Photograph: Twitter. - Credit: Archant

The phrase "There are lies, damned lies and statistics" is selectively trotted out by whoever wants to dismiss whichever set of statistics may currently be doing the rounds.

It is certainly true that statistics are open to abuse and manipulation, from cherry-picking the data that supports your case while ignoring that which doesn't, to the use of 'push-polling' and leading questions to get the answer you wanted in the first place.

Nonetheless it's probably the case that having some corroborating facts and/or figures to hand is extremely helpful when trying to make a point, and it's definitely the case that making these facts or figures up can be horribly embarrassing if you get caught at it.

At the very least, when fabricating 'figures', one should put a bit more effort into it than James Cleverly did the other day.

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I'm sure you'll have seen the tweet in question by now: The Conservative Party chairman and fearless crusader against the curse of nominative determinism posted a picture of a hand-drawn 'graph', with a vertical axis reading "decisiveness" and a horizontal axis reading "time", with a sadly drooping line beginning at the top left hand corner and sagging downwards to the right.

To this he appended the gnomic caption: "Why more time doesn't actually help get a deal... We want a new deal, will leave with no deal if we have to, but no more delays."

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This caused predictable hilarity, not least at the expense of the free-hand scrawl Cleverly was passing off as a 'graph', but when one tries to get to the heart of whatever point he seems to think he was making it gets worse.

Presumably the thing Cleverly (I must stop smirking every time I type that, it's slowing me down) is railing against is that as time passes, more facts emerge and people have time to consider those facts, then the initial burst of purpose which informed the 'decision' one made at the beginning of the process ebbs and it's harder to stay motivated enough to act upon that decision. To which the only sane response must be: Good.

It's a bad thing, proposes Mr Cleverly (winner of the Least Like His Own Mr. Man Award 2019) to consider the consequences of your decision before acting on that decision, in case it turns out that it's actually a bad decision. Better to take the plunge immediately lest your resolve fail in the face of, you know, facts and reality and stuff.

One wonders whether Cleverly applies the same wisdom to say, crossing the road or buying a house.

Intentionally or otherwise, Cleverly - ok, I'm going to call him Mr C for the rest of the column; not very journalistic and a little over-familiar I know, but I'm finding it hard to concentrate - Mr C has here perfectly encapsulated the corner into which the pro-Brexit mindset has now backed itself. It's become the wholesale, deliberate rejection of reality in favour of the cherished dream of the Unicorns and Rainbows Brexit promised in 2016, and the choice Mr C advocates with his 'graph' - we should have just done it before we knew what we were doing, and the longer we leave it the more we'll know what we're doing so let's just do it now before we find out how crazy it is - is now the official policy.

This is why, while I'm increasingly optimistic about our side's chances of ultimate victory in this ongoing national fustercluck, I don't share some of my friends' hope that the chaos of a no-deal Brexit would cause the scales to fall from the surviving Brexiters' collective eyes, that they'll understand at last what a suicidally bad idea it always was, reject their mendacious leaders and join us in trying to restore Britain's EU membership. I don't see that happening at all.

Brexit is a religion now. When a church fails to deliver the goods (as they always do when they're foolish enough to promise something tangible; that's why the successful and long-lasting ones only make promises about rewards in the "next world") the faithful don't suddenly realise that the priests are all liars and the holy text is all made up; they blame it on the heretics and unbelievers, whose mere doubting presence caused the gods to abandon the people.

So it will be if no-deal Brexit happens and turns out to be the nightmare we've always said it would be. It won't be that Brexit itself was wrong-headed and built on lies; it'll be the Remainers' fault, because Brexit would have been unicorns and rainbows if it had been done 'properly'.

They won't turn on their lying leaders; they'll turn on us, with those leaders' smiling encouragement.

And yes, they'll be furious if Brexit doesn't happen as well, but at least then we'd still have a functioning country with some furious people in it.

All the more reason to keep resisting.

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