THE BREX FACTOR: Talking Raabish - Does DExEU Dom tell fibs?
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STEVE ANGLESEY examines the performance of the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, and names his Brexiteers of the Week.
It is rare in politics that the opposition presents you with an open goal. Rarer still that they sub off their own keeper, roll the ball invitingly towards their own net and stand nearby holding a huge GOLF SALE-style placard with an arrow pointing invitingly to where it rests on the goal-line. These, however, are the tactics favoured by Dominic Raab.
When the DExEU secretary appeared on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show last Sunday, he exuded his usual air of what the disgraced football commentator Ron Atkinson used to call 'cool panic'. Perspiring slightly, as is his want, Raab again appeared to be the result of a breeding experiment involving the creepy androids played by Michael Fassbender in the recent Alien movies and the bumbling entertainment manager Jeffrey Fairbrother from Hi-De-Hi!
And then, while sniping at 'un-statesmanlike' Emmanuel Macron, he said this: 'If someone wants to point out something that I've said which is a lie, feel free to do so.'
A bold move, you'd have thought, from someone closely involved with the Vote Leave campaign. You might remember this falsely claimed that 'we send the EU £350 million a week' which we were going to use to 'fund the NHS instead'. It also filed a spending return containing 43 inaccuracies and exceeded its legal spending limit of £7m by around half a million pounds.
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Raab recently addressed these issues head-on, admitting that the net figure going to Brussels was 'about half' of what had been claimed, calling the slogan 'sloppy' and insisting he 'wasn't involved in anything to do with the money'. Poor Dom was powerless to stop any of it, being only a member of the Vote Leave campaign committee, a governing body which met weekly to set the organisation's strategy.
But what about other times when Raab might have been, in an Alan Clark phrase which Macron would enjoy, economical with the actualité?
In just a single day of June 2016, he claimed that Britain's immigration problems 'will increase further with Turkey and four low-income Balkan states being lined up for EU membership' and that passports giving holders the 'automatic right to come to the UK because of 'free movement'' were being sold for 3,000 euros in Cyprus. Those countries weren't 'being lined up' and Raab neglected to mention that the Cypriot passports were only available once the buyer deposited 2.5 million euros,
In May 2017 he told Victoria Derbyshire's Big Debate that according to foodbank charity the Trussell Trust, 'the typical user of foodbanks is not someone languishing in poverty, it is someone who has a cash flow problem.' The Trust quickly produced its own data to show that while 27% of referrals were because of benefit delays, at least 41% were down to longer-term poverty caused by either low incomes or benefit cuts.
In January 2018 Raab told Question Time there were 'more beds… available than ever before' in the NHS. A comparison showed 17,000 fewer beds were on offer than in the final days of the last Labour government.
In April, the then housing minister declared that house prices had gone up 20% over the last 25 years as a direct result of immigration. His evidence was found to be a formula created by the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, a government quango abolished in 2010. More recent calculations by the Migration Advisory Committee showed the impact of skilled immigrants on house prices over a five-year period was 'likely to be well below 1%'.
In July he told Marr that in terms of a no-deal exit, 'The Bank of England has produced an analysis which showed that it wouldn't be the best outcome for either side, but it would… be worse for the EU side'. He later admitted that this analysis showed a better outcome for the UK in only one aspect of financial services – derivatives – rather than in overall economic performance.
And only on September 14 Raab was boasting ahead of negotiations with the EU that 'our teams are closing in on workable solutions to the outstanding issues' over the Irish border. Less than a week later we saw in Salzburg just how close those workable solutions really were.
Is Dominic Raab just desperately unlucky that, time and again, the 'facts' he presents turn out not to be quite as cut-and-dried as they seem? Or, as Graham Greene says in The Heart of the Matter, has he 'entered the territory of lies without a passport for return'?
We shall see. But there are tough times ahead for those without passports...
No light at the end of the tunnel for Brexit Express
The multi-millionaire steam locomotive enthusiast Jeremy Hosking is stoking up trouble for Theresa May with suggestions that he might bankroll a new pro-Leave party named Brexit Express. But signals so far suggest he is on the wrong track.
Hosking launched his campaign with a poll of 4,110 voters in seats held by Tory Remainers like Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve. ComRes trumpeted that their findings showed 'voters want MPs to stick to manifesto promises and see full Brexit through'.
Just the ticket for Brexiteers? Don't get sidetracked by them blowing smoke.
Those polled said they had voted 52% to 48% to Remain in 2016 but would now back staying in the EU by 56% to 44% to stay in the EU – a huge vote of confidence in Soubry and Grieve's refusal to be railroaded.
It's all somewhat reminiscent of the train wreck that was the 2017 general election campaign, when Hosking gave funds to 80 candidates trying to unseat pro-Remain MPs in pro-Leave constituencies. He managed to derail just four, wasting tens of thousands of pounds in the process.
How long before Brexit Express reaches the end of the line?
'We want to hold our own and be able to control ourselves' - Leave Means Leave supporter at Nigel Farage's rally in Bolton, as seen on Sky News
Brexiteers of the Week
3. Boris Johnson
According to the Sun, the former foreign secretary's new chum Carrie Symonds has nicknamed him 'Bozzie Bear'.
Interesting that Boris reminds her of a muppet who believes he's God's gift to comedy but is actually completely unfunny.
Meanwhile only readers with strong stomachs are advised to think too deeply about the Sun's claim that in return, Johnson has nicknamed Symonds 'Otter' – possibly explaining a recent Telegraph column in which he praised the creatures and their 'thrilling musky fishy aroma'.
2. Graham Stringer
The Brexiteer MP for Blackley and Broughton told a Labour Leave meeting not to worry about EU nationals quitting the NHS as we could bring in nurses from the Philippines instead. Last year, Gillingham's Medway Maritime Hospital attempted to do just that, flying over 59 Filipino nurses to fill some of its 394 full-time nursing vacancies. Fifty-two of them subsequently proved unable to start work as they failed their English language test.
Stringer also claimed that this week's Labour conference had 'killed off the People's Vote campaign'. And he should know about campaigns which get killed off.
The Manchester United fan led a long-running push for Sir Alex Ferguson to be made a Labour peer once he retired from football management. It ended when Fergie finally quit Old Trafford in 2013… and promptly turned down a peerage!
1. Leo McKinstry
The Daily Express' Brexit Dalek – so called because his columns sound worryingly authentic when read in the tinny voices of Doctor Who's deadly enemies – has excelled himself with a new column attacking the People's Vote campaign.
In Leo's view, Remainers are 'shrill… dreary… arrogant… laughable… cocooned in their smug echo chamber… profoundly snobbish… ignorant bigots… cynically cloaking their bitterness… marinated in their federalist ideology and gripped by contempt for the public will'. And the push for a ballot on the final deal is 'disingenuous… grossly misleading… a monumental form of deceit'.
In short, we are all 'hopelessly deluded'. Which would sound much more convincing had, a week earlier, McKinstry not written a column about austerity, headlined: 'Why the gloom? We've really never had it so good'.
• Hear more from Steve Anglesey on this week's edition of The New European podcast available on Spotify and iTunes.
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