Nobody who has been following UK news in the past few weeks can have missed the meteoric rise in support for the newly-formed Brexit Party. But what of the other party that was formed in recent months, with the opposite approach – to campaign for a second referendum on our membership of the EU, in the hopes of convincing the public to vote to remain?
Well, it turns out they’ve also achieved something fairly astounding. A few weeks ago, a poll by Opinium Research , showing European Parliament voting intention, had them on 7% of the vote, ahead of the Green Party and UKIP. A more recent poll by the same agency, however, shows them in bottom position, on 3%. UKIP, meanwhile, have gained a percentage point and are now on 4%.
How on earth have they managed to poll lower than UKIP? UKIP, let’s remind ourselves, is the party of Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, the YouTuber who four years ago joked that he “wouldn’t even rape” the MP Jess Phillips and who, given the opportunity fairly recently to reflect on, and possibly apologise for, that comment, responded that “if she’s going to be a total bitch I’ll be a massive dick in return”. He then went one step further and released a new YouTube video in which he stated that “with enough pressure [to rape Ms Phillips] I might cave… but let’s be honest, nobody’s got that much beer”
Now, I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of whether or not people should be allowed to joke about rape – personally, I believe they should, because it allows us to very easily discern that they’re complete dickheads. “I wouldn’t even rape you” is the sort of comment that I remember drunken men at university coming out with – it is immature, frat-boy humour which is unappealing from a 19-year-old and just plain embarrassing from someone approaching 40. The insistence on doubling down and refusing to apologise is similarly immature and reveals a great deal about Mr Benjamin’s character – or lack thereof. Though even I find myself torn – I have followed Sargon, on and off, via Twitter and seen some of his YouTube videos, as well as seen him in interview with other presenters, and on the whole I find him a far more nuanced character than the raving, rape-joking frat-boy persona that the press have been taking so much delight in exposing. He appears to genuinely enjoy political debate and while he can be just as impatient and dismissive of those whose views he finds ridiculous, as most people, he does at least appear willing to engage on almost any topic. So who knows? His great stand for free speech is unlikely to have cost him any support among those who have been following him for years, and may have actually gained him a few extra followers among the frat-boy crowd, so maybe that explains why UKIP have gained a percentage point in the polls.
But how do we explain Change UK’s rapid fall from grace? Well, we could start with their name – nothing quite puts voters off like a party name that completely fails to reflect the party’s aims. Change UK have absolutely no intention of changing the UK or anything else – their entire ethos is built around keeping us in the European Union so that everything can remain exactly the same.
Next there’s their completely uninspiring logo – a set of straight lines which have drawn comparisons with a barcode and a redacted document, and which convey absolutely nothing about the party itself. Compare that to the Brexit Party’s logo – with an arrow pointing clearly towards an exit (or, more cleverly, towards the voting box on the ballot paper, in a suspected ‘subliminal messaging’ ploy which has provoked outrage, an official complaint and now even a petition among the more committed #FBPE remainer loons).
Next, let’s look at their constant lying to the electorate. In their official launch video they announced that they have been utterly consistent in always supporting a second referendum – a statement immediately given the lie by earlier video footage of Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston all telling constituents they absolutely did NOT support a second referendum and believed the result of the first referendum result should be implemented.
Asked on BBC Question Time recently, why she didn’t fight a by-election when she stood down from the Conservative Party to join the Independent Group (as it was originally named) Ms Soubry claimed “because my positions have not changed”. Her argument, incredibly, is that because she has always been in favour of a second referendum, she should not have to re-fight an election as she was elected on that position.
Except she wasn’t. When she was running for election in 2017 under the Conservative Party manifesto, not only did the manifesto support withdrawal from the single market and the customs union, but Ms Soubry herself argued that a second referendum would be a betrayal of the first. So by telling us, now, that she has always been in favour of a second referendum, she is admitting that she flat-out lied to the electorate in 2017 in order to secure her seat.
This complete lack of integrity from Ms Soubry, and all the other members of Change UK who regularly change their public positions while clearly keeping their real views and intentions very much private, is what voters find so repellent. We are sick to death of politicians who say one thing and do another – and if the relative fates of UKIP and Change UK tell us nothing else, it is that voters would still rather vote for somebody who is consistently offensive, than someone who is clearly just saying what they think voters want to hear. And personally, if it came down to who I would rather have a political debate with – or even a drink down the pub – I’d pick Carl Benjamin over Anna Soubry any day.